Abu Ishaq al-Jibnayani

d. 369 AH

A scholar of North Africa

He was one the Imams of the Muslims and the Abdal of the righteous awliya' of Allah.

The faqih Abu'l-Qasim al-Lubaydi and Abu Bakr al-Maliki agree about what we will mention here regarding reports about him and his biography. He is Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn Muslim al-Bakri, from the tribe of Bakr ibn Wa'il. His ancestors were among the people who founded Qayrawan. They have a mosque known as the Mosque of Ibn Salim there. His grandfather was one of the companions of Sahnun who was already mentioned in his generation. The Aghlabids put Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn 'Ali, the father of Shaykh Ishaq, in charge of the kharaj-tax of North Africa, and he became involved with them. He was one of the people of literature and understanding who then held a post in the ministry until the Aghlabids ceased to be in power. Then he fell out of favour with the new power, and all that he retained were fields in Susa. He devoted himself to good and going on hajj until he died.

Abu Ishaq's beginning

When he was still affluent, his father employed two teachers for him: one for the Qur'an and the other for Arabic and poetry.

Abu'l-Qasim said, "I was told by someone who saw Abu Ishaq in those days that fifteen Slavs who were entrusted with guarding him. His father lived in the town of Jibniyana and was one of its leaders. He stayed there for months, mostly relaxing with his son Abu Ishaq whom he sent to a teacher on Jibniyana called Ibn 'Asim. He stayed with him, sought his blessing and learned from him. He went to him both morning and evening. Ibn 'Asim was renowned for worship and having his supplication answered. People used to seek the blessing of his supplication and Allah benefited many people by it. He used to do this every year until Abu Ishaq was an adult. Good filled his heart and what he heard from Ibn 'Asim and the excellence he saw in him roused him from what he was doing. He relinquished worldly things, donned his cloak and fled. He was sought after but not found. He used to hire himself out to earn what would enable him to subsist. He remained in this state for two days without eating or finding anyone who would hire him. Then a man said, 'Who will carry this leper to a certain place for some dirhams?' He carried him and took the dirhams and fed himself on them.

In spite of his asceticism, he was successful in his quest for knowledge. He did not hear of a scholar in his travels but that he went to him and listened to him and wrote from him, or a righteous man but that he went to him and benefited from him. During that his father was still with the Aghlabids and affluent. It is reported that one day Abu Ishaq was found working some clay in the city of Susa for a wage. He was told that his father had exerted a lot of effort in looking for him. He said 'Tell him: "Do you think that someone who seeks the lawful came from your back?"' He went on hajj in 314.

His position in knowledge

Abu'l-Qasim al-Lubaydi said, "Abu Ishaq listened to scholars and he had an ijaza from 'Isa ibn Miskin and wrote from Abu Bakr ibn al-Lubbad."

Al-Lubaydi said, "Ibn al-Lubbad admired him and most of his studies were at the coast with Abu 'Ali Hammud ibn Sahlun, the companion of Ibn 'Abdus. He also took from Muhammad ibn 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abdu Rabbih, Abu Yusuf ibn Muslim, and a group of others. He used to say, 'On this coast there is no town but that I have met a man of the people of knowledge and the Qur'an or a righteous man I can visit."

Abu'l-Qasim said, "Abu Ishaq was very accurate in his transmission and editing of books. When he listened to a man he did not write his name in his book. He was one of those who listened and asked for a copy. He remembered when he had memorised something and rarely forgot it. He used to teach the topic of fiqh in bureaux and wrote many books with his own hand. He was one of the most knowledgeable of people about the disagreement of the scholars, with knowledge of interpretation of dreams. He did not issue statements about them. He had a certain amount of language and Arabic. His recitation of the Qur'an was excellent and his tafsir was good as was his pronunciation of the Qur'an. He knew the abrogated and abrogating verses. He did not stop studying knowledge at night except when he became weak shortly before his death. When his eyesight became too poor to read at night, he had his son Abu't-Tahir read to him."

Abu'l-Qasim said, "He did not give fatwa except when he heard someone say something which was not permitted and then he would refute him, or he would see someone make a mistake in his prayer and he would correct him. He stopped at questions on which the majority of scholars had given fatwa and would say, 'Go back the mufti. I think that he only answered when he was distracted.' They would go back to him and he would give them a different answer to the first one. He used to read. When he became weak, he had his son read to him. When one of the common people was present, he stopped the reading out of caution, lest they hear what they did not understand, unless it was a book of fiqh.

