-Tell me, Khalid, about the Hasan of Basra. I think you know him best.
-He is a man whose outside is like his inside, whose words are like his actions. When he tells people to do something good, he is the first to do it; and when he advises others not to do something; he is the first to shun it.
He has renounced what people have, but they are always in need of him.
-Enough have you said. Khalid. No people would go astray while they have a man like him in their midst.
This short dialogue between a well-known commander of Muslim armies and a friend of our hero summarized for us in few words the personality of AI-Hasan AI-Basri ,who is well-known in Islamic history for his truthfulness,authority on matters of religion, words of wisdom, Courageand other worldliness.
AI-Hasan AI-Basri was born in Madinah. His beloved mother was a former bondswoman of Umm Salamah the Prophet's wife, and his father Yasar was a former bondsmanto Zaid ibn Thabit, one of the scribes of Prophet Muhammad (salla-Uaahu 'afayhi wa-sallm). His real name was AI-Hasanibn Yasar, but he is better known in history by the name AI Hasan AI-Basri ('AI-Hasan of Basra'). He was indeed a very fortunate child, for though he was born after the death of Prophet Muhammad (salla-Uaahu 'alayhi wa-sallam), he was literally brought up in the Prophet's household: he spent his childhood with his mother's mistress Umm Salmah, stayed in constant contact with the other widows of the Prophet, was educated by their exemplary personalities and conduct and heard first hand reports about the Prophet (pbuh). Since Madinah then was still full of the former companions of Prophet Muhammad (sallalaahu'alayhi we-sallam) Al Hassan Al Basri had the golden opportunity to learn about Islam and its teachings directly from those great students and companions of Muhammad (sallalaahu 'alayhiwa-sallam), including people like 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, 'Abdullah ibn Umar and ·Ali ibn Abi Talib (raadi-Allahu 'anhum) whose personality and fluency left a special impression on his character.
At the age of fourteen his family moved to Basra in Iraq, whence he got the name of AI Basri. AI-Basra wasthen one of the major urban centers of culture in the IslamicEmpire, and it was full of the former companions of Prophet Muhammad (sallal-laahu 'alayhi wa-sallam) who taught the principles and practices of Islam to the thirsty students andmasses. AI-Hasan AI-Basri , fully utilized the opportunity. Spendingall his time in the mosque, learning, especially at the hands of the well-known companion of the Prophet (sallal-laahu 'alayhi wa-sallam), 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ood. Since many people, rulers and masses were greatlyinfluenced by the new wealth and prosperity that followed the expansion of the Muslim State East and westward, theyneeded constant reminders of the dangers of overindulgencein worldly affairs and luxury. Al Hassan Al Basri was one of such reminders. To him, truth had to be said even in the face of tyrants. For a righteous man of Allah like him should have no fear of anyone except his Creator and Master. Anexample of his daring personality is the incident between him and AI Hajjaj who was a notorious tyrannical governor of Iraq. AI-Hajjaj built himself a big palace at Wasil,and he invited people to see it (to impress them). The masses crowded the place, full of admiration of the palace.
To Al Hassan Al Basri this was a golden opportunity to preach to people, warning them of the dangers of tyranny and indulgence in worldly gains. Naturally, AI-Hajjaj was not very happy with his doing. He swore to kill him. Sohe ordered some of his soldiers to fetch him. Uponentering, he walked with confidence towards AIHajjaj muttering some prayers. Suddenly, the tyrant was awe-struck and almost unconsciously invited our hero to sitnext to him with all humility and respect. Then, he asked about some matters of religion, attentively listening to AI·
Hasan's answers, while everyone sat in a state of astonishment. Upon leaving the guard of AI-Hajjaj, full of surprise at the sudden turn of the events, asked him, "When you entered and saw the sword ready you muttered a few words. What did you say?" AI-Hasan answered, "I prayed to Allah: '0 my Master and Protector! Reverse the rage of AI-Hajjaj as you changed the fire into coolness andsafety for Abraham."
Among the many memorable occasions of pious advice offered by Al Hassan to rulers was his encounter with a great governor of Iraq and Persia, 'Umar ibn Hubaira. It is reported that Ibn Hubaira used to receive from the Caliph in Damascus orders which smelt of injustice. So he invited two religious scholars, including our heroto seek their opinion and advice. Following are rough translations of our hero's words of advice:
"Ibn Hubaira! Fear Allah in dealing with Yazeed (the Caliph), and fear not Yazeed in your dealings with Allah. Remember that Allah can protect you from Yazeed, butYazeed cannot protect you from Allah. A stern angel who never disobeys Allah will come to you taking you from yourgreat and wide palace to the narrow grave, where you will find no Yazeed, but only your wrong actions with which youdisobeyed the Lord and Master of Yazeed. Ibn Hubaira! If you are with Allah, He will protect you from the wrath of Yazeed ibn 'Abdul-Malik in this world and in the Hereafter.But if you are with Yazeed in defiance of Allah's commandments,Allah will leave you to the mercy of Yazeed. Remember that one should never obey a creature whoever he might be in disobedience to the Creator."
It was with this type of words of wisdom that he spent his eighty years of pious and ascetic life teaching and preaching, not only to rulers and the masses of his time, butalso to all readers of his wise sayings at all times.