A Mind Filled with Analogies

The third most famous, but hardly inferior, companion of Abu Hanifa was Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl. He was known as being someone of analogous thinking, and would easily relate analogies even in normal contexts. This is one example of his sharp intellect in this field.

Abd ar-Rahman ibn Malik ibn Mighwal narrated that a man asked Abu Hanifa: “Last night I drank fermented juice and am not sure whether I divorced my wife or not.” He replied “She is your wife until you become sure that you divorced her.” He went to Sufyan at-Thawri and asked him the same question. He replied “Go and declare that you have brought her back. If you did not divorce her, it is of no consequence.” Then he asked Sharik ibn Abd-Allah who replied “Divorce her, then bring her back.” Then he asked Zufar who said “Did you ask anyone else before me?” He said yes and named all of the above. Zufar endorsed Abu Hanifa’s reply and praised Sufyan’s but laughed at Sharik’s, then said “This is like a man who passed by water splashing, some of which reached his garment, whereupon Abu Hanifa said ‘Your garment is clean and prayer complete until you become sure about the water being dity,’ while Sufyan said ‘Wash it, and if it were clean in the first place it is only cleaner now,’ but Sharik said [in effect] ‘Go piss on it then wash it!'”

Knowledge as a Form of Mercy

One of Abu Hanifa’s most famous students was Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, who along with Abu Yusuf, are the most famous Hanafi scholars after Abu Hanifa himself. The Qadi Ahmad ibn Abi Raja said that he heard his father Mahmuyah, who was considered a religious devotee, say: “I dreamt of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan after his death and asked him what happened to him. He said ‘I was forgiven.’ ‘Through what?’ I asked. And he replied ‘I was told: We did not place all this learning in you except to forgive you.'”

The Man Who Committed 99 Murders

There’s a story related in Sahih Bukhari emphasising the vastness and generousness of Allah’s mercy. The Prophet (saws) picked on certain events throughout history to show their importance. This emphasised a certain message that he was trying to convey to us. Since the events of the past are so numerous, the ones chosen to be related and preserved in his words till the end of time must be of great importance. Whenever we hear stories of the past we should always remember that Allah had chosen those stories to be related as a great occurrence.

There was a man who had heartlessly murdered 99 people, when all of a sudden he felt remorse over what he had done. He asked the people in his town if they knew anyone who was pious enough to get advice from. They recommended to him an ascetic who lived in the mountains. So the man went to this learned person and told him about the past and his wishing to repent for his actions. He asked the man, “Will Allah forgive me?”. The learned man was so shocked by everything he had heard that he said “No, you will not be pardoned.” So the murderer killed him as well!

He felt remorse yet again and asked the people if they knew anyone else. They recommended to him another scholar who they were acquainted with. Again, the murderer asked the same question, “Will Allah forgive me?” Being a truly wise man and knowing Allah’s all-encompassing mercy and His ability to forgive anything, the scholar replied “Of course you will be pardoned, repent at once!”

The wise man also gave him some advice, telling him of a city where there were devoted worshippers of Allah. He recommended that he move there to be around them and not to come back to his town, which was the place of evil. So the man started towards that town and on the way he died.

The angels of mercy descended upon him and so did the angels of punishment. They started arguing over him. The angels of mercy said “This man had repented and was seeking Allah, so he is ours.” The angels of punishment said “This man had never done anything good in his life and did not even complete his repentance.” Allah sent another angel to them in the form of a man, and both parties took him as their arbitrator.

This angel said “Measure the distance of the earth between the two cities, and let him be assigned to the one he is closest to.” When the angels measured the distance, it just so happened that he was nearer the town of his destination just by a hand-span, and so the angels of mercy took away his soul to paradise. Another version narrates that Allah had ordered the earth to be stretched such that he became closer to the city of piety and further from the city of evil.

Lessons:

  • Allah’s mercy is all-encompassing and He can forgive any sin, even the most heinous such as murdering 100 people, at least 1 of whom was a pious person
  • After repenting from a sin, we should always immediately take steps to avoid returning to it again
  • We should not fall into despair when we sin, because if we repent and turn back to Allah, He will help us be among those who are forgiven

The Story of Abu Nasr As-Sayyad

Abu Nasr As-Sayyad was a very poor fisherman. One day he had no food for his wife and son so went to the masjid and started crying. The Imam knew his situation so took him to a river bank and told him to offer 2 units of prayer and throw the fishing net with the name of Allah. He caught a large fish and went to the market to sell it for a small loaf of bread. He left for home but on his way he met a destitute woman and her son. They were starving like his own wife and son, and they started looking at his loaf in hunger.

He thought of them and then his own family, and remembered that Allah would not forsake him. So he gave the small loaf of bread to the destitute woman and child. The child smiled and the woman started weeping in gratitude. He returned home distressed, but soon after he heard a knock on the door. Someone said “Is this the house of Abu Nasr As-Sayyad?” and he replied “Yes”. The man gave him some money that he had borrowed from his late father. He took the money, struck with astonishment and happiness.

After this, As-Sayyad became a merchant and was so rich with a large fortune that he was able to give a thousand dirhams in charity in one go! But he got conceited and started showing off. One night he went to sleep and saw in a dream that it was Judgement Day, and names were being called out to measure their good and bad deeds. His turn came and angels put his evil deeds against his good ones.

His evil deeds were as heavy as a mountain and his good deeds as light as a bundle of cotton, because even though he had given thousands in charity it was in vain because of showing off and lack of sincerity. So the angel asked “Is there anything left?” And there was only one thing left – the small loaf of bread he had given the poor woman. It was added to the good deeds which got heavier with more weight than the thousands of dirhams given after, but the evil deeds still outweighed them. So the angel asked again if there was anything left. There turned out to be still something left, which was the smile of the child. It was added and the good deeds became equal to the evil ones. Again the angel asked and the last thing left were the tears of the woman, which were as heavy as a sea of tears when added. This outweighed the evil deeds and he heard the angel saying that he was saved! He woke up that night and glorified Allah for that small loaf of bread.

Lessons:

  • Allah tests those who have even been given very little to see their trust in Him
  • Good deeds given with sincerity, no matter how simple, may be compensated with multiple rewards
  • Acts of charity or virtue done without sincerity will be done in vain
  • Allah may save someone based on a single event or circumstance in his/her life