Moral Maturity in the Age of Bliss

The age of Bliss is undoubtedly the most exceptional period in the history of mankind, typified by virtue, selflessness and moral excellence. It was that period in which the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, the reason for the existence of entire creation, graced the earth. It was a period molded and inspired by his behavior and spirituality. That age was, again, a time of getting to know the Almighty and His Messenger, with love and ecstasy, in an environment of deep contemplation.

Let’s think of a great mountain…From a distance, it appears as a silhouette, somewhat vague. But the closer one gets, the more visible the trees, the fruits, chirping birds and streams flowing through it become. Admiration for it only grows with each step taken towards it.

Similarly, getting to know the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- in the truest sense is impossible merely by reading about him from books. He can only be known through the love one carries in his heart and only through that love may one get closer to him. It was with such love that the Companions conducted themselves towards the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, responding to his every wish with the sincere words:

“May my mother, father, everything I have and even my very own life be ransomed in your way, Messenger of Allah!”

The best indication of our love for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is our love for the Quran and the Sunnah, the two things left in our trust as expressed in the hadith.[1] We must therefore seek to implement the Quran and Sunnah in all aspects of our lives and strive to earn the pleasure of Allah, glory unto Him, and the love of His Messenger, on the illumined path they invite us to take. By living the Quran and Sunnah, we must seek to embody the beautiful morals of Islam and make every effort to infuse society with it.

They were Peaks of Humbleness

The higher the Companions rose through Islamic morals, the more amazingly humble they became. Below is typical example:

Salman Farisi -Allah be well-pleased with him- was the governor of Madain when a man, from the Taym Clan, arrived from Damascus with a sack of figs. He saw Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him-, whom he was unable to recognize, in great part due to the modest woolen cloak he was wearing at the time.

“Come, help me carry this load”, he called out to Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him-, thinking he was a slave.

Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him- went next to him, putting the sack over his shoulders without protest. It was not long before the Damascene was told who he really was.

“That man is the governor of Madain”, they said.

“Please, forgive me”, then said the man apologetically. “I could not recognize you”.

“No harm done”, replied Salman -Allah be well-pleased with him-, modestly as ever. “I will carry the load to wherever it is that you want me to take it.” (Ibn Saad, IV, 88)

The Almighty praises His modest servants, like Salman Farisi -Allah be well-pleased with him-, in the Quran as follows:

“The (faithful) servants of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them answer: Peace…” (al-Furqan, 63)

They were Oceans of Compassion

Compassion was one of the most distinctive attributes of the Asr-u Saadah society. The incident below shows the supreme level of compassion and benevolence attained to by the Companions, young and old:

Walking through the vineyards of Medina, Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- once saw a black slave holding a bread in his hand, eating some of it himself, while feeding some to a dog in front of him.

“Who are you, young man?” Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- asked.

“I am a servant of Aban ibn Othman” replied the young man.

“Then to whom does this vineyard belong?”

“To Aban…”

“Do not leave”, Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- then said. “I will return in a moment!”

Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- then hurriedly went next to Aban, the owner of the vineyard, and purchased both the vineyard and the slave from him. He then arrived by the side of the slave once more:

“I have purchased you, young man”, he said.

“Very well,” said the young man in a respectful tone. “Then it is my duty to obey Allah and His Messenger, and you…”

Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- got all the more emotional upon hearing these words and he said:

“For Allah’s sake, from now on you are free…and the vineyard is yours as present!”

“In that case”, replied the young man, “I leave this vineyard to the Almighty, for the sake of Whom you have just set me free!” (Ibn Manzur, Muhtasaru Tarihi Dimashq, VII, 25)

The young man, seemingly a slave yet clearly a pillar of spirituality, thereby responded to virtue with virtue, in return for the mercy and generosity he was treated with.

Abdullah ibn Mubarak (d. 181 AH), a leading hadith scholar of the Tabiun generation, was a well-to-do man. Accompanied by his friends, he once set out for pilgrimage. On the way, he noticed two little girls, living in a small hut by the road. Left on their own without anyone to take care of them, the two girls reached their hands towards a dead bird lying nearby, to satisfy their hunger. Seeing this unfold right before his eyes, Abdullah ibn Mubarak decided not to continue his journey. He spared some twenty dinars of the thousand he had with him for his return trip to Damascus, while handing the rest to the two girls.

“Why are you doing this?” his friends asked him, to which he replied, “This will reap more rewards than our pilgrimage for this year.”[2]

While offering salat one day, Hadrat Rabi ibn Haytham had his horse, worth twenty-thousand dinars, stolen right before his eyes. But instead of pursuing the thief, he chose to continue his peaceful salat. Hearing his great loss, his friends came running to console him.

