Home > Ahmed bin Hanbal (Rahimahullah), Enjoy Your Life, Sayings and Actions of Salaf as Saalih, Scholars > Family Man- Life of Ahmed bin Hanbal [rahimahullah]

Family Man- Life of Ahmed bin Hanbal [rahimahullah]


Ahmad bin Hanbal [rahimahullah] did not marry or occupy himself with making money until he was past the age of forty and had got the knowledge he wanted. We are told that he was precisely forty at the time of his first marriage, which means he married in 204/819–20. His wife was an ‘Abbasah bint al-Fadl, of Arab lineage. She gave birth to a son, Salih, who grew up to be Ahmad’s biographer, a collector of his opinions, and a qadi. Then she died

(IAY, 2:49; Manaqib, 298 402).



Ahmad next married his paternal cousin, Rayhanah, who was one-eyed. She gave birth to a son, ‘Abd Allah, who grew up to be the main collector of Ahmad’s opinions and hadith (IAY, 2:49; Manaqib, 299 403), before she in her turn died. Rayhanah may have been a concubine, whom Ahmad bought, with his wife’s permission, for the sake of offspring (Manaqib, 177 243). However, Ahmad is also reported to have told a disciple,

‘Salih’s mother lived with me for thirty years without our disagreeing over a single word” (Manaqib, 298–9 402–3).

 If she was with him for thirty years, she must have died about 234/848–9, whereas ‘Abd Allah is said to have been born in 213/828–9 (TB 9:376). Therefore, it seems likely that Ahmad’s household at some point included either two wives or a wife and a concubine.



Then Ahmad bought Husn, who gave birth to several children: Umm ‘Ali Zaynab, a daughter (perhaps also called Fatimah – girls might bear two names), twins al-Hasan and al-Husayn, who died shortly after birth, al-Hasan and Muhammad, who lived to be around 40 years old, and finally Sa‘id, who grew up to become a deputy qadi in Kufa (IAY, 2:49; Manaqib, 307 414).


For years, I have collected references to the sources of income of Muslim men of religion. The one that comes up most often is trade; for example, Ahmad’s shaykh, Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil (died Basra, 212/828?), was a silk trader (TI 15:192). The second most common is income from rents.

Ahmad’s principal source of income seems to have been renting out the property he inherited from his father: one shop brought in three dirhams a month (Hilyah 9:179).


A collection of shops is said to have yielded seventeen dirhams a month in the 220s/ mid-830s–40s (Ibn Kathir, 10:337).



He occasionally sold items made by his womenfolk, mainly spun yarn and woven cloth (Sirah, 42) and sometimes accepted a government stipend (‘ata’) as an Arab and a soldier’s son (Siyar 11:320). He also went out to glean (Siyar 11:320).


Ahmad seems to have been continually short of cash. A bookseller relates getting four or five dirhams from a person who said it was half of everything he owned. The bookseller went on to Ahmad, who gave him four dirhams, with the comment that it was all he owned. There are several other stories in which he gives away all he owns, in the form of four or five dirhams (Manaqib, 240 324–5). He is reported to have been overjoyed when one of his tenants came to him with one and a half dirhams: “I supposed that he had assigned it to some pressing need” (Manaqib, 225 307).


Ahmad’s house was probably divided into sections around a central courtyard. Ahmad’s sons lived there even after they married. It had a well, as is shown by the tale of Abu al-Fawaris, who rented a property from Ahmad.

One day, Ahmad told him that the boy had thrown a set of shears down the well. (Parents know how these things happen.) Abu al-Fawaris went down to retrieve them, so Ahmad instructed his grocer to give him half a dirham. Ahmad had an account with this grocer and evidently used him as banker. Abu al-Fawaris refused to take half a dirham for so small a job, so Ahmad excused him of three months’ rent

(Siyar 11:219).


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