بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
WISE SAYINGS OF THE SALAF – OUR RIGHTEOUS PREDECESSORS
This is part one, of many parts that I plan to put together comprised with the sayings of the best of the salaf on various purtinent topics. I start part one with the starting with the very important topic of “character”. In sha Allah the reader will be able to grasp and remember some of these sayings. I have included references for each saying. Unfortunately I am not able to write down every single saying as there are hundreds of thousands of them, so I have picked ones that deal with a broad spectrum of every topic it relates to. Some of the sayings are by some of your favourite thinkers and ulama from the first 3 generations of Islam.
SAYINGS ABOUT A MUSLIMS CHARACTER
HOW TO OBTAIN ONE AND AVOID THE EVIL EXAMPLES
The Highest Standard In Character
It is reported that Sufyān b. ‘Uyainah – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
Verily, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ is the highest standard; things are measured by him: his character, lifestyle and behavior. Whatever agrees with [these] is true and correct, and whatever contradicts [them] is wrong.
Al-Khatīb Al-Baghdādī, Akhlāq Al-Rāwī wa Ādāb Al-Sāmi’ article 8.
Accept the truth, whoever it comes from
It is reported that a man came to ʿAbdullāh b. Mas’ūd – Allāh be pleased with him – and asked, “Teach me some comprehensive and beneficial words.” He replied, “Worship Allāh and do not associate any partners with Him, and be with the Qur’ān wherever it is. And whoever comes to you with some truth – whether he is young or old, even if he is hated by you – then accept [that truth]. And whoever comes lying to you – even if he is beloved and close – then reject it from him.”
Abū Bakr Al-Kharā`iṭī, Masāwī Al-Akhlāq wa Madhmūmihā p72.
It is reported that ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb – Allāh be pleased with him – said:
Do not be impressed by the twitter of an individual. But one who fulfils his duty and trust, and refrains from [transgressing against] the honor of people is the real man.
Al-Bayhaqī, Al-Sunan Al-Kubrā article 12345.
Influence of Companions You Keep
It is reported that Sufyān Al-Thawrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
There is nothing that corrupts a person or rectifies him more than [his] companion.
Ibn Battah, Al-Ibānah Al-Kubrā article 504.
Your Humble Beginning
It is reported that Al-Ahnaf b. Qays – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
I find it amazing how anyone who passed through the urinary tract twice could ever be arrogant and haughty!
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 4:92.
Manners Surpass Knowledge
It is reported that Imām Al-Zuhrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
We used to sometimes come to a scholar and what we learned of his manners was more beloved to us than the knowledge we took from him.
Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilyatu Al-ʾAwliyāʾ #4575
Worry About What You Say
‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb once entered upon Abū Bakr – Allāh be pleased with them both – and found him pulling at his tongue. He said, “Oh, what are you doing?” Abū Bakr replied, “It is this (i.e my speech) that has brought me so much trouble.”
Mālik, Al-Muatta 2:988
Mix only with People of Good Character
It is reported that Al-Fuḍayl b. ʿAyyāḍ – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
Do not mix except with those who have good character; for the one who has good character brings nothing but good, whilst the one who has bad character brings nothing but evil.
Al-Bayhaqī, Shuʿab Al-Īmān, #87044
It is reported that Imām Al-Shāfʿee – Allāh have mercy on him – said, The loftiest in status are those who do not know their own status, and the most virtuous of them are those who do not know their own virtue.
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar ʾAʿlām Al-Nubalāʾ 10:99
It is reported that Al-Fudayl b. ‘Ayyād – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
Whoever sees a wrongdoing from his brother and then laughs in front of him has betrayed him.
Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm 5:115
The Caliph’s Messenger and The Roman King
It is reported from Al-Shaʿbī – Allāh have mercy on him – that he said:
ʿAbdul-Malik [ibn Marwān, the Khalīfah] once sent me to the king of the Romans, and I stayed with him for a number of days. When I wanted to leave, he asked me, Are you from the House of [your] king (his family)? I replied, I am just a man from the Arabs. He gave me a parchment and said, Deliver this to your companion (the Caliph). When ʿAbdul-Malik had read it, he said to me, Do you know what it says? I replied, No. He said, It says in it, I wonder at a people who have made other than this man king over them. I said, By Allāh, if I had known I would not have carried it to you. [The Roman king] only said this because he has not seen you. ʿAbdul-Malik said, Rather, he envied me for having you, and was trying to incite me to kill you. This reached the Roman king; and when it did, he said, I wanted nothing but this.
