Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taymiyyah are from the great scholars of Islam

Q: There are people who brand some Salafis (righteous predecessors) as Kafirs (disbelievers), like Shah Walyullah Dahlawy, Shah `Abdul-Qadir, Shaykh `Abdul-Qadir Jilany and others whose number reaches thirty three righteous people and scholars. They claim that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is a Mushrik, because he believes in Hawd (Prophet's lake in Paradise), Shafa`ah (intercession), Munkar and Nakir (the two angels who test the faith of the dead in their graves), the torment of the grave, the angel of death, the seizing of souls, the return of the soul to the body in the grave, and that the dead will be questioned about their Iman (faith) and Tawhid (monotheism).Moreover, there are others who brand Ibn Taymiyyah as a disbeliever because he writes: "There are reported many Athars (narrations from the Companions) to the effect that the dead person can recognize his family (Part No. 3; Page No. 475) and that he is aware of their life affairs. There are also other Athars to the effect that the dead can see and feel the presence of the people around the grave. They rejoice if something good is done but feel sad if something evil is done. The souls of the dead also assemble together and those of higher ranks descend to visit those of lower ranks."Should these two Imams be regarded as Kafirs because of the statements attributed to them knowing that these statements are based on authentically reported Athars? Please, give me an adequate and elaborate explanation. May Allah reward you.

A: Both Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Imam Ahmad Ibn `Abdul-Halim Ibn Taymiyyah are great scholars of Islam who are well-known for their virtue. The books they composed attest to this fact. They belong to the Imams of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream). Belief in the Hawd, Shafa`ah, and torment and blessings of the grave are true matters which have not only been proved by authentic evidence from the Shari`ah but have also gained the consensus of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream). May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and companions.