Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hambal (rahimahullah) was born in the year: 164 A.H, and he passed away in the year: 241 A.H.
Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) began his quest for the knowledge of Hadith at the age of 16. He set out for Kufah in the year 183 A.H. and to Basrah in 186 A.H. and to Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah in Makkah in 187 A.H.
He went to Imam Abdur Razzaq (rahimahullah) in San’a –together with Imam Yahya bin Ma’in (rahimahullah)- in the year 197 A.H.
He is quite renown due to his celebrated work: Al-Musnad; a huge Hadith collection.
Ibnul Jawzi (rahimahullah) states: “Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) travelled the world twice and thereafter he compiled his Musnad.”
Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) says: “I traveled in the search of knowledge and Hadith to: Syria, Morocco, Al-Jazair, Makkah, Madinah, Yemen, ‘Iraq, Persia and Khurasan and then returned to Baghdad. When I went to Kufah, I was once at a stage when I only had a brick as my pillow”!
Yahya ibn Ma’in (rahimahullah) narrates a few outstanding incidents that occurred during his journey with Imam Ahmad to Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq (rahimahullah) who was settled in San’a; Yemen
He says: “When we set out for Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq to Yemen, we first went for Haj. One day whilst I was in tawaf, I spotted Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq. So I greeted him and said to him: “Here is your brother Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal!” He replied: “May Allah keep him alive and steadfast for verily I have heard every good about him”. Then I said to Imam Ahmad: “Allah has shortened our distance, granted us surplus wealth and he has saved us from a month long journey”. Imam Ahmad said : “In Baghdad I had intended to hear (Hadith) from ‘Abdur Razzaq in San’a, by Allah! I shall never change my Intention”.
Remarkable reliance upon Allah
Yahya says: “When we went to Sa’a, Imam Ahmad’s wealth became exhausted. Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq offered him a large sum of money but he refused to accept it. Then he asked him to take it as a loan, but he still refused. He also refused our wealth when we had offered him. When we checked on him we found that he use to sell belts and eat of its profit”.
Ibnul Jawzi (rahimahullah) writes in his book “Manaqibul Imam Ahmad” that once Imam ‘Abdur Razzaq mentioned Imam Ahmad and tears came to his eyes. He then said: “He came to us and stayed for approximately 2 years. I once came to know that his money finished so I took him by his hand behind the door and when we were alone I said to him: “Verily I do not accumulate a lot of wealth. When we sell the crops the money gets used up in something or the other, yet I have found 10 dinars by the womenfolk of the house, so take it and I hope that before you spend it we would have acquired more. He replied: “O ‘Abdur Razzaq! If I ever accepted anything from people I would have accepted from you.”
Ibnul Jawzi then narrated from Imam Ishaq ibn Rahuyah (rahimahullah) who said: “When Imam Ahmad went to ‘Abdur Razzaq and his expenditure became exhausted, his compatriots offered to assist him he refused. Instead he had hired himself out as a porter until he reached San’a.”
Ahmad ibn Sinan Al-Wasity says: “I have heard that Imam Ahmad on one occasion pawned his shoes by a baker in lieu of food that he had taken from him”!!
While discussing the hardships that Imam Ahmad experienced in his student days, Hafiz Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) mentions:
“And his clothes were stolen while he was in Yemen so he stayed in his room. When his companions became aware of this they offered him gold coins but he refused. In fact he only took 1 Dinar with the condition that he will become their scribe!” i.e, He took it as a payment for his effort)
May Allah Ta’ala fill his grave with mercy and noor. Ameen.
Extracted from the book:
صفحات من صبر العلماء على شدائد العلم والتحصيل
“Incidents of the sacrifices of the ‘Ulama in their quest for knowledge”
By Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah (rahimahullah)
The lesson to learn from this aspect of the life of this great Imam is that he had remained independent from everyone besides Allah Ta’ala.
Let us also follow his footsteps in that if we are poverty stricken we would rather earn our money through our own effort instead of accepting handouts from people.
After all, in this way he became “Imam ul Muslimin” (in the words of Yahya ibn Ma’in)
 According to the Muhaddithun, this is the correct pronunciation. The linguists pronounce it as: “RAHA WAIH”. Refer to the footnotes of Shaykh Abdul Fatah Abu Ghuddah (rahimahullah) on Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum il Hadith, pg.131.