Monday, June 12, 2017


My grandfather used to tell me a bedtime story of a very rich pearl trader
who visited the Byzantine Emperor's court, and the vizier invited him to travel with him into the desert. There Hasan saw a lavish tent, to which came in succession a large army, four hundred scholars, elders, and four hundred beautiful servant maids. The vizier explained that each year since the Emperor's handsome young son had died of an illness, these throngs of Byzantine subjects had come to pay respects to the dead prince.  

After all these categories of royal subjects had entered and departed, the Emperor and his chief minister would go into the tent and explain to the deceased boy, in turn, how it grieved them that neither their might, nor learning, nor wisdom, nor wealth and beauty, nor authority had been sufficient to prolong his promising life. The striking scene persuaded Hasan of the need to be ever mindful of his mortality, and he was transformed from a prosperous businessman into a veritable archetype of the world-renouncing ascetic

The trader of Hasan Basri. One of the earliest Sufi's; a member of Ikhwane Sufa; mureed of Ali ; murshid of Rabia Basri & countless sufi's

After the Shia Imams and their disciples like BaYazid Bistami, the sufi most responsible for preaching the doctrine of Sufi;s and training thousands of Sufi's in the mystical ways of the Prophet (PBUH) and Ali ( SW) was Hasan Basri. He is considered the patriarch of Sufis and the head of earliest Sufi brotherhoods.

Hasan Basri was born in Arabia at Medina, where his mother had been brought as a captive and sold to Omm Salma, one of the wives of the Prophet. So he had the opportunity to grow up in the house of the Prophet (PBUH). Legends of Sufism say that he was taught in the esoteric arts by Prophet(PBUH) himself and later by Prophet's son in law ALI. (That the Prophet of Islam would teach and train the son of a slave as the secret bearer of the divine secrets of existence, tells you why Prophet (PBUH) was called the Mecry to the World.)

In his childhood  Hasan was fortunate enough to drink the water that was left in the cup by the Prophet .When the Prophet knew of it he remarked, “This child will receive from the Lord an amount of knowledge equivalent to the water drunk.”

The various early sources on Hasan's life relate that he frequently studied at the feet of Ali.

In his uncompromising search for Allah, he became one of the greatest saints of his era and was named ‘Bab al Wilayah’ (the gateway of sainthood). He was a hadith narrator of the highest grading, and over 1400 hadith in the nine books have chains running through him.  Some hadith masters assert that he related hadith directly from  Ali.
One of the most remarkable hadiths al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih is from al-Hasan al-Basri, from Anas, from the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- who related that after Allah allows him to intercede for the dwellers of the Fire, Allah shall say: "By My Power, by My Majesty, by My Supremacy, and by My Greatness! I shall take out of the fire whoever said: la ilaha illallah.

He lived most of his life in Basra (Southern Iraq), which was at that time the cultural and intellectual center of the Islamic world. It was also here that many theological and metaphysical controversies raged. 

This was a time of rampant materialism in the Islamic world, Islamic Caliphate had extended all the way to India and Spain and lands of ummah were washed with Persian gold and tales of Spanish conquest. The inner contemplative side of Islam was being overshadowed by a more worldly militaristic side. Rather than the asceticism practiced by Prophet of Islam and his companions, the pursuit of glory in battlefield and wealth had crept into the Muslim ummah.

It had created confusion. 

The lands of Mesopotomia or modern day Iraq had a long history of monkish church fathers and communities of monks who had turned away from the materialistic ways of the world.

Many newly converted Muslims were confused and scared, their world had been uprooted and they needed answers. The civil wars within Islam in the past 50 years with Karbala and the revenge of Karbala by Mukhtar Sakhfi had further creates fault lines. It was a dark night of the soul.

This social background is very important so you could understand how Sufism seeped into the bazaars of Baghdad from the meditation cave of Prophet(PBUH) and the zikars of Imam Ali.Ideas go "viral: when the sociological condition is ripe for them. The Muslim world suffering under brutal ummwi rulers needed light and guidance. Sufi's provided that light in the darkness.

Hasan, revered for his austerity and support for "renunciation" (zuhd), preached against worldliness and materialism during the early days of the Umayyad Caliphate

It was during this latter period that he openly began to criticize the policies of the corrupt governors in Iraq, with his passionate sermons casting a "deep impression on his contemporaries. His close relationships with Prophet and his companions only strengthened his standing as a teacher and scholar of the Islamic sciences. 
Hasan began to publicly denounce the accumulation of riches by the power hungry descendents of Yazid; and it is said that he personally despised wealth to such a degree that he even "rejected a suitor for his daughter's hand who was famous for his wealth simply because of his riches.

He developed a wide circle of disciples and students to stop the flow of materiliasm in muslim world and became renowned as a brilliant orator. Arab scholars have preserved many of his speeches, letters and aphorisms. He made, during his time, the acquaintance of many Sufi saints. To some he was a guide, to others a fellow traveler.

