How to find a good Teacher - Part 4: Signs of the learned men of the hereafter

>> Friday, September 19, 2008

This is the 4th part of the series and deals with the 4th and 5th sign.

In The Words of Imam Ghazzali

(4) Fourth sign. Another sign of the learned man of the next world is that he has got no attraction for various kinds of foods and drinks, luxury in dresses, furniture and houses, but rather he adopts moderate course in all these things following the earlier sages and he is best satisfied with the least of everything. The less a man is attracted towards luxuries , the more he will be close to God and the more he will be in association of the learned men of the hereafter and in rank.
Abdullah-b-Khawas used to keep company with Hadrat Hatem Asem and he said: Once I with 320 pilgrims went to Rayy along with the sage Hatem Asem. We had food stuffs with us and not food. We went to a merchant who was well known for love of the poor. We became his guests that night. He said next day to the sage Hatem: Have you got any necessity with me? I wish now to go to see an ailing theologian. Hatem said: Visiting the sick is no doubt meritorious but looking after the poor is worship. I will go along with you. The sick man was Muhammad-b-Maqatil, judge of Rayy. When we came near his gate, we looked at his lofty and beautiful palace. Hatem thought for a moment and then said: Is this the condition of the house of a learned man? After permission, we entered the house and found it very beautiful and spacious with carpets spread all over the floor and screens of varied colours hanging. The judge lay down on a soft mattress and a servant was standing with a fan near his head. The merchant asked about his health but Hatem stood silent. Being requested to sit, he did not sit but asked the judge: From whom have you got your learning? He said: From the companions of the Apostle of God. He asked him: From whom did the companions learn? He said: From the Apostle of God. He asked: From whom did the Apostle of God learn? He said: From Gabriel and he learned from God. Hatem asked: Have you found in their learnings that to God the rank of a man whose palace is high and spacious is greater? He said: No. He asked: What then have you found? The judge said: I found therein that a man who renunciates the world, turns his attention towards the next world, loves the poor and proceeds towards the hereafter has got a great rank near God. Hatem said to the judge: Whom have you followed, prophets or their companions, or the pious men, or Pharaoh and Namrud who erected lofty buildings with bricks? The dishonest learned men like you are fools. Then he went away from that place.
Ibn Maqatil's sickness became thereafter acute and the inhabitants of Rayy came to know what passed between him and Hatem. They said to Hatem: The palace of Tanafusi and Qazawin is more lofty and spacious. Hatem went there on his own accord and said to Tanafusi: May God have mercy on you! I am a foreigner and I wish that you should teach me the elements of my religion and the particulars of ablution. Tanafusi said: Yes, 0 lad, bring a pot of water.- When it was brought, Tanafusi made ablution and washed each limb thrice and said : This is thus. Hatem said: I am making ablution in your presence. Then he began to wash each limb four times. Tanafusi said: 0 Shaikh, you have been extravagant and washed your hands four times. Hatem said: 0 glorious God, I have been extravagant for washing my hands four times, but you do not consider yourself extravagant for what you are in all these luxuries. Tanafusi then came to know that he had no necessity of learning from him ablution. Thereafter he did not come out to the people for forty days.
Hatem once went to Baghdad and there Imam Ahmad went to see him and asked him: What will ensure salvation from the world? Hatem said: You are not safe in this world unless you possess four characteristics-(1) overlook the ignorance of man, (2) conceal your ignorance from them, (3) seek their good, and (4) don't seek anything from them.
When the sage Hatem went to Medina, some of its inhabitants went to him and he asked them: 0 people, what is the name of this city? They said: It is the city of the Prophet of God. He asked: Where is the palace of the Prophet of God? I shall observe my Prayer therein. They said: He had no palace except a small cottage
wherein he rested. He asked: Where are the palaces of his companions? They said: They had no palaces. They had only cottages in this world for rest. Hatem said: 0 people, this city then is the city of Pharaoh. They brought him before the Governor and said: This man is a foreigner and says that this is the city of Pharaoh. The governor asked him: Why do you utter this? Hatem said: Don't be hasty in judgement upon me. I am a foreigner. Then he narrated the whole conversation between him and some Medinites. Then he said: God said: You will find in the Prophet of God an excellent example (33:21) Whose example have you adopted, example of the Prophet or of Pharaoh ? They then left hire. These are the stories of Hatem Asem.
