Category Archives: Words of Wisdom

People of Taqwa

Hamman ibn Shuraih – a companion of Ali (RA) – asked him to narrate the qualities of the people of Taqwa so that he would be able to see them in front of him. Ali (RA) said:

“When Allah created His creation, He did so while He was completely independent of their obedience towards Him and of their disobedience towards Him. No disobedience can hurt Him and no obedience can benefit Him. Then He distributed amongst them (the creation) their means of sustenance and placed them on earth. The people of Taqwa on earth are those of virtue: their speech is correct (true); their garments are of moderate nature and their walk is one of humility. They lower their gaze when they see something that Allah has forbidden them to see and they give ear to beneficial knowledge. They maintain their integrity in both adversity and prosperity.
Had it not been for the appointed time that Allah has written for them (death), their souls would not remain an extra second in their bodies out of yearning for reward and fear of punishment. The Creator ranks Supreme in their eyes, so everything else becomes immaterial to them. They are with Paradise as if they had already witnessed it and enjoyed its presence. They are with Hell as if they have already seen it and tasted its torment. Their hearts grieve and their evil (if any) is non-contagious. Their bodies are lean, their needs are few and their souls are chaste.

They observe patience for a few days and experience everlasting comfort. This is a profitable exchange that their Lord has made pleasant for them. The world tempts them, but they do not succumb. It imprisons them, but they ransomed themselves in exchange.

During the nights they stand in rows and read portions of the Quran. They recite with proper recitation which grieves their hearts and drink it (the Quran) like medicine. If a verse of yearning comes along, they reach for it and believe it is their destination. If an intimidating verse comes along, they pour their hearts towards it and believe that Hell and its screams are in their ears. They sleep on their foreheads and elbows (i.e. they engage in prayers so much that it is as if they sleep in those postures) and implore Allah to deliver them.

In the day, they are tolerant and learned, kind and God-fearing. Fear has chipped away at their bodies as if they were arrows. Anyone looking at them would think that they were sick. But they are not sick. Some will say that they are confused. A great fear has made them look like that. They are never content to do only a few actions (during the day), nor do they ask for a great deal. They condemn themselves and are apprehensive about their deeds.

If one of them is called “pious”, he fears what will be said of him and says: “I know myself better than you do. My Lord knows me better than I do. O Allah! Do not take me to task for what they are saying about me and (O Lord) make me better than they think. Forgive my sins which they do not know about.”
Their signs are that they are strong in Islam, resolute in their softness; firm in their belief. They crave for knowledge and are knowledgeable with tolerance; moderate in richness; pleasant in hunger; forbearing in distress; seeking Halal; active in (pursuing) guidance and they abhor greed.

They perform good deeds in fear (of rejection). They spend the evening in gratitude and the morning in remembrance. They sleep in alarm and they awake in joy. If their carnal selves make it difficult for them to fulfil that which they dislike they deprive them (their selves) of that which they like. The apple of their eyes is in what does not perish and their abstemiousness in what disappears. They combine knowledge with tolerance and speech with action.

You will find their hopes are realistic, their mistakes few; their hearts humble, their selves content; their diet meagre, their matters simple, their Deen safe-guarded, their desires killed and their anger subdued. Goodness is expected from them and evil is shielded against them. If they are among those who are oblivious, they are counted amongst those who remember (Allah). If they are among those who remember, they are not written among the oblivious. They pardon those who wrong them; they provide for those who deprive them, and meet those who severe ties with them. They are never profane and always lenient. Their wrong doings are almost non-existent and their good deeds are always present. They are resolute when the earth quakes, steadfast in calamities and grateful in prosperity.
They are no prejudiced against those they dislike nor do they favour those they love. They acknowledge the truth before it appears and do not lose anything they are entrusted with. They do not call anyone names nor do they hurt their neighbours. They do not curse at the time of difficulties nor do they venture into falsehood.

Silence does not bother them and if they laugh, they do not raise their voices. If they are treated with injustice they remain patient until Allah vindicates them.

Their own selves live in toil while others are comfortable around them.

Their abstinence from those who stay away from them is their exoneration (from malice). Their proximity to those who are close to them, is a means of mercy (for those who are close to them). Their remaining aloof is not out of pride and arrogance and their being close is neither a ploy nor a scheme.

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Benefits of Seclusion

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (radhiallahu `anhu) said, ‘It was said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is the most virtuous deed?‘ He said, ‘Jihad in the way of Allah.’ He said, ‘Then what?’ He said, ‘That a man secludes himself in the mountains fearing Allah and freeing the people from his evil.’ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Abu Hatim: A person of wisdom should practice secluding himself from the people in general and being cautious of mixing with them…

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiallahu `anhu) said, ‘Take your portion of seclusion.’

Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah: ‘I saw al-Thawri in my sleep and so I said to him, ‘Advice me.’ He said, ‘Lessen your association with the people, lessen your association with the people, lessen your association with the people.’

Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, ‘I saw Ibn al-Sammak [1] writing to a friend of his (saying), ‘If you can find a way to do so, become a worshipper of Allah alone.’

