Abdullah Bin Mubarak


Naima Sohaib

Muslim Heroes series No. 17

Translated by Farah Salman

Copyright  2017 Naima Sohaib

Shakespir Edition

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, including photocopying, recording, Internet or any storage and retrieval system without prior written permission from the Publisher.

Available in print at Dawah Books


Translated from the Urdu book “Islami Tareekh ki Qabil-e-Fakhr Shakhsiat” by Naima Sohaib

Table of Contents

Title page





Early Life

Abdullah on the Path of Knowledge

High Status in Hadith Sciences

Throne of Knowledge

Ibne Mubarak – a Balanced Personality

Spending in Allah’s Way

Preaching of Islam

Seclusion – A Priority

Noble Character and High Morals

Golden Quotes by Ibne Mubarak


Attributes and Virtues


About the Author

About the Translator

[][] Foreword

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

When Sr. Naima Sohaib approached me regarding the translation of one personality from her book “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Qabil-e-Fakhr Shakhsiaat” I chose Abdullah bin Mubarak. This is because he dedicated his life to acquire and impart the knowledge of the truth, something the Muslim youth today seem to be lacking. The crisis we face today is partly the crisis of knowledge.  Abu Hurairah (RA) reports that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Allah makes the way to paradise easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” [Muslim]. There is an abundance of information available on every topic imaginable, but very few students work hard to delve deeper into the treasure of wisdom and knowledge left by classical Islamic scholars.

Abdullah bin Mubarak’s transformation from a young adult indulged in music and entertainment to a serious student of religion has lessons for us. Who can be a better role model than a young man who strove his whole life to seek knowledge, acted on it himself and spread it to others? His timeless advice to students – to be sincere, pay attention to the teacher, ponder over and memorize the lessons and spread the learning – is as beneficial today as it was in his time.

I hope those who read this biography will realize that seeking true knowledge with the right intention is the starting point for success in this life and next. May Allah reward Naima for leading this project of building awareness of our true heroes and Sohaib Umar for editing this booklet.

Farah Salman

Abdullah bin Mubarak

A Great Scholar and an Exemplary Balanced Personality

[][][] Introduction

His name was Abdullah and his kuniyat was Abu Abdur Rahman. His genealogical chain is: Abdullah, son of Mubarak, son of Waazih-al-Hanzali.

Abdullah’s father was a slave of a merchant in the city of Haran. This merchant was from Bani Hanzala, a tribe of Bani Tamim. That is why Mubarak’s name carries Al-Hanzali.

[][] Background

Abdullah’s father Mubarak was a very pious and righteous man. During his servitude he was assigned to be the caretaker of his master’s orchard. He would fulfill his duty with utmost honesty and diligence. One day his master visited the orchard and desired a sweet pomegranate. Mubarak brought a pomegranate that he thought would be sweet. When the master opened the fruit and ate a few seeds, he found it to be sour. He angrily said, “You have been working here for so many years and you don’t know which tree has the sweetest pomegranate!” Mubarak replied, “Sir, how would I know, since my job is to take care of the trees which I do. I have never tasted the fruit of any tree to know about their sweetness.” His reply impressed the master so much that he said, “You are worthy of a better position; you should serve me as an advisor. Anyone can do the gardening.”

The master noted that along with honesty Mubarak had wisdom, intellect, strong faith and other qualities. He began to consult him in all kinds of matters. During this period the master was in search of a suitable match for his daughter. He was undecided about the proposals when he thought of consulting with Mubarak. He told him that there were several requests for marriage from very prosperous and rich families for her daughter (who possessed every desirable quality) and he wasn’t sure how to decide. Mubarak responded to his master, “This is not a matter to worry. In the time of ignorance people cared for just family name; Jewish people give priority to wealth, whereas the Christians mostly prefer beauty and looks. However, our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has advised us to look for piety and righteousness when deciding for marriage.”

This advice pleased the master. He made a decision in his heart and returned home. He shared the whole conversation with his wife who also praised Mubarak’s wisdom and his affinity with religion. Then he shared the thought that was brewing inside him, “Why don’t we wed our daughter to Mubarak? I find him the most righteous in the whole city.” At first the master’s wife was shocked to hear that her husband was considering a slave to be their son-in-law. Then he said something which can be a guiding light for Muslim parents in all ages when looking for a match for their sons/daughters. He said, “If we know and believe that our Prophet’s words are true and there is goodness in following them then we should marry our daughter to Mubarak without any worry.”

