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The Advice of Sufyaan ath-Thawree

Text and explanation of this wasiyyah (advice/legacy) taken from the book, Min Wasaayas-Salaf (p. 19-25)
by Shaykh Saleem al-Hilaalee - hafidhahullaah


Sufyaan ath-Thawree [He is Aboo ’Abdullaah Sufyaan Ibn Sa’eed Ibn Masrooq ath-Thawree (d.161H). The appelation referring to Thawr Ibn ’Abd-Manaat; and not Thawr of Hamdaan. One of the stores of knowledge and mountains or retention - and when the ’Ulamaa‘ (Scholars) are mentioned, then Sufyaan is a dazzling star. His biography is famous and fills the books of Jarh wat-Ta’deel (validating and invalidating the narrators), history and fiqh; and his life-story is well known. From the Editors: What follows is a very brief biography of Sufyaan ath-Thawree, taken from Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa‘ of adh-Dhahabee and Tahdheebut-Tahdheeb of al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaanee.

His Shaykhs include: Aboo Ishaaq as-Sabee’ee, al-A’mash, Sulaymaan at-Taymee, Ibraaheem Ibn Maysarah, Ibn ’Awn, Zayd Ibn Aslam, ’Amr Ibn Deenaar, Ibn ’Ajlaan, Ibnul-Munkadir, Abuz-Zubayr, Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Ansaaree ...

His Students include: Shu’bah, al-Awzaa’ee, Maalik, ’Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee, Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Qattaan, Ibnul-Mubaarak, Hafs Ibn Ghiyaath, ’Abdullaah Ibn Wahb, ’Abdur-Razzaaq, Fudayl Ibn ’Iyaad, al-Waleed Ibn Muslim, Wakee’ Ibnul-Jarraah, Yazeed Ibn Haaroon, Aboo Nu’aym and ’Alee Ibnul-Ja’d - who was the last reliable narrator to report from him.

Shu’bah, Ibn ’Uyaynah, Aboo ’Aasim, Ibn Ma’een and others said, “Sufyaan is the chief of the Believers in Hadeeth.”

Ibnul-Mubaarak said, “I wrote from one thousand one hundred Shaykhs and I did not write from anyone better than Sufyaan,” so a man said to him: O Abaa ’Abdullaah, you saw Sa’eed Ibn Jubayr and others, he said, “That was before. I did not say that I did not see anyone better than Sufyaan.”

Ibn Mahdee said, “Wahb used to give precedence to Sufyaan’s memory over that of Maalik.”

Ad-Duwaree said, “I saw Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een and he did not prefer anyone to Sufyaan in his time - neither in fiqh, hadeeth, Zuhd or anything else.”

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said, “No one takes precedence over him in my heart.”

An-Nisaa’ee said, “He is greater than for it to have to be said that he is reliable, and he is one of the Imaams whom I hope is one of those whom Allaah has made an Imaam for the pious.”

Ibn Abee Dhi‘b said,
“I have not seen anyone more like the Taabi’een than Sufyaan.”

Ibn Hibbaan said, “He was one of the foremost of the people in fiqh, wara’ (piety) and precision.”

Ibn ’Uyaynah said, “I have not seen a man knowing the lawful and prohibited better than Sufyaan.”

Ishaaq Ibn Raahawayh said, ‘I heard ’Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee mention Sufyaan, Shu’bah, Maalik and Ibnul-Mubârak and say,
‘The most knowledgeable of them was Sufyaan.”

Muhammad Ibn Zunboor said, ‘I heard Fudayl say, ‘By Allaah! Sufyaan was more knowledgeable than Aboo Haneefah.”
Bishr al-Haafee said, “Ath-Thawree, to us, is the Imaam of the people.”

Qabeesah said, “I have not sat in a sitting along with Sufyaan except that I remembered death. I have not seen anyone who remembered death more than him.”

It was said to Sufyaan ath-Thawree, ‘For how long will you continue to seek Hadeeth?’ He said,
“And what is better than Hadeeth that I should prefer it? Hadeeth is the best of the knowledge of the world.”

’Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee related, ‘I heard Sufyaan say, ‘Never has a hadeeth reached me from Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), except that I would act upon it even a single time.” Here ends the Editor’s Inclusion.

His biography can be found in Tahdheebul-Kamaal (11/54), at-Tabaqaatul-Kubraa (6/371), Taareekh Baghdaad (9/151) and Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa‘ (7/229). Aboo Nu’aym al-Asbahaanee has written a delightful and complete biography of him in Hilyatul-Awliyaa‘ (6/356 - 7/144) - the likes of which I have not seen.] - rahimahullaah - wrote to ’Abbaad Ibn ’Abbaad al-Khawwaas al-Arsoofee [He is Aboo ’Utbah ’Abbaad Ibn ’Abbaad Ibn Khawwaas al-Arsoofee ash-Shaamee. One of the nobles of Shaam (region of Syria, Jordan and Palestine); and their worshippers. Declared reliable by Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een, Ya’qoob Ibn Sufyaan al-Fasawee and others. His biography is found in Taareekhad-Daarimee (no.495), al-Ma’rifah wat-Taareekh (2/43) of al-Fawasee and also Hilyatul-Awliyaa‘ (8/281-282).] - rahimahullaah – saying,