A group of the mutaqaddimin (the past generations) used to practice ‘Azla (seclusion) both in general and at specific times. Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Fudayl went to see Dawud al-Ta’i but Dawud shut the door from him. So Fudayl sat outside weeping and Dawud was inside weeping.’ (i.e. he wanted to practice seclusion although he did not wish to hurt his friend).

‘Abd al-’Aziz ibn al-Khattab: ‘A big black dog was seen lying down next to Malik ibn Dinar [2] so it was said to him, ‘O Abu Yahya! Can’t you see this dog lying next to you?’ He said, ‘It is better than an evil companion.’

Bakr ibn Muhammad al-’Abid: ‘Dawud al-Ta’i said to me, ‘O Bakr! Be afraid of people just like you would be afraid of predatory animals.’

Abu Hatim said, ‘As for the reason which necessitates a person to seclude himself from people in general, then it is due to the hiding of the khayr (good) and the spreading of the sharr (evil) because people tend to veil the good and instead display evil. So if a person is knowledgeable, the people will cause him to innovate and if a person is ignorant, they insult him. If he is better than them, they become jealous of him and if he is inferior to them, they humiliate him. If he speaks, they say that he talks too much and if he remains quiet, they say that he is incoherent. If he gains power, they say that he is dictatorial and if he is generous they say that he is extravagant. So regret is inevitable in the end and degradation exists the whole time for the one who is fooled by a people whose description is this.

Ibrahim ibn Shimas said, ‘Al-’Akkaf Hafs ibn Humayd [3] who was a companion of Ibn al-Mubarak in Marw said to me, ‘O Ibrahim! I have accompanied people for 50 years but I have not found anyone who concealed my faults, or anyone who kept my ties with him if I cut him off, or anyone who I felt safe from when he was in a state of anger. So being busy with such people is great stupidity.’

Muhammad ibn al-Muhajir al-Ma’dil said the following lines of poetry to ‘Ali ibn Hajr al-Sa’di:

زمانك ذا زمان دخول بيت *** حفظ للسان وخفض صوت

Your life is one of merely entering your home,

And guarding your tongue and lowering your voice.

فقد مرجت عهود الناس إلا *** أقلهم فبادر قبل الموت

For the promises of people have become doubtful

Except for a few, so prepare yourself instead for death

فما يبقى على الأيام شيء *** وما خلق امرؤ إلا لموت

For nothing remains from the days of this world,

And a person has not been created except for death.

Abu Dharr (radhia’Allahu `anhu) said, ‘The people used to be like leaves without any thorns. But today they are thorns without any leaves.’

Al-Qahdhami said,

ذهب الحسن والجمال من النا *** س ومات الذين كانوا ملاحا

Goodness and beauty have deserted the people

And those that were kind and gentle have died

وبقى الأسمجون من كل صنف *** إن في الموت من أولئك راحا

Instead there remains repulsive ones of every type

Indeed, there is in death a relief from those people

Abu Hatim observes: The wise one knows that people are naturally disposed to having certain characteristics and different natures, for everyone wishes to follow those that help and aid him and they abandon whoever opposes him and remains aloof. Whenever a person sees from his brother/friend something which he himself is not used to, he begins to despise him for it; and if something that is different to what is in his heart becomes clear from his friend, he becomes bored of him. Boredom leads to irritancy and irritancy leads to hatred and hatred causes enmity. So being occupied with someone whose nature is this, is foolishness for the wise one.

And indeed, al-Nabahi was right when he said,

ارفض الناس وكل مشغله *** قد بخل الناس بمثل خردله

Abandon the people and their places of occupation

For people are miserly even in a seed’s worth

لا تسأل الناس وسل من أنت له

Do not ask the people but instead

Ask the One who you belong to

Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-’Abdi said,

إذا قلت: هذا صاحب قد رضيته *** وقرت عيناي, بدلت آخرا

If I said: ‘This is my friend whom I’m happy with

And is a coolness for my eyes’; I end up replacing him

وذلك أني لا أصاحب صاحبا *** من الناس إلا خانني وتغيرا

And that is because I have never befriended someone

Except that they have betrayed me and changed

Malik ibn Dinar said, ‘Whoever does not find delight in the speech of Allah and instead finds it in the speech of people, then surely his knowledge has taken a plunge, his heart has become blind and his life has become wasted.’

__________________________

1 – Abu al-’Abbas Muhammad ibn Subayh ibn al-Sammak, from the righteous du’at of Kufa (d. 183 AH).

2 – Abu Yahya, Malik ibn Dinar al-Basri, one of the ascetic Muhaddithin from the Tabi’in (d. 131 AH)

3 – Abu ‘Umar, Hafs ibn Humayd al-Akkaf from the people of Marw (Central Aisa), he was of their ascetic scholars (d. 200 AH).

