Imam 'Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following article is about Imam 'Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.), a renowned Khurasani scholar from Qadhi ‘Iyadh’s (r.a.) Tardzib al-Madarik as translated by Shaykha Aisha Bewley.

He was the client of the Banu Tamim, then the Banu Hanifah.  His kunya was Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman.  He listened to Imam ibn Abi Layla (r.a.), Imam Hisham ibn ‘Urwah (r.a.), Imam al-A’amash (r.a.), Imam Sulayman at-Tamimi (r.a.), Imam Humayd at-Ta’wil (r.a.), Imam Yahya ibn Sa’id (r.a.), Shaykh ibn ‘Awn (r.a.), Imam Musa ibn ‘Uqbah (r.a.), the two Sufyans: Imam al-Awza’i (r.a.) and Imam ibn Abi Dzib (r.a.), Imam Malik (r.a.), Imam Ma’mar (r.a.), Imam Shu’ba’ (r.a.), and Imam Haywa ibn Shurayh (r.a.), and he studied with Imam Abu ‘Amr ibn al-A’ala' (r.a.), Imam al-Layts (r.a.) and others.  Imam ibn Mahdi (r.a.), Imam ‘Abd ar-Razzaq (r.a.), Imam Yahya ibn al-Qaththan (r.a.), Imam ibn Wahb (r.a.) and others related from him.

Imam ibn Wahb (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak listened to all our shuyukh except ‘Amr ibn al-Harits.”

Imam ash-Shirazi (r.a.) said, “He learned fiqh with Malik and ats-Tsawri, and he was the first of Abu Hanifah’s companions.  Then, he left him and abandoned his madzhab.”

Imam ibn Waddah (r.a.) said, “In the end, he avoided mentioning Abu Hanifah in his books, and he did not read his work to people.”

Shaykh Abu Ishaq al-Fazzari (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak was the Imam of the Muslims.”  Shaykh al-Fazzari Abu Ishaq al-Fazzari used to sit in front of him and ask him questions.

Imam ibn Mahdi (r.a.) said, “I met four fuqaha’: Malik, Shu’ba’, Sufyan and ibn al-Mubarak.  I did not see anyone with better counsel for the community than ibn al-Mubarak.  If ibn al-Mubarak did not acknowledge a hadits, we would not acknowledge it.”  One of the narrations had ‘Hammad’ in place of ‘Shu’ba’.  When Shaykh ibn Mahdi (r.a.) was asked which of them was better between Imam al-Mubarak (r.a.) him and Imam ats-Tsawri (r.a.), 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 seen the like of ibn al-Mubarak.”  He said, “ibn al-Mubarak related to us and he was unique.”

When Imam Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (r.a.) was told that Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) had passed away, 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 Ziyadah.”

Imam Muhammad ibn al-Mu’tamir (r.a.) said, “When ats-Tsawri passed away, I asked my father, ‘Who is the faqih of the Arabs?’  He replied, ‘ibn al-Mubarak.’”

Imam al-Awza’i (r.a.) said to Shaykh Abu ‘Utsman al-Kalbi (r.a.) about him, “If I had seen him, I would have been delighted.”

Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.) 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.”

Imam Salam ibn Muth’i (r.a.) said, “No one like him came in the east afterwards.  I prefer ibn al-Mubarak to ats-Tsawri.”

Imam ibn Wadhdhah (r.a.) said, “I listened to a group of the people of knowledge relate, ‘Knowledge, taqwa, ahadits, recognition of the men, poetry, generosity, worship and scrupulousness were combined in ibn al-Mubarak.’”

Qadhi Abu al-Fadhl (r.a.) said that Imam as-Sadafi (r.a.) 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 darahim more and said, ‘Take this and follow your trade with them,’ and he spent them.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) said, “I studied adab for thirty years and I studied knowledge for twenty years.”

Imam ibn Hanbal (r.a.) 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 ahadits from books.”

Imam ibn Wadhdhah (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak related about 25,000 ahadits.  He was asked, ‘Up until when did you study knowledge?’

He said, ‘I hope that you will find me doing that until I die.’”

Imam Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laytsi (r.a.) 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 Khurasan.’”

One day, Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) prayed at the side of Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.).  Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) began to lift his hands in each takbir.  Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) asked 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.”

