SA'ID IBN AL-MUSAYYIB سعيد ابن المسيب

SA'ID IBN AL-MUSAYYIB سعيد ابن المسيب

(15-94 AH)


Said `Abdullah ibn `Umar about Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib: “Had he been there at the time of the Prophet, surely, he would have been pleased with him.”

Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib ibn Hazn, a Qurayshi, born in Madinah two years after `Umar ibn al-Khattab took over the Khilafah is known as the Sayyid al-Tabe`in (the most renowned of the Followers).

It was his grandfather who had embraced Islam. When he went to see the Prophet he told him on inquiry that his name was Hazn (meaning, “the sad”). The Prophet did not like the name and suggested to him, “Rather, you are Sahl (meaning, “ease”). But Hazn said, “Messenger of Allah, my name was given to me by my parents, and people know me by this name.” The Prophet remained silent.

Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib says that it was perhaps his grandfather’s insistence on his name Hazn (meaning grief) that, “Grief of one sort or another kept visiting the family.”

The locale afforded him the opportunity to sight `Umar, and benefit from the instructions of such towering figures as `Uthman, `Ali, Zayd b. Thabit, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, Sa`d, `A’isha, Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, Muhammad b. Maslamah, Umm Salamah and a host of others. He had the occasion to listen to `Umar’s Friday sermons. He had entered upon `A’isha and Umm Salamah, the wives of the Prophet.

But, his knowledge was not confined to what he heard from the above. He also narrated from other important figures such as, Bilal, Sa`d b. `Ubadah, Abu Dharr, Abu Darda’, Hakeem b. Hizam, `Abdullah b. `Amr, Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri, Hassan b. Thabit, Safwan b. Umayyah, Mu`awiyyah, Jubayr b. Mut`im, Jabir (b. `Abdullah), Suraqa b. Malik, and many other important personalities.

It was natural therefore that the list of those who heard from him should be long. Biographers have casually named some 45 prominent figures who narrated from him. It consists of such figures as Zuhri, `Abdul Rahman b. Harmalah, `Ata’ Khurasani, `Ali b. Jud`an, `Amr b. Dinar, Qatadah, Ibn al-Munkadir, Yahya b. Sa`id al-Ansari, etc.

He had married Abu Hurayra’s daughter and so narrated many ahadith from his father-in-law. But that was only one source. He traveled long distances, sometimes to obtain a single hadith directly from the first narrator.

He quoted directly from the Prophet and Ahmed b. Hanbal ruled that Sa`id’s Mursalat were Sahih. His specialty was juridical law. He was so knowledgeable that scholars like `Ali b. al-Madini considered him the most knowledgeable of the Tabe`iyyun. It was generally known that no one knew about the juristic rulings of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, `Umar and `Uthman, more than he. As a result, he began issuing Fatwas while many of the Companions were alive. Some gave him the title, “Faqihul Fuqaha’.” (a Jurisconsult of the Jurisconsults).

Ja`far b. Burqan reported, “I arrived into Madinah and inquired about the most knowledgeable person of the town. They named Sa`id b. al-Musayyib.” During the time `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz was the Governor of Madinah, he referred to him before making juridical rulings. In fact, he was his one time student. Once he sent someone to him to inquire about something. Either the messenger erred, or Sa`id erred in understanding, at all events, he himself went out to see `Umar. He told him, “I just meant to consult you, but perhaps the messenger erred.” When Salam b. Miskeen sat before him and mentioned his father Miskeen, Sa`id remarked, “Your father sat before me during the Caliphate of Mu`awiyyah and sought my rulings.”

Sa`id seems to have had the advantage of a powerful memory. `Imran remarked that nothing passed by Sa`id’s ears but his heart stored it. He added, “And my personal belief is that to Sa`id his own life was no worthier than that of a fly, when he remembered Allah.”

