During his old age, while Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal1 (r.a) was traveling he stopped by a town. After the prayers, he wanted to stay for the night in the mosque’s yard because he didn’t know anyone in the town. Owing to his humility, he hadn’t introduced himself to anyone thinking that if he did, he would be welcomed by many people, as he was a renowned ascetic and a great jurist whom people knew in the far lands.
Failing to recognize Ahmed bin Hanbal (r.a), the caretaker of the mosque refused to let him stay in the mosque. As Imam Ahmed (r.a) was quite old, the caretaker had to drag him out of the mosque. On seeing this, a baker from a nearby place felt pity for this man (Imam Ahmed r.a), whom he thought is a stranger in need of help and offered to be the host to him for the night. During his stay with the baker, Imam Ahmed (r.a) observed that the baker would constantly recite Istighfar,seeking God’s forgiveness. Imam Ahmed (r.a) asked the baker if the constant practice of saying Istighfar had any effect on him. The baker responded by telling Imam Ahmed that Allah had accepted all of his supplications, except one. When he asked him what supplication was it that hadn’t been accepted, the baker replied that he had been asking Allah to provide him the privilege to meet the famous scholar Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (r.a). On hearing this, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (r.a) said that Allah had not only listened to his supplication but had dragged him onto his (the baker’s) doorsteps.
1- Ahmed bin Hanbal(780–855 CE) was a renowned Islamic reformer, Jurist and Ascetic. He and his followers founded Hanbali School of Islamic Jurisprudence, which is active until present time.