A brief introduction to the meaning of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), its principles, and The Leading Fiqh Scholars such as Abu Hanifah, Malik, Al-Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. It includes all the practical rules that every Muslim, man or woman, should know, citing their bases in the Qur’an and the Sunnah in an easy and simple way.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Ahmad ibn Hanbal (164–241 AH/782–856 CE) was born in Baghdad, which was at the time the capital of learning, with numerous scholars of Islamic studies and all other branches of study, and the capital of the Islamic state.

 He was recognized as highly intelligent and very devout, and began his learning at a young age and memorized the Qur’an.  He lost his father when he was young and thereafter relied on his own efforts. As he grew up he earned a reputation for hard work, perseverance and patience in adversity.  Older scholars recognized that he had great potential. 

Al-Haytham ibn Jamil is quoted as saying in reference to him: ‘Should this lad live to old age, he will be the scholar of his time.’[1]

Methodology of the Hanbali school

Ibn al-Qayyim explains the methodology adopted by Imam Ahmad in his rulings. It has five constituent elements: 

1. Texts: When a text applies to a question that text constitutes the basis of his verdict. This is universally agreed by scholars.

2. The rulings of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions, whenever they agreed on a question.

3. When the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions disagreed, he would choose the view he considered closest to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, but he would not depart from what they ruled. If his view was different from all their rulings, he would report their views, without giving preference to any.

4. Ahmad relied on hadiths that were lacking in authenticity when there was nothing under the same heading in conflict with these. Such hadiths must not be odd or contrary to the established truth, and must not include in their chains of transmission anyone who is considered unreliable. According to Ahmad, the Sunnah includes all authentic hadiths, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions’ rulings, and hadiths that are lacking in authenticity.

5. Analogy: Ahmad only resorted to analogy when necessary, i.e. when he was dealing with a question to which none of the above sources of evidence applied.


  1. Al-Dhahabi, Tarikh al-Islam, vol. 5, p. 1,013.