He was once asked, “It seems nothing prevents you from Hajj except that you have promised Allah that whenever you see the Ka`bah you will pray for the destruction of Ibn Marwan (`Abdul Malik).” He answered, “No such thing. Yet, I do not do a Prayer but I pray for their (Banu Marwan’s) destruction. I have made Hajj and `Umra more than 20 times. But I don’t think more than a (single) Hajj and `Umrah has been written in my record. And I see your people borrowing money, making Hajj and `Umrah and then dying out without having paid bsck. (If such is the case then), then, in my opinion Friday Prayer is better than Hajj and `Umrah.”

Sa`id was a pigeon of the mosque. He himself said, “It is 30 years that the Caller called for Prayers but I was not inside the mosque.” It was accompanied by regular fasting, pilgrimage which he attempted 40 times. His Dhikr was mostly a single word: “O Allah, grant peace (Allahumma Sallim).” He possessed such self-respect that there in the general treasury there were over 30,000 in his name as his grant, but which he wouldn’t claim on principle. When reminded, he would only say, “I have no need for it until Allah judges between me and the sons of Marwan.”

He was asked, “Why is it that Hajjaj does not send for you, does not move you about, nor torments you in any way?” He answered, “I have no idea except that once he had entered the mosque accompanying his father. He wasn’t doing ruku and sujud properly. I threw a handful of pebbles at him.” [It is reported that Hajjaj used to say, “Thereafter I learnt to Pray correctly and properly.”] 

Nevertheless, like most scholars, Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib could not escape persecution at the hands of the rulers. After the martyrdom of Hussain b. `Ali, `Abdullah ibn Zubayr revolted against the Umayyad rulers (62 H). The people of Madinah sided with him. Ibn Zubayr sent Jabir b. al-Aswad to make their allegiance official. He sought people to enter into Bay`ah for Ibn Zubayr but Ibn al-Musayyib refused saying, “Not until the people (great majority) have done it.” Jabir got him whipped twice, each time with 60 stripes. When news of the flogging reached Ibn Zubayr at Makkah, he expressed unhappiness with Jabir and wrote to him, “What do we have to do with Ibn al-Musayyib? Leave him alone.”

There was another problem. Jabir had divorced his fourth wife and married a fifth before the waiting period of the fourth expired. While being whipped, Sa`id would say, “You have disregarded the rule promulgated by the Book of Allah. These are some days. Do as you like. Soon that will come to you which you would dislike.”

Those words happened to predict. Soon Ibn Zubayr removed him (70 H) from the governorship of Madinah.

In response to the rebellion of Zubayr and that of the people of Madinah, the Umayyads sent a Syrian force against the city. They overcame the forces of Madinah (63 H), entered the town and let lose a spate of orgy for 3 days, murdering and looting. Prayers were not held in the Prophet’s mosque for those three days. Indeed, Sa`id used to be the lone man in the mosque when the Syrian forces entered Madinah. When their forces entered the mosque they would say, “This is a crazy man.” According to a widely circulated report, those days when no one turned up at the mosque for fear of attack by the rebels, Sa`id used to hear the Adhan from the grave and did his Prayer alone. According to other reports those days he heard some rumbling from the grave at the time of Prayers.

After the death of Marwan b. al-Hakam’s death, Abdul Malik took hold of the Khilafah. While on his way to Makkah for pilgrimage, he stopped over at Madinah. One day he woke up from his siesta and ordered his bodyguard to look for which of the Muhaddithin was in the mosque. He went into the mosque and found Sa`id b. al-Musayyib holding his Halaqah. He stood at the end of the Halaqah, and after signaling to Sa`eed with his hands, returned. But Sa`id did not respond. So he came back and asked him, “Did you not see me making a sign for you?” He asked, “What is it you want?” He replied, “Respond to the Ameer al-Mu`mineen.” He asked, “Did he specifically send you to me?” He replied, “No. But I do not see anyone more qualified than you.” Sa`id said, “Go back and tell him that I am not one of his story-tellers.” The man returned muttering, “I think this Sheikh is crazy.” He informed `Abdul Malik. He remarked, “That must be Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib. Leave him alone.”