Shaykh ibn Shahin (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak was with Hammad ibn Zayd and greeted him.  The people of ahadits went to Hammad to ask ibn al-Mubarak to give them ahadits.  ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Glory be to Allah!  Shall I give ahadits 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 ahadits except from him.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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 shuyukh 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 asked, ‘Are you weeping for the like of this?’

He replied, ‘I am weeping for the previous nights which did not have the like of this hardship so that we could be rewarded for them.’”

Imam ibn al-Musayyab (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak sent 70,000 darahim to Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyash and said, ‘Use it to stop the lack of censure of you.’”

Imam Nu’aym ibn Hammad (r.a.) said, “ibn al-Mubarak used to stay in his house a lot.  He was asked, ‘Are you isolating yourself?’

He replied, ‘How can I isolate myself when I am with the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his companions?’”

He related that Iblis came to Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) when he was doing wudhu’ and said, “You did not wipe.”

He replied, “I did wipe.”

Iblis insisted, “You did not wipe.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) said, “You are a claimant, so present your proof.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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 Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.), “Yesterday, I read the entire Qur’an in a single rak'ah.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) replied, “But I know a man who did not cease to recite at-Takatsur yesterday until the swubh prayer.  He could not get past it.”

He and another man mentioned that Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) was asked about the beginning of his quest for knowledge.  He said, “I was a young man who drank 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:

Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah ... (Surah al-Hadid:16)

I said, ‘Yes, Lord.’  I broke the lute and spilled out the wine, and repentance came by Allah’s Favour with its realities, and I turned to knowledge and worship.”

Imam Nu’aym ibn Hammad (r.a.) also related that Imam ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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, “Woman!  Is this duck carrion or sacrificed?”

She replied, “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 asked to her, “Where in Kufa do you live?”

She replied, “In the quarter of the Banu so-and-so.”

He asked, “By what is your house known?”

She replied, “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 asked, “Who is it?”

He ordered 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 Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) remained hidden until the people returned from hajj.  Some of the people of his land came to him to greet him and congratulate 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 swadaqah and He Sent an angel in your form who performed the hajj for you.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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.”

He also said, “I see that some people are content with the least of the diyn, 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 diyn with their worldly things.”

He said, “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?”

He said, “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 Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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 tranquility from their humility.”

He also composed:

“Seize the two raka’at 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.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) had 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 qaswaid on constancy and jihad which are famous.  He wrote Kitab ar-Raqa’iq which is famous, and “The Book of the Objectives of Jihad”.

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) was asked, “Who are the people?”

“The scholars,” he replied.

He was asked, “Who are the kings?”

He replied, “The men of zuhd.”

He was asked, “Who are the rabble?”

“Hartsima and Khuzaymah ibn Hazim,” he answered.

“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 ahadits is better than the perfume on the bride’s garment.”

He was asked, “Which person has the best state?”

He replied, “The one who devotes himself to his Lord.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) said, “I passed by a weaver when I had broken the throng of my sandal and he gave me a new one to 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.’

I replied, ‘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.’”

Imam Abu Bakr al-Khathib (r.a.) related that Imam al-Hasan ibn ‘Isa ibn Masrajis (r.a.) used to pass by Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.), while he was a Christian.  Shaykh al-Hasan (r.a.) had a very beautiful face.  Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) asked about him and was told, “He is a Christian.”

He said, “O Allah, Provide him with Islam.”  Allah (s.w.t.) Answered his supplication and Imam al-Hasan (r.a.) 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 sunnah in all regions and people studied with him.  He possessed scrupulousness, intellect and reliability.

One of the men who kept the company of Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) inclined to this world and kept the Sultan’s company.  He met him one day and greeted him.  He said to him, “My brother!”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) replied:

“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!  They are false sparks.
It takes away the diyn and brings you near to great wrong action.”

The man was ashamed and left the Sultan's company and returned to his company.

One of the Sufis who had heard him say that one of the transmitters of ahadits was weak, said to him, “Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman, do you slander?”

He replied, “Be quiet.  If we do not clarify, who will know the true from the false?”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) passed away in Hit, returning from a naval expedition and was buried in Hit in Ramadhan in 181 AH.  Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) said that he was born in 118 AH.  When he was near death, he told Naswr, his client, “Put my head on the earth.”  Naswr wept.  He asked, “Why do you weep?”

Naswr said, “I remember what you had in it of blessing and now you are dying a stranger and a pauper.”

Imam ibn al-Mubarak (q.s.) 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.”


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