Imam Ahmed bin Hanbl's View of Ilm
Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (RA) used to say that Allah SWT distributes the treasures of Knowledge only among those whome He considers his friends. Had He specified a certain type of people for bestowing Ilm, it would certainly have been people with a high background. (However) (Hazrat) Ata Habshi was a slave. (Hazrat) Hassan Basri was a freed slave. And (Hazrat) Ibn-e-Sireen was also a slave freed by the Ansaar.
Excerpt from Murshed Jesa na Dekha Koi, by Hazrat Major (Retd) Ghulam Muhammad