Another version – or perhaps another occasion - gives some more details; according to which when `Abdul Malik passed by Madinah during his Hajj journey, he stood by the door of the mosque and sent someone to Sa`id b. al-Mussayyib to invite him to come and see him, instructing the envoy that he was not to force him. The envoy went up to Sa`id and told him, “The Leader of the Faithful is at the door. He would like to talk to you.” Sa`id replied, “Neither do I have any need to see him, nor has he any need to see me.” `Abdul Malik sent the man again to convey the message that he wished to talk to him. But he instructed him not to use force. Sa`id replied with the same words. The envoy was truly upset. He told Sa`id, “Had I no instructions to the opposite, I would have taken your head to him. Does the Ameer al-Mu’mineen invite you to a talk, and you respond in this manner?” Sa`id replied to him that if the Ameer was wishing to do good to him, he could go ahead and do it, but if he wished something else, then too let him do what he thinks best.

Another narrative gives other details. They say that when `Abdul Malik entered the mosque he found people around a Sheikh. He inquired who it was. When told it was Sa`id, he ordered that he be asked to come to him. When the envoy came, Sa`id responded by saying, “Is it possible that you made a mistake about me? May be he has sent for someone other than me.” That reply angered `Abdul Malik who wanted to get him executed but courtiers around him told him, “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen. He is the most learned of Madinah, a chief of the Quraysh, a friend of your father, someone who never went to any ruler before you.” They kept pressing until he spared his life.

In fact, Sa`id had little respect for the Banu Umayyah and people were expecting trouble with `Abdul Malik b. Marwan. Accordingly, they had advised him to move out to one of the satellite villages outside the town. But Sa`id refused saying, “What about my night-Prayers?” (Meaning his tahajjud in the Prophet’s mosque).”

Sa`id’s trials did not end with Jabir b. al-Aswad’s removal. Before his own death, `Abdul Malik b. Marwan (d. 84 H) appointed his two sons Waleed and Sulayman as his successors. Those days Hisham b. Isma`il al-Makhzumi was the governor of Madinah. He sought the allegiance of the Mdinans for the two. Sa`id refused the oath of fealty. So Hisham too got him lashed 60 times at the end of which he was made to wear a short pyjamah, taken around the town, but when they reached Ra’s al-Thaniyyh they turned him back. He asked, “Where to now?” They said, “To the prison.” He remarked, “Had I known that you were not going to execute me, I would never have worn the short pyjamah.” In the prison he was tortured too – though not severely.

`Abdul Malik was informed of his affair. He disagreed, reproached Hisham ordering him to release him. `Abdul Malik also sent a letter of apology to Sa`id saying it was not he who had ordered it. Sa`id responded by saying, “Allah is between me and he who scourged me.”

Other versions suggest that when allegiance was sought for `Abdul Malik’s two sons, Sa`id refused saying, “I can’t swear allegiance to two at a time. Islam prohibits it.” He received 100 lashes. `Abdul Rahman b. `Abd al-Qari told him, “Let me offer you three options.” Sa`id asked him to name them. He said, “Leave your place. The problem is, you occupy a place (in the mosque) which is visible to Hisham.” Sa`id replied, “I am not going to change the place that I have been sitting in for 40 years.” He suggested, “Then leave for `Umrah.” Sa`id replied, “I am not going to waste my money or efforts for something I have no intention to do.” `Abdul Rahman said, “Then enter into the Bay`ah.” He replied, “Look. What shall I do for you if Allah has blinded your heart as He blinded your sight!” (`Abdul Rahman was blind). So, Sa`id got whipped. The authorities also issued orders that no one was to attend Sa`id’s Halaqah.

He remained true to the authorities. When somebody sat down before him those days to ask some questions, he would inform him that it was prohibited.

He used to instruct: “Never give any credence to any of your rulers. Reject them at hear in the least; or your deeds will go waste.”

His qualities had made him so popular that never did it happen over 40 years that he came to the mosque and a few people were not there waiting for him at the gate. Yet, he never accepted any gift from anybody. In fact, sometimes he would even refuse a drink from others.