"Abu'l-Hasan al-Qabisi used to say, 'Al-Jibnayani is an Imam who is followed.' Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Zayd used to esteem him greatly and said, 'The path of Abu Ishaq is empty – no one travels it at the moment.' He used to say, 'If the story of Uways al-Qarani were not true, al-Jibnayani would be the Uways of this Community.' He also used to say, 'If the tribe of Israel were to boast to us of their men of worship, we would boast to them of al-Jibnayani.' He also said, 'As a result of my love for him and frequent mention of him, I saw him in a dream and my heart was strengthened by the fact that he made supplication for me, He also saw the Mukhtasar of the Mudawwana which I wrote and liked it.' Abu Muhammad ibn at-Tabban used to praise him. When Masarra ibn Muslim mentioned him, he wept copiously and said, 'By Allah, he precedes us in his youth and when an adult!'"

Ahmad ibn Habib reported that Abu'l-Qasim al-Lubaydi, one of the people of knowledge, said, "Abu Ishaq said to me, 'Are you studying knowledge at this time?' 'Yes,' he replied. He said, 'You meet for discussion?' 'Yes,' he replied. He said, 'We used to meet and we would go through the Mudawwana in a month in which he studied in the day and gave in the night. I do not know that we sleep for that month.' Then he said to me, 'He strengthens himself to staying awake by eating meat.' Then he said to me, 'What book are you teaching at present?' He replied, 'The first on emancipation.' So he gave to me from its beginning and ran through the questions so that it was as if he had the book in his hand. He said, 'We used to deal with the Qur'an and the Sunna and in his presence the scholars and eloquent men were like children with a teacher out of awe for him.'"

His asceticism in this world, and his conduct with himself, his children and his family

Abu'l-Hasan al-Qabisi said, "When I saw his guidance, conduct, prayer and state, I saw someone who resembled the righteous Salaf." He used to say, "Abu Ishaq based himself on a minimum of livelihood in this world. He said, 'Show me a lower position and I will descend to it.'"

Abu'l-Qasim said, "Abu Ishaq was one of the strongest of people in confining himself and his family. He used to eat wild herbs and locusts when he found them. For his food he would grind barley and then he would mix it with the residue in the sieve as flour in a pot along with whatever wild herbs or whatever he found so that sometimes he would give some of it to a dog or cat and it would not eat it. Sometimes he was censured for that and he would say, 'Sleeping with dogs on rubbish heaps and eating barley bread with its residue is a lot for someone who hopes for anything in the Next World." The barley which he used to eat was procured for him by one of his brothers who grew it in lawful land with a lawful crop tilled by lawful cattle.' If he got more than what he needed to eat, he would give it away as sadaqa. His oil came from righteous men. His clothes were wool from a place whose source he knew.

"When the situation changed because of civil war, he used to the rags of the rubbish heaps which he collected and washed and lined on top of one another. He put some on of them around his waist and some on his back. He stitched them with a needle of gazelle bone. He used to walk on the sand and during the winter he would take pressed cane which was thrown on the rubbish heap and put them under him. He clothed his sons each in a wool jubbah with a cloth wrapped around his head. When one of them became an adult, he no longer maintained and clothed him. He said to him, 'I am not responsible for you.' Their bed was a mat of old rags and there were bricks at their head. Their table was the skin of a slaughtered animal. He spent seven years before he died without eating bread. He put flour in a pot with what was in it, When he walked, he went swiftly so that one could practically not catch him unless he was running."

One of them said, "One day I met him and he was worried. I asked, 'What is wrong?' He said, 'How can I not be worried when something objectionable (munkar) is in my house and Allah does not change a people until they change what is in themselves?' I said, 'The objectionable?' He replied, 'Yes, by Allah, the objectionable.' I asked, 'What is it, may Allah have mercy on you?' He said, 'The skins of pumpkins were thrown at my door.' My family threw them and walked on them while there is still food in them. Can someone die of hunger when he finds pumpkin skins?' Then he collected them and cooked them for his food."

He said, "When Abu Ishaq was old he had some oil which he obtained from teaching. The people came into some hardship. He was asked, 'Will you sell this oil on credit?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'but I will not deal with someone who can guarantee it. I will deal with the poor and those who cannot guarantee it.' So he sold it to some of them. When the sale was binding, he said to me, 'No one must bring me anything he owes until I ask for it from him.' When the hardship departed and some of them were affluent, the money was brought to him and he said to him, 'Things are not like this between you and me!' Then he left all of that for them.

"A boy finished reciting the Qur'an with him and brought him a dinar. An old man among his companions said to him, 'Give me this dinar and I will do something for you with it.' He did that. He said, 'I continued to trade with it for several years until I had oil equal to sixty dinars. Oil became expensive and I told him that and he praised Allah. He told me, "When my note comes to you, do what it says." The paper came to me in the hand of a poor man. It said, "In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. My brother – may Allah mend your heart and forgive your sins – give the one who brings this note such-and-such. Peace be upon you and may Allah bless Muhammad and his family and grant them peace." That was what his notes were like. Then he led a funeral prayer and asked me, "Is any of the oil left?" "No," I replied, "except for some dregs." So he separated that and then he had left of it only half a qafiz.'

