Let Nobody Have Any Favor Over You
“al-Imam Ahmad – may Allah have Mercy upon him – would not accept any gifts from the people, so that they would not have any favor over him. He would reject the gifts of the rulers. One time – and the people loved to present him with gifts – he sent one of his sons to buy a loaf of bread. So, when the baker asked the boy who he was, he replied: “I am the son of Ahmad bin Hambal.” So, instead of filling the bag with bread, the baker filled it with gold and silver, and gave it to him. When Ahmad bin Hambal opened the bag and found gold and silver, he told his son: “Go back to him.” When he gave the bag back, the baker called out to him: “Come, at least take the bread that you paid a dirham for!” Imam Ahmad’s son said: “My father commanded me to return everything.”
They would wish that they could give him some gift, but, he was honorable in the face of such a reality, as the Prophet said: “Abstain from the dunya, and Allah will Love you. Abstain from what is with the people, and the people will love you.”
Then came the tribulation of the creation of the Qur’an. al-Ma’mun adopted this belief, and came to torture Ahmad bin Hambal, so that he would do the same. al-Ma’mun died, al-Mu’tasim continued in torturing him, and he took a stand for Allah – the Mighty and Exalted – in which he honored this religion. Eighteen years, and three rulers who tortured him so that he would accept and endorse the belief of the Qur’an being created, but, he refused. Then came al-Wathiq, who reversed all that had happened in terms of the affair of the creation of the Qur’an. He wanted to honor Ahmad bin Hambal publicly, but, Imam Ahmad refused. So, he sent for his sons and showered them with gifts, which they accepted. When Ahmad bin Hambal learned that his sons had accepted the gifts of al-Wathiq, he built a wall between his home and theirs, boycotting them.
One day, Ahmad bin Hambal became sick. So, his doctor instructed him to roast an ear of corn in the oven and eat it. So, he bought the corn, and asked that it be roasted. So, it was taken to the oven of his uncle, Salih. When it was brought back to Ahmad, he asked: “Where did you roast it?” They said: “In the oven of your uncle, Salih.” He said: “I will not even taste it, as his wealth has been mixed with the gifts of the ruler.”
As a result, it got to the point that even the jinn would fear him!
A crazed girl was brought to al-Wathiq, so, he said: “Send her to Ahmad bin Hambal.” When she was brought to Ahmad, they asked him: “Please cure this crazed girl for us!” So, he began to speak to the jinni that had possessed this girl, saying: “Get out of this girl! Get out of this girl!” But, it didn’t come out. He continued, saying: “Get out, or I’ll – and Ahmad began to threaten the jinni – ” and the jinni came out, saying: “O Ahmad! You feared Allah, so, everything is afraid of you! You feared Allah, so, everything is afraid of you!”
The jinni waited until Ahmad bin Hambal eventually died, and it returned to possess the girl once again. So, they brought the girl to a shaykh – who, as it was said, is more like us than Ahmad bin Hambal – and he began to speak to the jinni, saying: “Get out, or I’ll…” Suddenly, the jinni began to laugh, saying: “Ahmad bin Hambal has died; Ahmad bin Hambal has died…””
“Abstain from the dunya, and Allah will Love you. Abstain from what is with the people, and the people will love you.”
[‘Fi Dhilal Surat at-Tawbah’; p. 195-196]