By Muhammad al-Khalafi
Imam Ahmad never authored a complete work on Fiqh, and this was because of his extreme wara’.
Some of his students wrote his Fiqh opinions and compiled it in the small books of “Masa’il”. The most famous of those who did this are: his two sons Abdullah & Sālih, his nephew Hanbal b. Ishaq, Abu Dawud al-Sijistani (author of the Sunan), al-Kawsaj, al-Athram, Ibn Hani’, and others.
Imam al-Khallal came and compiled all of these small scattered works in one big book he called “al-Jami'” (lit. The Collection).
Imam al-Khiraqi came and using al-Khallal’s work made the first short treatise on Hanbalī Fiqh, famously known as “Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi”.
The most famous Sharh of Khiraqi is Ibn Qudāmah’s “Mughni”; a comprehensive work that discusses comparative Fiqh.
Then came Qadhi Abu Ya’la, who had some important works like “al-Riwayatan wal-Wajhyn”.
His student Abul-Khattab authored two works: “al-Hidayah”, and “Ru’us al-Masa’il”.
Imam Majd b. Taymiyyah (the grandfather) explained “al-Hidayah”; book is lost.
Side point: Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah gave special importance to the works of Abul-Khattab’s works, because he was one of the top students of the Qadhi, this is evident from the way he quotes his works.
Then came the two “Shaykhs” of the Hanbalī school: Majd b. Taymiyyah, and Ibn Qudāmah.
Ibn Qudāmah authored: “al-Umdah”, “al-Muqni'”, “al-Kafi”, and “al-Mughni” which we have already discussed.
The “Muqni'” is probably the most important work in Hanbalī history.
Majd b. Taymiyyah authored: “al-Muharrar”, and “Sharh al-Hidayah” which we have mentioned.
Then came Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, who explained parts of Ibn Qudāmah’s “Umdah”, and his grandfather’s “Muharrar”. Both books are incomplete.
Then came his student Ibn Muflih (who memorized the Muqni’) and authored the famous volumous work on comparative Fiqh, “al-Furu'”. The book became known as the “Broomstick” of the Madhhab, due to how well it filtered out rejected opinions.
Ibn Qudāmah’s “Muqni'” reached it’s peak at this time; it was explained, memorized, and put into poem format by hundreds of scholars.
Al-Tanukhi, Ibn Abi Umar, and others from the teachers of Ibn Taymiyyah all had explanations of the “Muqni'”.
Ibn Muflih’s grandson also had a Sharh on the “Muqni'”.
Then came Imam Ala’ al-Din al-Mardawi, the Munaqqih & Musahhih of the Madhhab who authored an explanation on the Muqni’ in 12-volume work he named “al-Insaf”.
He also authored “al-Tanqih”, which he takes the issues in which Ibn Qudāmah mentioned a disagreement in the “Muqni'” and points out the relied-upon position; he also corrects and adds if needed.
The scholars saw the need to join between the original work (the Muqni’) and it’s modification & correction by al-Mardawi; while taking out all the unnecessary information and adding a few things.
Imam Ibn Najjar did this in his “Muntaha”, and joined between the “Muqni'” and “Tanqih”.
Imam al-Hajjawi did something somewhat similar in “al-Iqna'” where he took the “Muqni'”, and tried to follow-up al-Mardawi’s opinions, disagreeing with him on some issues.
Since al-Mardawi is a greater authority than al-Hajjawi, the later Hanbalis prefer “al-Muntaha” is over the “Iqna'” – but both are relied-upon works.
Al-Hajjawi also made a short book for beginners which he named “Zad al-Mustaqni'”, in which he summarized Ibn Qudamah’s “Muqni’”.
Then came Shaykh Mari’i al-Karmi, who joined between the “Muntaha” and “Iqna” in one book: “Al-Ghayah”.
He also authored “Dalil al-Talib” for beginners, which he took from “al-Muntaha”.
Imam al-Balbani also came and wrote “Kafi al-Mubtadi” for beginners, then he summarized it even further in “Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat”.
Then the final editor of the Madhhab, Al-Sheikh al-Imam Mansur b. Yunus al-Buhuti came, explaining the “Muntaha” in 7 volumes, the “Iqna'” in his comprehensive work “Kashāf al-Qina'”, and the “Zad” in his famous work “al-Rawd al-Murbi’”.
He also authored a small book for beginners, which he made similar to the “Zad”, making it a point to reword and reorder if needed, and he named it “Umdat al-Talib”.