In short, use of ornamentation in permissible things is not unlawful but it creates fondness for these and to give them up at the end becomes difficult. The Prophet did not lay stress for renunciation of the world. It has been narrated that Caliph Yahya-b-Sayeed once wrote to Imam Malek-b-Anas saying: In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate and blessings on Prophet Muhammad. From Yahya-b-Sayeed to Malek-b-Anas: I have been informed that you put on fine clothes , eat delicious foods, sleep on soft couches and keep a doorkeeper at your door. You sit in the assembly of learning and people come to you from distant places. They have taken you as Imam and they are satisfied with your words. 0 Malek, fear God, take to humility. I write to you this letter as an admonition. Non has seen its contents except God. Imam Malek wrote back saying: I have received your letter and it has come to me as an admonition, kindness and a sign of good conduct. May God bless your piety and reward you for your advice. I seek His help. There is no power and might except by His help. We do what you have mentioned but beg forgiveness of God for them. God said: Who has made unlawful the fineries of God which God has gifted to His servants and clean and pure foods- 7:32 I know certainly that abstinence from these things is better than indulging in them. Don't give up writing to me. Peace be on you. See then the sense of justice which Imam Malek showed. He did not make the fineries of the world unlawful but admitted that abstinence from luxuries is better.
(5) Fifth sign. Another sign of the learned man of the hereafter is that he keeps himself distant from the ruling authorities and avoids their company, because this world is sweet, ever-new and its bridle is in their hands. He who comes near them is not free from their pleasures and harms. They are mostly unjust and do not obey the advices of the learned men. The learned man who frequents them will look to their grandeurs and then think God's gift upon him as insignificant. To keep company with the rulers is the key to evils. The Prophet said : He who lives in desert becomes hard-hearted, he who follows them becomes unmindful and he who frequents the rulers falls into danger. He said also: Soon you will have rulers to whom you will bear allegiance or not. He who rejects his allegiance to them will be saved and he who hates them will be safe but God will keep him distant who remains satisfied with them and follows them. He was asked: Shall we fight with them ? The Prophet said: No, till they pray.
Hazrat Huzaifa said: Be careful of the place of danger. He was asked. What is it? He said: The palaces of the rulers. Some one of you will go to a ruler, approve his lies and say that he possesses an attribute which he does not actually possess. The Prophet said: The learned are the representatives of the Prophets to the people till they do not mix with the rulers. When they mix, they commit treachery with the Prophets. So beware of them and don't mix with them. Hazrat Sayeed-b-Musayyeb said: When you see a learned man frequenting the house of a ruler, beware of his company as he is a thief. Hazrat Aozayi said: There is nothing more hateful to God than a learned man who frequents the house of a ruler. The Prophet said: The learned men who frequent the houses of rulers are worst and the rulers who frequent the houses of the learned men are best. Hazrat Maqhul said: He who learns the Quran and becomes expert in religious learning but comes to the company of the rulers out of greed is immersed in the sea of Hell-fire. When you see a learned man loving the world, convert him to your religion because I have learnt it by experience.
Hazrat Hasan Basri said: There lived before your time a man who Was born in Islam and enjoyed the company of the Prophet. He is Sa'ad-b.-Abi Waqqas. He did not frequent the houses of rulers and hated it. His sons said to him: Those who are like you in following Islam and keeping company with the Prophet frequent the houses of rulers. It would have been better if you frequent their houses. He said: 0 dear sons, the world is a corpse and the people surround it. By God. I will not be a partner to it even if I am able to do it. They said: 0 father, you will then die of starvation. He said: 0 sons, I would rather starve to death than die as a great man with hypocrisy. Hazrat Hasan used to say to the opposing parties: By God, know that earth will consume the flesh and fat but not faith.