He seemed to be able to meet with his expenses somehow, and advised his students too to save money for a rainy day. He himself left a 100 Dinars when he died. Once when he ate something tasty he remarked, “I think I’ll be questioned for this.” When he suffered loss in vision, somebody suggested that he should go out to live in the open for a while and look at the greenery; that was likely to improve his eye-sight. He retorted, “But what about my Fajr and `Isha Prayers (in the Prophet’s mosque)?

He liked to hear poetry but never recited any himself. He shook hands with everyone and led a simple life. He could be seen walking barefoot. But he wore clean and neat clothes, all-white, complete with turban, leather socks, a shirt that reached the middle of his calves, a shawl measuring around 6-7 feet in length (5 Adhru`), and dyed his beard yellow – although not regularly. He discouraged much laughter, and himself remained an imposing serious person to the extent that a new-comer felt as afraid of addressing him as addressing a governor. While traveling he could be seen doing his Nawafil Prayers on the beast. He attached greater importance to thought and contemplation than to acts of devotion. By the end of his life, he had gone blind in one eye, and the other too was quite weak in vision, yet feared and avoided any contact with women. When told that women could not be interested in him in that age and condition, he replied, “But I will not trust myself with a woman.”

Self-dependent all his life, he wouldn’t seek anyone’s service. One rainy night as he left the mosque wading through muddy water, he encountered `Abd al-Rahman b. `Amr. He had an attendant with him carrying a lamp. When `Abd al-Rahman’s house arrived, he instructed his lamp-carrying attendant to see Sa`id to his house. But Sa`id said, “I do not need your light. Allah’s light is better than your light.”

How different this attitude – we may note - from the Shuyukh of the modern times who live on the services of those whom they dupe with pretended piety.

Once he was sent 5000 Dirham by a cousin of his. When the courier came, he found Sa`id haggling with his slave over half a Dirham. The courier informed him that his nephew had sent him 5000 Dirham. Sa`id said, “I have no need for it.” The courier repeated. Sa`id told him, “Get away from me. I do not need that money.” The courier replied, “You ask your slave to explain where he spent half a Dirham and refuse 5000?” He replied, “This half a Dirham is dearer to me that what you have brought.”

He had 2000 to his account every year (like many others) as his grant which he never drew. Abu Bakr b. `Abd al-Rahman used to draw on his behalf in secret. He handed it over to his children after Sa`id was dead.

It must not be thought however from his refusals that Sa`id was a headstrong stubborn man lacking manners. Far from that. In fact, once when `Abdul Malik b. Marwan entered the mosque, and said Salam while passing by Sa`id, Sa`id replied, “Wa `alayka al-salam, O Ameerul Mu’mineen.” It pleased `Abdul Mallik so much that he mentioned to his attendants, “Do you see, how he responded?”

Yet, he made no peace with the oppressors. His son-in-law Abu Wuda`ah reports: “I was in the company of Sa`id when a messenger of the Banu Marwan passed by. Sa`id inquired, ‘Are you a messenger of the Banu Marwan?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ Sa`id asked, ‘In what condition did you leave them?’ He answered, ‘In good condition.’ Sa`id told him, ‘You left them keeping people hungry but feeding the dogs?’ The messenger leapt on Sa`id. I came in between and struggled to keep him off. When he was gone, I said to Sa`id, ‘May Allah forgive you. You make your blood lawful with half a word!’ He said, ‘Quiet you little fool. I would not allow that Allah should question me about His rights.”

They used to say that Sa`id b. al-Musayyib was made of iron.

The marriage of his daughter is perhaps the only one of its kind reported in the Islamic literature. Severally reported, the story goes that because of Sa`id’s high status in religion, `Abdul Malik b. Marwan wanted Sa`id’s daughter to be married to his son Walid. Sa`id wasn’t one to accept such an offer. During the days the pressure was increasing, one of his good students – perhaps a nephew called Abu Wuda`ah – wasn’t to be seen for quite a few days. When he showed up, Sa`id asked him the reason. He explained that he had lost his wife in death and so the affairs kept him busy. Sa`id asked him whether he had re-remarried. The young man said, “Who will give his daughter to me? I possess no more than 2-3 Dirham.” Sa`id said, “I will.” Abu Wuda`ah asked in amazement, “Will you?” He said yes, and then and there married him to his daughter for the Mahr of 2 Dirahms.

