Sincerity & The Purity of Intention – Readings from Siyar

الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين، أما بعد


The following are a selection of illustrations cited by Imaam Adh-Dhahabee in his book: Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa of the virtuous characteristic of sincerity and the purity of intention as possessed by the Salaf of this Ummah:


1. It was said to ‘Alqamah bin Qais:

“what if you sat and read to the people and narrated to them?” so he said: “I dislike that my back should be followed (by the people) and that it should be said: ‘this is ‘Alqamah.’”


So he would remain in his home and would provide fodder to his sheep and would break it up into small fragments for them whilst he would have something with which he would strike them with if they began to butt or ram each other.


2. Mutarrif bin ‘Abdillaah said:

“Should that I remain asleep (at night) and awake in the morning regretful; then it would be more beloved to me than that I should remain standing (in prayer) and in the morning be amazed.”


I say (Adh-Dhahabee): “By Allaah; the one who commends himself or is amazed by his self – will not be successful.”


3. Younus bin ‘Abdil-A’laa said; Ibn Wahb narrated to us that Ibn Zaid narrated to us who said that Ibn Al-Munkadir said:

“One night I was proceeding to this minbar during the middle of the night so that I may supplicate; when there was a person at a column (pillar) with his head veiled and I could hear him say: ‘O Lord the drought has indeed intensified upon you servants; and verily I swear by You O Lord that You provide them with water (i.e. rain).’


So hardly an hour had passed except the clouds advanced – and then Allaah caused them to downpour.”


There was a strong sense of honour with Ibn Al-Munkadir that a person from the people of good should go hidden from him and so he said: “this person is in Al-Madeenah and I do not know him?!”


So (after the prayer) when the Imaam had given the tasleem the man masked himself and departed – whilst he (Ibn Al-Munkadir) followed him and did not sit for the narrator (who recites/delivers a speech) until he arrived at an abode which was familiar. Then he (the man) went inside a place and opened up and so entered.


“So I retreated; and after I had prayed the Duhaa prayer, I came to him (his door) and said: ‘may I enter?’ he replied: ‘enter’ upon entering he was hewing (carving) drinking bowls, so I asked: ‘how are you on this morning? May Allaah rectify you’ so he respectfully proclaimed it (the morning) and esteemed it greater than me.


So when I saw that I said: ‘Indeed; I heard your sworn word upon Allaah last night. O my brother; do you have any expense that would otherwise suffice you of this and would vacate you for what you may need in the Hereafter?’


He said: ‘no; however there is something else – do not mention me to anyone; and do not mention this to anyone until I die. Likewise do not come to me O Ibn Al-Munkadir; for if you come to me then you will give grounds to my prominence with the people.’


So I said: ‘I love that I should meet you.’


So he said: ‘meet me in the Masjid’”


He was a Persian and so Ibn Al-Munkadir did not mention that to anyone until the man died.


Ibn Wahb said: “it was conveyed to me that he moved from that dwelling and so was no longer seen just as it was no longer known as to where he went. So the people of that dwelling used to say: ‘Allaah is between us (i.e. as A Witness) and Ibn Al-Munkadir – for he drove out a righteous man from among us.’”[1]


4. Mansoor bin Al-Mu’tamir used to stand in the night (for prayer) and would weep; and so his mother would say to him:

“O my son; have you killed someone?” So he would reply: “I know better what I have done with myself.” Then when morning would arise he would apply kohl to his eyes and would rub oil into his hair and would make his lips lighter and then would go out to the people.


5. Hammaad bin Zaid said:

Ayyoob As-Sakhtiyaani was once conducting a gathering when there came to him an admonition so he began blowing and wiping his nose and said: “how severe is the common cold.”


6. Ayyoob As-Sakhtiyaani said:

“the servant has never been truthful – and then had a love for fame.”


7. Aboo Haazim Salamah bin Deenaar said:

“hide your good deeds – just as you hide your bad deeds.”


8. Muhammad bin Waasi’ said:

“a man may weep for twenty years, yet his wife who is with him is unaware.”


9. Mujaahid bin Jabr said:

“We sought out this knowledge; and we did not possess any great intent in that, then Allaah granted us the intention thereafter.”


10. Ibn Wahb said: I heard Maalik (bin Anas) say:

“I did not seek knowledge except for myself; and I did not learn in order for the people to have a need of me – and likewise were the people.”


