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Hierarchy of Saints Series, Vol 4

The Story of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (q)

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

17 August 2010 Fenton Zawiya, Michigan

Fajr Ramadan 2010 Series

If some people don't have eyeglasses they can't see, and with eyeglasses they can see. So eyeglasses are important for those who don't have perfect vision, and if they don't have perfect vision, they are nearsighted, measuring minus one, minus two, three, or four, up to minus twenty, which is total blindness. And also a person might be farsighted. If you can't see, you need eyeglasses, which means you need someone to show you the way. And that's why Abu Yazeed al-Bistami (q), one of the greatest awliyaaullah, said, man lam yakun lahu ustadh fa imaamahu 'sh-Shaytan, "Who doesn't have a guide, his imam is Shaytan, the devil." And it is said, man lam yakun lahu shaykh fa-shaykhahu 'sh-Shaytan, "Who doesn't have a shaykh, his shaykh is whatever gossips come to his heart, and he will follow that."

So awliyaaullah became awliyaaullah not because of their progress in scholarly matters, but because their guides guided them. So the importance is on the guide: how strong he is and how much power he has to guide those who are listening and following his teachings. That is very important to know and understand. It's not so easy that you will be able to reach by learning, reading books, and studying, but it's important to reach when your guide is teaching, and Allah (swt) guided everyone to something, or to someone. He guided the Sahaabah (r) to Prophet (s) and He guided ummat an-Nabi to Prophet (s), who said, "Whoever you follow from my Sahaabah, you will be guided."

This is an example from one of the biggest scholarly shaykhs and many people follow his madhhab, that in his time two big imams of Islam were following, like teacher and student: Imam Shafi`ee (q) and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (q). Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was following Imam Shafi`ee, and after Imam Shafi`ee passed away, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal established his own school of thought, which today many people follow. He was a very scholarly person, and all of the a'immah (imams) were, but this is one example.

One time Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was in an association with Imam Shafi`ee and suddenly one waliyullah came, whom Imam Shafi`ee respected a lot. And I heard from Grandshaykh (q), and it is very well established in Shari`ah that the water from ablution is dead water because it takes all your sins and illnesses. The water of wudu cleans you and then it becomes dead and you can't use it. That's why some people throw it in the garden or outside, because you can't consume it. So they were discussing some issues and Grandshaykh (q) said, "When that wali came to Imam Shafi`ee's association, not talking, only listening, people didn't give attention to him. But when he made ablution, Imam Shafi`ee used to drink that water, although he knew in Shari`ah you can't drink it, but he drank it for barakah. That was Shayban ar-Rayy (q), a very high wali who was also ummi, illiterate, but Allah (swt) doesn't look at who is literate or illiterate, and He made his heart and tongue connect.

So Shayban ar-Rayy (q) came and sat with them in their association and at that moment Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal looked at Imam Shafi`ee and said, "O my shaykh! li unnabih haadha `alaa nuqsaana `ilmihi. I want to emphasize and bring to the attention of that person!" He didn't call Shayban ar-Rayy by name, he only said, "that person," not giving importance. "He must complete his knowledge as he doesn't know anything!" Then he pointed to Shayban ar-Rayy, saying, "I want to bring to his attention that he is lacking `ilm, li yashtaghil li tahseeli haadha 'l-`ilm, in order that he will go and learn a little bit."

Today they say you need a certificate, a paper that says you are an `alim, or else they consider you are nothing. How do they know you are nothing? Shayban ar-Rayy (q) didn't know how to read or write, and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (q) wasn't giving him importance.

Imam Shafi`ee (q) said, "Wait, don't touch that, don't say anything or he will humiliate you!"

Ahmad ibn Hanbal insisted, "No! My duty is to make him aware that he has no knowledge!"

Today if you don't have doctorate, if you are not a PhD, they think you don't know anything; for them, you have to be a doctor of Shari`ah, but that wali is not a doctor in Shari`ah. That means awliyaaullah don't know that (knowledge from papers), only Allah (swt) chooses them. When Allah chooses them it is finished.

