Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, رحمه الله تعالى, once was traveling and needed to stay somewhere overnight. When he went to the masjid, the guard (not recognizing Imam Ahmad) denied him entrance. Imam Ahmad 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 Ahmad.
A baker, whose shop was nearby, watched this scene and took pity on the Imam. He invited the Imam to stay with him for the night. While there, Imam Ahmad noticed that the baker continuously made istighfar (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, so Imam Ahmed asked whether the man had experienced any reward from this practice.
The baker answered, ‘By Allah! No du’aa have I made except that it was answered – But one.’
‘And what is that duaa?’ asked Imam Ahmed.
The baker replied,
‘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!
(Summarized from Al Jumuah magazine, vol 19, issue 7.)