Sheikh ʿAbd Al-Qadir Ibn Badran suggested the following syllabus for students of the Hanbali school in his Al-Madkhal ila Madhhab al-Imam Ahmad:
- Ibn Balban’s Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat or al-Bahuti’s Al-ʿUmdah.
- Marʿi bin Yusuf’s Dalil al-Talib or Ibn Qudamma’s Al-ʿUmdah.
- Al-Bahuti’s Al-Raudh Al-Murbiʿ.
- Al-Bahuti’s Sharh Al-Muntaha.
- Everything written before al-Hijawi.
As for knowing the final word in the school, when it comes to a smaller book, the preference in Sham is Nail al-Ma’arib, and Al-Raudh al-Murbiʿ in the Gulf. When it comes to larger books, Al-Iqnaʿ and Munataha al-Iradat and their commentaries are relied upon. Marʿi bin Yusuf has combined the two books into Ghayat Al-Muntaha, in the process reconciling the minor differences between them. Upon his deathbed, Al-ʿAlama al-Safarini told his students: “You must study Al-Iqnaʿ and Al-Muntaha, and whenever they differ you should refer to Ghayat al-Muntaha.”
At this point, someone might ask about the place of Ibn Quddama’s Al-Mughni or ʿAli Mardawi’s Al-Insaf fi Maʿrifat al-Rajih min al-Khilaf. The answer is that these books are indispensable in knowing the opinions and evidence in the school and, in the case of Al-Mughni, other schools as well. But the school continued developing after these two Imams, and later books are used for fatwa.
Allah be pleased with all of these and all other scholars. And may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His Prophet, family, companions, and Muslims one and all.