The conversion of Hasan of Basra

It is related that Abu Amr, the leading authority on the reading of the Koran, was teaching the Koran one day when suddenly a handsome boy arrived to join his class. Abu Amr gazed at the child improperly, and immediately he forgot the whole Koran, from the p of “Praise” to the n of “jinn and men”. A fire possessed him, and he lost all self-control. In this state he called on Hasan of Basra and described to him his predicament.

“Master,” he wept bitterly, “such is the situation. I have forgotten the whole Koran.”

Hasan was most distressed to hear of his situation. “Now is the season of the pilgraimage,” he said. “Go and perform the pilgrimage. When you have done that, repair to the mosque of Khaif. There you will see an old man seated in the prayer-niche. Do not spoil his time, but let him be until he is disengaged. Then ask him to say a prayer for you.” Abu Amr acted accordingly. Seated in a corner of the mosque, he observed a venerable elder and about him a circle of people seated. Some time passed; then a man entered, clad in spotless white robes. The people made way before him, greeted him, and conversed together. When the hour of prayer arrived, the man departed and the people departed with him, so that the elder remained alone.

Abu Amr then approached and saluted him. “In Allah’s name, help me,” he cried.

And he described his predicament. The elder, much concerned ‘ raised his eyes to heaven.

“He had not yet lowered his head,” Abu Amr recounted,

“when the Koran came back to me. I fell down before him for joy.”

“Who recommended me to you?” the elder asked. “Hasan of Basra,” Abu Amr replied. “Anyone who has an imam like Hasan,” the old man commented, “what need has he of another? Well, Hasan has exposed me. Now I will expose him. He rent my veil, and I will rend his as well. That man,” he went on, “in the white robes who entered after the afternoon prayer and left before the rest, and the others did him reverence-that man was Hasan. Every day he prays the afternoon prayer in Basra and then comes here, converses with me, and returns to Basra for the evening prayer.

Anyone who has an imam like Hasan, why should he ask me for a prayer?”

Hasan of Basra and the fire-worshipper

Hasan had a neighbour named Simeon who was a fireworshipper. Simeon fell ill and was at death’s door. Friends begged Hasan to visit him; he called, to find him in bed, blackened with fire and smoke.

“Fear God,” Hasan counselled him. “You have passed all your life amid fire and smoke. Accept Islam, that God may have mercy on you.” “Three things hold me back from becoming a Muslim,” the fire-worshipper replied. “The first is, that you speak ill of the world, yet night and day you pursue worldly things. Secondly, you say that death is a fact to be faced, yet you make no preparation for death. In the third place, you say that God’s face shall be seen, yet today you do everything contrary to His good pleasure.” “This is the token of those who know truly,” Hasan commented. “Now if believers act as you describe, what have you to say? They acknowledge the unity of God; whereas you have spent your life in the worship of fire. You who have worshipped fire for seventy years, and I who have never worshipped fire-we are both carried off to Hell. Hell will consume you and me. God will pay no regard to you; but if God so wills, the fire will not dare so much as to burn one hair of my body. For fire is a thing created by God; and the creature is subject to the Creator’s command. Come now, you who have worshipped fire for seventy years; let us both put our hands into the fire, then you will see with your own eyes the impotence of fire and the omnipotence of God.” So saying, Hasan thrust his hand into the fire and held it there. Not a particle of his body was affected or burnt. When Simeon saw this he was amazed. The dawn of true knowledge began to break. “For seventy years I have worshipped fire,” he groaned. “Now only a breath or two remains to me. What am I to do?” “Become a Muslim,” was Hasan’s reply. “If you give it me in writing that God will not punish me,” said Simeon, “then I will believe. But until I have it in writing, I will not believe.” Hasan wrote it down. “Now order just witnesses of Basra to append their testimony.” The witnesses endorsed the document. Then Simeon wept many tears and proclaimed the faith. He spoke his last testament to Hasan.

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page