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.
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.”
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 Subh prayer. He could not get past it,” i.e. himself.
Some of His Wisdoms, Poetry and Wit
He said;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 kingsas the kings are free of the deenwith 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 miserabl
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 inrajaz-metre on the Companions and the Followers and long qasidas on constancy andjihad 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;
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.”
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.