Ten Lessons Ibn al-Mubarak Taught Us

‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak was a scholar known for simultaneously combining numerous traits of virtue. In fact, his friends would sit and count all of the good things that were part of his character and personality. adh-Dhahabi related that they said: “Let’s sit and count the good traits that Ibn al-Mubarak has.” So, they ended up listing: “Knowledge, Fiqh, literature, grammar, language, zuhd, eloquence, poetry, praying at night, worship, Hajj, Jihad, bravery, instinct, strength, speaking little in what doesn’t concern him, fairness, and lack of conflict with his companions.”

Reading through his life story, one sees exactly this and cannot help but to derive brief yet heavy lessons from how this man lived:

1- No matter how bad you think you are, you can always become better.

In ‘Tartib al-Madarik’ (1/159), al-Qadi ‘Iyad mentioned that Ibn al-Mubarak was asked about the circumstances in which he began studying. He replied: “I was a youth who drank wine and loved music and singing while engaging in these filthy acts. So, I gathered some friends to one of my gardens where there were sweet apples, and we ate and drank until we passed out while drunk. At the end of the night, I woke up and picked up the stringed oud and began singing:

Isn’t it time that you had mercy on me * And we rebel against those who criticize us?

And I was unable to pronounce the words as I intended. When I tried again, the oud began speaking to me as if it were a person, saying the verse: {“Isn’t it time for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allah’s reminder?”} [al-Hadid; 16] So, I said: “Yes, O Lord!” And I smashed the oud, spilled the wine, and my repentance with all its realities came by the grace of Allah, and I turned towards knowledge and worship.”

2 – You should associate with honorable people.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/323), Ibn al-Jawzi mentioned: “Ibn al-Mubarak’s home in Marw was vast. It measured fifty square yards. There was no person known for knowledge, worship, manhood, or high status in Marw except that you saw him in this house.”

3 – You should be a helpful guest.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/324), it is narrated that when an-Nadr bin Muhammad’s son got married, he invited Ibn al-Mubarak, “and when he arrived, Ibn al-Mubarak got up to serve the guests. an-Nadr did not leave him and swore that he would tell him to leave until he finally sat down.”

4 – You should give money to the poor.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/327), Ibn al-Jawzi mentions that Ibn al-Mubarak “would spend a hundred thousand dirhams a year on the poor.”

5 – You should always return borrowed items to their owners.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/329), al-Hasan bin ‘Arafah said that ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak told him: “I borrowed a pen from someone in Sham, and I intended to return it to its owner. When I arrived in Marw (in Turkmenistan!), I saw that I still had it with me. Abu ‘Ali (al-Hasan’s nickname), I went all the way back to Sham to return the pen to its owner!”

6 – You should be brave, and hide your good deeds:

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/329), ‘Abdah bin Sulayman said: “We were on an expedition in the lands of the Romans with ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak. We met the enemy, and when the two armies met, a man came out from their side calling for a duel. One of our men went out to him and dueled with him for an hour, injuring him and killing him. Another came out, and he killed him. He called for another duel, and another man came out. They dueled for an hour, and he injured and killed him as well. The people gathered around this man, and I was with them, and saw that he was covering his face with his sleeve. I took the edge of his sleeve and pulled it away to find that it was ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak,” and in the version reported by adh-Dhahabi, he made him swear not to reveal his identity until the day he died.

7 – You should have a tender heart.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/330), al-Qasim bin Muhammad said: “We were on a journey with Ibn al-Mubarak, and I was always asking myself: what is so special about this man that he is so famous? If he prays, so do we. If he fasts, so do we. If he fights, so do we. If he makes Hajj, so do we.

One night, we spent the night in a house travelling on the way to Sham. The lamp went out, and some of us woke up. So, he took the lamp outside to light it, and stayed outside for a while. When he came back in with the lamp, I caught a glimpse of Ibn al-Mubarak’s face, and saw that his beard was wet with his tears. I said to myself: “This fear of Allah is what has made this man better than us. When the lamp went out and we were in darkness, he remembered the Day of Resurrection.””

8 – You should be generous to your friends.

In ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (2/329), Isma’il bin ‘Ayyash said: “I don’t know of a single good trait ex cept that Allah has placed it in ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak. My friends told me that they were travelling with him from Egypt to Makkah, and he was serving them khabis (a sweet flour dish) while he was fasting the entire trip.”

9 – You should not give in to Satan’s whispers.

In ‘Tartib al-Madarik’ (1/159), it is related that Ibn al-Mubarak was making ablution, and Satan came to him and said: “You did not wipe over this part of your body.” Ibn al-Mubarak said: “I did.” Satan said: “No, you didn’t.” So, Ibn al-Mubarak said: “You are the one making the claim, and you must therefore bring proof to back the claim up.”

10 – You should sincerely pray for people to accept Islam.

In ‘Tartib al-Madarik’ (1/162), it is related that al-Hasan bin ‘Isa bin Sirjis would walk by Ibn al-Mubarak, and he was a Christian. Ibn al-Mubarak asked who he was, and was told: “He is a Christian.” So, Ibn al-Mubarak said: “O Allah, grant him Islam.” So, Allah answered his supplication and al-Hasan became an excellent Muslim, and he travelled to seek knowledge and became one of the scholars of the Umm ah.