This wealthy businessman accorded importance to the Prophet’s advice and put his trust in Allah by valuing Mubarak’s character. Allah rewarded him by blessing his daughter with a child whose righteousness became a source of light for all. On the contrary, if he had chosen a spouse for his daughter based on a worldly trait, perhaps no one would have known him and his grandson in history. And of course the real reward is the reward of the hereafter.


As a result of this blessed union, the couple was granted a son in the year 118 Hijri (736 A.D.) who was named Abdullah. Since Abdullah’s mother was Khawarzami and father was from Marv, he is also known as Abdullah Marozi. In those days Marv was a town in Khurasan.

[]Early Life

Mubarak’s righteousness has been mentioned. His wife was no less in goodness of character. Both parents worked hard in bringing Abdullah up with good morals. Abdullah’s parents kept their focus on teaching and encouraging him to acquire Islamic knowledge of highest standards. However, as he approached youth they realized that he had less interest in studies and religion and was more keen to hang out with friends and listen to music. He began spending more and more time with friends and drifted away from his parents’ expectations. Both parents were extremely pained by the plight of their son, as his indulgence only grew in hobbies that were destructive to both this world’s success as well as the hereafter. They would only wonder as to where and when they went wrong in his upbringing. They would constantly pray to Allah and make pledges about what they would do in gratitude if Allah guided their son.

Finally, Allah heard them and an incident happened that changed the course of Abdullah’s life completely. One night he was in the company of his friends, engrossed in music and drinking. They all knocked off into sleep one by one as they were so drunk. Abdullah had a dream in which he saw a bird on a tree in a beautiful garden. The bird was reciting the Quran in its melodious voice. When he paid attention he realized that the bird was reciting verse 16 from Surah Al Hadeed: “Has the time yet not come for the believers that their hearts should melt for the remembrance of Allah and for the truth that has descended?”

The dream ended right there and he woke up under its strong influence. The dream shook him so much that he said, “My Lord the moment has come!” He kept saying this while breaking the bottles of wine. Then he destroyed the musical instruments too. He sincerely repented and promised to never return to a hedonistic and sinful lifestyle. Thus he turned over a new leaf.

[]Abdullah on the Path of Knowledge

After the revolutionary change in Abdullah’s life he gave up his previous interests. He now hated the company of his friends, parties, music and drinking. His utmost priority was to focus on acquiring knowledge.

At first, he began his quest for knowledge in his home town Murv. Murv was known for its educational activities so he benefitted from the teachers there. Then he traveled to different cities in Syria, Hijaz, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq and learned from their scholars. Allah had gifted him with great intellect as well as an exceptional memory. He would comprehend the material quickly and then memorize it as is. These two traits are the best tools to have in knowledge acquisition. Abdullah progressed rapidly in different branches of knowledge. One of his fellow students mentions his excellent memory by narrating an incident. He wrote, “Once we passed through a place where a man was giving a long speech. We stopped and listened to him. After the speech was over, Abdullah said to me, ‘I have memorized his speech.’ Another friend of ours challenged Abdullah to recite it and he repeated the whole speech verbatim, leaving us amazed.”

Acquisition of knowledge has been difficult in all times, requiring a lot of hard work. It was even more difficult in those days because it demanded travel to distant cities to seek knowledge from various scholars who were scattered around the Muslim empire. These travels required money which Abdullah had in abundance. After the death of his maternal grandfather Abdullah’s mother inherited his entire wealth. Abdullah used this money in his quest for knowledge.

Once his father gave him 50,000 Dirhams for business. Abdullah took the money and left for a long journey. He spent his time and money in acquiring knowledge of Hadith from various scholars and worked very hard. When he returned home, his father inquired about the kind of business he invested in and what profit he had earned. He replied, “I am grateful that I did not only earn the profit of this world, but invested in a trade that is fruitful for both worlds.” His father became overjoyed on hearing this and asked, “What business is that?” Abdullah directed him to the Hadith books on which he had spent all his fortune. The righteous father’s face beamed with happiness as he was aware of the value of knowledge. He embraced his son and made prayers for him. Then he gave him an additional 30,000 Dirhams and said, “If there is any deficiency left in your trade then you may use this money to fulfill it. May Allah bless you in this trade and enrich you with its profit in this world and next.”

