The following is a list of Hanbali books limited to the subjects of jurisprudence and its foundations – fiqh and usul al-fiqh. People often ask what books they should obtain if they want to have a decent Hanbali section in their reference library. What follows are my personal preferences, based on my limited experience and knowledge. By Allah’s leave, I will explain the merits of some of the books. Books tend to be listed in order of importance for an actual study of the school.
First, some basic books used for study:
Akhsar al-mukhtasirat – most basic rulings in the school. The Dar Al-Basha’ir print includes marginal notes from Sheikh ʿAbd Al-Qadir ibn Badran, which are quite useful.
Dalil al-Talib – much more detailed than the above, while still being very easy to read. This is the basis for fatwa in Sham. This is one of the more important books for students, because of its two primary commentaries: Nail al-Ma’arib and Manar al-Sabil. The first commentary focuses on giving examples and more fiqh issues; the second gives basic commentary and evidence for almost all of the rulings. Both commentaries are very easy to read. There is a hashiya on Nail al-Ma’arib titled Hashiyat al-Lubadi, which is quite helpful. These commentaries are fairly late, and they are standard books for a Hanbali student.
Al-ʿUddah Sharh al-ʿUmdat – the classic commentary on Al-Muwaffiq’s basic text for beginners. The commentary introduces the student to alternative positions in the school, their evidence (dalil), how the evidence works (wajh al-istidlal), and the underlying cause that is used for analogical reasoning (ta”˜lil). This typically read after getting decent familiarity and mastery of Nail al-Ma’arib.
Al-Raudh al-Murbiʿ – the basic introductory, mufta bihi primer used in the Gulf. Quite excellent; there’s a lot more in it than you’d expect given its small size.
Ghayat Al-Muntaha – the encyclopedia of rulings. It doesn’t include evidence or taʿlil; it’s just ruling, after ruling, after ruling. And unlike many other Hanbali books: it’s really, really condensed and sometimes difficult reading. This isn’t necessarily basic, but this used to be part of the Hanbali syllabus here.
Al-Mughni – perhaps the most famous Hanbali book among non-Hanbalis. It includes opinions of the Four schools, in addition to the early schools that became extinct. The book gives the various opinions; the Companions, Tabi”˜in, and Imams (Allah be well pleased with them all) who took which opinions; the evidence; and a very brief discussion of the evidence. It’s easy to read, but you need some familiarity with the foundations of jurisprudence and hadith sciences.
Al-Insaf fi maʿrifat al-rajih min al-khilaf – one of the better references for knowing the various opinions within the school and which scholars took them. Includes evidence and lots of commentary. A must-have, but unfortunately very difficult to get these days.
Kashshaf al-Qinaʿ – lots of commentary, lots of evidence, but not a lot of different opinions internal or external to the school.
Al-Furuʿ – Ibn Muflih weaves together the opinions of Ibn Taymiyyah and the school.
Al-Muharrar – for each issue it says whether there are multiple opinions, without saying with one is used for fatwa.
Sharh Al-Waraqat – the very basics. Expected reading.
Ghayat al-Sul – much more detailed; gives differences of opinion among the scholars of usul, and gives the position of the late Hanbalis. It kind of reads like a commentary on a “Hanbali-ized” version of al-Baydawi’s Minhaj.
Al-Madhkhal ‘Ila Madhab al-Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal – more than just usul al-fiqh: usul al-madhab. Yes: this book does get read.
Raudat al-Nazir – an abridged and “Hanbali-ized” version of Imam al-Ghazali’s classic work Al-Mustasfa. Al-Muwaffiq even included the introduction on mantiq. The late Sheikh ʿAbd Al-Qadir ibn Badran has a highly-recommended commentary on the book. And, al-hamdu lillah, it is fairly easy to find. It still gets read. al-Tusi’s Bulbul is an easy step up to al-Rawdah.
Muswada ‘Al Tayymiyah – notes dealing with usul written by three scholars from consecutive generations from the well-known family. Unfortunately, there’s no index.