"One of the righteous men went to him during the siege of Abu Yazid when things were hard asking him to accept from him a dinar as a loan since he knew that he would not accept it on any other terms. He refused. He said, "I have no need of it. I have a qafiz of oil and five-eighths of barley." He was told, "This amount is not sufficient for you when you are a family of five and there is civil war and high prices." He said, "Preoccupation with superfluity." His son Abu't-Tahir said, "When we were without anything to eat, I used to hear him say in the night:

I have no inheritance and I am not adorned by any possessions,
     and I do not rely on anyone but Allah.

Contentment with Allah prevents me
     from turning my attention to a cross benefactor.

I consider myself too noble to turn my face
    to other than the Sole Everlasting Support.

He mentioned that to Abu'l-Hasan al-Qabisi who said, "Someone like al-Jibanayi says this and speaks the truth."

His scrupulousness, fear, worship and self-deprecation

It is mentioned that at the beginning of his affair he hired himself to a man in the region of Susa for whom he worked as a cattleherd. One day the man brought him an axe and said, "Cut some wood from this tree. Abu Ishaq told him, "It does not belong to you. It belongs to your brother." He told him, "You have become an opponent for me! You must listen to what I command you and do it." He replied, "Rather I must have fear of Allah." So he left him and he sent him his wages. He said to him, "From where do you pay me? You do not attend to your brother's trees in his absence. From where are you paying me?" He left without taking anything from him."

Abu Bakr as-Suyuti said, "I used to keep his company and sometimes we hired ourselves to gather olives. When he was given his wage, he reduced it and said, 'We fear that we did not do it fully, so how can we take it in full.'"

One of his companions brought food, but he did not eat from it. He was censured for that. He said, 'We saw him eating the food of someone who was not careful about his earnings. When I saw him leave the lawful and eat that, I felt that I was obliged to avoid his food."

When he travelled to Qayrawan to listen to Abu Bakr ibn al-Lubbad, he brought a barley loaf. He used to break the fast every night on one and he would drink from the Rawta well. When he finished his loaf, he would go without buying anything there to eat. When the revolt of Abu Yazid took place and the ownership of people's property became muddled with the booty, he would not buy slaves and that is not written of him.

One of his companions said, "One day I travelled with him while I was driving a riding animal. I took a stick from the road to prod it. He said to me, 'Is it yours?' 'No,' I replied. He said, 'Throw it away.' I said, 'It is only a stick cast aside.' He said, 'Our companions used to be careful not to take a stone from other than their own land.' I said to him, 'An owner is asked for the rope and staff and what is of no consequence?' 'That is owned,' he replied, 'and if the owner does not say that he can take it, it is better to leave it and the minimum is that one is careful and godfearing in that lest it become a custom and extend to what is greater than that.'"

One of his companions said, "I dreamt that a man was famous for iniquity was stoned with stones from heaven. I mentioned that to Abu Ishaq and he turned to me in fright. He said, 'I ask you by Allah, was it me?' He repeated it to him until he swore to him by Allah that it was a certain person." He said, 'By Allah, I do not know anyone more entitled to that than me!'"

Abu'l-Qasim said, "Abu Ishaq displayed his sorrow and wept a lot. He constantly fasted. His son Abu't-Tahir said, 'I never saw him not fasting.' He said, 'My father said to me, "I was stuck on one ayat for a year and never got past it. It is His words: 'And call them to a halt. They will be asked.' (37:24)" I said to him, "You are him." He was silent. So I knew that it was him."

Once he started the prayer, the house could have fallen down and he would not have paid it any attention, because of his attention and devotion to his prayer in the intimate conversation with his Lord. One night his children gathered to visit their mother and they brought meat which she had cooked for them in a corner of the room. They had supper while the shaykh was praying in another corner. After a time he said to their mother, "Why haven't you had any supper?" because of the intensity of his devotion to the prayer.

One of them reported that one day he came and greeted him and kissed his neck. He said, 'He pushed his hand away and slapped himself and so I wept greatly. He asked me, 'Why are you weeping?' I replied, 'Because this person used to ask of me.' He said, 'My neck should be slapped rather than kissed.'"

He was asked, "Why did you choose to live in Jibniyana rather than elsewhere?" He replied, "I wanted for Allah to make me obscure there because I saw that it was less well-known than other towns."

Abu'l-Qasim said, "One day I saw him giving admonition and he wept and caused people to weep. Then the weeping continued outside the house. It was like mourning. When he saw that, he was afraid of temptation for himself. He looked at a sandal lying in front of him. He said to those around him, 'I ask you by Allah, take this sandal and hit the neck of this evil shaykh with it who commands you the correct and forbids you the objectionable and does not stop himself.'"

