Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mobarak al-Hanzali al-Marwazi, born in 118 (736) of a Turkish father and a Persian mother, was a noted authority on Traditions and a famous ascetic. He studied under many teachers in Merv and elsewhere,
and became erudite in many branches of learning, including grammar and literature. A
wealthy merchant who distributed much in alms to the poor, he died at Hit on the Euphrates in 181 (797). He composed many works on Traditions, and one of these, on the theme of asceticism, has survived.
The conversion of Abd Allah-e Mobarak
The circumstances of Abd Allah-e Mobarak’s conversion were as follows. He became infatuated with a girl, so much so that he could not rest. One night during the
winter he stood beneath the wall of his beloved’s apartment until morning,
waiting to catch a glimpse of her. All night it snowed. When the call to prayer sounded, he supposed that it was for the prayer before sleeping. Seeing the daybreak, he realized that he had been absorbed all night in his longing for his beloved.“Shame on you, son of Mobarak!” he cried. “On such a blessed night you stood on your feet till morning
because of your private passion, yet if the imam is over long in reciting a Sura during prayer you are quite frantic.”
Anguish gripped his heart forthwith, and he repented and devoted himself busily to worship. So complete was his devotion, that one day his mother, entering the
garden, saw him sleeping under a rosebush whilst a snake with a narcissus in its mouth was driving flies away from him.
After that he set forth from Merv and stayed for a time in Baghdad, associating with the Sufi masters there. Then he proceeded to Mecca where he resided for a space, after which he returned to Merv. The people of Merv welcomed him back warmly, and set up
classes and study-groups. At that time half of the people were followers of Traditions and half devoted themselves to jurisprudence. So today Abd Allah is known as “the Approved of the Two Sects” because he was in accord with each, and both claimed him as their
own. Abd Allah founded two colleges in Merv, one for traditionists and the other for jurisprudents. He then left for Hejaz, and took up residence in Mecca again.
In alternate years he would perform the pilgrimage, and go out to the wars, and a third year he would engage in commerce. The profits of his trading he I had resolved to go to Mecca. One day the good lady within becoming pregnant, she smelt the smell of food
coming from next door. “Go and fetch me a bit of that food,” she begged me. I went and knocked on the neighbour’s door and explained the situation. My neighbour burst into tears. “My children have eaten nothing for three days together,” she said. “Today I
saw a donkey lying dead, so I hacked off a piece and cooked it. It would not be lawful food for you.” My heart burned within me when I heard her tale. I took
out the three hundred and fifty dirhams and gave them to her. “Spend these on the children,” I said. “This is my pilgrimage.” ‘ “The angel spoke truly in my dream,” Abd Allah declared, “and the Heavenly King was true in His judgment.”
Abd Allah-e Mobarak and his slave
Abd Allah had a slave. A man told him, “That slave of yours plunders the dead and gives you the proceeds.” This information distressed Abd Allah. One night he followed on his slave’s heels. He went to a cemetery and opened a grave. In the grave was a prayer-niche,
where the slave stood at prayer. Abd Allah, who had watched all this from a distance, crept nearer. He saw that the slave was clothed in sackcloth and had put a collar round his neck. Rubbing his face in the earth, he was wailing. Observing this, Abd Allah crept away weeping and sat apart in a corner. The slave remained in that place until dawn. Then he came up and covered over the grave, and proceeded to the mosque and said his morning prayers.
“My God,” he cried, “day has returned. My temporal lord will ask me for money. Thou art the riches of the bankrupt. Give Thou to me from whence Thou knowest.”
Immediately a light shone out of the sky, and a silver dirham dropped into the slave’s hand. Abd Allah could not bear to watch any more. He rose up and took the
head of the slave into his bosom and kissed him. “A thousand lives be the ransom of such a slave!” he exclaimed. “You were the master, not I.”“O God,” cried the slave, perceiving what had happened, “now that my veil has been stripped away and
my secret is revealed, no more repose remains for me in
this world. I implore Thee by Thy might and glory, suffer
me not to be a cause of stumbling. Take away my soul.”