11. Sufyaan said:

“safeguard is in your not desiring to be known.”


12. Muhammad bin Al-Mundhir said: Ya’qoob bin Ishaaq narrated to me, saying: Muhammad bin ‘Eesaa narrated to me saying:

“Ibn Al-Mubaarak used to frequent Tarsoos a lot, whilst there he would stay at Ar-Raqqah (a place) in the vicinity of Khaan, there used to be a youth who would come to him, and see to his needs and listen to hadeeth from him.


So there was an occasion when ‘Abdullaah came, and he did not see him, so he departed along with a troop, then when he returned he asked concerning the youth, so it was said: ‘he is imprisoned because of a debt of ten thousand dirhams.’  So he (‘Abdullaah) went enquiring after (in search of) the debtor, then when he found him, he compensated him with ten thousand (dirhams), and made him swear that he would not tell anyone (about this) for as long as he lived.


Thereafter the youth was released, so Ibn Al-Mubaarak departed at night, and the youth caught up with him at the second station (resting place for travellers) from Ar-Raqqah, so he said to him: ‘O young one, where were you, as I did not see you?’


So he said: ‘O Abaa ‘Abdir-Rahmaan I was imprisoned due to debt.’


He said: ‘So how did you settle it?’


He said: ‘a man came, and paid off my debt and I don’t know (i.e. the circumstances surrounding it).’


So he said: ‘Then praise Allaah.’


The youth did not find out until after the death of ‘Abdullaah.”


13. Aboo Haatim Ar-Raazee said: ‘Utbah bin Sulaimaan Al-Marwazee narrated to us who said:

“we were in a military detachment along with ‘Abdullaah bin Al-Mubaarak in the land of Rum (to the west) when we encountered the enemy.  So when the two fighting parties faced together (for battle), a man came out from the enemy and called for a duel, so a man went out to him and he (the enemy) killed him, then again he killed another and then again he killed yet another, then he called for another duel, so a man went out to him, and he charged at him for a while, then he stabbed and killed him.


At which point the fighters all crowded over him (the fighting began and the two sides came together), I looked and saw it was ‘Abdullaah bin Al-Mubaarak, he was attempting to cover his face by using his sleeve.


So I took hold of a part of his sleeve and took it away (from his face) to find it was indeed him. So he said: ‘and you O Abaa ‘Amr are from those who seek to expose us!’”


14. From ‘Abdullaah bin Sinaan who said:

“I was with Ibn Al-Mubaarak and Al-Mu’tamar bin Sulaimaan at Tarsoos (as a military detachment), and the people called out: for departure into battle, so Ibn Al-Mubaarak set out as did the rest of the people. So when the two parties stood in formation; a Rumi (the enemy) came out and demanded a duel, so a man went out to him, then when they met the lout (non-believer) was severe in his fight against him, and overcame him and then killed him, and this he repeated until he had himself killed six men from the Muslims.


Then he began boasting whilst between the two rows demanding another duel – but nobody would go out to him.  So he said: Ibn Al-Mubaarak (who had been watching) turned to me and said: ‘O so and so, if I am killed; then do such and such.’


Then he shook the reins of his beast and went and emerged to combat the lout, then he was occupied with him for a while; and then he killed the lout, then he called for a duel, and another lout came out to him, and he killed him until he had killed six of them.


Then he called for another duel but it was as if they became cowardly (fearful) towards him, so he struck his riding beast and looked between the two rows and (rode out) then disappeared, and we did not notice anything until I was standing beside Ibn Al-Mubaarak once more in the place we were in.


Then he said to me: ‘O ‘Abdallaah, if you tell anybody about this (what you have seen) whilst I am alive….’ then he mentioned a statement.”


15. Al-Fudhail said:

“Abandoning actions due to the people is riyaa; and carrying out actions due to the people is shirk – and Ikhlaas is that Allaah relieves you of both of them.”


16. Al-Fudhail said likewise:

“Whoever is estranged from being alone; and instead and becomes accustomed to being in the company of people – then he will not be safeguarded from riyaa. There is no Hajj and no Jihaad more severe than withholding the tongue; and there is no one who is more severe in grief than the one whose tongue is imprisoned.”


17. Rabee’ said: I heard Ash-Shaafi’ee say:

“I would love that the people should learn this knowledge; (meaning from his books) – on the premise that nothing from it should be attributed to me.”


