New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Wisdom Pt. III

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2007-08-09

101. ‘Abdul Wahid b. Zayd used to say: “Hasan al-Basri did not reach the spiritual heights he reached for any reason other than the following: If he commanded people to do good he was the first of them to do act on his advise; and if he forbade them something wrong he was the furthest of them from engaging in it. They used to say of him: “We have never seen anyone whose private comportment was more exemplary than his public acts than al-Hasan al-Basri.”
102. Marwan b. Muhammad used to say: “No one has ever been described to me except that he failed to live up to his description when I met him. The exception to that was Waki’, I found him to be greater than [the description provided by people].”
103. ‘Utba b. ‘Amir used to say: “When a person’s private and public face are in complete harmony, God says to the Angels: “That is my true servant.”
104. Abu ‘Abdullah al-Antaki mentioned: “The best of all actions is leaving even thinking about sinning.” It was asked: “Why is that?” He said: “Because when one does not even think of sinning it is all the easier to avoid sinning altogether. Therefore, one whose internal state is better than his external actions is truly virtuous, while one who has achieved equilibrium between the two is just. One whose external actions are more virtuous than his internal state oppresses himself.”
105. ‘Abdul Rahman al-Zahid used to say: “Woe unto me! I dealt faithfully with people and fraudulently with my Lord. If only the opposite was the case.” He then wept.
106. Malik b. Dinar used to say: “Beware of being a righteous servant of God by day and a profligate devil by night.”
107. Mu’awiya b. Qurra mentioned: “Who can show me a person who smiles during the day and weeps at night?”
Note: It is rare to find a person who adheres to the Sunna of dealing with people during the hours when human interactions usually occur—that Sunna includes smiling and being congenial in one’s dealings—while simultaneously adhering to the Sunna for dealing with God during one’s intimate discourses and nightly devotions. That Sunna includes weeping while alone with God.
108. Muslim al-Khulani used to say: “Among the favors of God upon me is that for thirty years I have not done anything in private that I would be shy to make known publicly except the intimate moments with my wife.”
109. Abu Umama, may God be pleased with him, used to condemn a person who wept in the mosque in the presence of others.
110. Yahya b. Mu’adh used to say: “Whoever desires that people praise him, while his actions do not measure up to what he is being praised for, is like someone who shows up uninvited at the wedding feast of a king. Whoever is content with being praised for something he has not done, God will reward him with glad tidings of Paradise without actually entering him therein.”
111. Bilal b. S’ad mentioned: “If a Sufi falsely claims worldly abstinence Satan sarcastically dances around him, laughing at him all the while.”
112. ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar,  may God be pleased with him relates: “A servant will not find pure faith until he has internalized the fact that God observes his every act. Thereafter, he will never do anything that will disgrace him on the Day of Resurrection.”
113. Sufyan al-Thawri mentioned: “The Qur’an chanters of our time have been overwhelmed by dissimulation. They outwardly manifest the trappings of piety, but their hearts are filled with rancor, spite, and enmity towards their contemporaries. If one of you has some need to be met by one of them, do not seek it through the intercession of one of their peers. Rather, seek it through a well-known wealthy person. You have a better getting what you need that way.”

Al-Sha’rani mentions: “A full discussion of this particular characteristic will be undertaken [elsewhere in the book]. Search your heart my brother [sister]! Are your external acts and internal motivations consistent? Constantly seek God’s forgiveness. You should know that whosoever dissimulates before people, he is a hypocrite, and will be resurrected with the hypocrites. Understand this! And all praise is for God, Lord of the Worlds.”

He also mentions: “Among their characteristics is their tremendous patience in dealing with the tyranny of the political authorities, and their understanding that such tyranny is less than their sins warrant.”

