Category Archives: Salaf

al-A’mash: One Interesting Character

One of the scholars who is most interesting to read about is the Tabi’i Sulayman bin Mihran (died 148 H), also known as al-A’mash (one who has weak vision). al-A’mash had quite an interesting personality, as he was very pious and knowledgeable while also having a rough, sarcastic attitude that makes one smile constantly while reading through his tarjamah.

Here are some funny incidents of his collected from ‘Siyar A’lam an-Nubala” (6/419-434) and ‘Hilyat al-Awliya” (5/54-70):

1 – al-A’mash went out to some neighborhood one day, and some people came up to him to ask him regarding Hadith. His companions said to him: “Won’t you narrate to these poor souls?” al-A’mash replied: “Who would hang pearls on pigs?”

2 – Some people came to al-A’mash one day, and he came out of his house to greet them, saying: “Were it not for the fact that there were people in my house that I hate more than you, I wouldn’t have come out to see you.” Abu Dawud al-Ha’ik asked him: “Abu Muhammad, what is your opinion on praying behind al-Ha’ik?” al-A’mash replied: “No problem, as long as one doesn’t have wudu’.” He also asked: “What do you say about accepting his testimony?” al-A’mash replied: “Only if it is accompanied by testimony from two trustworthy people.”

3 – The governor ‘Isa bin Musa sent a notebook along with a thousand dirhams to al-A’mash for him to write down Hadith in it. So, al-A’mash wrote: ‘بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم, قل هو الله أحد’ (In the Name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful: Say: ‘He is Allah, One’) and sent the book back to him. He sent to him, saying: “Do you think that I don’t know any Qur’an?” al-A’mash sent back, saying: “Do you think that I sell Hadith?” He kept the money for himself.

4 – ‘Abdullah bin Idris said to al-A’mash: “What prevents you from getting a haircut?” He replied: “The cuppers talk too much.” So, he said: “I will bring you to a cupper who will not say a word to you until he finishes cutting your hair.” He brought him to a Junayd, a cupper who was also a Muhaddith. So, ‘Abdullah warned him not to talk to al-A’mash, and he agreed. However, when he had cut half of al-A’mash’s hair, he said: “O Abu Muhammad, what is the status of the hadith of Habib bin Abi Thabit regarding menstruation?” So, al-A’mash got up, screamed, and ran away, sitting for a month with only half of his hair cut.

5 – A knowledgeable man with a long beard came to al-A’mash and asked him a basic question about the prayer. So, al-A’mash turned to us and said: “Look at him! His beard could carry four thousand ahadith, and he asks a question that the children in school would ask!”

6 – It is said that al-A’mash had a son who was very slow, and he told him: “Go buy a rope for us to hang our clothes on.” The boy asked: “How long do you want it to be, father?” He replied: “Ten cubits long.” The boy then asked: “How wide do you want it to be?” al-A’mash replied: “As wide as my bad luck with you!”

7 – Husayn bin Waqid was reciting Qur’an to al-A’mash, and asked him: “How do you like my recitation?” al-A’mash replied: “Better than the recitation of any disbeliever.”

8 – One time, al-A’mash got up at night and could find no water. So, he rubbed his hands on the wall and performed tayammum and went back to sleep. He was asked about this, and he said: “I am afraid to die without being in a state of purity.”

9 – One time, al-A’mash went out in the morning and passed by the mosque of Bani Asad. They were about to start praying, and he went inside and prayed. The imam recited ‘al-Baqarah’ in the first rak’ah, and recited ‘Al ‘Imran’ in the second. When he finished, al-A’mash said to him: “Will you not fear Allah? Did you not hear that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever leads the people in prayer should go easy, as there are those behind him who are old, weak, and have needs to tend to.”” So, the man said: “Allah Said: {“…and it is heavy except on those who have khushu’…”} [al-Baqarah; 45] So, al-A’mash said: “I am a messenger sent from those who have khushu’ telling you that you are heavy.”

10 – One time, a soldier wanted to cross a river. He came across al-A’mash, who was standing near the river, so he jumped on his back and had him walk through the water. When he jumped on al-A’mash, he recited ‘Glory to Him Who has provided this for us’ (سبحان الذي سخر لنا هذا – the supplication for riding a vehicle). When al-A’mash had gotten half way across the river, he threw the soldier off of his back, recited {

…My Lord! Cause me to land at a blessed landing-place, for You are the best of those who bring to land…} [al-Mu’minun; 29] and left him in the river and ran away.

11 – One day, Shabib bin Shaybah and his friends came by to see al-A’mash, and they stood at his door yelling: “O Sulayman! Come out!” From inside, al-A’mash said: “Who are you?” They replied: “We are {“…those who call you from behind the dwellings…”} [al-Hujurat; 4] So, al-A’mash replied: “And {“…most of them have no sense…”} [al-Hujurat; 4]

12 – One time, he wore an inverted sheepskin, such that the wool was on the outside. Someone said to him: “O Abu Muhammad, why don’t you wear it so that the wool is on the inside? This would be warmer for you.” al-A’mash replied: “Why don’t you go suggest this to the sheep?”