His head was still lying in Abd Allah’s bosom when
he expired. Abd Allah laid him out and wrapped him
in a winding-sheet, then he buried him in that same
sackcloth in the selfsame grave.That night Abd Allah saw the Master of the World
in a dream, and the Friend of God Abraham with him,
each come down riding a heavenly horse.
“Abd Allah,” they said, “why did you bury our friend in sackcloth?”
‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak
(118/736 – 181/797), a renowned Khorasani scholar
from Qadi ‘Iyad’sTartib al-Madarik
translated by Aisha Bewley
He was the client of the Banu Tamim, then the Banu Hanifa. His kunya was Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman.
He listened to Ibn Abi Layla, Hisham ibn ‘Urwa, al-A’mash, Sulayman at-Tamimi, Humayd at-Tawil, Yahya ibn Sa’id, Ibn ‘Awn, Musa ibn ‘Uqba, the two Sufyans, al-Awza’i, Ibn Abi Dhib, Malik, Ma’mar, Shu’ba, and Haywa ibn Shurayh, and he studied with Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ala’, al-Layth and others.
Ibn Mahdi, ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, Yahya ibn al-Qattan, Ibn Wahb and others related from him.
Ibn Wahb said, “Ibn al-Mubarak listened to all our shaykhs except ‘Amr ibn al-Harith.”
Ash-Shirazi said, “He learned fiqh with Malik and ath-Thawri, and he was the first of Abu Hanifa’s companions. Then he left him and abandoned his madhhab.”
Ibn Waddah said, “In the end, he avoided mentioning Abu Hanifa in his books, and he did not read his work to people.”
Concerning his position in knowledge and praise of him
Abu Ishaq al-Fazzari said, “Ibn al-Mubarak was the Imam of the Muslims.” Al-Fazzari used to sit in front of him and ask him questions.”
Ibn Mahdi said, “I met four fuqaha’: Malik, Shu’ba, Sufyan and Ibn al-Mubarak. (One of them had ‘Hammad’ in place of Shu’ba.) I did not see anyone with better counsel for the community than Ibn al-Mubarak. If Ibn al-Mubarak did not acknowledge a hadith, we would not acknowlege it.”
Ibn Mahdi was asked about him and and ath-Thawri and which of them was better. He said, “Ibn al-Mubarak.”
He was asked, “And if the people disagree with you?” He replied, “The people have not made any tests. I have not see the like of Ibn al-Mubarak.”
He said, “Ibn al-Mubarak related to us, and he was unique.”
When Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna was told that Ibn al-Mubarak had died, he said, “May Allah have mercy on him. He was a man of fiqh, knowledge, worship, asceticism, and generosity. He was courageous and a poet.”
He also said, “No one has come to us like Ibn al-Mubarak and Ibn Abi Ziyada.”
Muhammad ibn al-Mu’tamir said, “When ath-Thawri died, I asked my father, ‘Who is the faqih of the Arabs?” He replied, “Ibn al-Mubarak.”
Al-Awza’i said to Abu ‘Uthman al-Kalbi about him, “If I had seen him, I would have been delighted.”
An-Nasa’i said, “There was not known in the time of Ibn al-Mubarak anyone more glorious or excellent than him nor anyone who had more virtues than he possessed.”
Salam ibn Muti’ said, “No one like him came in the east afterwards. I prefer Ibn al-Mubarak to ath-Thawri.”
Ibn Waddah said, “I listened to a group of the people of knowledge relate, ‘Knowledge, taqwa, hadith, recognition of the men, poetry, generosity, worship and scrupulousness were comibined in Ibn al-Mubarak.
The Beginning of his quest, the reason for his asceticism and the sum of his virtues and knowledge
Qadi Abu’l-Fadl said that as-Sadafi mentioned, “When Ibn al-Mubarak came of age, his father sent him 50,000 to use for commerce. He sought after knowledge until he had spent the money. When it was gone, his father met him and said, ‘What have you bought?’ He brought out his books for him and said, ‘This is my trade.’ His father went into the house and gave him 30,000 dirhams more and said, ‘Take this and follow your trade with them,’ and he spent them.”
