“Today, we will discuss what it means to be steadfast in the way of Allah (swt),” announced Sir Hammad, our teacher, as he turned around to face the class. “Can anyone cite an example?”
Ahmed quickly raised his hand: “Sir, it means to be as sturdy as a rock.”
“Absolutely!” smiled Sir Hammad. “Anyone else?”
Ali chipped in: “It also means to believe in something and hold on to it, even if everyone else is opposing it.”
“Yes, Ali, and that is a very difficult and dangerous path to tread. That is why Allah (swt) loves such faithful followers and rewards them with honour and glory in the world. And if they die pursuing the cause of Allah (swt), they are granted Jannah, the best abode prepared by Allah (swt) for His very special believers.”
“Sir, please tell us a story, as you always do,” insisted Hassan. The class chorused in unison.
“Indeed, I will. Muslims are very fortunate to have countless examples of their heroes.” Sir Hammad looked pensively, as if he was travelling back to the land of another era. “Today, we will pay a tribute to Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, who was a revolutionary of the third century Hijri. He was related to the Prophet (sa) through Nazar bin Maad bin Adnan. His family, known for feats of courage, settled in Basra, Iraq, where he memorized the Quran. Later, he studied to become an expert in the Arabic language and pursued his education in Hadeeth, even though he came from a very poor family.
Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal had a truly exceptional memory. He never forgot, what he read once. Even as a young lad, he was admired by the community for his cultured manners, courage and honesty. He was raised only by his mother, as his father had passed away before Imam Ahmed’s birth. His greatest accomplishment was the compilation of Ahadeeth from across several lands to form Musnad Ahmed.
However, for many years, he also had to face severe torture at the hands of tyrant rulers of his time. They claimed that the Quran was not the Word of Allah (swt); rather, it was ‘created’. The rulers convinced all the Islamic scholars to agree with them, except Imam Ahmed. Imam challenged the rulers that this was a misguided thought. For this stand, Imam Ahmed was made to sit in the burning sun in a state of fasting. He was tied with ropes and chains, and lashed, until he passed out. Then he was prodded with a sword to regain consciousness and thrown into the dungeons.
During one of such trial days, when the Imam was being taken away in chains by the soldiers of the caliph and also being flogged, he met a man on the way. The man said to the Imam: ‘Do you recognize me? I am the famous thug Abul Haisam. My name is listed in the royal prison. If I count the whippings only, I must have endured 18,000 lashes on my back on various occasions. But look at my determination. The moment I am freed, I steal again. See how astonishing my steadfastness is in the obedience of Satan. I would, therefore, be disappointed, if a man of your stature broke down in his resolve in the path of Allah (swt).’
These words of Abul Haisam went straight to Imam Ahmed’s heart. Later, he always prayed to Allah (swt) for Abul Haisam’s forgiveness, as he helped the Imam stay steadfast in Allah’s (swt) way.”
“Children,” Sir Hammad said, after finishing the story, “we should also always stay firm in our ways that are commanded by Allah (swt). If the disbelievers can stay loyal to Satan, don’t you think we should be more upright and steadfast in Allah’s (swt) way?”