“You know, I did notice the thief as he was untying the horse’s reins,” he said to them. “But I was preoccupied with something much more important at the time, a deed I truly love. So that is why I did not run after the thief.”

They then began to curse the thief, only to be silenced by Rabi himself.

“Calm down…Nobody has wronged me. The thief has simply wronged himself. Let’s not add salt to his wound, as if what the poor man inflicted upon himself was not enough.” (Bkz. Babanzâde Ahmed Naîm, İslâm Ahlâkının Esasları, s. 85-86)

The poem says it brilliantly:

Run, with Your mercy, when a Believer is in peril,

And spare the better part of your mercy for the doer of evil

The people of the Asr-u Saadah were also exemplary in their compassion towards animals and plants. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had once come across a man milking his sheep. He told him to:

“Leave some milk for its lambs.” (Haythami, VIII, 196)

On one occasion, Abu’d-Darda -Allah be well-pleased with him- happened upon a few men loading their camels with too much weight. One camel could not even manage to stand. After unloading the excess load from the camel’s back and helping it to stand, Abu’d-Darda said, to them:

“If Allah the Almighty forgives you the pain you have caused on your camels, He will surely have shown an enormous mercy…for I have heard the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- say, ‘Allah commands you to treat these mute creatures well! If you pass through fertile soil, let them graze a little! If you pass through arid soil, pass through it quickly and do not cause them distress by lingering there.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Matalibu’l-Aliyah, II, 226/1978)

They Loved Forgiving for the Sake of the Almighty

One must always forgive others, so that the Almighty, too, forgives him. We have all committed errors, be it against the Creator or other human beings, waiting to be forgiven.

Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- used to lend frequent aid to a poor man called Mistah. Seeing Mistah, too, was among the defamers during the Ifk Incident, a slander leveled against the honorable Aisha -Allah be well-pleased with her-, he vowed never again to help him or his family. But then the Almighty revealed:

“And let not those of you who possess grace and abundance swear against giving to the near of kin and the poor and those who have fled in Allah’s way, and they should pardon and turn away. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (an-Nur, 22)

“Of course, I would want Allah to forgive me”, said Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- upon hearing the ayah. Compensating (kaffarah) for his oath, he then resumed the charity like before. (Bukhari, Maghazi, 34; Muslim, Tawba, 56; Tabari, Tafsir, II, 546)

As Caliph, Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- wrote an edict for Malik ibn Harith, appointed as the governor of Egypt. The below words, taken from that edict, give us a wonderful idea of what the Asr-u Saadah person understood from the term ‘to forgive’:

“Do not look upon human beings like a wolf looks upon a flock of sheep! Nurture in your heart feelings of love, mercy and kindness towards them, for all human beings are either your brothers or sisters in religion or your equal in creation. They may make mistakes or undergo troubles. Hold the weak by the hand…and if you want Allah to forgive you then forgive and be lenient towards others! Do not ever defy Allah! Do not regret it should you forgive, and do not rejoice should you hand out a punishment!” [3]

Recounting an instance of compassion that left him speechless is Isam ibn Mustaliq:

“I had come to Medina. Soon, I caught a glimpse of Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him-, the son of Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him-. I was deeply impressed by his lovely appearance and stately manners. But this only fuelled the fire of jealousy deep inside me, owing to a hidden grudge I was holding at the time against his father. Without mentioning his father’s name, I asked him:

‘Are you Abu Talib’s grandson?’

As soon as he said ‘Yes’, I began to curse both him and his father, using words one would think twice before uttering. Meanwhile, Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him- was just staring at me with a most remarkable look of compassion. After saying the Basmalah, he then recited the ayat:

‘Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant. And should a false suggestion from the Shaytan afflict you, seek refuge in Allah; surely He is Hearing, Knowing. When a visitation from the Shaytan afflicts those who guard against evil, they remember and suddenly they discern!’ (al-Araf, 199-201)

He then gave me the following advice:

‘Prefer discretion! Seek forgiveness from Allah for both if us! For if you were to ask help from us, we would not hesitate. If you were to ask us to have you as guest, we would lovingly do so. And if you were to ask us to teach you, we would do our best to show you the right way!’

When he realized from my expression that I had deeply regretted my words, he then read the ayah:

‘…There shall be no reproof against you this day; Allah may forgive you, and He is the most Merciful of the merciful!’ (Yusuf, 92)

‘Are you from Damascus?’ he then inquired, becoming conscious of the fact that I was a supporter of Muawiyah. When I replied ‘Yes’ he read me a wonderful poem, describing how he was no stranger to being treated harshly by Damascenes.

