The Life of Ibn Hanbal

The Life of Ibn Hanbal

480 Pages

October 2016

ISBN: 9781479805303




Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H/1201 AD) was a Baghdadi storyteller, preacher, and prolific Islamic scholar associated with the Hanbali school of jurisprudential thought. He is well known for his exegeses of the Qur'an and Hadith, including his famous compendium, Al-Tahqiq.

Michael Cooperson is Professor of Arabic language and literature at UCLA. His research interests include the cultural history of the early Abbasid caliphate, Maltese language and literature, and time travel as a literary device.

Garth Fowden is the Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at the University of Cambridge.

The Life of Ibn Hanbal is a translation of the biography of Ibn Hanbal by the Baghdad preacher, scholar, and storyteller Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H/1200 AD), newly abridged for a paperback readership by translator Michael Cooperson

Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H/855 AD), renowned for his profound
knowledge of hadiths—the reports of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds—is a major
figure in the history of Islam. He was famous for living according to his own
strict interpretation of the Prophetic model and for denying himself the most
basic comforts, even though his family was prominent and his city, Baghdad, was
then one of the wealthiest in the world. Ibn Hanbal’s piety and austerity made
him a folk hero, especially after he resisted the attempts of two caliphs to
force him to accept rationalist doctrine. His subsequent imprisonment and
flogging is one of the most dramatic episodes of medieval Islamic history, and his
principled resistance influenced the course of Islamic law, the rise of
Sunnism, and the legislative authority of the caliphate.

Set against the background of fierce debates over the role of reason and the basis of legitimate government, it tells the formidable life tale of one of the most influential Muslims in history.


  • "Coopersons translation is uncommonly deft On the whole, this translation is a grand success. It will be valuable for teachers to illustrate early Islamic piety, early Islamic law, early Sunni theology, and everyday life in Baghdad."

    Christopher Melchert, Journal of Islamic Studies

  • "Gives readers a unique vantage point into the life and piety of the namesake of the Hanbali school of Sunni law Ibn al-Jawzi, drawing on earlier reports, reconstructs the life and morality of his hero as a complex, earnest, and playful man; Coopersons dynamic and accessible translation brings this last quality to the surface to an extent that would surprise many modern readers with preconceptions about Hanbalism."


  • "Michael Coopersons fluid translation is accompanied by substantial notes and a glossary of names and terms."

    Banipal Magazine