There was a growth on his thigh and he was told to have it treated with cattle dung which should be heated with oil until it was better. He asked about the cattle and was told that they belonged to 'Ali ibn 'Ashun. He said, "He has died and left heirs which include children."

He heard a dog barking and said to his companions, "By Allah, this dog is more faithful to its family than I am to myself because it guards them and defends them even though they let it go hungry and hit it. Allah has been gracious to me by granting me Islam and encouraged me to that which contains my salvation. I have fallen short and not been faithful to myself."

When Abu Hamid al-Khurasani came to North Africa, he went to al-Jibniyani and greeted him and then said, "I have come from Khorasan to visit you." The shaykh said to him, "If you are speaking the truth, then you are a fool, and if I accept this, I am a greater fool than you! How could you leave Iraq and the scholars there? And then the Haram of Allah and the Haram of His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, Syria and Egypt to come to Maghrib to a shaykh of Jibniyana to say this to him?" Abu Hamid wept and said to him, "If you had not been like this, I would not have come to you." Abu Hamid used to say, "In the Maghrib there are four men whose like I have not seen: 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Masrur ad-Dabbagh, and I have not seen anyone more than him; Abu Ishaq as-Sabba'i, and I have not seen anyone more intelligent than him; Abu'l-Hasan al-Kashi, and I have not seen anyone with more evident sorrow than him; and Abu Ishaq al-Jibniyani, and I have not seen anyone with more asceticism than him."

When Abu Ishaq saw people gathering to him, he said, "My mother – may Allah have mercy on her – was a servant and worked for such-and-such a wage (naming a small amount). Her prayer – may Allah have mercy on her – was that of the scholars, complete and brief." In spite of his extensive knowledge, he used to be very serious and strive and took that which would remove him from disagreement.

One day he omitted the iqama for one of the prayers. When he said the taslim, he said to those behind him, "You saw me forget the iqama but  I do not think that you are obliged to repeat the prayer. I will repeat the prayer to remove the disagreement of the scholars." So he was cautious about himself, may Allah be pleased with him, because 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah, Al-Awza'i and others thought that someone who forgot that should repeat the prayer.

His signs, answers, virtues, awesomeness and reliance on Allah

The scholars in Qayrawan and elsewhere used to go to him and visit him and seek the blessing of seeing him and ask him to make supplication for them. Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Zayd used to say, 'My heart was strengthened when I heard that he had made supplication for me.' Abu'l-Hasan al-Qabisi and others used to go to him. Abu'l-Hasan said, "When I travelled to him the first time and we approached Jibniyana, my heart was filled with fear and great awe. I said to my companions, "I fear the tongue of this shaykh will utter something about my circumstances which Allah will enable him to show to people," or words to that effect. We found him away, performing a funeral prayer. When the time for the prayer came and he gave the adhan, I could not control myself when I heard his adhan and I had to sit on the ground. I heard an adhan whose like I had not heard. Then we entered the mosque and no one spoke other than to quick a quiet greeting. When he had prayed, he left and we greeted him. He showed great interest in us and made and supplication . Before we entered Jibniyana, he spoke to one of our companions who said, "I am a one of the Arabs. Two righteous men who are clients asked to marry my two daughters. If I marry them to them, my self will not be happy, and if I refuse them, I fear that I will not find any like them." So the first thing which we heard the shaykh say was "Sahnun had an Arab friend and one of the clients proposed to his daughter. He consulted Sahnun who said, Marry her to someone with deen and manly virtue, even if camel dung splits from him.'"'" Then al-Jibniyani turned his head towards our friend and said, "That is what Sahnun said." I said to him, "You have been given a fatwa on the question on the tongue of al-Jibniyani."'

Abu Ishaq used to ask Allah to make the people of innovation and those innovated things in the deen evident o him. Sometimes people would meet him and greet him but he would have a bad insight regarding some of them. He did not give the greeting to them and when they were investigated they found to be involved in misguidance. There many things reported about him in this area. Husayn ibn Rashiq, the minister of the Sultan, and Ibn al-Qadim came to visit him. When they were near his house, one of them said to the other, "Did the same thing happen to you as happened to me?" He asked him, "What is that?" He replied, "The reins of my horse fell from my hand out of terror." The other said to him, "I have been afflicted by worse than that." So they left without daring to meet him.

