What a Wise Man Was He!
While the armies of Islam were advancing victoriously, there lived in Al-Madiinah a wonderful philosopher and wise man whose wisdom flowed in his blooming bright words. He kept saying to those around him, "Can I tell you about the best of your deeds which are more thriving and better than invading your enemies, cutting their throats and cutting yours, and better than dirhams and dinars?" Those who listened to him craned and hurried to ask him; "And what is that, O Abu Ad-Dardaa'?" Abu Al-Dardaa' resumed his speech and his face glittered with the light of faith and wisdom, "The remembrance of Allah; the remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life."
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That wonderful wise man was not preaching an isolationist philosophy nor by his own words. He was not preaching negativism nor the retirement from the responsibilities of the new religion that considers struggle its cornerstone. Yes, Abu Ad-Dardaa' was not that kind of man, but rather he was the man who took up his sword and struggled with the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) since he had embraced Islam till the help and victory of Allah came.
However, he was that type who finds himself in his full lively existence whenever he is alone contemplating under shelter of the sanctuary of wisdom, and he dedicated his life to seeking truth and certitude. Abu Ad-Dardaa', the wise man of those great days (May Allah be pleased with him) was a person who looked forward to His Prophet (PBUH), and he also believed that this faith, with its duties and understanding, was the only ideal way to truth.
Thus, he was engrossed with his faith, dedicating himself to it and forming his life strictly, wisely, and seriously according to it. He walked on that path till he arrived at the truth and took his high position among the truthful ones when communing with his Lord and reciting this verse: "Truly, my prayer and my devotion, my life and my death are all for GOD, the Lord of the Worlds" (6 :162).
Yes, the struggle of Abu Ad-Dardaa against and with himself ended in the attainment of this high spiritual position, remote superiority, and personal sacrifice which made him dedicate all his life to Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.
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Now, let us approach the saint and wise man. Do you observe the light that radiates round his forehead? Do you smell the good perfume coming from his direction? It is the light of wisdom and the perfume of faith. Faith and wisdom have come together happily in this man. His mother was asked about what he liked best; she answered, "Contemplation and consideration." This is completely in accord with the saying of Allah in more than one verse
"Therefore take warning, you, who have eyes to see! " (59 : 2).
When he urged his brothers to contemplate and think, he said to them, "Contemplation for an hour is better than worshipping for the whole night." Worshipping and contemplation and seeking after truth overpowered him and all his life.
On the day he embraced Islam and pledged his allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH) in this glorious religion, he was a successful trader of Al-Madiinah. He spent a part of his life in trade before he embraced Islam and before the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims migrated to Al-Madiinah.
He had just embraced Islam a short time before when ... But, let him complete the speech for us: I embraced Islam at the hands of the Prophet (PBUH) and I was a trader. I wanted to combine trade and worship, but they would never go together. I abandoned trade and retained worship. Today, it doesn't please me to sell and buy to earn 300 dinars a day, although my shop is at the door of the mosque. I can't say that Allah forbids selling, but I'd like to be of those whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from remembrance of Allah.
Do you see how he speaks completely and correctly, while wisdom and truth shine through his words. He hurries before we ask him, "Does Allah forbid trade, O Abu Ad-Dardaa'?" He hurries to sweep away this question from our minds and refers us to the superior goal that he was seeking and for which he left trade, in spite of his success as a trader. He was a man searching for spiritual excellence and superiority and looking for the maximum degree of perfection available to human beings. He wanted worship as a ladder that raises him to the highest level of goodness and approaches right in its glory and truth in its shining origin. If he wanted worship to be merely duties to be done and prohibition to be left, he could manage both his worship and his trade and deeds.
There are many good traders, and there are many good and pious persons working in trade. Among the Companions of the Prophet of Allah (PBUH), there were men whom neither traffic nor merchandise could divert from the remembrance of Allah. But they worked hard to develop their trade and their money by which they served the cause of Islam and satisfied the needs of the Muslims. But the method of those Companions does not diminish the method of Abu Ad-Dardaa', nor does his method diminish theirs, as everyone is fit for what he is created.
And Abu Ad-Dardaa' felt that he was created for what he devoted his life to: excellence in seeking after the truth by practicing the ultimate expression of celibacy according to the faith to which he was guided by Allah, His Prophet and Islam.
Call it mysticism if you wish, but it was the mysticism of a man who had plenty of them keenness of a believer, the capability of a philosopher, the experience of a fighter, and the jurisprudence of the Prophet's Companions. This made his mysticism a lively movement in establishing the soul and not merely shadows of this building.
Yes, that was Abu Ad-Dardaa', the Companion of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and his pupil. That was Abu Ad Dardaa', the saint and the wise man, a man who repelled life with both his hands, a man who secluded himself till he burnished and sanctified his soul and it became a dear mirror so that wisdom, rightness, and good reflected in it. That made Abu Ad-Dardaa' a great teacher and an upright wise man.