وَأَنَا اخْتَرْتُكَ فَاسْتَمِعْ لِمَا يُوحَى

Wa anaa 'khtartuka fastami` limaa yoohaa.

I have chosen you; listen then to the inspiration (sent to you). (20:13)

Allah (swt) said to Sayyidina Musa (a), "If you know Shari`ah or not, I choose you." Allah chooses His awliya, and not everyone becomes wali. But when Allah chooses, the matter is finished. Allah said, anaa 'khtartuka fastami` limaa yoohaa, "Listen to what I am giving you and go and deliver it."

Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem.

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ وَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ

Yaa ayyuha 'l-muddaththir, qum fa andhir wa rabbaka fakabbir wa thiyaabaka fatahhir wa 'l-rujza fahjur.

O thou enveloped in thy cloak, arise and warn! Thy Lord magnify, thy raiment purify, pollution shun! (74:1-5)

"O Muhammad! You, the one who is covering yourself." Prophet (s) was shivering at that time, qum fa andhur, "Wake up, go and deliver the message, and glorify your Lord." Wa thiyabaka fatahhir, "And go purify your clothes." What clothes? These clothes we wear or the clothes of the heart? They cover this physical body, which is the cover of the heart, a piece of flesh, but what is inside it? Allah cannot put inside the flesh what He put inside Ka`aba? What is inside Ka`aba? It is four walls and inside are asraarullah, Allah's secrets, and what He manifested on that House no one knows, just as what He put in the heart of Prophet (s) no one knows.

(Sahib recites)

Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem.

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءنَا لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَوْ نَرَى رَبَّنَا لَقَدِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ وَعَتَوْ عُتُوًّا كَبِيرًا يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَ الْمَلَائِكَةَ لَا بُشْرَى يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ وَيَقُولُونَ حِجْرًا مَّحْجُورًا وَقَدِمْنَا إِلَى مَا عَمِلُوا مِنْ عَمَلٍ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ هَبَاء مَّنثُورًا أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَيْرٌ مُّسْتَقَرًّا وَأَحْسَنُ مَقِيلًا

wa qaala alladheena laa yarjoona liqaunaa law laa uzila `alayna'l-malaaikati aw naraa rabbunaa laqad istakbaroo fee anfusihim wa `ataw `utwoowin kabeera. yawma yarawna'l-malaaikatu laa bushraa yawmaidhin li'l-mujrimeena wa yaquloona hijran mahjoora.Wa qadimnaa ila maa `amiloo min `amalin fa ja`alnahu habaa'in manthoora. Ashaabu'l-jannati yawmaidhin khayrun mustaqarran wa ahsanu maqeela.

Such as fear not the meeting with Us (for Judgment) say: "Why are not the angels sent down to us, or (why) do we not see our Lord?" Indeed they have an arrogant conceit of themselves, and mighty is the insolence of their impiety! The Day they see the angels, no joy will there be to the sinners that Day: The (angels) will say: "There is a barrier forbidden (to you) altogether!" And We shall turn to whatever deeds they did (in this life), and We shall make such deeds as floating dust scattered about. The Companions of the Garden will be well, that Day, in their abode, and have the fairest of places for repose.

[not the verse Shaykh sought]

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جِئْنَا مِن كُلِّ أمَّةٍ بِشَهِيدٍ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ عَلَى هَـؤُلاء شَهِيدًا

Fa-kayfa idhaa jina min kulli ummatin bi-shaheedin wa jina bika `alaa haaulaa'i shaheeda

How then if We brought from each people a witness, and We brought thee as a witness against these people! (4:41)

"When we have brought from every ummah a shaheed, witness." That means Allah chose a witness from every ummah. Wa ji'na bika `ala haaoolai shaheeda, "And We have brought you, O Muhammad, as a witness over all of them." That means, "We brought these prophets first and then awliyaaullah as witnesses on their followers that are on the right path and rightly guided, and We are not confirming that until you, yaa Muhammad, make witness on all of them, the prophets and the awliya!"