“To proceed: You are in a time which the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) used to seek refuge from reaching, and they had the knowledge that we do not have, and they had precedence which we do not. So how is it for us, when we reach that, having little knowledge, little patience, few helpers upon what is good, corruption of the people and pollution of this world?! So take to the original state of affairs and cling to it. [This pure saying is inherited from the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) - from whom it is very widely reported that person must do Ittibaa’ (follow the narrations from the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions) and cling to the old way, as is reported authentically from Ibn Mas’ood –( radiyallaahu ’anhu), “Follow and do not innovate - it is enough for you [and every innovation is misguidance].”

Reported by Wakee’ in az-Zuhd (no. 315) and through him Ahmad in az-Zuhd (p. 202), ad-Daarimee in the introduction of his Sunan (1/69) and others. It is Saheeh due to its supporting chains and the addition in brackets is from Ahmad and at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (9/154) and is also Saheeh.]

I advise you to remain unknown, since this is the age for remaining anonymous (khumool). [The khaamil is the one who is hidden, the one who is not mentioned or known. This is a sign of taqwaa (piety) and goodness, since the sincere ones do not cease to be fearful of riyaa (ostentation). Therefore, they strive hard to hide this from the people and turn their eyes away from their righteous actions; and strive to hide them harder than the people and turn their eyes away from their righteous actions; and strive to hide them harder than the people strive in their wickedness - hoping for sincerity in their actions - so that Allah may reward them for their sincerity on the Day of Resurrection. And the people of good did not intend fame, nor seek it, nor that which leads to it - and if granted by Allaah - they flee from it and prefer not to be known. Since it leads to conceit and then destroys the fame.

Imaam Muslim in his Saheeh (18/10) and al-Baghawee in Sharhus-Sunnah (15/21-22) both relate that ’Aamir Ibn Sa’d Ibn Abee Waqqaas said, ‘Sa’d was looking after his sheep and camels, so his son, ’Umar, came to him. When Sa’d saw him he said, ‘I seek refuge in Allaah from the evil of this rider.’ So when he came to him, he said, ‘O father! Are you satisfied with being a desert-dwelling Arab amongst your sheep and camels, whilst the people are arguing about who is to rule in al-Madeenah?’ Sa’d hit ’Umar on the chest and said, ‘Shut-up! For I have heard the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) say, “Indeed Allaah loves the pious, self-contented and hidden servant.”

So what Sufyaan intended by saying, “This is the age for remaining anonymous,” is that one should hide their good actions from people - not that one should become lazy and apathetic. The proof for this is from considering two matters:- Firstly: It is established from the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) that he said, “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allaah than a weak believer.” Secondly: It is established that the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) would seek refuge with Allaah from laziness and slothfulness.]

And remain aloof and mix little with the people, since before, when the people met, they would benefit from each other. But today that has gone and your safety - in our view - lies in abandoning them. [What he means by ’uzlah (remaining aloof) is mixing little with the people - since there will still be some benefit to be gained from each other. So, he does not mean that you should avoid the people altogether, since if the du’aat (the callers to Allaah and his Religion) do that - then when will the ignorant learn, the confused ones be guided and the one who oppresses himself desist! There is no doubt that the one who mixes with the people and patiently bears their harms has a great reward.]

Beware of the Rulers. Beware of coming near to them and of mixing with them in any of the affairs. Beware of being deceived, so that it said to you: Intercede [for me], so that you help one oppressed, or repel an act of oppression - because that is from the deception of Iblees, which the wicked reciters have taken as a means to attain a favorable position.

[Ibn al-Jawzee (d.597H) - rahimahullaah - says in Talbees Iblees (p. 121-122), “From the deception of Iblees upon the Scholars, is their mixing with the Rulers and flattering them and abandon censuring them when able to do so. And perhaps they find allowance for them where really there is no allowance, in order to attain a worldly goal - and threefold corruption comes about through this:

Firstly: The Ruler - he says, ‘If it were not correct, then the Scholar would have censured me - and how can I not be correct - and he eats from my wealth?’

Secondly: The common person says, ‘There is no harm with this Ruler, nor his wealth, nor his actions, because the Scholar does not criticize him.’

Thirdly: The Scholar - because he corrupts his Religion through that. Iblees may deceive them into entering upon the Ruler saying: We enter in order to intercede for a Muslim. This deception is uncovered by the fact that if a different person entered to intercede - the Scholar would not be pleased with that; and perhaps speak ill of him - since he wishes to be alone in the Rulers attention.