Ibn al-Mubarak said, “I studied adab for thirty years and I studied knowledge for twenty years.”
Ibn Hanbal said, “In the time of Ibn al-Mubarak, there was no one who sought after knowledge more than him. He went to the Yemen, Egypt, Syria, the Hijaz, Basra and Kufa, and whoever related knowledge and was worthy of it. He wrote from young men and old men. He omitted what was rare. He gave hadiths from books.”
Ibn Waddah said, “Ibn al-Mubarak related about 25,000 hadiths. He was asked, ‘Up until when did you study knowledge?’ He said, ‘I hope that you will find me doing that until I die.”
Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi said, “A man with good deportment came one day to Malik. I used to see Malik say to him, ‘Come here.’ Then he made room for him in his assembly, and I did not see Malik make room for anyone else. He sat Ibn al-Mubarak near him. Sometimes Malik was asked about a question and he answered it. Then he would lean over to the man and say to him, ‘What do your companions say about it?’ The man would reply softly so we could not hear or understand. I saw him do that for some days, and I admired the adab of the man. I did not see him ask about anything until he departed. He was content with what he heard and Malik told us, ‘This is Ibn al-Mubarak, the faqih of Khorasan.'”
One day Ibn al-Mubarak prayed at the side of Abu Hanifa. Ibn al-Mubarak began to lift his hands in each takbir. Abu Hanifa said to him, ‘Do you want to fly?’ He replied, ‘If I had wanted to, I would have flown in the first one.'”
He said, “The ascetic is the one who is not happy when he gets this world and is not sad if he lacks it.”
Ibn Shahin said, “Ibn al-Mubarak was with Hammad ibn Zayd and greeted him. The people of hadith went to Hammad to ask Ibn al-Mubarak to give them hadith. Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Glory be to Allah! Shall I give hadith while you are present?’ He said, ‘I beg you to do it,’ or words to that effect. He said, ‘Abu Isma’il Hammad ibn Zayd related to us,’ and did not give any hadith except from him.”
Ibn al-Mubarak used to say, “The beginning of knowledge is the intention, then listening, then understanding, then action, then preservation, and then spreading it.”
It was said, “He went on hajj one year and raiding the next year. Whenever he came to Madina, he said to its shaykhs among the people of knowledge and decrease. Whoever wants to go on hajj, come out with me. Their provision is enough for them. He did the same when he went on raids.”
Al-Fasawi the worshipper said, “I was with Ibn al-Mubarak raiding on a cold, rainy night. He wept and I said, ‘Are you weeping for the like of this?’ He said, ‘I am weeping for the previous nights which did not have the like of this hardship so that we could be rewarded for them.'”
Ibn al-Musayyab said, “Ibn al-Mubarak sent 70,000 dirhams to Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyash and said, ‘Use it to stop the lack of censure of you.'”
Nu’aym ibn Hammad said, “Ibn al-Mubarak used to stay in his house a lot. He was asked, ‘Are you isolating yourself?’ He said, ‘How can I isolate myself when I am with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his Companions?'”
He related that Iblis came to Ibn al-Mubarak when he was doing wudu’ and said, “You did not wipe.'” He said, “I did wipe.” He said, “You did not wipe.” He said, ‘You are a claimant, so present your proof.'”
Ibn al-Mubarak said to one of his companions, “Do not neglect a day which Allah has mentioned in 63 places in His Book.”
A man said to Ibn al-Mubarak, “Yesterday I read the entire Qur’an in a single rak’at.” Ibn al-Mubarak said, “But I know a man who did not cease to recite ‘Rivalry’ (102) yesterday until the Subhprayer. He could not get past it,” i.e. himself.
