Malik ibn Dinar

Malik ibn Dinar

Malik ibn Dinar (d. 130)

Malik ibn Dinar al-Sami was the son of a Persian slave from Sijistan (or Kabul) and became a disciple of Hasan of Basra. He is mentioned as a reliable traditionist, transmitting from such early authorities as Anas ibn Malik and Ibn Sirrin. A noted early calligrapher of the Quran, he died c. 130 (748 CE).

How Malik ibn Dinar came to be so named1

When Malik was born his father was a slave; yet though he was a slave’s son, he was free from bondage to both worlds. Some say that Malik ibn Dinar once embarked in a ship. When the ship was far out to sea the mariners demanded, “Produce your fare!” “I do not have it,” he answered.

They beat him till he was senseless. When he recovered, they shouted again.

“Produce your fare!” “I do not have it,” he repeated.

They beat him unconscious a second time. When he came to, they demanded a third time.

“Produce your fare!” “I do not have it.”

“Let us seize him by the feet and throw him overboard,” the sailors shouted.

All the fish in the water at that moment put up their heads. Each one held two golden dinars in its mouth. Malik reached down his hand and, taking two dinars from one of the fish, gave it to them. Seeing this, the crew fell at his feet. He walked on the face of the waters and vanished. That is why he was called Malik ibn Dinar.

The story of his repentance2

His conversion came about as follows. He was a very handsome man and fond of wordly things, and he possessed great wealth. He lived in Damascus, where Muawiya had built the cathedral mosque, endowing it liberally. Malik was very eager to be appointed in charge of that mosque. So he went and threw his prayer rug down in the corner of the mosque, and there for a whole year continued in devotion, hoping that whoever saw him would find him at prayer. “What a hypocrite for you!” he would say to himself. A year passed in this way. By night he would leave the mosque and take his amusement. One night he was enjoying music, and all his companions had fallen asleep. Suddenly a voice came from the lute he was playing. “Malik, what ails thee that thou repentest not?”

Hearing these words, Malik dropped the instrument and ran to the mosque in great confusion.

‘For a whole year I have worshipped God hypocritically,” he communed with himself. “Is it not better that I should worship God in sincerity? Yet I am ashamed. What am I to do? Even if they offer me this appointment, I will not accept it.” So he resolved, and he put his conscience right with God.

That night he worshipped with a truthful heart. Next day people assembled as usual before the mosque. “Why, there are cracks in the mosque,” they exclaimed. “A superintendent ought to be appointed to keep it in order.” They reached the unanimous view that no one was better’ fitted for the post than Malik. So they came to him. He was at prayer, so they waited patiently until he was finished. “We have come to plead with you to accept this appointment,” they said. “O God,” cried Malik, “I served Thee hypocritically for a whole year, and no one looked at me. Now that I have given my heart to Thee and firmly resolved that I do not want the appointment, Thou hast sent twenty men to me to place this task on my neck. By Thy glory, I do not want it.” And he ran out of the mosque and applied himself to the Lord’s work, taking up the life of austerity and discipline. So respected did he become, and of such excellence of life, that when a certain wealthy citizen of Basra died, leaving behind a lovely daughter, the latter approached Thabit-e Bunani. “I wish to become the wife of Malik,” she announced, “so that he may help me in the labour of obedience to God.” Thabit informed Malik. “I have divorced the world,” Malik replied. “This woman belongs to the world I have divorced. I cannot marry her.”

Malik and his licentious neighbour3

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