Al-Awza`i

* Al-Walid ibn Muslim and `Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak related that al-Awza`i said: “This science was noble, men would transmit it to one another, but when it spread to books, those other than its rightful custodians became involved with it.”5

* “Whoever holds on to the rare and unusual positions of the scholars has left Islam.” This is similar to Ibn `Abd al-Salam’s saying: “There is no good in one who over-maneuvers (yatahayyal) so as to impose his doctrine despite its weakness and the fact that his evidence is far removed from the truth – whether he interprets the Sunna, or the Consensus, or the Book – standing on bases that are neither right nor true, through corrupt figurative interpretations and rare responses.”6

* “The Book stands in greater need to the Sunna than the Sunna to the Book.” Ibn `Abd al-Barr said: “That is because the Sunna expounds the meaning of the Book (and not vice versa).”7

* Al-Walid ibn Mazyad said that al-Awza`i, asked about humility (khushu`) in prayer, replied: “Downcast gaze, lowering the wing of submission, and softness of heart which is sorrow and dread.” He also said: “I saw al-Awza`i, he was like a blind man due to his humility.”

* Al-Walid heard al-Awza`i define the na├»ve (al-ablah) as “he who is in blind ignorance of evil but acutely discerning of goodness.”

* “Whoever remembers death much, a little suffices him for livelihood; and whoever realizes that his utterances are counted as deeds, his speech becomes spare.”

* `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad narrated from al-Hasan ibn `Abd al-`Aziz from `Amr ibn Abi Salama al-Tinnisi that al-Awza`i said: “I saw myself as if carried up by two angels who camped me in front of the Lord of Power and Might. He said to me: `Are you my servant `Abd al-Rahman who commands good deeds?’ I replied: `By Your Power and Might! You know best.’ Then they descended again and brought me back where I first was.”

Among al-Awza`i’s notable rulings is that the thigh is part of a man’s legal nakedness in the mosque, but not in the bath.8

Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami said: “I saw al-Awza`i, he was of above-average build, slim, somewhat swarthy, and he used henna.” He used to wear a round turban without a hanging extremity (`adhaba). Al-Dhahabi said: “In addition to his brilliance in the science and his foremost rank in works, he was also a master in the art of writing letters.” Four communities attended his funeral in Beirut: the Muslims carried his bier, followed by the Jews, the Christians, and the Copts. Yazid ibn Madh`ur said: “I saw al-Awza`i in my sleep and asked him: `Show me a level by which to draw near to Allah.’ He replied: `I did not see a level higher than that of the wise scholars of knowledge (al-`ulama’), and, after it, that of the grief-stricken (al-mahzunin).'” SAN 7:86-104 #1049.

Notes

1 A reference to al-Awza`i’s faithful application of his knowledge in his life.

2 This is a notable example of the use of al-nas to mean the major `ulama.

3 Narrated from `Umar by Bukhari and Muslim.

4 Narrated from Ibn Mas`ud by Bukhari, Muslim, and in the Four Sunan; from `Uthman by al-Tirmidhi (hasan), al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Hakim (4:350), al-Shafi`i in his Musnad, al-Bazzar in his Musnad; and from `A’isha by Abu Dawud. See al-Bayhaqi’s Kitab al-Murtadd in Ma`rifa al-Sunan (12:237-258).

5 This statement refers to the books which are passed on for circulation as in modern times, not to those used by the early narrators as mnemonic records when narrating. It is established that early hadith narrators did not narrate except from record, as demonstrated by M.M. Azami and others. `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “I never saw my father narrate except from a book, save less than a hundred hadiths.” In al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (9:457). The best source on the proof-texts for this fact is al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s book Taqyid al-‘Ilm (“The Tethering of Knowledge”). This title is taken from Anas’s saying: “Tether knowledge with writing” (qayyidu al-‘ilma bi al-kitab). Anas also said: “We would not consider as knowledge the knowledge of those who did not write down their knowledge.” Taqyid (p. 96-97). See also al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi’s chapter entitled “Writing is the means to tether knowledge and preserve it from oblivion” in his Nawadir al-Usul (p. 39-41).

6 Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Al-Qawa`id al-Sughra (p. 144).

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