114. Salih al-Murri used to say: “When people’s internal motivations and external acts are inconsistent they should not be astonished by the tribulations and calamities that are visited upon them.”
115. ‘Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz used to say: “Hajjaj was a tribulation sent by God because of the proliferation of sins.”
116. Abu Hanifa used to say: “When you are tried with a tyrannical ruler, he is a cause for your religious life being torn apart. Mend it by abundantly seeking God’s forgiveness for both him and yourself.”
117. A brother wrote to Muhammad b. Yusuf complaining of the tyranny of the political authorities in his land. Muhammad responded with the following missive: “Your letter has reached us. As you know my brother, it is not fitting for one who is rebellious to deny the ensuing punishment. In my opinion, the tribulation you are experiencing is only due the wretchedness of your sins. Peace.”
118. Harun al-Rashid once wrongly imprisoned a man. The man wrote the following letter to him: “O Harun! There is no day that passes while I am imprisoned in this wretched state, except something commensurate is taken form your lifespan and from the niceties you enjoy. You will soon come to know the truth of this statement. God is the judge between you and me.” After Harun read this he released the man and treated him nicely thereafter.
118. A group of people brought some money from the political ruler to be distributed by Ibrahim al-Adham amongst the poor people he knew. Ibrahim sent the money back to them, saying: “When God takes the oppressor [who has sent me this money] to task on the Day of Resurrection for the money he has usurped, he will say: ‘I gave it to Ibrahim [al-Adham].’ So the sins of that oppressor will fall on me because of that. It is more appropriate that the one who has collected this money be the one who distributes it.”
119. Malik b. Dinar said: “[God says], ‘The hearts of the kings are in my hands. I make them a means of mercy for those who obey me; and I make them a means for retribution against those who rebel against me.’ ”
120. ‘Abdul Malik b. Marwan used to say to those under his authority: “Be fair in your criticism of us. You want us to act like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may God be pleased with them, while you do not act like those who were under their authority. I ask that God assist each of us in dealing justly with his companion.”
121. Ibn al-Sammak used to say: “Just as you have been cast into tribulation by the actions you undertake that are not pleasing to your Lord, by saying, ‘Surely, God has decreed those [actions]’; then make an excuse for the political authorities by recognizing that God is the one who has decreed that they oppress you. It is not their desire to oppress you. However, because of your vile actions they are unleashed against you.”
122. When the Caliphate fell upon ‘Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz he wept and then offered to divorce his wives. He said: “An affair has come to me that will not leave me free to attend to you until the people under my authority are free after being judged on the Day of Resurrection.” [Hearing that] his entire family wept until his neighbors thought that one of them had passed away.
123. Sufyan al-Thawri said: “We knew of scholars who saw their best interest in remaining at home. Today their likes are the ministers and flunkies of oppressive authorities.”
124. “Ata was asked about a person who was employed as a scribe by the political authorities.
The man would not voluntarily serve anyone else. He replied: “It is best that he left that position. Has he not heard what Moses said, as related in the Qur’an: Owing to the favors you have bestowed upon me, I will never be an aid to criminal oppressors. (28:17)
125. Sufyan al-Thawri mentioned: “Whoever smiles in the face of a tyrant, or makes room for him in a gathering, or takes gifts from him, has broken the covenant of Islam and will be recorded amongst those who aid oppressors.” What is meant by the covenant of Islam here is contradicting the way of the early generations of righteous Muslims.
126. Tawus used to spend most of his time in his house. When asked about that he responded: “I choose to do so because of the tyranny of the rulers, the corruption of the ruled, and the departure of the prophetic tradition (Sunna). Anyone who discriminates between his son and his servant in upholding the truth is a tyrant.”
127. Malik b. Dinar used to say: “If a political leader assumes office as a slim man and thereafter becomes fat you should know that he has betrayed his wards and his Lord.”
128. Abu ‘Aliya visited Harun al-Rashid one day and said to him: “Beware the prayer of the oppressed because God will not fail to answer it, even if from a profligate.” In another narration he mentioned: “Even if from a non-believer.”

Al-Sha’rani mentioned: “Reflect on the state of your soul my brother, have you fulfilled the rights owed to those under your authority, or the rights of your very limbs that you use them in ways that are pleasing to God, and prevent them from rebelling against Him? Have you cheated your soul or your limbs? Surely, every authority is responsible for his wards. Especially beware of involvement with the political authorities, even to attempt commanding them to do right or forbidding them from wrong, because usually such attempts are futile. And all praise is for God the Lord of all worlds.”