Ibn Al-ʿImād, Shadharāt Al-Dhahab 2:26
It is reported that ʿAbdullāh b. Al-Mubārak said, “I once borrowed a pen in Al-Shām (Transjordan) and went to return it. But when I came back to Marwu (Eng. Merv , in Central Asia) I saw that I still had it, so I went back to Al-Shām to return it to its owner.”
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā`, Vol. 8 p395.
Do Not Refuse Respect
A cushion was once passed to ‘Alī – Allāh be pleased with him, upon which he sat, and said, None but a donkey refuses good treatment (honour/respect).
Sa’īd b. Manṣūr, Al-Sunan. See Al-Albānī, Al-Ḍa’īfah 12:465, where he graded the chain of narration ṣaḥīḥ.
Withdrawing for Gain
It is reported that Wahb b. Munabbih – Allāh have mercy on him – used to say:
The believer mixes with others in order to learn, keeps quiet to keep safe (from sinning), speaks in order to understand, and secludes himself for the attainment (of good).
Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Al-‘Uzlah article 99.
It is reported that Hammād b. Zayd said:
Ayyūb [Al-Sakhtiyānī] used to have a red shawl which he wore in ihrām, and which he had kept for his shroud. I used to walk with him sometimes; he would take different paths and I would be amazed at how he knew of them. He would do this fleeing from people in case they recognized him and said, “There’s Ayyūb.”
And it is reported that Shu’bah said:
I would sometimes go with Ayyūb for some need, but he would not let me walk with him; he would move here and there in case people noticed him.
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 6:22
Living with those You Cannot Avoid
Muhammad Ibn Al-Hanafīyah – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
He is not wise who does not live in a good way with the person he has no choice but to live with, until Allāh gives him relief from that [situation].
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 4:117 et al. Shaykh Al-Albānī graded it Sahīh in Silsilatu Al-Da’īfah 6:172, after explaining that it is not authentic as a hadīth from the Prophet – Allāh’s praise and peace be upon him.
From the Manners of a Wife with her Husband
It is reported that the wife of Imām Sa’īd b. Al-Musayyib – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
We only ever used to speak to our husbands like you address your commanders and leaders: [we would supplicate for them when talking to them] “May Allāh keep you right!”, “May Allāh keep you well!”
Abū Nu’aym, Ḥilyatu Al-Awliyā` 5:198.
After the death of his wife Umm Ṣālih, Imām Aḥmad – Allāh have mercy on them, used to praise her. He once said:
In the thirty years she was with me, we never had a single word of disagreement.
Al-Khaṭīb Al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād 16:626.
Some of the Best and Worst People in Society
It is reported that Imām ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him – was asked:
“Who are the [best] people?”
He replied, “The scholars.”
He was asked, “Who are the [real] kings?”
He replied, “the ascetics.”
He was asked, “And who are the dregs [of society]?”
He replied, “Those who use their religion as a means of devouring [wealth].”
He was asked, “Who are the rabble?”
He replied, “Khuzaymah b. Khāzim and his companions.”
And he was asked, “And who is the low person?”
He replied, “The one who talks about the rise in prices to his guest.”
Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm 2:181.
Praise be to Allāh for this Calamity
It is reported that Shurayḥ – Allāh have mercy on him – said, “If I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allāh for it four times: I praise Him because it wasn’t worse than it was, I praise Him when He gives me the patience to bear it, I praise Him for enabling me to say al-istirjā’ (‘To Allāh we belong and to him we will return’; see Al-Baqarah: 154-156 ) in hope of a great reward, and I praise Him for not making it a calamity in my religion.”
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā`, in his biography of Shurayḥ Al-Qāḍī.
A Treatment for Egotism
It is reported that Imām Al-Shāfi’ī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
If you fear becoming deluded and impressed by your deeds then remember whose pleasure you are seeking, and the joy (Paradise) in which you want to be, and what punishment you fear. Whoever thinks about these things will diminish his deeds.
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 10:42.
