The Ahl-e-Hadith (people of the traditions) appear to have developed out of a pious reaction to the assassination of Ummayid Caliph Yazid bin Walid (d.744). Prior Yazid bin walid’s assassination, scholars who emphasized Hadith and Athar (traditions of the prophet Muhammad) as the primary source for interpreting the will of Allah were disorganized and fairly removed from the widespread emphasis on applying varying levels of reason to the Qur’an.
The Ahl-e-hadith wal Athar, literally the ‘’people of tradition and narration’’, is not a distinct group of thinkers, but refers to the Athariis who see themselves as particularly enthusiastic about the prophetic traditions (hadith reports) in Islam. Ahl Hadith Fuqaha’ (jurists of Islamic law) are expected to master the Hadith Collections, to be experts in judging their varying levels of reliability and in using them to resolve legal issues. The different legal schools in Islam take different attitude toward the hadith reports. Those who emphasize the significance of tradition set themselves up as the Ahl-e-Hadith wal Athar against the Ahl-Rawafiz (rejectors), ahl al-biddah wal-hawah (Muttazilla) and ahl al-ra’y (people of opinion). There were rulers who adhired to the pristine teachings of islam and ensured that the teachings of the Quran and Hadith were followed in their domains. With the intermingling of people of different races the society got mixed Jewish and the Christian scholars from the Egypt and Syria introduced the Greek ideas to the Arabs, books on philosophy, logic, Mathematics and medicine were translated into Arabic. These scholars were patronized by Royal courts, a new composite culture emerged in the muslim world .
This ushered in an era of liberal thinking among the muslim intelligentsia, muslim scholars were overwhelmed by the philosophical theories of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen and ancient Greek philosophers. They were so much engrossed in the philosophical and logical reasoning that their intellect had become a captive of a Greek thoughts.
They suffered from an inferiority complex and tried to test the Islamic ideologies on the logical principles, while the other scholars defended the tenets of their religion by means of logical reasoning, rationalism ( Aytizaal) and scholasticism ( Ilm al Kalam) became the distinct schools of thought. But Mutazillah opened the floodgates of mental vagary, the stupefied minds under the spell of Greek philosophy made Islam the target of their intellectual acrobatics even Allah’s attributes were subjected to logical testing.
In the ninth century (3rd century A.H.) the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad directly attacked the Ahl-e-Hadith for their theory that the Qur’an was uncreated. The pro Shia, Mutazila Caliph al-Ma’mun insisted that the the view that the Qur’an was created, a view than propounded by his Mu’tazila sect as well as many Shia.
During the religious inquisition or Mihna (833-850) many of the Ahl-e-hadith were imprisoned for refusing to agree to the doctrine of the created Qur’an. A diabolical debate concerning Quraan rocked the minds of scholars. The Muttazilla propounded the theory of the Quran being a creation, it was noting but intellectual prostitution. It had taken the entire Islamic world in its grip. The Muttazilla had their sway in the Abbasid court, the wicked Ahmad bin abi’Du’aadh was a characterless and shameless person. He wanted to humiliate the scholars who did no see eye to eye with him, who were the inheritors of devine law ahl sunnah wal jammat.
Mamum Abbasi the caliph, was under his influence, the ibn Du’aadh seducecd him to order all the prominent scholars of Ahl Sunnah endorsed the theory of the Mutazillah concerning the Quraan. This abuse of imperial authority wreaked havoc upon the pious theologians.
Imam Ahmad bin Hambal رحمه الله who was one of the greatest theologians of Islamic world was summoned to the royal court and ordered to acquiesce in what the rationalists had propounded about the Quraan.
The Mutazilla succeeded in getting Imam Ahmad subjecting to physical torture and flogging, so great was the steadfastness of Imam Ahmad that the third degree torture failed to waver his belief. He was thrown into the prison, he was firm like a rock. His only argument was, produce an authority from Quraan and the Hadith ‘ when he refused to submit to the imperial arrogance, he was thrown into prison .Mamum Abbasi died leaving him in chains. His successors Motasim and Wasiq were even more brutal. The Imam had to go undergo more torment and torture during the rule of the Wasiq. The two cursed caliphs also died within a short span of time.
Imam Ahmad bin Hambal رحمه الله was still undergoing torment in the prison. In spite of all the brutalities he had undergone, he was unwavering physically he was shattered but his soul was as fresh and vibrant as ever with broken limbs and bleeding body, he regularly offered his prayers. One of the noblest sons of Islam, so unique was his sense of piety that he never cursed those whose hands he has so badly suffered.
The succession of Jafar al’Mutawakil رحمه الله to the the throne was a Turing point in the annals of the dynasty. He was a righteous and a just ruler. He rejected all the absurdities propounded by the the Mutazilla. He adhired to the pristine teachings of Quraan and Sunnah with his ascendancy the Mutaziila lost their sway in the royal court. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal رحمه الله was released from the prison. The caliph held him in extreme reverence and wanted to expatiate for the past brutalities the Imam had to suffer. But the Imam was beyond the reach of all attractions and allurements, just as the torment and torture of Mamun and his two successors had failed to waver his courage and faith, the imperial favors extended by Mutawakil also failed to fascinate him.