Was Sayyidina Musa (a) educated? No. It means if Allah (swt) chooses, He chooses. And Sayyidina Muhammad (s) is nabi al-ummiy, the prophet who never opened a book or read. Today, what is knowledge? Show me in Azhar ash-Shareef, in Sham, in Morocco, Syria, or Hijaaz, what do they teach? They teach what is in books and no longer give importance to spiritual knowledge. Let the shaykhs of Azhar go to where Imam Shafi`ee (q) is buried there.

This story is from two main scholars, Imam Shafi`ee and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Imam Shafi`ee was following Shayban ar-Rayy and said to Imam Ahmad, la takoon jassooran, "Don't encourage yourself to question him as he will humiliate you."

He said, "No, no, no! My job is to tell him he needs this kind of teaching and to go and learn."

And Imam Shafi`ee said, la taf`al, "Don't touch on that subject; leave him alone."

And Imam Ahmad asked Shayban ar-Rayy, madha taqool feeman nasiya salatuh min as-salawaat al-khams fil Islam, fi 'sh-sharee`ah, "What is the judgment of someone that the time of the prayer passed and he didn't pray, he forgot?" It needs knowledge. Today there are too many different schools of thought and they give different answers. Like the Wahhabis and Salafis say, "Don't repeat it as the time is gone, so even if you pray qadaa, make it up, it is not accepted." They believe there is no qadaa, but other schools of thought say it is an obligation to make it up, and they believe that qadaa prayer it is not perfect, but nevertheless you have to make it up so you will learn discipline. Those are two different schools.

So Imam Ahmad was checking Shayban ar-Rayy and said, "You don't know anything! What is the hukum? Give me the judgment of Shari`ah. What do we say to this question? Give me a fatwah." Shayban ar-Rayy laughed and Imam Ahmad became more frustrated, he wanted to humiliate him in front of Imam Shafi`ee. Shayban ar-Rayy answered, "Yaa Ahmad! Are you challenging me?" Ahmad ibn Hanbal began to shake, and Shayban ar-Rayy said, "Your question is like that of a child. How dare you ask me such a question? Don't you know you are ignorant for asking that? Yaa Ahmad, qalbun ghafala an Allah fa yanbaghi an yuaddab hatta la ya`ood ila ghaflatihi, a heart that becomes heedless of Allah's Presence for one moment must be disciplined. That means you must be disciplined when you come and ask such a question. How dare you ask someone whose heart is with his Lord in every moment, that if he misses a prayer what he has to do! If you miss a prayer you have to be disciplined, hatta la ta`ood ila al-ghaflah. That means, don't ask that childish question! Your heart has to be in Allah's Presence, if your heart is there you will never miss a prayer."

That is like someone who has no heart, what will happen? Throw him in the grave. That heart must be disciplined in order that you don't become heedless another time. And at that moment Imam Ahmad fainted, he had a heart attack from the power of those words of Shayban ar-Rayy.

Imam Shafi`ee said, "Leave him until he comes back to normal and leaves asking such childish questions." When he woke up, Imam Shafi`ee said to him, alam aqul laka lam tata`arad lahu, "Didn't I tell you not to bother him? So don't bother him! If you bother him, this is your end."

Don't bother awliyaaullah; don't come against them or they will make you to faint. What happened to Sayyidina Musa (a)? He fainted! He said, "O my Lord, let me see You." You cannot; when Allah (swt) wills, you will see without questioning. Allah made him faint to make him learn. That is why awliyaaullah are always fainting in Allah's Divine Presence, surrendering. So don't come to a wali and criticize; they will humiliate you from their powers.