A man of the people of the Sunna had in his town some easterners [e.g. Shi'ites] and Mu'tazilites. He was the only Sunni there. There was a Kutami in charge of his town called Abu Dakrak, from the Pharaohs. His neighbours said to Abu Dakrak, "We will write against him a report stating that he curses the ruler and then you can take his property and kill him." When the ruler asked him about killing him, he produced the report and he commanded the impounding of the man's would take place at night. So he found a way to leave his house and went to Abu Ishaq and he was at his wit's end. He greeted him as well as he could and he asked him, "What is wrong?" He replied, "Abu Dakrak had done such-and-such to me!" Abu Ishaq asked, "And who is Abu Dakrak? May Allah put him in the earth (dakraka)!" Then he said to those around him, "You companion is in need. Go to the tyrannical king about him." He started to make supplication and those who were present said "Amen." Then he said, "His trouble is taken care of, Allah willing." Part of what he said in his supplication was, "O Allah, put Abu Dakrak in the earth!" The following day the Sunni came to him and told us that 'Ubayd, the governor of the land, had killed Abu Dakrak and concealed his body. Efforts were made to find his body and the sultan spend a lot of money on that, and they could find no trace of him. Allah had made the earth swallow him up and the Sunni was safe.

At-Tustari said, "Hami the translator came to us and asked the people of our place for wine. They told him, 'There is no one in this town who drinks because we are in the vicinity of this man of worship (Abu Ishaq).' He asked, 'Who is this man of worship? I will rip out his heart with my spear. What he acknowledges is other than his master (meaning the sultan)!' The people of the town went weeping to Abu Ishaq and told him. They said, 'We fear for ourselves and out families.' They had left someone with him trying to placate him. They found Abu Ishaq facing the qibla and making intense supplication. Then he said, 'You are spared his trouble, Allah willing. He will never come to you.'" Abu'l-Qasim said, "They returned and I returned with them and they found that he had turned his horse towards the mountains and he fell off a ravine and his horse fell on him and he died.

The person in charge of taking information to the sultan passed by Abu Ishaq while he was giving the adhan and said to him, "Hypocrite! How often will you resist the summons of our master?" When the shaykh finished the adhan, he said, "May Allah abase you, O iniquitous person, at the hands of the one you exalt." So the Sultan took revenge on him for something and flogged him five hundred lashes and crucified him alive. He was saying, "A tried remedy for the one who desires to be given five hundred lashes and crucified alive is to curse al-Jibniyani."

[Note: He was giving the Sunni form of the adhan and not the Shi'ite form.]

One of his sons said, "We left Sfax at sunset with the shaykh and night became dark for us and we encountered the robbers who were famous for their severity. When they approached the shaykh, he said, 'There is no god but Allah. Creatures must be ashamed before Allah.' The robbers fled and we continued to proceed in the darkness. There was a torch of light sometimes to our right and sometimes to our left until we were opposite the house of Marwan al-'Abid. The Shaykh said, 'I will return to the place of worship of Marwan and you continue.' Then he turned towards the torch and said, 'O iniquitous one! O accursed one! We have recognised you are protected from you! Slink away, the curse of Allah is on you!' The torch went out."

One of his worshipping companions said, "I have a growth on my backside and so I cannot pray with it, standing or sitting, but only lying down. I was carried to him and told him. I said, 'I have been told to have it cauterised with fire but I am afraid of fire.' He wept and said, 'Yes, by Allah. You must fear the Fire.' Then he told me, 'Put your hand on the place.' I did so. Then he began to make supplication and then said to me, 'Stand. Allah has healed you.' By Allah, I mounted the animal without anyone holding it, as if nothing had touched me!'"

'Umar ibn Muthanna said, "Every scholar or man of worship whom I encountered on this coast concealed himself and his deen out of fear of the trial of the Fatimids except for Abu Ishaq. He put his trust in Allah and he did not forsake him. Through him Allah maintained the hearts of the believers, exalted the deen and made him feared by the heretics."

Abu Ishaq attended the funeral of the daughter of one of his companions and he prayed over her. All of those who were in the market went to the prayer behind him. The matter was mentioned to Ma'd, the Shi'ite goveror. He was told, "You are obeyed, so command the messengers to bring him out." His ministers heard that and came to him walking bare-footed, saying, "We fear destruction. What do you think of a man whose supplication is answered and who is cut off from this world." He recalled the messengers and sent a shaykh of Kutama wearing the clothes of a devout worshipper to inform about his circumstances. The Kutami shaykh concealed himself behind a mat until Abu Ishaq came and gave the adhan for Maghrib, the iqama and prayed. The Kutami came out from behind the mat and said to him, "O hypocrite towards our master! You do not give the adhan with 'Come to the best of action'; and you do not recite the basmala and you do not say the salam in both directions. Our master has no enemy like you!" So Abu Ishaq made supplication against him and said, "O Allah, make him a sign for the worlds!" Both his eyes were snatched away and he left the mosque, crying out, "Death! Death is with this shaykh! Do not approach him!" He went to Ma'd and he was alarmed and told his ministers, "What do you think would have happened if we had moved against him?" When he led the prayer at the funeral, a man stopped where he was and said, "Abu Ishaq! The time will not allow it!" He said to him, "We will not reach the degree of the true until we are killed for the truth." He said to him, "Abu Ishaq! I have the supplication of Ibrahim the Friend when he was cast into the fire and the supplication of Yunus when the fish swallowed him." The shaykh said to him, "Wretch! If you use the supplication of the Prophets while you perform the actions of the Pharaohs, who will you deceive?"