Abu Wuda`ah reports, “I got up not knowing what to do for my happiness. Then I began to wonder who was it that I could borrow some money from. At all events, I did my Maghrib, and, as was fasting the day, sat down with some bread and oil as my dinner. At that moment I heard a knock. I asked, ‘Who is it?’ It was answered, ‘Said.’ I began to think of every Sa`id I knew, except Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, for he hadn’t been seen anywhere but either at home or in the mosque. When I opened the door (it was he), I thought he must have had a second thought about the marriage. I asked him, ‘O Abu Muhammad, why did you not send someone for me?’ He said, ‘No, you are more deserving that one should come to you. You were single, and wedded. I did not like that you should spend the night alone. So, here is your wife.’ She was behind him. He took her by her hand, led her in, and shut the door. The girl fell to the ground out of modesty. I led her in and then climbed the roof to call out my neighbors. When they came I gave them the story. My mother too came to know. She came running and said to me, ‘My face is forbidden to you if you touched her until we have prepared her for three days.’ It was after three days that I saw her face to discover a beautiful coy woman. She knew well the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the rights of a husband. I did not go to Sa`id for a whole month. When I went and joined his Halaqah, he did not speak to me until everyone had left. Then he asked, ‘How did you find the person?’ I replied, ‘Good.’ He said, ‘If you have any problems: the stick.’”

Although one of the narrators of the above story was weak, he was trusted by some traditionists.

It was perhaps his refusal to give his daughter to the future Khalifah, that had angered `Abdul Malik, which could be an added reason for the reported persecutions. Some reports suggest they had his indirect permission.

He sat in the same place in the mosque for decades, and spoke to no one during `Asr and Maghrib.

Once he asked `Ali b. Zayd to go and check a man’s face and body sitting in another part of the mosque. `Ali examined him and then reported, “I saw a face as dark as that of a man of Zanzibar, but his body fair.” Sa`id told him, “This man used to speak ill of Talha, Zubayr, and `Ali. I warned him but he wouldn’t give up. So I prayed against him. A pimple appeared on his face and then spread all over it.”

He remained a teacher until his last. He was in some pain during his last hours. At one point he fell unconscious. Nafe` b. Jubayr happened to be visiting. He said, “Turn him towards the Qiblah.” When he recovered he asked, “Who instructed that I be turned towards the Qiblah? Was it Nafe`.” Nafe` said, “Yes,” Sa`id said, “Well, if I was not on the Qiblah and community (Millah of Muslims), your turning my bed towards any direction will be of not benefit to me. As a Muslim, my face was always towards Allah.”

Perhaps on the same occasion Sa`id’s wife said to Nafe`, “Prevail upon him. He hasn’t eaten anything since three days.” Nafe` told Sa`id, “So long as we are in this world, we have to bend ourselves to its rules.” Sa`id replied, “How can one eat in a situation in which he is a lump of flesh about to be consigned either to the Fire or to Paradise?” Nafe` replied, “Pray to Allah that He cures you. Shaytan is angry of your place in the mosque.” Sa`id answered, “May Allah take me out from among you in peace.”

When someone asked him about a hadith during his illness, he forced himself up, sat upright, and narrated the hadith. The man apologized that he didn’t wish to inconvenience him. He said, “I did not like to narrate the Prophet’s words lying down.”

It is obvious that he was quite certain of himself. Little surprise that during his final illness he instructed his son, while some people were around him, that he was not to cause inconvenience to the people. Just four persons would be sufficient to carry his coffin to his Lord. He had left some Dinars and prayed, “O Allah, You are aware that I had not saved them but to safeguard my religion and my honor.” He died in the year 94 after Hijrah, a year which is known as the Year of the Fuqaha’, for so many of them dying that year.

Zuhri used to say about him: There are four scholars in the Islamic world (who have no equal): Sa`id b. al-Musayyib in Madinah, Mak-hul in Syria, Sha`bi in Kufa and Hasan in Basrah. Even a man like Ibn `Umar sent people to him to obtain his ruling. He remarked, “Had he been there at the time of the Prophet, surely, he would have been pleased with him.”