And I heard the continuation of this story from Grandshaykh (q):

When Imam Ahmad woke up he crawled on his chest to Shayban ar-Rayy, asking for forgiveness and seeking his guidance.

So two imams were taking from Shayban ar-Rayy, and he was illiterate! Also, Imam Abu Hanifa bin Nu`man (q) took knowledge from Bishr al-Haafi (q). If an ummiy, one who cannot read or write, is a powerful wali, able to put down Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, then what do you think about a wali who is literate, who knows everything? What do you think about his power; what can he do? If you see that one ummiy from awliya has this power, what do you think if Allah gives them heavenly knowledge, then what can they do? They can make a hole in the boat!

فَانطَلَقَا حَتَّى إِذَا رَكِبَا فِي السَّفِينَةِ خَرَقَهَا قَالَ أَخَرَقْتَهَا لِتُغْرِقَ أَهْلَهَا لَقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا إِمْرًا

Fantalaqa hatta idha rakiba fi as-safinati kharaqaha. Qaala akharaqtaha li tughriqa ahlaha. Laqad ji`ta shay`aan `imraa.

So the two set out until, when they were in the ship, he made a hole in it. (Moses) said, "Have you made a hole to drown the folk therein? Verily you have done a dreadful thing!" (18:71)

What did Sayyidina Khidr (a) do? He made a hole in the boat, then killed the boy, and then he built the wall. So he drowns you to take all your bad characteristics, and then he kills your ego, and then he builds the wall of treasures in your heart. So don't bother awliyaaullah, because they have many ways to bother you. In every moment of your life they can bother you!

Grandshaykh (q) said, "Everyday the shaykh has to look at the mureed three times. When he looks he doesn't send candies, but he sends him poison, to check if they are handling difficulty or not." So when you get in difficulty remember that your shaykh is looking at you, and don't get angry. I am not speaking about business difficulties, I am talking about mureed-to-mureed, or people-to-people, who get angry with each other, who lie about what they are doing, and this and that. Be careful and remember at that moment the shaykh is observing you. That is why today, I am going to tell these two (mureeds) not to go back home, but to stay here. (laughter)

So that is why they said, laylee bi wajhika mushriqun wa dhalaamahu fi 'n-naasi saari, "My night in your face is daylight," or, "When I am looking at your face, O my shaykh, my night is daylight shining. Even if it is night, when I look at your face in dark nights I see that diya, that shining of the sun on Earth. Your face is shining, wa dhalaamahu fi 'n-naasi saari, but the darkness of the night in the faces of the people is dark, but in your face it is sunlight. Wan-naasu fee sadaf adh-dhalaami, and the people are in darkness, wa laakin nahnu fee daw an-nahaar, and we are with you, O our shaykh, O our wali, in the daylight." That means, "When you are among us it is daylight, but when we are with people it is darkness." That is why we always have to watch what we are doing, what we are saying, and what we are putting in our hearts.

It is said that Rabi`a al-`Adawiyya (q) got sick. They asked her, "What is the cause of your illness? Why are you sick?" She didn't have the flu, a heart attack, or any physical sickness, but spiritually she was depressed. They asked her, "Why are you depressed?"

Today if you ask people, "What are you doing?" they will answer, "I am getting counseling from a psychologist." He is a psychologist who himself needs a psychiatrist! If you need a psychologist, go to a wali because he knows your needs.

Rabi`a al-`Adawiyya (q) said, "Oh, I have a major problem."

They said, "You, a lady saint?"

And ladies complain they have no saints! There are many. The Prophet's wives are Umhat al-Mu'mineen, "Mothers of All Believers" (r). No one can reach their ranks, or the ranks of the lady Companions of Prophet (s) and the lady teachers after them. But this psychological problem is in the minds of ladies because of the rudeness of men.

They said, "Why are you depressed? Did anyone from the jama`at bother you?"

