Imâm Ahmad was the most famous man in the Muslim world both before and after the fitanh during his lifetime. Imâm ad-Dhahabi even said that he had the largest Janazah that took place in that era. In just one day, 1.3 million people came to pray Janazah on him. SubhanAllaah! Just imagine how popular and beloved he was رحمه الله. He would cover his face when travelling to seek knowledge so people wouldn’t notice him. Look at the humility.
One day, he was travelling to ash-Shaam and on the way, he stops by a Masjid to spend the night. The guard of the Masjid tells him, ”You need to get out, the Masjid is closing”. “I have nowhere to go,” said Imâm Ahmad. “Ukhruj.. get out,” said the guard. Now, he could have said, “O, by the way, I am Imâm Ahmad,” but he didn’t. Instead, he, رحمه الله took his belongings and went to sleep on the steps of the Masjid. The guard came outside and told him to get off the steps and go somewhere else. Imâm Ahmad didn’t know what to do.
This guard then picks up Imâm Ahmad by his legs and drags him to the middle of the street and drops him.
Imâm Ahmad (رحمه الله) observes this baker. He’s putting the dough together, putting it in the oven, and through every step of the process .. kneading, forming, baking etc., the man is saying:
'SubhanAllaah, Alhamdulillah, Laa ilaaha ill Allaah, Allaahu Akbar …'
The entire night, he is making tasbeeh of Allaah سُبحانه وتعالى.
Imâm Ahmad is shocked. Think about it, how quickly people get tired of tasbeeh, yet this man is constantly doing dhikr at his workplace! This isn’t even Tahajjud or I’tikaaf or something. He then asks him, “How long have you been in this situation?” He says, “Which situation?” “Making tasbeeh of Allaah,” he said.
“My whole life,” said the baker.
Imâm Ahmad asks him a second question. “What have you seen from Allaah as a result of all this tasbeeh that you make?”
“I never made du’a to Allaah for anything except that He answered it,” said the baker.
Imâm Ahmad said, “SubhanAllaah! You never made du’a to Allaah for anything except that he gave it to you?"
Imâm Ahmad (رحمه الله) said, “And what is that?”
He said, “To have a chance to see Imâm Ahmad!”
Imâm Ahmad (رحمه الله) is brought to tears. He embraces this man and says:
اذْكُر رَّبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعاً وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالآصَالِ وَلاَ تَكُن مِّنَ الْغَافِلِينَ
"And remember your Lord within yourself in humility and in fear without being apparent in speech – in the mornings and the evenings. And do not be among the heedless."