Al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110)

Ibn al-Jawzi wrote a 100-page book on al-Hasan’s life and manners entitled Adab al-Shaykh al-Hasan ibn Abi al-Hasan al-Basri. In his chapter on al-Hasan in his compendium of Muslim saints entitled “The Portrait of Purity” (Sifa al-Safwa), he mentions a report that al-Hasan left behind a white cloak (jubba) made of wool which he had worn exclusively of any other for the past twenty years, winter and summer, and that when he died it was in a state of immaculate beauty, cleanness, and quality.20 Among al-Hasan’s sayings: “If you are of a coarse character, then acquire gentleness (tahallam); and if you are not learned, then learn (ta`allam); a person seldom imitates a certain group without becoming one of them.”21

Imam al-Suyuti recounted in one of his fatwas entitled al-Minha fi al-Sibha (“The Profit In Dhikr-Beads”) the story of `Ikrima, who asked his teacher `Umar al-Maliki about dhikr-beads. The latter replied that he had also asked his teacher al-Hasan al-Basri about it and was told: “Something we have used at the beginning of the road we are not desirous to leave at the end. I love to remember Allah with my heart, my hand, and my tongue.” Al-Suyuti comments: “And how should it be otherwise, when the dhikr-beads remind one of Allah Most High, and a person seldom sees dhikr-beads except he remembers Allah, which is among the greatest of its benefits.”22

Ibn Muflih mentioned that al-Hasan categorized the act of kissing the Muslim scholar’s hand as “obedience to Allah” (ta`a).23

In the book he devoted to the sayings and the deeds of Sufis, Rawda al-Muhibbin wa Nuzha al-Mushtaqin (“The Garden of the Lovers and Excursion of the Passionate”), Ibn al-Qayyim relates:

A group of women went out on the day of `Eid and went about looking at people. They were asked: “Who is the most handsome person you have seen today?” They replied: “It is a shaykh wearing a black turban.” They meant al-Hasan al-Basri.24

Ibn Jahbal al-Kilabi al-Halabi wrote:

Whenever al-Hasan al-Basri spoke on the science of tawhid, he would begin by taking out of his gathering all those that were not fit to hear. May Allah have mercy on the Salaf! They did not speak about doctrine except with the Ahl al-Sunna among them – for the Sunna is the basis of the verifying authorities – and they withheld any such discourse from newcomers. They said: “Newcomers see things for the first time and are barely starting on their way. They have no prior experience and no firm foothold in these matters – even if they are seventy years old. Sahl [ibn `Abd Allah al-Tustari] said – may Allah be well-pleased with him: “Do not acquaint newcomers with the secrets before they become firmly settled in their belief that the God is One and that the subject of monotheism is Unique, Everlasting, and transcends modality and place. Thoughts cannot encompass Him nor can hearts conceive of Him in terms of `how’.”25

One of the most remarkable hadiths al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih is from al-Hasan al-Basri, from Anas, from the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — who related that after Allah allows him to intercede for the dwellers of the Fire, Allah shall say: “By My Power, by My Majesty, by My Supremacy, and by My Greatness! I shall take out of the fire whoever said: la ilaha illallah.26


1 Narrated by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat.

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