18. Hurmulah said: I heard Ash-Shaafi’ee say:

“I would love that all the knowledge which I know should be known by the people; and that I be rewarded for it – and that they should not praise me.”


19. Hamzah bin Dahqaan said:

“I saw Bishr bin Al-Haarith Al-Haafee enter a domed structure wherein he prayed four rak’ahs which I could not proficiently pray the like of. So I heard him say in his prostration:


‘O Allaah; You indeed know above Your Throne that humbleness is more beloved to me than noble eminence.


O Allaah; You indeed know above Your Throne that poverty is more beloved to me than affluence.


O Allaah; You indeed know above Your Throne that I do not prefer anything over love of You.’


So when I heard him I was overcome with sobbing and crying.


Then he said: ‘O Allaah; You indeed know; that had I known that this individual was here – then I would not have spoken.’”


20. Bilaal bin Sa’ad said:

“Do not be an ally of Allaah in open; and His enemy in secret.”


21. Muhammad bin Al-Qaasim said:

“I accompanied Muhammad bin Aslam Al-Khurasaani for more than twenty years, I did not see him pray two rak’ahs of a supererogatory prayer when I would see him except for that of the day of Friday. I heard him once swear (an oath) saying: ‘if I was able to offer my supererogatory prayer where not even my two assigned angels could see me; I would do so – out of fear of riyaa (showing off).’


He would enter a house of his and lock the door, and I would not know what he was doing until I heard a young son of his imitate his weeping, so he growled it to his mother, so I said to her: ‘what is this?’ she said: ‘Indeed; Abul Hasan enters this house and so he reads and weeps, so the youth hears him and imitates it.’


Yet when he wished to leave; he would wash his face and apply kohl to his eyes so that the effects of weeping could not be seen upon him.


He would bestow upon a people and clothe them, and he would say to the messenger: ‘check that they should not know who sent it.’”



(Taken from: Al-‘Ibr Min Fawaa-id as-Siyar p.101-109. Original references to the quotes above can be found in Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa, in order of quote: 4/59, 4/190, 5/356, 5/406, 6/20, 6/20, 6/100, 6/122, 7/152, 8/66, 7/258, 8/386, 8/394, 8/408, 8/427, 8/436, 10/29, 10/55, 10/473, 11/518, 12/200.)




[1] Imaam Ibn Al-Jawzee mentioned this account with slight variation from that which was mentioned by Imaam Adh-Dhahabee in Siyar, in his account Ibn Al-Jawzee stated that when Ibn Al-Munkadir attempted to follow him:

“He exited from the Masjid, and I also departed behind him, so he walked and I followed him until he entered a dwelling that I was familiar with from the abodes of Al-Madeenah – and so I then returned to the Masjid.

So when the sun had risen and I had prayed; I departed until I came to the dwelling, to find him seated sewing leather – and as such – he was a cobbler (shoemaker). When he saw me he recognised me and said: ‘O Abaa ‘Abdillaah; welcome, do you have a need? Would you like that I should make you some socks?’ So I sat down and said: ‘Are you not my comrade from early last night?’ So his face darkened (his expression changed) and he let out a bellow at me and said: ‘Ibn Al-Munkadir; what’s with you and that?’ and so he became angry. He said: so by Allaah I departed from him and I said (to myself): ‘I should leave him now.’

So in the night I prayed ‘Ishaa in the Masjid of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), then I came to my pillar and so I sat leaning against it; yet he did not come, so I said: ‘indeed we belong to Allaah; what have I done?’

So in the morning I sat in the Masjid until the sun rose and then I left until I came to the dwelling in which he was in – to find the door of the house open; and to find nothing present in the house. So the people of the dwelling said to me: ‘O Abaa ‘Abdillaah; what happened between you and this person yesterday?’ I said: ‘what’s with it?’ they said: ‘when you departed from him yesterday; he spread out his cloth in the middle of the house, then he did not leave a skin (of leather) nor a mould (shoetree/mould of a boot) except that he placed it into his cloth. Then he picked it up and departed; and thus we do not know where he went.’”

Muhammad bin Al-Munkadir said: “So I did not leave a dwelling in Al-Madeenah that I was aware of except that I sought for him within it – yet I did not find him – may Allaah have mercy upon him.” (See: Sifatus Safwah vol 2 p.190-192)

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