Once while he was leading a funeral prayer for a woman, the bier of a great Kutami arrived accompanied by many people who said, "The prayer for a martyr." He did not reply to them. When the woman was buried, he departed and left them standing there with their bier. His companions and those with him separated from him fearing that they would seize. When they left with their bier, his friends caught up to the shaykh and said to him, "Things are as you know. Those are the people of the ruler and so it is better that you do not do out to pray at funerals." When they repeated this a lot, he said, "It seems that you are afraid for me from them. "Yes," they replied. He said, "O Allah, if I fear them instead of you, then give them power over me." Then they felt secure and went with him.

Once Hassun, the admiral of the fleet, came to him with a large regiment and his Slavs. When the shaykh finished the prayer, Hassun went to him with those with him and the governor of the city to greet him. He turned towards them in anger and told them, "The best of what you have with me is that I do not recognise anyone. There is none in both abodes other than Allah who can harm or benefit!"

There was a teacher among the friends of Abu Ishaq who used to visit him every Friday. Then his mount was stolen and he looked for it and could not find it. He said, "I went to Abu Ishaq weeping and told him. He said, 'O weak of heart! Are you weeping for a riding animal?' I replied. 'By Allah, I only weep for two reasons. One is that I am prevented from visiting you since I cannot walk. The second is for my taking it to my daughters.' He made a lot of supplication for him and we said 'Amen' after his supplication and wept. That was in the middle of the day. I left and two or three nights later there was knock on the door and I was told, 'Come out and take your animal.' I went out and there was my animal with three men. They asked me to put them in the lawful and said, 'We did not aim for your house, but we erred.' I said to them, 'You must tell me your story.' They said, 'We took your animal and we were at a certain place in the middle of the night a voice said, "Where are you going, miscreants, with the animal of al-Jibniyani?" We looked but could not see anything. Then we walked on and heard the voice again and terror filled our hearts. We returned to the house of al-Jibniyani and knocked on it and he came out and we said to him, 'Take your donkey and ask forgiveness for us. We did to you what is not lawful.' He said, "Wretches! you are tried by this donkey?" "Yes," we replied and we told him what had happened. He said, "Are you in a state of purity?" "No," we said. So he brought out to us a jug, cup and rope and we got water from the will and performed a ghusl. Then we went to him and prayed two rak'ats behind him and he asked Allah to put us in repentance and convey the donkey to its owner. So we brought it to you.'"

Abu Ishaq said, "Rarely do things change for a person so that he has success." He said to a man who came to him about something which he disliked, "I do not think that this beard will be successful.'" Shortly after that he became a Shi'ite. He objected to someone else saying the voluntary prayer aloud during the day. He said to him, "Person! Malik preferred that it be silent, especially in the mosque since it may confuse people." The man said, "'Umar ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz did it aloud in the mosque of the Prophet." Abu Ishaq said to him, "That was at night and Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab criticised him for that." The man, "And so the statement of Sa'id is evidence?" The shaykh said to him, "Wretch! The Imam of the Abode of the Hijra and the Shaykh of the Tabi'un! You say this about him? I do not think that you will be successful. No, by Allah, I do not think that you will die in Islam." He died a Mu'tazilite after that.

Abu Sa'id ibn Abi 'Abbas said to him, "I ask you by Allah, Abu Ishaq, to answer me what I ask you!" "What is that, Abu Sa'id?" he replied, "If you ask me about what I know, I will answer you." He said to him, "Have you met al-Khidr or not?" He was silent in thought and then he raised his head and said, "I see refuge with Allah from claiming that to which I have no right. Some people passed by me here and they greeted me in the night and I do not know whether they were jinn or people." Al-Lubaydi said, "I told this story to Shaykh Abu'l-Hasan and he said, "This is the answer of a scholar who does not deny or affirm. It is good."

His wife was asked, "Did you see anything about him which you can tell?" She was silent and refused to speak. When he died, she was asked and said, "In the dark night I could see a light covering the room and the place of the shaykh. I heard speech and was alarmed. That lasted for a time and then I left that I was awake. He said to me, 'Beware of mentioning what you saw as long as I am alive.'"

Some of his wise sayings and his words on knowledge

Abu'l-Qasim said, "Al-Jibniyani was wise in his words. When he was seen, people would remember Allah because of the awe he inspired. His bones could be seen and his face was black. He was silent a lot and had few words. When he spoke, he uttered wisdom."

