The Patience of Abu Qilabah

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

I came across this story/incident, and subhan’Allah the lessons to be learnt from it are numerous. Please read…

Imam al-Awza’i narrates from ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad that he said:

I went out to the shore as a patrolman and our patrol at the time was in al-‘Areesh in Egypt. When I arrived at the shore, I came upon an open area and there was tent on it. In the tent was a man who had no hands and legs and he was hard of hearing and sight. None of his limbs were of benefit to him but his tongue, and he was saying: ‘O Allah, grant me (the ability) to praise you a praise through which I can sufficiently thank You for the favours You have bestowed upon me and by which You have preferred me over many whom You have created a great preference.’

Al-Awza’i said: ‘Abdullah said: ‘By Allah, I will certainly go to this man and I shall certainly ask him about this speech. Perhaps it is an understanding, or knowledge or inspiration which was inspired to him?’

So I approached the man and greeted him and said to him: ‘I heard you and you were saying: ‘O Allah, grant me (the ability) to praise you a praise through which I can sufficiently thank You for the favours You have bestowed upon me and by which You have preferred me over many whom You have created a great preference’ so what favour from the favours of Allah upon you are you praising Him for? And in what way did He prefer you over others a great preference that you need to thank Him for it?’

He said: ‘Don’t you see what my Lord has done? By Allah, if He sent the sky to me as a fire which burned me, or ordered the mountains to crush me, or the oceans to drown me, or the earth to swallow me up; it would only cause me to be more grateful to my Lord for the favour of this tongue He bestowed upon me.

However, O slave of Allah, as you have come to me, I have a need of you! Perhaps you see me and the state I am in, I cannot harm nor benefit myself. I had a young son who used to come to me at the time of prayer and help me do my ablution, and when I became hungry he’d feed me, and if I became thirsty he’d provide me with a drink but I have missed him for the last three days, so please look for him on my behalf may Allah have mercy on you.’

I said: ‘By Allah, no creature could fulfill the need of another which is greater in reward with Allah than a need similar to yours.’ So I set out looking for the young boy, and I hadn’t gone far before I came by a sand hill, and behold I found the boy who had been preyed upon by a beast which ate his flesh! I did istirjaa’ (saying ‘inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un’) and said: How am I going to be able to face this man with a gentle face?!’

As I was heading towards him, the dhikr (words of remembrance) of Ayyub (‘alayhisalam) came to my heart. So when I reached him I greeted him and he responded and said: ‘Are you not my companion?’ I said ‘Yes!’ He said: ‘What did you do about my need?’ I said: ‘Are you more honourable in the site of Allah or was Ayyub the Prophet?’ He said, ‘Of course, Ayyub the Prophet.’ I said: ‘Do you know what His Lord did with him? Did He not test him in his wealth, family and children?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘How did He find him?’ He said: ‘He found him patient, grateful and praising.’ I said: ‘He was not pleased with that for him until his relatives and loved ones deserted him?’ He said, ‘yes.’ I said: ”How did His Lord find him?’ He said: ‘He found him patient, grateful and praising; make this short may Allah have mercy on you.’ I said to him: ‘The young boy you sent me in search of, I found him in a sand hill having been preyed upon by a beast which had eaten his flesh. May Allah increase for you tour reward and may He inspire you with patience.’

The tested man said: ‘Praise be to Allah Who did not create from my progeny creations who would disobey Him and He would then punish them by the fire. He then did istirjaa’ and breathed a sigh and died.’

I said: ‘Indeed to Allah we belong and to Him is our return. What a huge calamity before me; a man like this, if I were to leave him the beasts would eat him, and if I stay I won’t be able to harm nor benefit.’ So I covered him in a cloak which was over him and sat at his head crying.

As I was sitting, four men came upon me and said: ‘O slave of Allah, what is your situation and what is your story.’ So I told them my story and his. They said to me: ‘Uncover his face for us, perhaps we know him.’ I uncovered his face and the men fell upon him kissing his eyes and his hands alternately and saying: ‘May our father be sacrificed; for how long these eyes were lowered from the prohibitions of Allah. May our father be sacrificed; for how long this body prostrated before Allah while the people were sleeping.’

I said: ‘Who is this, may Allah have mercy on you?’ They said, ‘This is Abu Qilabah al-Jurmi, the companion of Ibn ‘Abbas. He had tremendous love for Allah and the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)!!’

So we washed him and shrouded him with clothing we had with us and prayed over him and buried him. The men left and I went back to my station. When night fell, I put my head down and saw him in a dream, in a garden from the gardens of Paradise wearing two garments from the garments of Paradise while reciting the revelation (which means): “Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured. And excellent is the final home.” (al-Ra’ad: 24).

I said: ‘Aren’t you my companion?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘How did you receive this?!’ He said: ‘Verily, with Allah are levels that cannot be attained except with patience at times of trial and gratitude at times of prosperity along with fear of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, in private and in public.’

- From ‘al-Thiqat’ by Ibn Hibban (copied from an online source with slight edits)