The Place of the Heart and the Tongue
It is reported that Al-Ḥasan Al-Baṣrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
The intelligent person’s tongue is behind his heart: when he wants to speak, he first thinks. If [his words] will be in his favor, he says them, and if they will be against him, he does not speak. And the ignorant person’s heart is behind his tongue: when he merely thinks of saying something, he says it, whether it is for or against him.
Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm article 2049.
How much is enough?
It is reported that Wahb b. Munabbih – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
A scholar once asked another greater than him in knowledge, “How much should I build?” He replied, “As much as shelters you from the sun and the rain.” He asked, “How much food should I eat?” He replied, “More than what keeps you hungry and less than what makes you full.” He asked, “How much should I wear?” He replied, “As the Messiah (Jesus) did.” He asked, “How much should I laugh?” He replied, “As much as appears on your face but does not make audible your voice.” He asked, “How much should I cry?” He replied, “Never tire from crying out of the fear of Allāh.” He asked, “How much should I hide my deeds?” He replied, “Until people think you had not done a good deed.” He asked, “How much should I make public my deeds?” He replied, “As much as will let the keen follow your example but not have the people talk about you.”
Wahb said. “Everything has two ends and a middle. If you grab one end, the other will slant, but if you take the middle, both ends will balance. Stick to the balanced middle in all affairs.”
Abū Nu’aym, Ḥilyatu Al-Awliyā` 4:45.
Do not forget your character and speech
It is reported that Abū Hurayrah – Allāh be pleased with him – used to say:
Whoever does not think that his speech is part of his deeds and that his character is part of his religion will be destroyed without even realizing.
Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā Dham Al-Kadhib wa Ahlī article 94.
Umar on interacting with others [trust, consultation and friendship]
It is reported that ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb – Allāh be pleased with him – said:
Whoever exposes himself to suspicion, let him blame only himself for whoever suspects him.
He who covers his secret is in a position to choose [to correct himself].
Assume the best about your brother until what comes to you from him overcomes you [and you have to change your opinion].
You can never pay back someone who disobeys Allāh in his dealings with you with anything better than obeying Allāh in your dealings with him.
Take righteous brothers [as friends]; acquire them in plenty, for they are a beautification in prosperity and an aid during calamity.
Do not ask about what has not yet happened until it actually happens, for what has happened is enough of an occupation to worry about what has not happened.
Let not your speech be given freely except to those who want to hear it and will value it.
Do not seek help in fulfilling a need you have except from someone who wants success for you in that endeavor.
Do not consult except people who fear Allāh, and do not accompany the sinner, [lest] you learn his sinfulness.
And be humble at the graves.
Abū Dāwūd, Kitāb Al-Zuhd article 89.
The best thing after Iman and the worst thing after Kufr [women]
It is reported that ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb – Allāh be pleased with him – once addressed the people and said:
No man can have anything better after faith (īmān) than a woman of righteous character, loving and child-bearing. And no man can have anything worse after unbelief (kufr) than a sharp-tongued woman of bad character.
Al-Ḥāfidh Abul-Qāsim Al-Aṣbahānī, Al-Targhīb wa Al-Tarhīb article 1528. Also recorded in other sources with a slight variation in wording.
The scholar, the ruler, and your brother
It is reported that ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him – said:
It is right that an intelligent person does not undervalue three [types of people]: the scholars, the rulers, and [his Muslim] brothers. Whoever undervalues the scholars will lose his afterlife, whoever undervalues the rulers will lose his worldly life, and whoever undervalues his brothers loses his good character and conduct.
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā`17:251.
It is reported that ‘Ā`ishah – said, “Umm Ḥabībah called for me on her deathbed and said, ‘There used to occur between us the kinds of things that happen between co-wives (al-ḍarā`ir), so may Allāh forgive me and you those things.’ I said, ‘May Allāh forgive you all those things and release you from [all liability] for that.’ She replied, ‘You have made me happy, may Allāh make you happy.’ And she sent for Umm Salamah and said the same things to her.”
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` Vol. 2 p223.