So entering upon the Ruler involves great danger, since the intention may be good when you first enter, but then may be changed by their honouring you, or bestowing things upon you, or by having ambitions and by not being able to avoid flattering them and leaving-off censuring them. Sufyaan ath-Thawree used to say, “I do not fear from their debasing me, but I fear from their being generous towards me so that my heart inclines towards them.” ”

And al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee (d.795H) says in Sharh Hadeeth Maa Dhi‘baan (p. 53), “Many of the Salaf used to forbid entering upon the Kings in order to command them with what is good and forbid them from what is evil also. From those that forbade them were: ’Umar Ibn ’Abdul-’Azeez, Ibnul-Mubaarak, ath-Thawree and others. Ibnul-Mubaarak said, “And with us, the one who orders and forbids is not the one who enters upon them and orders and forbids, but rather the one who orders and forbids is the one who keeps away from them.” And that is for fear of trials for the one who enters upon them since a person when far away maybe deceived into thinking that he will order and forbid them and be stern with them - but when he sees them face to face, his soul inclines towards them, since love of nobility is hidden in the soul. Therefore he flatters them and is lenient with them and perhaps he inclines towards them and comes to love them, especially if they treat him kindly and generously and he accepts that from them. And this happened to ’Abdullaah Ibn Taawoos with a certain ruler, in the presence of his father Taawoos, so Taawoos rebuked him for that. And Sufyaan ath-Thawree wrote to ’Abbaad Ibn ’Abbaad and in his letter was: And beware of the rulers...”

Ibn ’Abdul-Barr (d.463H) - the Scholar of Andulus - says in Jaami’ Bayannil-’Ilm (l/185-186), ending the chapter in which he mentioned the Salaf’s hatred of entering upon the kings and rulers, “And the meaning of this chapter is with regard to the wicked oppressive ruler. However, as for the just and noble of them, then entering upon him, seeing him and helping him to do good is one of the best of good deeds. Do you not see that ’Umar Ibn ’Abdul-’Azeez was accompanied by the great Scholar such as ’Urwah Ibnuz-Zubayr and his level; and Ibn Shihaab az-Zuhree and his level. And Ibn Shihaab used to enter upon the ruler ’Abdul-Maalik and his sons after him. And from those who used to enter upon the ruler were:- ash-Sha’bee, Qabeesah, Ibn Dhu’ayb, Rajaa‘ Ibn Haywat al-Kindee, Abul-Miqdaam - who was a noble scholar, al-Hasan, Abuz-Zinaad, Maalik Ibn Anas, al-Awzaa’ee, ash-Shaafi’ee and others too many to mention. So if the Scholar enters upon the ruler - now and again when there is a need - and he says what is good and speaks with his knowledge, then that is good and a means of Allaah’s pleasure until the Day he meets Him. But these sittings are usually a trial; and being safe there from is abandoning what is in them.”

I say: Indeed they have spoken the truth, done well and have advised sincerely - rahimahumullaah - because they were like the unclothed preachers who are not disbelieved - and how could they be anything else after they had heard the saying of Allaah’s Messenger, (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “He who comes to the ruler is put to trial.” Reported by Aboo Daawood (no. 2859), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2256), an-Nisaa‘ee (7/195-196), Ahmad (l/357) and others from Aboo Moosaa al-Ash’aree - and it is Saheeh due to supporting narrations.]

It used to be said: Beware of the fitnah (trial) of the ignorant worshipper and the wicked scholar, because the trial of these two is indeed a trial for everyone put to trial.

If you find questions and need for fatwaa, then take advantage of it - but do not compete desirously for it. And beware of being like the one who loves that his saying is acted upon, or that his saying is publicized or listened to, and if that is abandoned, the effects of that are seen upon him. [This is riyaa (showing-off and ostentation). I have explained its causes, how it approaches, its types, and its cure, in my book called ar-Riyaa.]

And beware of the love of leadership, since leadership may be more beloved to a man than gold and silver - but it is something difficult and obscure; and this will not be understood except by wise Scholars. [Ibn ’Abdul-Barr wrote in Jaami’ Bayaanil-’Ilm (l/143-144) some lines on this,

“Love of leadership is a poison which destroys this life, And makes love a war
for its lovers;
It cuts both throats and ties of relationship,
So that
no character nor Religion remains.
He who obtains leadership while ignorant
or before wisdom,
Then you will not see him except as an enemy to the
He desires and envies a people and be is lesser than them,
Competing thereby with the enemies of the Prophets.”

So refer to what he wrote in this chapter, for it is of great value, and if a student of knowledge were to travel for one month seeking it - then he would be fortunate.]

So seek after your lost soul and work with correct intention and know that there has come near to the people a matter which a person would be desirous of death.

[Related by Aboo Nu’aym in Hilyah (6/376-377) and Ibn Rajab mentioned a portion of it in Sharh Hadeeth Maa Dhi‘baan (pp.53-54) and adh-Dhahabee reported it in the biography of Sufyaan in Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa‘, and it is a famous testament possessed by the Scholars. Al-Haafidh al-Mizzee - rahimahullaah - says in Tahdbeebul-Kamaal (14/143) in his biography of ’Abbaad Ibn ’Abbaad, “And he was one of the noble ones of Shaam and their worshippers, and Sufyaan ath-Thawree wrote the famous letter to him, being a testament, and mention of manners, wisdoms, examples and admonitions.”]

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