Malik ibn Dinar

There was a certain youth living in Malik’s neighbourhood who was extremely depraved and dissolute in his ways. Malik was constantly pained on account of his bad behaviour, but he endured patiently waiting for someone else to speak. To be brief, in due course others came forward to complain about the young man. Malik then arose and went to him to bid him mend his ways. The youth reacted in a very headstrong and overbearing manner. “I am the Sultan’s favourite,” he told Malik. “No one has the power to check me or restrain me from doing as I please.”

“I will talk to the Sultan,” Malik threatened. “The Sultan will never swerve from his approval of me,” the youth retorted. “Whatever I do, he will approve.”

“Well, if the Sultan cannot do anything,” Malik proceeded, “I will tell the All-merciful.”

And he pointed to heaven.

“Ha,” the youth replied. “He is too generous to take me to task.”

This floored Malik, and he left him. Some days went by, and the youth’s depravity surpassed all bounds. People came again to complain. Malik rose up to rebuke him; but on the way he heard a voice.

“Keep your hands off My friend!” Amazed, Malik went in to the youth.

“What has happened,” the youth demanded on seeing him, “that you have come a second time?”

“I have not come this time to chide you,” Malik answered. “I have come simply to inform you that I heard such a voice.” “Ah,” the youth exclaimed. “Since things are like that, I dedicate my palace wholly to His service. I care nothing for all my possessions.”

So saying, he cast everything aside and set out to wander the world.

Malik relates that after a certain time he saw the youth in Mecca, utterly destitute and at his last breath.

“He is my friend,” he gasped. “I went to see my friend.” And with that he expired.

Malik’s abstinence4

Years passed without anything sour or sweet passing Malik’s lips. Every night he would repair to the baker’s and buy two round loaves on which he broke his fast. From time to time it happened that the bread was warm; he found consolation in that, taking it as an appetizer.

Once he fell sick, and a craving for meat entered his heart. For ten days he controlled himself; then, unable to restrain himself any longer, he went to a delicatessen and bought two or three sheep’s trotters and put them in his sleeve. The shopkeeper sent his apprentice after him to see what he would do. After a little while the boy returned in tears. “From here he went to a desolate spot,” he reported. “There he took the trotters out of his sleeve, kissed them twice or thrice, then he said, ‘My soul, more than this is not meet for you.’ Then he gave the bread and trotters to a beggar, saying, ‘Weak body of mine, do not think that all this pain I impose on you is out of enmity. It is so that on the resurrection morn you may not burn in Hell. Be patient for a few days, and it may be that this trial will come to an end, and you will fall into bliss that shall never pass away.’ ”

Once Malik said, “I do not know the meaning of the statement that if a man does not eat meat for forty days, his intelligence is diminished. I have not eaten meat for twenty years, and my intelligence increases every day.” For forty years he lived in Basra and never ate fresh dates. When the season of ripe dates came round he would say, “People of Basra, behold, my belly has not shrunk from not eating them, and you who eat them daily-your bellies have not become any larger.” After forty years he was assailed by a mood of restlessness. However hard he tried, he could not withstand the craving for fresh dates. Finally after some days, during which the desire daily increased whilst he constantly denied his appetite, he could resist no more the importunity of his carnal soul. “I will not eat fresh dates,” he protested. “Either kill me, or die!” That night a heavenly voice spoke. “You must eat some dates. Free your carnal soul from bondage.” At this response his carnal soul, finding the opportunity, began to shout. “If you want dates,” Malik said, “fast for a week without breakfasting once, and pray all night. Then I will give y u some.” This contented his carnal soul. For a whole week he prayed all night and fasted all day. Then he went to the market and bought some dates, and betook himself to the mosque to eat them. A boy shouted from the rooftop.

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