Treatise on Salah by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

Verily, all praise is due to Allah, we praise Him and we seek His aid and we ask His
forgiveness, we seek shelter from the evil of ourselves and from the wickedness of
our deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides, there is none that can misguide him and
whomsoever Allah sends astray, there is none who can guide him. And I testify that
none is worthy of worship except Allah Alone, without partners and I testify that
Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger.
Certainly, Salah (regular prayer) is the first and most important matter after testimony,
the second pillar and it is the difference between faith and disbelief The Messenger of
Allah said: «Between a person and disbelief is discarding Salah.»1
Salah is our connection to our Lord and our success in the Hereafter depends upon our
performance of it in this world. If we accept this, we must then strive to perform our
Salah in the way which is accepted by Allah, i.e. as the Prophet himself used to
perform them. He said: «Pray as you have seen me performing Salah.»2
Imam Ahmad, doubtless and mindful of the Words of Allah:
(So woe to the worshippers who are careless in the performance of their
prayers.) (Qur’an 107: 4-5)
has dwelt at great length in this treatise on the importance of performing one’s Saláh
carefully and correctly, in accordance with the confirmed practices of the Prophet as
narrated in the authentic hadiths.
The treatise was written for the people of a community with whom Imam Ahmad had
prayed a number of times. During his Salah, he noticed that most of them were not
performing Salah properly; indeed, the errors were so serious in some cases, as to
nullify their Salah. The resulting work (treatise) was, and remains, an excellent advice
to all those who fear Allah and hate to incur His displeasure and seek only His
pleasure. May Allah guide us all to His Truth and keep us firm upon the Straight Path:
Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error. Our Lord! Lay not on us a
burden like that which you laid on those before us. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden
greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and forgive us. Have mercy on
us. You are our protector. Help us against the disbelieving people.) (Qur’an 2: 286)
Sameh Strauch

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Imam Ahmad
Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (may Allah be merciful to him) was born in
Baghdad in 780 C.E. and travelled extensively in Iraq, Syria, Hijaz (Western Arabia)
and Yemen collecting Hadiths. After returning home, he studied fiqh (Islamic Law)
under Imam Shafee`i!
During the reign of the `Abbassid Caliphs’, al-Ma’moon, al-Mu’tasim and al-Wathiq
(813-847 C.E.) the dogma of the Mu`tazilite3 was the official doctrine of the state and
inquisition courts were set up to enforce it. Ibn Hanbal openly denounced the pagan
Greek philosophical concepts on which Mu`tazilite thought was based and as a result,
he was subsequently subjected to imprisonment and corporal punishment.
Under the Caliph, al-Mutawakkil (847-861 C.E.), his tribulations ceased and the fame
of Ibn Hanbal’s learning, piety and unswerving faithfulness to tradition gathered a
host of students and admirers around him. He died in Baghdad in 855 C.E. and ‘The
Hanbali school of Islamic Law’ was named after him. His major work, al-Musnad
contains approximately 40,000 hadiths. He was the foremost among the Imams in
collecting the Sunnah4 and adhering to it, so much so that he even disliked that a book
consisting of deductions and opinions be written. Because of this he once said: “Do
not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Malik or ash-Shafee`i, nor
Awza`i, nor ath-Thawri, but take from where they took (i.e. the authentic hadiths).”
O’ people! I have been performing Salah (praying) with you and I have observed that
some of the worshippers in your mosques precede the Imam in bowing, prostrating,
straightening up and going down. And there is no Salah for those who compete with
the Imam (i.e. their salah are not accepted). The proof of this is in the hadith of the
Prophet and the narrations of his Companions, such as the hadith in which he said:
«Does not the one who raises his head before the Imam fear that Allah will change his
head into that of a donkey?»5
In another narration he said: «… into the shape of (that of) a dog?»6 This is because he
performs salah badly, so there is no Salah for him. If there were, he might hope for a
reward and not fear a punishment, which is that Allah will turn his head into that of a
donkey or a dog.

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