So in Basra, among the new Muslims and the freed slaves and the former Christians---- he trained his students on the Sufi way and told his students to adopt an ascetic lifestyle and reject materialism.He practiced the severest asceticism, and many came to hear him preach Sufism and the way of the Prophet(PBUH)

The particular disciplines in which he is said to have excelled included exegesis (tafsÄ«r) of the Quran whence his "name is invariably encountered in" classical and medieval commentaries on the scripture. 

From the fragments of his sermons available to us in later Islamic works, it is clear that one of the primary aspects of Hasan's mysticism was his strong support for asceticism and otherworldliness.

This characteristic is highlighted in some of his most famous epigrams, such as: "Exist in this world as if you had never set foot here, and in the next world as if you had never left it."
Another of his most ubiquitous sayings is: "He that knoweth God loveth Him, and he that knoweth the world abstaineth from it,"which, according to one scholar, represents the "very quintessence of Sufism" in Basra at the time.

 In another of his famous maxims, Hasan stated: "The [visionary] onlooker thinketh that they are sick, but no sickness hath smitten that folk. Or, if thou wilt, they are smitten: overwhelmingly smitten by remembrance of the Hereafter," which, according to one scholar, "mentions the possibility of seeing clearly the next life whilst still in this and describes the lasting imprint of this foretaste." 

Tawwakul, absolute trust in God, which became a central concept of Hasan basri's Teachings. In his life, he had grown up in the house of the Prophet and yet lived to see Prophet's grandson martyred by the dynasty which ruled while he lived. You can understand why someone like him would only put his faith in God only because he had seen how wealth, kingdoms, and power could transform and corrupt the most devout hearts. 

Incidents of his life are recounted in various sufi books of his students and they would give you a glimpse of how a sufi lives his life. 

Hasan Basri was a man of such humility of mind that he considered everyone whom he saw his superior. One day when he was walking along the bank of the river Tigris he saw a negro seated near a woman; before them was a jar and a cup. Each of them, in turn, poured from the jar into the cup and drank. Seeing this man, Hasan, according to his won't, said to himself, "There is a man better than myself." At the same time he secretly thought, "As regards the observance of the ceremonial law, it is possible that he is not superior to me, for he is sitting near a woman of doubtful character and drinking wine." While he was thus reflecting, there appeared on the river a boat heavily laden, and containing seven persons. Just as it was approaching the shore, it foundered. The negro, casting himself into the water, drew out six persons in succession; then, going to Hasan, he said to him, "Rise, if thou art better than I. I have saved six, for my part; thou save one, for thine." 

Then he added, "O true believers, this jar contains water, and this woman is my mother. I have wished to tempt Hasan." Then, addressing the latter, he said, "See, thou hast looked with the outer eye only, and hast not been capable of looking with the inner eye." At these words, Hasan, falling at his feet, kissed his hand and understood that he was one of the Lord's chosen servants. "Sir," he said, "as thou hast drawn these drowning men from the water so save me from the abyss of self-worship." The negro replied, "Go, thou art saved." From that time Hasan considered no one smaller than himself, but everyone his superior.


On one occasion, Hasan Basri said to his students, "I have been startled by the sayings of four persons, (1) a drunkard, (2) a debauchee, (3) a child, (4) a woman." "How was that?" he was asked. "One day," he said, "I saw a drunkard staggering in the midst of the mire. I said to him, 'Try and walk so as not to stumble.' 'O Hasan,' the drunkard replied, 'in spite of all your efforts, do you walk firmly in the way of God? Tell me, yes or no. If I fall in the mire no great harm is done, I can get rid of it by washing; but if you fall into the pit of self-conceit, you will never emerge clean and your eternal welfare will be entirely ruined.' These words pierced me to the heart.
(2) Again, as I passed once close to a man of infamous character, I drew my robes close about me lest they should touch him. 'O Hasan,' he said, 'why draw thy robes away from contact with me. Only the Most High know what will be the end of each.'
 (3) Another time I saw a child coming towards me holding a lighted torch in his hand. 'Where have you brought this light from?' I asked him. He immediately blew it out, and said to me, 'O Hasan, tell me where it is gone, and I will tell you whence I fetched it.'
 (4) One day a beautiful woman, with her face unveiled, came to me. She had just been quarreling with her husband, and no sooner had she met me than she began reporting his words. 'O woman,' I said, 'first cover thy face and then speak.' 'O Hasan,' she answered, 'In my excitement, I lost reason, and I did not even know that my face was uncovered. If you had not told me I should have gone thus into the bazaar. But you who with so great zeal cultivate the friendship of the Most High, ought you not to curb your eye, so as not to see whether my face was uncovered or not?' Her words sank deeply into my heart."


One day Hasan said to his friends, "You are like the companions of the Prophet, on whom be peace." They felt immensely gratified at this, but he added, "I mean your faces and beards are like theirs, but nothing else in you. If you had seen them, such was their absorption in divine things, you would have thought them mad. Had they seen you, they would not have regarded one of you as a real Moslem. They, in the practice of the faith, were like horsemen mounted on swift steeds, or like the wind, or like the bird which cleaves the air; while we progress like men mounted on donkeys with sores on their backs."