She said, wa laakin nadhartu ila janatee bi 'l-qalb, "No. I gazed at the Heavens with my heart. I was in a trance, a spiritual state, and that opened, and I looked at the Heavens through my heart."

To us that is good, but for her it was not good, because she made a mistake according to her rank. Fa ghaara `alayya qalbee, "My heart got jealous from me, because my heart doesn't want to have partners or have anyone other than Allah (swt). It asked, how am I looking through my heart to Paradise when I have to look with my heart to Allah (swt)? I fell into this big sin, this mistake."

Look how they are so sensitive when their heart moves a little bit! Although she was looking at the Heavens, she moved one second to heedlessness. For us it is perfect, but for her it was a heedless moment that her heart went to look at Paradise and left looking at Allah (swt). Her heart asked, "How do you dare look at Paradise? I (your heart) has to always be in that Divine Presence!" That's why Prophet (s) said:

لي وجه مع الله و لي وجه مع الخلق

lee wajhun ma` Allah wa lee wajhun ma` al-khalq.

I have one face (presence) with Allah, and I have one face with the ummah.

That means, "I don't let anything interfere," yaghaar `alaa awliya'ihi wa anbiya'ihi. Allah (swt) doesn't like to share anyone with His servants! We will continue tomorrow about Haqiqat al-Gheerah, the Reality of Jealousy, and what is the jealousy that awliyaaullah are trying to get rid of. So it means, be aware of the power of your shaykh. Don't let anyone share with you your love to your shaykh. Your love must be to your shaykh, from your shaykh to Prophet (s), and from Prophet (s) to Allah (swt).

So Shayban ar-Rayy (q) scolded Imam Ahmad (q), saying, "Why are you asking me about missing prayers when every moment I am in prayer? How can you miss a prayer when you are always in that Presence? That prayer time is heavenly time." Shayban ar-Rayy is showing him, "Not only am I praying in dunya time, but in heavenly time also. Do you know heavenly time, O Ahmad?"

"No, I only know dunya time."

One time Grandshaykh (q) and Mawlana Shaykh (q) said that Sayyidina Bilal (r) was standing to call adhaan, and Prophet (s) said, "Wait," and as soon as he said, "Don't call adhaan," he said, "Call adhaan." Sayyidina Bilal was surprised. Prophet (s) explained, "The moment from when I said 'wait' to the time I said 'call', the sun moved fifty thousand years." That means in that moment the Bayt al-Ma`moor moved. The reality of Ka`aba is the reflection of Bayt al-Ma`moor, the real House of Allah (swt) located in the Fourth Heaven, where Prophet (s) prayed with all prophets in Laylat ul-`Isra wal-Mi`raj.

So adhaan is not on our time, it is on the time that Prophet (s) accepted in the holy night; he established the times and we pray on the time of Bayt al-Ma`moor in Mecca and Madinah. It is not when we pray Dhuhr in America, for (by then) already it was prayed in the Heavens! But the right time was what Prophet (s) established. Allah (swt) (accepts our prayer) as made at the right time, but in reality, the right time is when Prophet (s) prays.

Who can give you such knowledge if not an inheritor of the secret of Prophet (s)? So you don't know how awliyaaullah act and what is their knowledge, which is from the heart of Sayyidina Muhammad (s). That is why we must not object on how they do things; what they do is according to the Prophet (s), who did not pray except on the right time.

According to a hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, it was near the time of Maghrib, and Prophet (s) asked Sayyidina `Ali (r), "Did you pray `Asr?"

He said, "Yaa Rasoolullah, I did not." So Prophet (s) stopped the sun for Sayyidina `Ali (r) until he finished praying, and then it went to sunset. So Prophet's power is but a drop and he gives drops to awliyaaullah. All of them have one drop from that ocean of Prophet's knowledge, and that keep things moving until the Day of Judgment.

May Allah bless us, forgive us, and grant our shaykh long life, and make all of us happy, healthy and wealthy.

Bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.