Abu'l-Qasim said, "Abu Ishaq  left three statements which contain all good: follow and do not innovate; go low and do not elevate yourself; and whoever is scrupulous is not expanded. He often used to say: 'Five things help to destroy the unfortunate son of Adam: a believer who envies him, an unbeliever who lies in wait for him, a disobedient and strong shaytan, immediate worldly possessions, and a self which commands to evil. How can one be saved?' He used to say, 'Draw near to anything which is with Allah and be far from anything which people have.' He used to say, 'When you see a young man unclean in his youth, he will be an evil old man when he is old.' He said, 'When your wife, children and servant see you disobeying Allah, they will be the first to abase you.' One day he was asked, 'What is the minimum requirement for someone who eats what is halal?' He replies, 'The minimum of what is earned lawfully is when the house has ten or more children in it and the beggar turns to them and they feed him, not knowing whether it is lawful. The poor person then obtains it as unlawful and lawful.'"

Abu'l-Hasan al-Qabisi said, "When we left him, an riding animal ran from the hand of a child who was holding it for us. I said, 'They gave it to a child who is not up for it and so it was lost.' Abu Ishaq said to me, 'You have slandered him.' I said to him, 'He is described as he is with his lack of ability. The Sunna permits that.' He said, 'Where is it?' I replied, 'His words, peace and blessing be upon him, to the woman who consulted him about marriage: "As for Abu Jahm, he does not take his staff from his shoulder. As for Mu'awiya, he is a pauper with no property."' He retorted, 'You have no proof in this because the one who is consulted is entrusted. Furthermore, he was consulted about marriage. His opinion was about entering in a marriage or not. Your question is not like that. Indeed the Sunna contains that which forbids you to do that. That is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had two doctors come to him while he was ill. They were Christians. When they left he said, "If it were not that it would be slander, I would tell you which of them is better."' Abu'l-Hasan remarked, 'I did not know that they were Christians before this.' He said, 'This is the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who disliked to say which was the better of two Christians, so what is the case with a Muslim?' Then he said to me, 'Do you think that if this lad had heard you it would pain him? Which do you prefer: to find that on your page or not to find it?' I told him, 'You are right.'"

One day he was asked about the fields along the roads on which animals pass and from which they usually eat what is near them. He said, "Do you think that if the eat, they destroy what you make?" We said, "We guard against it. And if we can find no way to stop them, we bind their mouths." He said, "That is what you should do when you pass."

One of his companions said, "When I went on hajj, I took with me some pebbles from the Masjid al-Haram. I said to Abu Ishaq, 'I have brought some pebbles with me from the Masjid al-Haram. Would you like for me to give you some of them with which to do dhikr?' He replied to me, 'O fool, throw them away! The least is this is that you worship stones.' I told that to Al-Qabisi and he admired the fiqh of Abu Ishaq. Abu'l-Hasan said, 'Malik said about the person who removes some of the pebbles of the mosque in his sandal that he should return them if he is close to the mosque. Otherwise, he should throw them away.'"

Muhammad ibn Sahlun said, "I asked Abu Ishaq, 'What do you say about Yazid ibn Mu'awiya?' He was silent. Then he said to him, 'The people of the Sunna do not consider any of the people of qibla to be unbelievers because of a sin less than shirk. But it is not for a person to love the one he hates as he loves the one he loves.' What he said was mentioned to al-Qabisi and he liked it. He said, 'If Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari had been asked about this question. I do not think that he could have given a better answer about it than this. No, by Allah, a man cannot do that.'"

He used to be firm in the times of the prayers and that was mentioned and it was said to him, "Perhaps the people of the towns around you can gather together with you in order to get the group prayer." He said, "It is not like that. Those people (meaning the Fatimids) harm the deen and have designs on destroying it because if they tell people, 'Do not worship Allah,' they will not accept it from them. If they say, 'Abandon the prayer,' they will not accept it from them. So they contrive to invalidate people's prayers. They begin to give the adhan before its time and make the Dhuhr prayer coincide with the zenith. Sometimes it is actually performed before it. They put the 'Asr prayer at the time of Dhuhr in the hopes that if people obey them in doing the prayer outside its time, even by an hour, they will obey them in abandoning it. Their goal in that is hidden from the common people. I want to make Dhuhr and 'Asr firm without leaving the praiseworthy time for the blameworthy time and so my Dhuhr prayer is at the time of their 'Asr prayer. Thereby the common people will know that what they do is misguidance."

What is reported of the words of Abu Ishaq and his station is more than what we mentioned and vaster than what we brought. This is enough for someone whose heart has been illuminated by Allah and guided when He desires to guide him.