What happy persons are those who come and listen to him! Come and seek his wisdom, O people of understanding. Let us begin with his philosophy towards life and towards its delights and vanities. He was influenced to the depths of his soul by the saying of Prophet, "Little and satisfied is better than much and diverted." Allah Almighty said, " Woe to every taunting slanderer, backbiter, who piles up wealth and counts over it again and again ; thinking that his wealth will make him immortal! " (104 : 1-3).
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Leave the worries of life as far as possible," and "He who makes life his only aim, Allah will sunder his unity and make poverty between his two eyes. He who makes the Hereafter his only goal, Allah makes riches in his heart and makes every good hurry to him."
Therefore, he lamented over those who fell captive to the ambition of wealth and said, "I seek refuge with the Lord from the dispersion of the heart." He was asked, "What is dispersion of the heart, Abu Ad-Dardaa'?" He answered, "That means I have money every where." He called people to possess life by doing without it, that is the real possessing of it. But running after its endless enticements is the worst kind of slavery. Then he said, "He who can not do without life is lifeless."
In his opinion, money is only a means to a mild satisfied living. Thus, people should take it legitimately (in a halaal way) and earn it kindly and mildly and not covet it greedily. He said, "Don't eat anything unless it is good, don't earn any money unless it is good, don't take anything to your house unless it is good."
He wrote to his companions, "After that, any temporary thing you possess in life was possessed by someone else before you, and will be owned by another after you, and you have nothing except what you offered to yourself.
"Give preference over yourself to him from whom you are collecting money for your sons to inherit, since you collecting money for one of the two: either a good son who spends the money in obedience to Allah, thus he will be happy with what you earned and flee from troubles; or a disobedient son who spends it in sins and disobedience to Allah, and so you will be tortured by what you had collected for him. Entrust their living to the Bounty of Allah and save yourself"
The whole of life from Abu Ad-Dardaa's point of view is merely a loan. When Cyprus was conquered and the booty was carried to Al Madiinah, people saw Abu Ad-Dardaa' weep. Astonished, they approached and Jubair Ibn Nufair said to him, "Why are you weeping on the day that Allah supported Islam and the Muslims?" Abu Ad Dardaa' replied with wisdom and deep understanding, "Woe to you, Jubair.' What a trifling thing creatures are if they leave the commands of Allah. It was the best nation, having dominion, but if left the commands of Allah, and therefore it came to what you see." Yes, thus he reasoned the quick collapse to the armies of Islam in the conquered countries was caused by the bankruptcy of true spiritualism that protected them and connected them with Allah. So he feared for the Muslims in the coming days when the ties of faith would decline and the bonds to Allah, truth, and goodness would languish. Consequently, the loan would be taken from their hands as easily as it bad been put in their hands before.
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As the whole of life was merely a loan in his view, it was also a bridge to an immortal and more magnificent life.
Once his companions went to visit him when he was ill and found him sleeping on a piece of leather. They said to him, "If you wish, you will have better and more comfortable bedding." He replied pointing with his forefinger and looking with his bright eyes at the far distance, "Our home is there. For it, we gather and to it we return. We travel to it and we work for it."
This look at life was not only a point of view but also a way of life. Yaziid lbn Mu'aawiyah wanted to marry his daughter, Ad Dardaa', but he refused him and married her to a poor pious Muslim. People were greatly astonished by that behavior but Abu Ad Darda'a taught them, saying, "What about Ad-Dardaa' if she had the servants and splendors and she was dazzled by the decorations and pleasures of the palace? What then would happen to her religion?" This was a wise man of upright morals and clear heart. He refused everything that attracted the brain and fascinated the heart and by doing so he did not escape from happiness but escaped to it. Real happiness, in his belief, was to possess life, not to be possessed by it. Whenever the needs of people are limited by contentment and uprightness, they will realize the reality of life as a bridge on which they cross to the home of permanence, return, and immortality. Whenever they do so, their share of real happiness is greater and plentiful. He also said, "It is not better to have much money and many sons, but it is better to have much clemency, much knowledge, and to compete with people in the worship of Allah."
During the caliphate of `Uthmaan (May Allah be pleased with him), Mu'aawiyah was the governor of Syria and Abu Ad-Dardaa' agreed to occupy the position of the judge according to the caliph's desire. There in Syria, he stood strictly as an example to all those who were tempted by the pleasures of life. He began to remind them of the method of the Prophet (PBUH), his asceticism and that of the early righteous Muslims and martyrs.