He and another man mentioned that Ibn al-Mubarak was asked about the beginning of his quest for knowledge. He said, “I was a young man who drank nabidh-wine, loved wealth and rejoiced in those foul things. I invited some brothers of mine to a garden when the apples and other fruits were ripe, and we ate and drank until we were overcome by drunkenness and sleep. I woke up at the end of the period before dawn. I took up the lute which I played and composed:
Is it not time that you had mercy on us
and defied the critics and censors?
“Then I could not make it rhyme as I wished. When I repeated it to it, the lute spoke to me as a man speaks, ‘Is it not time that the hearts of those who believe should be humbled to the remembrance of Allah?’ (57:15) I said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ I broke the lute and spilled out the nabidh, and repentance came by Allah’s favour with its realities, and I turned to knowledge and worship.”
He related that ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak entered Kufa when he was intending to go on the hajj. There was a woman sitting on a rubbish-heap plucking a duck. It occurred to him that it was carrion. He stopped on his mule and said to her, ‘Women! Is this duck carrion or sacrificed?’ She said, ‘Carrion.’ He said, ‘Then why are you plucking it?’ She said, ‘So that my family and I can eat it.’ He said, ‘Woman! Allah Almighty has forbidden you carrion while you are in a land like this!’ She said, ‘Man, go away.’ They continued to exchange words until he said to her,’Where in Kufa do you live?’ She said, ‘In the quarter of the Banu so-and-so.’ He said, ‘By what is your house known?’ She said, ‘The Banu so-and-so.’ He left her and went to the inn. Then he asked about the tribe and they directed him to it. He said to a man, ‘You have a dirham if you come with me to the place.’
“He went until he came to the tribe which the woman had mentioned. He said to the man, ‘Go.’ Then he went to the door and knocked on the door with a stick that he had. The old woman said, ‘Who is it?’ He said to her, ‘Open the door.’ She opened it part way. He said, ‘Open it all the way.’ Then he got off his mule and hit it with the stick and the mule went into the house. Then he said to the woman, ‘This mule and the provision, money and clothes on it is yours, and you will have what is halal from it in this world and the Next.’
“Then Ibn al-Mubarak remained hidden until the people returned from the hajj. Some of the people of his land came to him to greet him and congratualate him on the hajj. He turned to say to them, ‘I had an illness and did not go on hajj this year.’
“One of them said, ‘Glory be to Allah! Did I not leave you my goods with you while we were at Mina and we were going to ‘Arafat?’ Another said, ‘Did you not buy for me in the same way?’ He turned to say, ‘I do not know what you are saying. As for myself, I did not go on hajj this year.’
“He dreamt of someone saying in the night to him, ”Abdullah, rejoice! Allah accepted your sadaqa and He sent an angel in your form who performed the hajj for you.'”
Some of His Wisdoms, Poetry and Wit
Fight your tongue. The tongue is quick to kill a man.
The tongue is the posting of the heart. It shows man his intellect.
I see that some people are content with the least of the deen,
but I do not see them pleased with meagerness in this life.
Be rich with Allah, independent of the world of the kings
as the kings are free of the deen with their worldly things.
People’s enjoyment of worship and taqwa is the sweetest bliss,
not the pleasure of the wine.
Their sources enjoy it for all their lives, and they, by Allah,
have provision until they reach the graves.
In a moment they obtain might and taqwa.
Does not the enjoyment of life lie in piety and steadfastness?
I see every life as unhappy and miserable
except for planting the spear in the shade of the horse
And standing in the dark nights, vigilant,
guarding the people in the furthest outpost.
A man came to Ibn al-Mubarak and said to him, “May Allah be pleased with you! Describe for me those who are wild and distracted by love of Allah. He replied, “They are as I will tell you:
Alert, on mounts as if they were a caravan desiring to pass,
that is how they are moved.
Their limbs are restrained from every foul action.
Truthfulness is their school, as well as zuhd and fear.
Another person asked him to describe the fearful. He said:
When the night is darkest, they endure it,
and it travels from them while they are still bowing.
Fear dispelled their sleep, so they stood alert while the people of security
in this world were sleeping peacefully.
While they are prostrating under the cloak the darkness,
their groan pierces their ribs.