An Arab visiting Hasan Basri asked him for a definition of patience. Hasan answered, "There are two kinds of patience; one kind consists in bearing afflictions and calamities bravely and in abstaining from what the Lord has forbidden, the other kind consists in never lending an ear to the suggestions of Satan." "As for me," said the Arab, "I have never seen anyone more retiring from the world and more patient than thyself." "Alas," answered Hasan, "my renouncement of the world and my patience count as nothing." "Why dost thou say so?" exclaimed the Arab. "Because, if I practice renouncement it is only from dread of hell-fire, and if I keep patient it is only because I hope to enter Paradise. Now that man alone deserves to be taken into account who, without self-regarding motives practices patience for the sake of the Most High, and whose renouncement of the world has not Paradise for its object, but only the desire to please God. Such a way of acting is a manifest sign of sincerity of heart."


Asked on another occasion what his spiritual state was like, Hasan replied, "My state is like that of a man shipwrecked in the sea, who is clinging to a solitary plank."

Imam al-Ghazzali relates al-Hasan's words on the personal struggle against one's lusts (jihad al-nafs) in the section of his Ihya' entitled Kitab Riyada al-Nafs wa Tahdhib al-Akhlaq wa Mu`alaja Amrad al-Qalb ("Book of the Training of the Ego, Disciplining of Manners, and Healing of the Heart's Diseases") that al-Hasan al-Basri said:
Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from Allah one from the enemy. Allah shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from Allah, while he fights against the one from his enemy. To illustrate the heart's mutual attraction betwen these two powers the Prophet said: "The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful".... The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart... If man follows the dictates of anger and appetite, the dominion of Satan appears in him through idle passions (hawa) and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytan, who feeds on hawa. If he does battle with his passions and does not let them dominate his ego (nafs), imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it.

A measure of the extent of Hasan al-Basri's extreme godwariness and scrupulosity is given by his following statement, also quoted by Ghazzali: "Forgetfulness and hope are two mighty blessings upon the progeny of Adam; but for them, the Muslims would not walk in the streets"

He visited his dying neighbor, a Magian Fire worshipper named Simeon. Al-Hassan r.a approached his deathbed and advised him to become Muslim, but the man replied that there were three things stopping him.

"Firstly," he said, "Muslims speak ill of the world, but day and night pursue worldly things. Secondly, you say death is inevitable, but yet make no preparations for it. Thirdly, you say that God's face shall be seen, but you do everything contrary to his good pleasure."

Al-Hassan r.a conceded the fact, but replied that at least Muslims worship God, and not fire. "Fire is but a servant of Allah," said the saint." and if Allah wishes it will not burn one particle of my body." 

So saying, he thrust his hand directly into the burning flame. There it remained, unaffected by the heat, and true knowledge dawned upon Simeon. He converted to Islam, and later died. 

Al-Hassan r.a saw him in dream walking through the gardens of Paradise wearing a cloak of light. "Lord God!" he cried, “Such is your mercy! If you can forgive an unbeliever of seventy years because of one utterance, how will you exclude a believer?"
He never laughed. At the moment of death, he smiled once, and called out "What sin? What sin?" Someone saw him after his death in a dream, and asked him, "O Hasan Basri, thou who never wert in the habit of smiling, why, when dying, didst thou say with a smile, 'What sin? What sin?'" Hasan answered, "When I was dying I heard a voice which said, 'O Azrael, hold back his soul a little longer, it has still one sin,' and in my joy, I exclaimed, 'What sin?'"

The night of his death another of his friends had a dream, in which he saw the gates of heaven open and heard a voice proclaim, "Hasan Basri has come to his Lord, Who is satisfied with him."

The hadith master Abu Nu`aym al-Asfanahi mentions in his biographies of Sufis entitled Hilya al-Awliya' ("The Adornment of the Saints") that it is al-Hasan's student `Abd al-Wahid ibn Zayd (d. 177) who was the first person to build a Sufi khaniqa or guest-house and school at Abadan on the present-day border of Iran with Iraq.
As scholars have noted, very few of Hasan's original writings survive, with his proverbs and maxims on various subjects having been transmitted primarily through oral tradition by his numerous disciples.

Sayings of Hassan Basri:
Depart not from your religious practice out of fear of the antagonists who condemn you. They condemned even the Lord.
The end of the world and the beginning of the life to come is in the tomb.
Evil company degenerates the seeker.
Accumulating wealth is worse than drinking wine that is prohibited by the scriptures.
He who takes to solitude finds safety in it. Moreover, he who disowns allegiance to his carnal soul is set free.
He is wise who digs out the foundation of the world and builds instead the castle of otherworldliness (eternity) on it.
He, who gives up his spiritual practices to play the philanthropy in the world, trying to mould its evil ways, is ruined.
The Lord humiliates whosoever loves silver and gold and he who considers himself the leader of the c9mmunity is misled and belittled.
The Lord in the Qur’an says, “I shall forgive thee all thy transgressions if ye shall cast thy glances on none besides Me.”
It was asked, “How are you?” Hazrat Hasan replied, “I am like a person in the midst of the sea whose boat is shattered and he is floating in the waters.”

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