Hasan was a scholar with extensive knowledge covering every field of learning. Yet, when he ran into an intriguing question, he wrote to Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib.

Zayd b. Aslam used to say, “When the four `Abdullahs died (`Abdullah ibn `Abbas, `Abdullah ibn Zubayr, `Abdullah ibn `Umar and `Abdullah ibn `Amr), the juridical knowledge went entirely into the hands of freed-slaves: In Makkah, it was `Ata’; in Yemen, Ta’us; in Yamamah, Ibn abi Kuthayr???; in Basrah, Hasan; in Kufa, Ibrahim Nakha`I; in Syria, Mak-hul; in Khurasan, `Ata Khurasani; except Madinah, where it was Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, a Qureshi.”

Actually, Madinah had always had a huge number of Fuqaha’. But there were seven prominent ones from among the Followers (Tabe`iyyun) who were known as the “Fuqaha’ al-Sab` (the seveners) of Madinah”: Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, `Urwah b. Yazid, Qasim b. Muhammad b. abi Bakr, `Abdullah b. `Utbah b. Mas`ud, Kharijah b. Zayd b. Thabit, Sulayman b. Yasar, with differences in opinion over the seventh: Abu Salamah b. `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf, Salim b. `Abdullah b. `Umar b. al-Khattab and Bakr b. `Abd al-Rahman b. al-Harith. However, there was no difference in opinion that Sa`id topped the list.

Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib was the next best after Ibn Sirin for interpretation of dreams. He had learnt it from Asma’ bint abi Bakr who had learnt it from Abu Bakr, also known for his interpretations. His opinion was that sometimes it takes 40 years for interpretation of a dream to come true.

Ibn Qulay` reports: I was sitting with Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, fatigued, depressed and feeling constricted because of my debts when a man came and said, “I see myself as if I took on `Abdul Malik b. Marwan, threw him down and stretched him and lo, four pegs grew out of his back.” Sa`id said, “You couldn’t have seen this.” He said, “I have.” He said, “Will you tell me, or should I tell you?” He admitted, “It is Ibn Zubayr who saw it and it is he who sent me to you.” If he has truly seen this, `Abdul Malik will kill him and four Caliph will come out of `Abdul Malik’s progeny.”

“So,” Ibn Qulay` said, “I went to `Abdul Malik in Syria and informed him of the dream and its interpretation (by Sa`id). He asked me about Sa`id and his well-being, then paid off all my debts, adding on.”

Another man saw `Abdul Malik urinate four times in the Prophet’s mosque in the direction of the Qiblah. Ibn al-Musayyib explained, “If that is true then four of his progeny will become Caliphs.”

Accordingly, four of his sons succeeded him: Walid, Sulayman, Yazid and Hisham.

A man saw that he saw his teeth falling and he burying them. Sa`id told him that he would be burying one of his homefolk.

Another man dreamt that he was urinating in his own hand. Ibn al-Musayyib told him to check the lineage of his wife. He did, and found that she was related to him by fosterage.

Yet another man said he saw himself dipping into fire. He explained that he would ride a boat in the sea and you will be killed. It did happen that way. He ascended a boat, and was close to getting drowned. However (he returned), fought at Qudayd (130 H) near Makkah and was killed in the battle.

When Hasan b. `Ali saw in his dream that it was written on his forehead (the Qur’an, 112: 1), “Say, ‘He is Allah, the One,” he and his homefolk celebrated the dream. But Sa`id said that little seems to be left of his term in the earth. Accordingly, Hasan died a few days later.

He would say, “He who placed his needs with Allah, will have people in need of him.”

He used to say, “People will not honor themselves the way they will through obedience to their Lord, and will not humiliate themselves the way they will through disobedience to Him. And, it is enough of Allah’s help to a believer that his enemy should ever see him committing sins.”

He reported `A’isha as saying, The Prophet said, “Every nation possesses a symbol of honor. The symbol of honor of this Ummah is the Qur’an.” [siz]



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