His method of teaching

He used to teach the Qur'an, and he stipulated it when his children were young, Then he taught and did not make it a precondition. Then he left it. He was very cautious in his teaching. He used to say, "May Allah have mercy on Muhammad ibn Sahnun. If he had taught, he would be gentle on the students," meaning that he was hard on them in his school. All of those who were taught by Abu Ishaq benefited except a few. He used to say, "Only have your children taught by a man whose deen is good so that the deen of the child will be formed according to the deen of his teacher. I knew that a teacher used to conceal his position that the Qur'an was created and he noticed him. When he knew that he was going to be dismissed, he stood in front of his school and said to his children, "What do you say about the Qur'an?" They replied, "We have no knowledge." He said, "It is created. Hold to this position, even if you are killed." Then he ran away and they all died holding to this belief."

He said, "I heard about an upstanding teacher who was seen making supplication around the Ka'ba, saying, 'O Allah, make any boy I teach one of your righteous servants!' I heard that he produced about ninety scholars and righteous men. A group of the children of the Kutamis studied with him and he did not take anything from them nor teach them to write He taught them the Qur'an and the Sunna. He said, 'The Muslims will only be harmed by pens.' When their fathers asked him to teach them to write, he said, 'They are not ready for that yet. When they are ready.' Every Kutami produced his knowledge based on Islam and the Sunna. He used to teach orphans and poor for Allah Almighty. The children of scribes used to bring him locusts and a bird and they were not adults. They gave it to him and said, 'We caught it.' He did not accept it from them. When they said to him, 'Our father has sent it to you, ' he accepted it because their gift was then permissible.'"

His death and legacy

Al-Lubaydi said, "Abu Ishaq died on Sunday 7 Muharram 369 and was buried on the following Monday in the east of Jibniyana at the age of 90. After his death there was found on a paper under his mat on which was written in his handwriting, 'A man heard an unseen voice say to him, 'Your actions have been good and your term approaches.' His son, 'Abdu'r-Rahman, said to me, 'When he fell short in his action, he would remove the paper and look at it and then return to his exertions.' His son Abu't-Tahir prayed over him. Many people gathered to it. They took him out on Monday morning. They only reached the prayer over him after midday. He was found to have nothing of this world, great or small, except for some mudds of barley in a broken jug and room in which he lived belonged to his son.

His sons

He had seven sons: Abu Bakr, Abu't-Tahir, Ahmad, Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad, Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali, Abu Zayd 'Abdu'r-Rahman, Abu Muhammad 'Abdullah, and Abu 'Ali. Abu 'Ali died before puberty.

Then 'Abdullah died when he was less than thirty. He was stronger than the shaykh in his efforts of worship. The Qur'an killed him. Whenever he read an ayat or promise or threat, he weep until sorrow melted his heart and he died. Abu'l-Qasim al-Lubaydi said, "I was present at his death and the shaykh was instructing him in the shahada until he died and he closed his eyes. Then, on account of his loss, he said, 'We belong to Allah and to Him we return,' and made supplication for him. Then he said to the mother of 'Abdullah, the shaykh's wife who was close to him in her excellence and worship, 'Praise Allah and thank Him. 'Abdullah has died in Islam and will be put in your page. If you have any perfume, then perfume him and beautify the blessings of Allah.' He brought out a waist-wrapper which he had and put on and was strong. Then he sat for the people and joy could be seen in him."

Abu'l-Hasan also died while his father was alive. 'Abdu'r-Rahman died three years after his father's death. He was one of the worshipping fuqaha'. He did the entire Qur'an every night. Abu't-Tahir was one of the people of the Qur'an and books of hadith. He met Ibn al-Ward and others. Abu Bakr and Abu 'Abdullah were among the people of Qur'an and taught it. May Allah have mercy on all of them.

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Historical Notes

Abu Yazid al-Khariji: born about 270/883 in Tadmakka, he started an anti-Fatimid agitation in 316/927 and led a revolt between 332/943 and 336/947. Although he was a Kharijite, most of the Sunni scholars followed him because of their abhorrence of the Fatimids. His nickname was 'the man on the donkey'.

Aghlabids: a dynasty also called the Banu'l-Aghlab, an Arab Muslim dynasty which ruled Ifriqiya (Tunisia and eastern Algeria) from 800 to 909, nominally subject to the Abbasid khalifs of Baghdad, but in fact independent. Their capital was Qayrawan. They were responsible for the construction of the great mosque and ramparts there and turning it into an important cultural centre where the religious sciences and poetry flourished.

Kutama: the Berber tribe who supported the Shi'ite Fatimids and led the assault to unseat the Aghlabids.

Fatimids: the Isma'ili Shi'ite dynasty which ruled in North Africa for three centuries until 1171 CE. They are also referred to as the Banu 'Ubayd. They were very tolerant towards the Malikis and persecuted them.

'Ubaydullah: who took the title 'al-Mahdi', the first Fatimid khalif in Ifriqiya, 297/909 - 322/934. He conquered Qayrawan in 297 and moved the capital to al-Mahdiyya, a new city.

Yazid ibn Mu'awiya: the second Umayyad khalif, 60/680-63/684.