All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, Who says in His Ever Glorious Book, “Those who came after them say, ‘Lord, forgive us our sins and the sins of our brothers who believed before us, and leave no malice in our hearts towards those who believe. Lord, You are truly compassionate and merciful.” I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his Household, Companions and upon those who follow their path to the Day of Judgment.
The Almighty Allah chooses from among his servants those who devote themselves to serve His Religion. The Prophet (PBUH) told us that the best of the Muslims community are the Companions, then their followers, then their successors. Companion Abdullah Ibn Mas‘oud said: “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “My generation is the best people, then those next to them, then those next to them…” They gained this status as they carried knowledge, and protected it against the extremism and ignorance. Allah has praised those peopel and mentioned them in the same category of the Messenger’s Companions promising them paradise when he, The Almighty Allah said, “Allah will be well pleased with the first emigrants and helpers and those who followed them in good deeds, and they will be well pleased with Him: He has prepared Gardens graced with flowing streams for them, there to remain for ever. That is the supreme triumph.”
The Tabi‘oun (followers of the Companions) are the closest generation to the Prophet, as they are second generation next to the Companions, and the Followers of the Tabi‘oun are the next generation to the Tabi’oun (may Allah be pleased with them all). May Allah have Mercy with Imam al-Busairy who said:
And all of them obtained from (bounties of) The Messenger of Allah,
(Like) a handful (of water) from the ocean or a sip from continuous rains.
The Tabi’oun accompanied the Companions and learned from them, and the Companions attested to their virtues and knowledge. For example, Abdullah Ibn Umar witnessed in favor of Saeed Ibn Al-Musayyib saying, “By Allah, he is a Mufti.” He also said, “Ask Saeed Ibn al-Musayyib for he has learned from the Righteous people.” Saeed Ibn al- Musayyib used to give Fatwas in the Presence of the Companions. Ataa’ Ibn Abi Rabah used to give Fatwas for the People of Mecca after the death of the great scholar for the Muslim Ummah, Abdullah Ibn Abbas. When Ibn ‘Umar arrived in Mecca, and peole gathered to ask him he commented, “Do you collect your questions to ask me, while you have Ataa’ Ibn Rabah amongst you?”
The Tabi’oun were known for the sincerity of their love for the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). For example, Al-Hasan Al-Basri whenever he reported the Hadith of the “the trunk of date that moaned off in love for the Prophet”, he used to weep and say: O servants of Allah, a piece of wood moaned out of love for the Prophet (PBUH); you are more deserving to yearn for meeting him (PBUH).”
Also, Imam Malik once was asked: When did you learn of Ayoub al-Sukhtiani? He said: He performed Hajj twice, and I used to see him without hearing him. Notably, when he would mention the name of the Prophet (PBUH) he used to weep. Their reverence of the Prophet (PBUH) was so great that they never talked about him except in the best way and at their best cnditions. Abu Salamah Al-Khuza’i said: When Imam Malik Ibn Anas used to report the Ahadeeth pf the Prophet (PBUH) he would make Wudu’, put on his best clothes, and comb his beard. He was asked about that, and he replied: I pay reverence to the Ahadeeth of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH).
There were some Tabi’oun whom the Prophet (PBUH) praised like Oways Al-Qarani, who was so kind to his mother, and the Prophet (PBUH) told his Companions that his supplications are answered by Allah. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying, “The best among Tabi‘oun is a man called Uways Ibn Amir…He had been suffering from leprosy. His treatment with his mother would have been very kind. Ask him to beg forgiveness for you (from Allah).” When Umar Ibn Al-Khattab met him, he asked him to ask forgiveness from Allah for him (Umar).
The Tabi‘oun learned from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) the geniune meaning of the religion. Once, Imam Hassan Al-Basri was asked: Are you a believer? He replied: “Belief is of two kinds. If you are asking me about belief in Allah, His Angels, Scriptures, Messengers, Paradise, and resurrection, then I’m a believer. But if you ask me about the words of the Almighty Allah, “True believers are those whose hearts tremble with awe when Allah is mentioned, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited to them,” then I do not know whether or not I’m one of them. Al-Bayhaqi commented: Al-Hassan did not doubt his basic belief. Rather, he doubted the perfection of his belief for which Allah has promised Paradise in his saying, “They have high standing with their Lord, forgiveness, and generous provision.”
They also realized the value of facilitation and applied in their life. Sufyan Al-Thawry said: “In our view, knowledge entails [issuing] legal concessions (rukhsah). As for being strict, anyone can do that.”Al-Azraq Ibn Qays also said: Once, we were at Al-Ahwaz. Abu Barza al-Aslami was praying, but his horse run away. He stopped his prayer to catch the horse and then came to make up his prayer. A man said, “Look to that man who stopped his prayer for the sake of his horse!” When Abu Barza finished his prayer, he said, “My house is so far; and if I lost my horse shall never return home.” He learned that from the Prophet (PBUH) who used to choose the easier option whenever he was given an option between two things as long as the easier one was not sinful. Moreover, he (PBUH) said, “Make things easy and do not make them difficult, cheer the people up by conveying glad tidings to them and do not repulse (them).” He (PBUH) also said, “Whenever forbearance is added to something, it adorns it; and whenever it is withdrawn from something, it leaves it defective.”
