Al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110)

Imam al-Ghazzali relates al-Hasan’s words on the personal struggle against one’s lusts (jihad al-nafs) in the section of his Ihya‘ entitled Kitab Riyada al-Nafs wa Tahdhib al-Akhlaq wa Mu`alaja Amrad al-Qalb (“Book of the Training of the Ego, Disciplining of Manners, and Healing of the Heart’s Diseases”) that al-Hasan al-Basri said:

Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from Allah one from the enemy. Allah shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from Allah, while he fights against the one from his enemy. To illustrate the heart’s mutual attraction betwen these two powers the Prophet said: “The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful”13…. The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart… If man follows the dictates of anger and appetite, the dominion of Satan appears in him through idle passions (hawa) and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytan, who feeds on hawa. If he does battle with his passions and does not let them dominate his ego (nafs), imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it.

A measure of the extent of Hasan al-Basri’s extreme godwariness and scrupulosity (wara`) is given by his following statement, also quoted by Ghazzali: “Forgetfulness and hope are two mighty blessings upon the progeny of Adam; but for them, the Muslims would not walk in the streets.”14

Al-Hasan interpreted the verse “Nay, both His hands are spread wide, and He bestows as He wills” (5:64) to refer to Allah’s kindness and goodness.15 Similarly, he interpreted Allah’s qadam to mean “those whom He has sent forth” (qaddamahum) in the hadith of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –:

Hellfire will keep asking: “Is there more?” until the Lord of Might places His qadam (lit. “foot”) in it. Then it will say: “Enough! Enough!” (qatt qatt) and gather up all its parts together. There will still remain room in Paradise until Allah originates a creation which He will place in the remainder of Paradise.16

Concerning the hadith of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him: “More people shall enter Paradise through the intercession of a certain man from my Community than there are people in the tribes of Rabi`a and Mudar,” al-Hasan said: “That is Uways al-Qarani.”17

On the verse “If you love Allah, follow me, and Allah will love you” (3:31) al-Hasan said: “Whoever knows his Lord loves Him, and whoever knows the world does without it.”18

Al-Qurtubi relates, in his commentary on the verse “A multi-colored drink issues from their bellies, in it there is healing for people” (16:69), that al-Hasan disliked to use medicine other than made with honey or milk.

About the memorizers of Qur’an al-Hasan said:

The reciters of Qur’an are three types. The first type take the Qur’an as a merchandise by which to earn their bread; the second type uphold its letters and lose its laws, aggrandizing themselves over the people of their country, and seeking gain through it from the rulers. There are many memorizers of Qur’an that belong to that type. May Allah not increase them. Finally, the third type have sought the healing of the Qur’an and placed it on the sickness of their hearts, fleeing with it to their places of prayer, wrapping themselves in it. Those have felt fear and put on the garment of sadness. Those are the ones for whose sake Allah sends rain and victory over the enemies. By Allah! That kind of memorizer of Qur’an is more rare than red sulphur.19

Page 2 of 5 | Previous page | Next page