He adds: “Among their characteristics is their covetousness for God when His Sanctity is violated, motivated by their desire to assist His purified law. They do not do anything nor keep the company of anyone until they know that it is pleasing to God. They neither love nor hate for any worldly motivation. It has been mentioned in a prophetic tradition, ‘Loving and hating for the sake of God is one of the strongest manifestations of faith.’ If a person were to worship God to the extent of the combined forces of Jinn and Men, however, he is heedless of the fact that loving and hating for God’s sake is among the things pleasing unto Him, he is off the path of spiritual travel. God asked Moses, ‘Have you done anything for my sake?’ He answered, ‘Yes, my Lord. I have prayed and fasted and given charity for your sake.’ God responded, ‘Those things are for you. Rather, have you loved a friend or hated an enemy for my sake?’ Upon hearing that, Moses realized that loving and hating for God’s sake are among the most virtuous of all actions.”

129. Zain al-‘Abidin mentioned: “No two people accompany each other for other than the sake of God except that they will part company for other than the sake of God.”
130. Yusuf b. Asbat mentioned: “If you visit the political authorities do not pray for them by name. Rather, pray for the generality of Muslims. If they are indeed Muslims the prayer will include them.”
131. ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud, may God be pleased with him, mentioned: “If you keep someone’s company do not ask him if he loves you. Rather, look into your heart and soul. Whatever you feel for him is similar to what he feels for you.”
132. Sufyan al-Thawri used to say: “If a man sins and another who claims to be his brother does not hate that, then his love for the sinner is for other than the sake of God. Were his love for the sake of God he would become angry at one who rebels against Him.”
133. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “Breaking relations with a profligate is a source of nearness to God.”
Al-Sha’rani clarifies this statement by adding: “What he (Al-Hasan) means is breaking relations with him in one’s heart, not in a physical sense. Physically distancing oneself from him is not appropriate because contact with him is necessary in order to help correct his deviancy and lead him to hate the attributes of profligacy that he possesses. The profligate is actually the lost possession of every true caller to God. Try to understand this point. Surely, God knows best.
134. Fudayl b. ‘Iyad used to mention Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may God be pleased with them both, and weep. He would invoke mercy for Mu’awiya, may God be pleased with him. He would say: “He was one of the great scholars. However, he was severely tested with love for the world.”
Al-Sha’rani mentions: “We should interpret his love of the world to be that he loved it as a means to work for the hereafter. This is the understanding of the righteous forebears. He is more fittingly described thus than the saints, because he was one of the honorable companions [of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and mercy of God upon him]. God surely knows best.”
135. Al-Hasan al-Basri mentioned: “One who claims that he loves a person for the sake of God and does not hate him if he rebels against God has advanced a fraudulent claim.”
136. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya used to say: “One who loves a person seemingly destined for Hell for some divinely countenanced good that he does will be rewarded by God, and one who hates a person seemingly destined for Paradise for an odious sin he commits will likewise be rewarded.
137. Malik b. Dinar would not chase away a dog that sat at his feet. He would say: “He is better than a wicked companion.”
138. Ahmad b. Harb used to say: “Nothing is more beneficial for a person’s heart than keeping the company of righteous folks and observing their actions. Conversely, nothing is more damaging to a person’s heart than sitting in the company of morally depraved people and observing their actions.”
139. Yahya b. Mu’adh used to say: “The saints are like a radiant flower in the land. When those seeking God smell their fragrance and it reaches their hearts, they long for their Lord.” 
Al-Sha’rani says at this point: “Reflect on your state my brother! Have you love or hated anyone for the sake of God or do you only love and hate based on the whims of your vain inclination? [If so] you should weep for your soul and abundantly invoke God’s forgiveness night and day. And all praise is for God the Lord of the worlds.”
He then mentions: “Among their characteristics is the paucity of their laughter, and their sobriety in dealing with worldly delights. Rather, they feel constrained if they receive new clothing, or a new mount, or a wife, or a good job—in contradistinction to worldly people—fearing that such favors are delights hastened for them in this world that they will be denied in the next. How can anyone delight in anything in this world when he is in a prison cut off from meeting God, be He Mighty and Majestic. They are like an incarcerated individual who falls into depression being cut off from his home and his family. Thus are the saints saddened the duration of their lives because their incarceration in this world separates them from meeting their Almighty Lord.”
It is related in a prophetic tradition that the Messenger of God, peace and mercy of God upon him, said: “If you knew what I knew you would laugh little, weep much, and would find little enjoyment in sensual intimacy. Rather, you would go out to some private heights and invoke Almighty God.”
140. ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud, may God be pleased with him, used to say: “I am amazed at someone who constantly laughs, while the Hellfire is chasing him. Similarly, am I amazed at someone overjoyed [with the world], while death is chasing him.”
141. No one would see Al-Hasan al-Basri except that he would think that a calamity had recently afflicted him due to the intensity of his sobriety and fearfulness.
142. Al-Awza’i used to say concerning the Qur’anic verse: It will leave nothing neither small nor great except that it accounts for it… (18:49); “Nothing small refers to smiling, and nothing great refers to raucous laughter.”