They also practically applied the values of mercy, solidarity and feeling with others in their life. Ali Ibn Al-Hussein Ibn Ali (Allah be pleased with him) used to secretly give out charity to the poor, with nobody noticed that. When he died, they lost he who used to provide them with money. When performing death’s ritual ablution for him, they found the signs of carrying sacks to widows’ and orphans’ houses, thus they realized that he was the person who used to came to them at night with provision. It is said that he was in charge of 100 of the Medina’s houses, as he used to provide them with their provision.
Showing mercy to each other was not confined to Muslims only, but rather extended to non-Muslims also. ‘Umar Ibn Abd Al-Aziz (Allah be pleased with him) once wrote to his ruler over Basra, “Search for the people with whom we covenants who became aged, week or unable to get his own living and make for him a due share from the treasury house.” In doing so, he followed the example of our master ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) who, upon seeing a man from the People of the Book asking people for charity, said, “I swear to Allah, we have not treated this man fairly if we take Jiziya from him while young and leave him now.” So, he (Allah be pleased with him) imposed for him a due share from the treasury house. The same also was done by Khalid Ibn Al-Walid (Allah be pleased with him) who, upon concluding the treaty with the people of Hira, said: “I decreed that whenever one of their aged became unable to work or is afflicted with a disease or turns poor after richness that he should have a due share from the Muslim treasury house.” In truth, in doing so, they all followed the example of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and applied the correct form of religion. Allah, Most High, says: ” Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
Mercy, furthermore, is not confined to man only, but rather extended that to include animals, birds, etc. Umar Ibn Abd Al-Aziz once wrote to his ruler over Egypt recommending him to show mercy to camels, saying: “I was told that there are camels in Egypt that are forced to carry 1000 pounds. So, upon receiving my book, do not load them with more than 600 pounds.” He also recommended that they should be shown mercy, and not to be humiliated or beaten. He has actually learnt this from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) who once recommended his companions saying: “Don’t you fear Allah about this beast which Allah has given in your possession. It has complained to me that you keep it hungry and load it heavily which fatigues it.”
With that said, I ask Allah to forgive me and you
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds; I bear witness that there is no god but Allah; and I bear witness that our master Prophet Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, his family, companions and whoever follows their guidance to the Day of Judgment.
One of the most distinctive characters of the followers is “Tolerance with people and dealing with them kindly”. They were very lenient while dealing with people. Qatada is reported to have said: “We have got into the house of Al-Hassan al-Basari in a visit; he was asleep. Beside his head, there was a basket full of bread and fruit. So, we pulled it and started eating. He then got up, and was happy. He smiled and recited the Saying of Allah, Most High, “… or [from the house] of your friend. There is no blame upon you whether you eat together or separately.” In the same connection, Jarir Ibn Hazem (Allah be pleased with him) said: “We paid a visit to Al-Hassan. We stayed therein until it was the midday. His son then came and said, ‘let the old man take some rest, for you have caused him a lot of troubles,’ whereupon Al-Hassan said, “Leave them, for I swear by Allah there is nothing more beloved to me than seeing them.”
The list of their characters includes also self-denial, appreciation of and respect for scholars and showcasing how Islam is deeply entrenched in their souls. This may actually be a lesson to those who talk about the matters of religion, with no knowledge, thus he is astray and gets others astray. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ” Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.”
The followers were good examples for the Imams who came after them. Abu Ja’far Al-Mansour once told Imam Malik Ibn Anas (Allah be pleased with him) that he intended to approve his Al-Muwatta’ as the highest authority ever in the religious matters throughout the Islamic World, affirming: “I intended to command my rulers to copy your books and to send one copy to every Muslim province so that they would act upon it, not any source else; because I firmly believe that the origin of knowledge is what has been narrated in the Medina of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH).” Imam Malik then replied: “Please, don’t do this, o Commander of the Believers, for people had previously been in contact with other narrations and sayings; every people have adopted and acted upon what has previously reached them. So, in case you would force them to adhere to one source, this would impose great difficulty upon them. So, let them act upon what each has previously chosen for himself.” Al-Mansour then said: “I take my oath! Had you obeyed me, I would have commanded them to do so.”
The followers were also very modest and of great ability to understand the matters of the Sharia. The incident of Imam Al-Shafi’ with his student Yunus ibn Abd Al-Ala is a case in point. It is narrated that one day Yunus was angry with his teacher Al-Shafi’. When the night fell, Yunus heard some nocks at the door. He asked, “Who is that?” Al-Shafi’ replied, “Muhammad Ibn Idris.” Yunus said that he thought of any person with the name of Muhammad Ibn Idris but not Al-Shafi’. He then opened the door and found Imam Al-Shafi’ before him, saying: “O Yunus! We agree on hundreds of topics and are separated because of one! O Yunus! Don’t try to be victorious in all controversies, for sometimes gaining hearts is more important than gaining in a particular situation. O Yunus! Don’t destroy all the bridges you built, for one day you might be in need of them to go back. O Yunus, always hate the wrong, but do not hate the wrongdoer; keep way from acts of disobedience, but be tolerant and show mercy to the disobedient. O Yunus, criticize the speech, but show respect to the speaker, because our task is to eradicate the disease, not the ill.” May Allah have mercy upon Imam Al-Shafi’ who once said:
I love the righteous yet not of them me
That I will have them intercession for me
I hate their trade in acts of disobedience
Though both our goods are the same
Our honorable scholars followed this way and were thus the best example for us in carrying the trust of the religion of Islam, correctly understanding it, acting upon its morals and kindly delivering it to people with wisdom and good instruction.
O Allah! Make us from those who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.