Imam Ahmed, may God be pleased with him, once was traveling and needed to stay somewhere overnight. When he went to the masjid, the guard (not recognizing Imam Ahmed) denied him entrance. Imam Ahmed tried numerous times, but the guard did not accept his requests. Frustrated, Imam Ahmed resolved to spend the night in the masjid yard. The guard became furious and dragged him away, despite the old age and frailty of Imam Ahmed.
A baker, whose shop was nearby, watched this scene and took pity on Imam Ahmed. He invited the Imam to stay with him for the night. While there, Imam Ahmed noticed that the baker continually made istighfaar (asking for Allah’s forgiveness) while working, and in the morning, the Imam eagerly asked his host about the latter’s continual seeking of forgiveness. The baker said it had become like second nature, and Imam Ahmed then asked whether the man had experienced any reward from this practice.
The baker answered,
“By Allah! No duaa (supplication to God) I made except that it was answered but one.”
“And what is that duaa?” asked Imam Ahmed.
“To be able to see the famed Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal!”
Imam Ahmed interjected, “I am Ahmed ibn Hanbal!”
He then went on to add:
“By Allah! I was dragged to your place so that you can have your duaa/wish come true.”