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Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

(c. 786—863)


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(d. 855)

Eponym of Hanbali school of Islamic law. Native of Baghdad. Known for literal and legalistic interpretation of the Quran and hadith. Reputed to be the greatest hadith scholar of his time. Introduced the principle of istislah (the best solution in the public interest) as the purpose of legal rulings not clearly specified by the Quran and hadith. Taught that the written word of the Quran is authoritative over human interpretation, leading to a dispute with Caliph al-Mamun over the caliph's authority to interpret religious texts. Argued that Islamic religious obligations were derived from fundamental texts as interpreted by recognized leading scholars, not by caliphal decree. Believed the caliph's role was to serve as executor of the Islamic community, not as the source of its beliefs. Islamic scholars were to serve as advisers and admonishers to ruling elites to induce them to observe and implement Islamic law. This politico-religious alliance is the basis for the modern Islamic state of Saudi Arabia. His collection of the traditions is the Musnad.

Subjects: Islam.


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