Syria at that time was an urbanized region overflowing with the pleasures and amenities of life, and the inhabitants were greatly annoyed by that person who embittered their lives by his preaching. He gathered them and stood among them preaching, "O people of Syria, you are brothers in religion, neighbors at home, and supporters against your enemies. But, why aren't you ashamed? You earn what you don't eat, and build what you don't dwell in, and hope for what you can't achieve. The peoples before you collected cautiously, and hoped confidently, and built firmly, but their gatherings became perdition, their hope became delusion, and their homes became graves.
Those were the people of `Aad who filled the region from Adan to Oman with wealth and sons. Then a wide sarcastic smile would be drawn on his two lips, and be would wave his arm to the astonished multitude and cry sarcastically, "Who will buy the inheritance of `Aad people from me for two dirhams?"
He was a brilliant, magnificent, and luminous man. His wisdom was faithful, his feelings were pious, and his logic was perfect and cautious. In his point of view, worship was neither vanity nor pride but a request for good and exposure to the mercy of Allah and continuous supplication that reminded man of his weakness and the favor of his Lord upon him.
He said, "Request the good all your life, and expose yourselves to the mercy of Allah. Allah has fragrance in His mercy which He ushers upon those whom He pleases among His servants. Ask Allah to hide your defects and make your hearts steady and firm in times of trouble."
This wise man was always open-eyed to vanity in worship, of which he warned people. That vanity makes those who have weak faith worship proudly and boast of their worship to others. Listen to him saying, "An atom's weight of benevolence from a pious man is much better than a mountain's weight of worship from the boaster." He also said, "Don't charge people with unwanted affairs and don't call them to account as if you are their Lord. Guard your own souls. He who follows up the deeds of people will have his grief increased."
Abu Ad-Dardaa' did not want the worshipper, whatever rank he reaches in worship, to call people to account as if he were the Lord. He should praise Allah for His reconciliation and help by prayer, noble feelings, and good intentions for those who cannot achieve such success. Do you know any better and brighter wisdom than that of this wise man?
His companion Abu Qalaabah, tells us about him: One day Abu Ad-Dardaa' passed by a man who had committed a sin, and people were insulting him. He prohibited them and said, "If you found him in a ditch, would you not take him out of it?" They said, "Yes." He said to them, "Don't insult him. Praise Allah that He protected you from such an evil." They said to him, "Don't you hate him?" He said, "No, I hate his deed, and if he leaves it, he will be my brother."
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Yes, knowledge, in his opinion, was understanding, behavior, learning, method, idea, and life. Because this sanctification is of the wise, we find him claiming that the teacher is like the student in favor, recompense, and position. He saw that the greatness of life was dependent on goodness before anything else. He said, "Why do I see your scholars going away and your ignorant people learning nothing? The teacher and the student of goodness are equal in recompense and there is goodness in the other people besides the two." He also said, "People are of three types a scholar, an educated person, and a savage."
As we have seen before, knowledge was not separate from following the wisdom of Abu Ad-Dardaa' (May Allah be pleased with him). He said, "The greatest fear of my soul is that it should say to me on the Day of Resurrection, in front of all the creatures, O owner, did you know? and I would reply, Yes . It will say to me, What did you do with what you knew?
He used to respect scholars and honor them very much. Moreover, he used to pray to Allah saying, "O Lord Almighty, I take refuge in You against the curse of the scholars' hearts.
It was said to him, "How could you be cursed by their hearts?" He said, "Their hearts hate me." Do you see, he believed that the scholars hate is an unbearable curse; therefore he implored Allah to grant him refuge.
The wisdom of Abu Ad-Dardaa' (May Allah be pleased with him) recommended fraternity and established human relations on the basis of human nature itself. Thus he said, "To admonish your brother is better than to lose him. Give your brother advice and be tender with him, but do not agree with his covetousness lest you should be like him. Tomorrow death comes and you will lose him. And how can you weep over him after death when you did not give him his right while he lived?"
The fear of Allah in His servants is the strongest and hardest basis upon which Abu Ad-Dardaa' established the rights of fraternity. He (May Allah be pleased with him) said, "I hate to wrong anyone but I hate more and more to oppress the person who resorts to Allah, the Most High and the Most Great, for help against my injustice.
Abu Ad-Dardaa', what a great personality and bright soul you are! He warned people against delusion when they thought that unarmed weak people fell easy prey in their hands and power. He reminded them that those in their weakness have a destructive power when they implore Allah in their disability and offer their plea and the disgrace done to them by people.
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This was Abu Ad-Dardaa', the wise man. He was Abu Ad- Dardaa' the hermit, the worshipper, ever seeking Allah. When people praised his piety and asked him to implore Allah for them, he replied in humility, "I can't swim well and I fear drowning."
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All your wisdom, and you can not swim well, O Abu Ad Dardaa'? But what an astonishment, and you are nutured by the Prophet (PBUH), a student of the Qur'aan; son of early Islam, and a companion of Abu Bakr and Umar and the rest of those men!