Then full of warmth and sincerity, he said, ‘Welcome…Allah’s peace upon you! May Allah give you health and power, and may He help you! If you ever feel in need, do not feel shy, tell us. Ask from us whatever it is that comes to your mind. Insh-Allah you will see that we are better than what you think of us!’

I felt embarrassed. I wished the Earth to open up and swallow me. I then moved away, out of sight. But one thing was for sure. After that point, nobody was dearer to me than Ali and Hasan -Allah be well-pleased with him-um.’” (Qurtubi, Tafsir, [al-Araf, 201])

Man is always defeated by kindness, as stated in the Quran:

“And good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, and suddenly he with whom you had enmity, would be as if he were a warm friend.” (Fussilat, 34)

This amazing incident shows the wonderful effects of good morals. Winning hearts by forgiving and thereby putting Islamic morals on display, can exercise an enormous influence on others.

Mamun ibn Mihran was a Tabiun scholar, dedicated to worshipping. One evening, as he had guests over his house for dinner, his servant tripped and spilt the hot food on him. Burnt and in pain, Mamun became visibly angry. Fearing the consequences of this tricky situation, the servant said:

“All you can do now, master, is to fulfill the Almighty’s command and ‘choke back your anger’”.[4]

“I have”, replied Mamun and he instantly calmed down. Heartened, the servant continued referring to the same ayah.

“You should also observe the command to ‘forgive others’”.

“Sure”, replied Mamun. “I forgive you!”

The servant then continued with the rest of the ayah, reminding him how Allah, glory unto Him, loves the generous (muhsin).

“Then so shall I treat you generously”, remarked Mamun. “For the sake of Allah, from now on, you are free!” (Kurtubi, IV, 207, [Al-i Imran, 134])[5]

They Had Their Share of Two Prophetic Attributes: Trustworthiness (al-Amin) and Loyalty (as-Sadiq)

When the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- gave a large amount of the spoils of Hunayn to Meccans in hope of warming them to Islam, feeling unsettled, some young Ansari Companions remarked, “This is amazing! Our swords still drip of Qurayshi blood and in return, they are receiving our spoils!”

When the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- became aware of the resentment, he gathered the Ansari men and asked:

“Is it true that you have been saying these things?”

By now, the said Companions were deeply embarrassed and remorseful over their words. Still, with their heads bowed, they replied, “Yes…We have said exactly what you have heard!”

It was simply because they never spoke a lie. (Muslim, Zakat, 134)

Even the sworn enemies of Islam would admire Muslim trustworthiness and take their word. In the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud, Abu Sufyan, the commander of the army of idolaters, called to Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- from a distance, asking curiously:

“Answer me, Omar, in the name of Allah…Did we really kill Muhammad?”

“I promise by Allah that you did not”, responded Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him. “He is listening to you as we speak!” Abu Sufyan thereupon declared:

“I have more trust in your words, Omar, than our own Ibn Kamia who informed us of having killed him!” (Ibn Hisham, III, 45; Waqidi, I, 296-297; Ahmed, I, 288; Haythami, VI, 111)

This is an incredible display. An idolater confesses trust in the words of not another fellow idolater who just fought a battle with him, shoulder to shoulder, but of a Muslim with whom he just locked swords with. Though as incredible as this is, it is only natural, since human beings are infatuated by a quality of character; and they place full trusts in persons they see as possessing that quality.

A delegate from Yemen had arrived to the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, requesting him to send them a Companion to teach them “Islam and the Sunnah”. Holding Abu Ubaydah ibn Jarrah –Allah be well-pleased with him- the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- thereupon said:

“This man is the most trustworthy of my people”, and sent the Companion away with the Yemenis. (Muslim, Fadailu’s-Sahabah, 54; Ahmad, III, 146)

The above incident further highlight the enormous virtue that lies in being loyal and trustworthy; so much so that it elicits the personal praises of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

They were Winds of Mercy in Generosity and Selflessness

Reared by the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, the Companions had also acquired a great share of his generosity and selflessness.

“I do not know a single person from either the Ansar or the Muhajirun”, said Jabir –Allah be well-pleased with him- “who did not donate a trust.” (Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni, V, 598)

Ibn Hazm says:

“Many Companions including Abdullah ibn Omar and Fatimah –Allah be well-pleased with them- had donated numerous trusts in and around Medina. This is common knowledge; there is not a single person who does not know of this.” (M. Abduh Yemani, Fatimatu’z-Zahra, Beirut, 1996, p. 330)

The illustrious Muslim commander Khalid ibn Walid –Allah be well-pleased with him- had even donated his swords, shields and all military equipment as trust in the way of Allah, glory unto Him. (Bukhari, Zakat, 49, 33; Jihad, 89; Muslim, Zakat, 11)

Ubaydullah ibn Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with him- had set out on a journey, accompanied by his servant, a former slave who he had set free. On the way, they noticed a Bedouin’s house.