It is reported that ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib – Allāh be pleased with him – said:
Goodness is not in your wealth and offspring being plentiful; true goodness is when your [good] deeds are plenty and you have great understanding and forbearance, and when you compete to worship your Lord. If you do good you praise Allāh and thank Him, and if you sin you beg Allāh’s forgiveness. There is no good in this life except with two types of men: A man who sins but then corrects himself through repentance, and a man who strives and hastens to get [the good] of the hereafter.
Ibn ‘Asākir, Al-Tawbah article 13.
Imām Al-Buwayṭī – Allāh have mercy on him – reports:
I heard Al-Shāfi’ī say, “A man does not become complete in this life except when he has four [qualities]: religiousness (al-diyānah), trustworthiness (al-amānah), safeguarding [from sin] (al-ṣiyānah) and sobriety (al-razānah).”
Al-Bayhaqī, Manāqib Al-Shāfi’ī 2:189.
It is reported that Shurayḥ the Judge used to have a house in which he would spend time alone on Fridays; no one knew what he did in it.
Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` Vol.4 p105.
It is reported that Abū Al-‘Āliyah said, “I learned writing and the Qur`ān without my family noticing, and not a drop of ink was ever seen on my garment.”
Abū Nu’aym, Ḥilyatu Al-Awliyā` Vol. 2 p217.
It is reported that when Ibn Abī Laylā prayed [at night], if someone entered [his house], he would lie down on his bed [as if he was sleeping].
Ibid. Vol. 4 p351.
It is reported that Ayyūb Al-Sakhtiyānī used to pray all night and hide it. In the morning, he would raise his voice as if he had just woken up.
Al-Dhahabī, op. cit. Vol. 6 p17.
It is reported that Dāwūd b. Abī Hind fasted for forty years without his family knowing, he would take his lunch out with him and donate it in the street.
Ibid. Vol. 6 p378.
It is reported that Mujāhid – Allāh have mercy on him – said, “The teacher of the kuttāb (where the children would be taught, the madrasah) will be brought on the Day of Resurrection, and if he was not fair and just with the boys, he will be grouped with the tyrants.”
Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm article 619.
Asceticism, Prudence and Humbleness
It is reported on the authority of Ibrāhīm b. Al-Ash’ath that he said, “I asked Al-Fudayl b. ʿAyyāḍ – Allāh have mercy on him – about patience (al-sabr) in the face of adversity and he said, ‘It is to not broadcast it.’ I asked him about asceticism (al-zuhd) and he said, ‘Al-zuhd is to be content with what you have, and that is what it means to be rich.’ I asked him about prudence (al-wara’) and he said, ‘It is to stay away from what is forbidden.’ And I asked him about humbleness (al-tawādu’) and he said, ‘It is when you submit to the truth and comply no matter who you hear it from; even if it was from the most ignorant of people, you would be required to accept it from him.’”
Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr, Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi Vol. 1 p498.
Children and Others
It is reported that ‘Amr b. Qays – Al-Malā`ī said, “They used to dislike a man giving his child something with which the child would then go out and be seen by a poor person, causing him to cry over his family; or be seen by an orphan who would then cry over his family.”
Imām Ahmad, Al-Zuhd Vol. 3 p268.
‘Amr b. Qays Al-Malā`ī lived in the time of the younger Tābi’ūn. He died in 146H.
Backbiting and Brotherhood
It is reported that Al-Fudayl b. ʿAyyāḍ said, “When backbiting appears, brotherhood for Allāh will disappear; and at that time you will be like things plated with gold and silver: wooden on the inside, [merely] looking good on the outside.”
Abū Nu’aym, Hilyah Al-Awliyā`, Vol. 3 p395.
Absurdity of Envy
It is reported that Muḥammad b. Sīrīn – Allāh have mercy on him – said, “I have never envied anyone over anything: if a person is going to be in the Fire, how could I envy him over some worldly matter when he is destined for the Fire?! And if he is going to Paradise, how could I be envious of a man of Paradise with whom Allāh tabāraka wa ta’ālā is pleased?!” Muslim said, “We have never heard anything better than this from the words of Ibn Sīrīn.”
Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm article 2931.
And Allah is the source of All strength and success, I will be adding on to this list as I come across more of the sayings of the salaf. in Sha Allah.
We ask Allah for guidance, knowledge and understanding, we ask Him Ta’ala for blessing in the dunya and the akhira.
والله تعالى أعلم
وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين
أخوك أبو ناصر