They are mute in the day by the length of their silence.
They have tranquillity from their humility.
He also composed:
Seize the two rak’ats of nearness if you are free and at rest.
When you desire to speak about the false, put glorification in its place.
Seizing silence is better than plunging,
even if you are eloquent in speech.
Ibn al-Mubarak has a lot of poetry in more than one subject. He had a short poem in rajaz-metre on the Companions and the Followers and long qasidas on constancy and jihad which are famous. He has the Kitab ar-Raqa’iq which is famous, and The Book of the Objectives of Jihad.
Ibn al-Mubarak was asked, “Who are the people?” “The scholars,” he replied He was asked, “Who are the kings?” He said, “The men of detachment (zuhd).” He was asked, “Who are the rabble?” “Harthima and Khuzayma ibn Hazim,” he answered. It was said, “Who are the fools?” He said, “The one who sells the Next World for the worldly portion of someone else.”
He used to say, “The trace of ink on the garment of the master of hadith is better than the perfume on the bride’s garment.”
He was asked, “Which person has the best state?” He said, “The one who devotes himself to his Lord.”
Ibn al-Mubarak said, “I passed by a weaver when I had broken the throng of my sandal and he gave me with a strap. I asked, ‘Did you do it for pay?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ When I passed by him, I leaned towards him and greeted him. Then I missed him and found that he had closed his shop. I asked one of the neighbours about him. I said, ‘If he is sick, I will visit him. If he is busy, I will help him. If he is poor, I will share with him.’
“They said, ‘We have no knowledge of him.’ I asked permission to enter his house and he came out to me. I asked him, ‘What has kept you from your shop?’ He said to me, ‘You, Ibn al-Mubarak. People see you inclining to me, so they have put a shirt on me which I do not deserve.’
“I took his sleeve and went with him to the graves. I said, ‘This is the grave of so-and-so. His business was such-and-such. This is the grave of so-and-so. His business was such-and-such.’
“He said to me, ‘Ibn al-Mubarak, I do not know what you are saying. The man is not all the man whom the tongues describe and the man is not all the man whom the eyes see. The man is the one whom Allah veils in his life and makes him enter the grave veiled and then He brings him out on the Day of Rising when there is no abasement or rebellion on him. That is the man.'”
Abu Bakr al-Khatib related that al-Hasan ibn ‘Isa ibn Masrajis used to pass by Ibn al-Mubarak while he was a Christian. Al-Hasan had a very beautiful face. Ibn al-Mubarak asked about him and was told, “He is a Christian.” He said, “O Allah, provide him with Islam.” Allah answered his supplication and al-Hasan became an excellent Muslim. He was one of the scholars of the Community and one of those who travelled in quest of knowledge and the Sunna in all regions and people studied with him. He possessed scrupulousness, intellect and reliability.
One of the men who kept the company of Ibn al-Mubarak inclined to this world and kept the Sultan’s company. He met him one day and greeted him. He said to him, “My brother!
All is from rice, wheat and barley bread,
And it crushes. O person! Allah has guided you from the amir’s abode,
So do not visit it! Avoid it it! They are false sparks.
It takes away the deen and brings you near to great wrong action.”
The man was ashamed and left the Sultan’s company and returned to his company.
Concerning his position in riwaya and hadith
One of the Sufis who had heard him say that one of the transmitters of hadith was weak, said to him, “Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, do you slander?” He said, “Be quiet. If we do not clarify, who will know the true from the false?”
Ibn al-Mubarak died in Hit, returning from a naval expedition and was buried in Hit in Ramadan in 181.
Al-Bukhari said that he was born in 118.
When he was near death, he told Nasr, his client, “Put my head on the earth.” Nasr wept. He said, “Why do you weep?” He said, “I remember what you had in it of blessing and now you are dying a stranger and a pauper.” He told him, “Be quiet. I asked Allah to let me live the life of the rich and to make me die the death of the poor.” Then he said, “Put me down and do not address me again unless I speak again. Put me down so that it is my last words.”