“How about we go to that house over there?” Ubaydullah suggested to his servant. “We might rest there…and perhaps even spend the night.”

So they went. Ubaydullah was a stately man of poise; and the moment the Bedouin saw him in front of his door, he felt a natural liking towards him.

“We have an honorable guest!” he called out to his wife.

After welcoming his guests and making them comfortable, the Bedouin returned to his wife and asked her whether they had anything to offer their guests.

“Nothing except for that sheep over there…which our little daughter depends on for her daily milk”, she said despondently.

“We have to slaughter it!” said the Bedouin.

“That would be like killing our daughter!” she answered.

“So be it then”, replied the resolute Bedouin.

Laying the sheep on the ground, the Bedouin then grabbed a knife, and improvised a short poem:

Do not wake my girl…asleep

For she will take my knife and weep

He then slit the sheep’s throat and prepared a stew from its meat, which he placed in front of Ubaydullah and his servant. The sensitive Ubaydullah had overheard the conversation between the Bedouin and his wife. Next morning, Ubaydullah asked his servant whether they had any money with them.

“Yes…around fife hundred dinars left over from our travel expenses”, he informed.

“Give all of it to the Bedouin”, Ubaydullah said.

“The entire five hundred?” asked the puzzled servant. “He only slaughtered five dinar worth sheep for you!”

“Shame on you!” replied Ubaydullah. “Make no mistake that he is much more generous than we are. We are only giving him a portion of what we have. Yet, he gave us all of what he had…he preferred our comfort to her daughter’s life. Nothing we can do can ever compensate that!”

When Muawiyah heard about the incident, he remarked, “What a great man Ubaydullah is…he just showed just whose son he is and which house he grew up in!” (Ibnu’l-Asir, Usdu’l-Ghabah, Beirut, 1417, III, 543; Ibn Asakir, Tarikhu Dimashq, XXXVII, 483-484)

Ubaydullah was the son of Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with them-, the uncle of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

While fasting one day, a needy man came to the door of Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- and asked her for something to eat. She had nothing but a piece of bread.

“Give the man the bread”, she said to her servant.

“But you have nothing else to break your fast with”, the servant replied.

“Give it to him still”, insisted Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her-. What unfolded after that is recounted by the servant:

“I gave the bread to the poor man. At sunset, someone then sent us some cooked mutton to Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her-. She called me and said:

‘Help yourself…this sure is tastier than your loaf of bread!’” (Muwatta, Sadaqah, 5)

It is reported that Ibn Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- would not sit down to eat unless accompanied by an orphan to join him. (Bukhari, al-Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 136; Abu Nuaym, Hilyah, I, 299)

The great Hasan Basri, who had the good fortune of seeing many Companions, once said:

“I witnessed such times that upon waking up in the morning, a Muslim would urge his family to ‘…Take care of the orphans and the needy in your neighborhood!’ And today, the good men have passed on and you are becoming morally weaker by the day.” (Bukhari, Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 139)

They Would Avoid Wasting

Aqil ibn Abi Talib –Allah be well-pleased with him- was one day narrating the saying of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- that said:

“A mudd of water is enough for ablution…and a sa’ to wash your entire body”.[6]

A man present then commented, “That much water is not enough for us!” Then referring to the Noble Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, Aqil said:

“That much water was enough for a man better and with more hair than you!” (Ibn Majah, Taharah, 1)

Kathir ibn Ubayd, the freed slave of Abu Bakr and the foster brother of Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with them-, recounts:

“I once went next to Aisha, who told me to wait outside so she could finish sewing up her dress. I then remarked, ‘I would tell others what you were doing, if not for the fear they might call you a miser’.

‘You mind your own business’, she replied. ‘He who does not wear old clothes, never gets to enjoy new ones!’” (Bukhari, Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 471; Ibn Saad, VIII, 50)

[1]       See, Ibn Hisham, IV, 276; Muwattaa, Qadar, 3.

[2]       M. Said Hatiboğlu, “İlk Sûfîlerin Hadis/Sünnet Anlayışı Üzerine” İslâmiyat, v. 2, no. 3, July-September, 1999, p. 13.

[3]       Muhyiddîn Seydî Çelebi, Buhârî’de Yönetim Esasları, prepared by Doç. Dr. Mehmet Erdoğan, Istanbul 2000, p. 47.

[4]       Al-i Imran, 134.

[5]       According to another report, the person in question was not Mamun ibn Mihran but Jafar as-Sadiq.

[6]       One unit of sa’ equal four mudds; that is 3, 328 kgs.