Al-Sha’rani comments on this saying: “Perhaps by smiling he means audible laughter, as smiling was the laughter of the Prophet, peace upon him.”
Note: Smiling is from the prophetic tradition. The sobriety or sadness mentioned in these narrations manifests itself in the heart and not on the face.

143. Thabit al-Bunnani used to say: “No believer engages in raucous laughter except that he is heedless of the reality of death.”
144. ‘Amir b. Qays mentioned: “Those who laugh most in this world will weep most in the next.”
145. Anas b. Malik used to say: “Satan is with anyone who laughs excessively in any gathering.”
146. Mu’adha al-‘Adawiyya passed by a group of young men once. They were wearing the woolen clothes of the Sufis while raucously laughing. She said to them: “Glory to God! You wear the clothing of the righteous, yet you laugh like the heedless!”
147. Wahib b. al-Ward said: “Acceptable laughter is that which reveals the teeth but is not accompanied by any sound. Acceptable clothing is that which covers the private parts and protects against the elements. Acceptable food is that which wards off hunger but does not satiate.”
148. ‘Awn b. Abi Zayd mentioned: “I accompanied ‘Ata’ al-Sulami for fifty years and I never saw him laugh raucously.”
149. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. Dawud used to say: “When excessive joviality appeared among the companions of the Prophet, peace upon him, God revealed in the Qur’an: Has not the time come for the believers’ hearts to be reverent through the remembrance of God… (57:16) They then ceased being so jovial and deepened their reverence of God, may God be pleased with them.”

Al-Sha’rani then mentions: “Examples of this characteristic in The Book of Conditioning the Heart are numerous and well-known. People seeking God are only distinguished from others by their deliberate movement towards the hereafter and their preparation for its travails. Consider well my brother the state of your soul and the extent to which you are wrapped up in the heedlessly and mindlessness that prevents you from drawing close to God the Exalted, then seek His forgiveness in abundance. All praise is for God the Lord of the worlds.”

Al-Sha’rani says: “Among their characteristics is their wishing for death if they feared their souls would fall into behavior that would make God angry with them. [Such behavior] had signs which would appear in their souls such as the precursors of sin and other things that should be rightly considered in relevant areas of conduct.”

150. ‘Abis al-Ghifari used to repeat during an outbreak of the plague: “O Plague! Take my soul.” [Hearing this] one of his nephews asked him: “How can you say this when you heard the Messenger of God, peace upon him, say, ‘Let no one of you wish for death, for surely it cuts off his opportunity to engage in good deeds.’ ” Abis said: “Yes, I heard him say that. However, I fear six things I heard him warn his community against: The leadership of fools; a police state; buying and selling political and judicial favors; breaking blood relations; taking murder lightly; and lighthearted worshippers who treat the Qur’an like musical instruments. They place someone before them to lead the prayer who is not the most learned of them in religion. Rather, they advance him in order for him to sing for them.”

 

 

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