Mubarak’s prayers were accepted. Abdullah benefited from all the great scholars of his time. The likes of Imam Abu Hanifa, Sufyan Sauri, Imam Malik, Sufyan bin Aynia, Hisham bin Urwa, Imam Aamash and Imam Auzai were among his teachers. These are some of the famous names that everyone knows about. The list of his teachers is so long that one wonders how can someone be a student of so many people. The fact of the matter is that Abdullah spent his whole life acquiring knowledge. It seems that there was no notable scholar that he did not take classes from. Someone once asked him, “For how long will you keep learning?” He answered, “Till death; perhaps I still do not know of something that may benefit me.” This passion to learn took him to journey in every direction, so much so that Ahmed bin Hanbal who is himself known for his knowledge tourism witnesses, “There is no one who has traveled more than Abdullah for the sake of Islamic knowledge.”

Even though Abdullah bin Mubarak was well-versed in contemporary fields such as Fiqh, literature, language, grammar and poetry, the great love and interest that he had for Hadith led him to an exceptionally high status as a Hadith scholar.

[]High Status in Hadith Sciences

When one strives for and works hard towards a certain goal Allah (SWT) makes the path easier for him. We can see this in case of Abdullah bin Mubarak who worked day and night to seek knowledge. His expertise in Hadith was to the degree that whenever scholars of Hadith disputed about any Hadith they would turn to him to decide the matter. Fasala says, “I used to frequently visit the scholars of Hadith in Kufa. Whenever a disagreement on a particular Hadith arose, people said to take it to Ibn Mubarak, the ‘Hadith doctor’ to settle the matter.”

Abdullah bin Mubarak earned this status by continuous hard work. At times he would stay up all night. Once after Isha prayer, he was in a discussion with Ali bin Hasan on a particular Hadith, and they were so absorbed that they kept on discussing till the call for Fajr prayer. There was a time when he used to study and read books with such attention that he did not realize what was going on around him. Someone asked him, “Don’t you get dreaded by reading books all the time?” He replied, “Why would I feel dreaded? I experience the company of the Prophet (SAW) and his companions in my solitude.”

Soon people began to recognize Ibn Mubarak as the leading scholar of Hadith. Even his teachers began to consult him in matters pertaining to Hadith. Ibn Moeen, who is known for having memorized Ahadith, states that Abdullah bin Mubarak narrated 21,000 Ahadith. This is why every famous book of Hadith contains many of his narrated Ahadith. Even his teachers honored him by narrating Ahadith from him. A person from Khurasan once asked Ibn Mubarak’s teacher Sufyan about an issue. He replied, “Why do you ask me? You have the greatest scholar from East and West (i.e. Abdullah bin Mubarak); you should ask him. In his presence what is the need to consult me?” Another person once referred to Ibn Mubarak in front of Sufyan as scholar of the East. He corrected him by saying, “Refer to him as the scholar of East and West.”

Imam Malik was also among Ibn Mubarak’s teachers. He had listened to Imam Malik reciting his famous Hadith book Mauttah. He also narrated Ahadith from Imam Malik. Despite this student-teacher relationship Ibn Mubarak had an elevated status in the eyes of Imam Malik. Yahya bin Yahya Andulusi, a famous student of Imam Malik, narrates an incident of Ibn Mubarak entering the Imam’s Hadith class, “Ibn Mubarak once came to Imam Malik during his class. Imam Malik got up and brought him to sit next to him. Before this the Imam had never expressed this gesture for anyone. After Ibn Mubarak sat down the lesson resumed. A reciter would keep reading. At significant points Imam Malik would pause the reading and ask Ibn Mubarak, ‘Do you people (i.e. of Khurasan) have a Hadith or saying of the companions of the Prophet about this?’ Ibn Mubarak would respond in a very respectful and humble manner. After a little while he excused himself and left the gathering (probably finding it inappropriate to show off his knowledge in front of his teacher; on the other hand Imam Malik did not feel any disgrace in benefiting from his highly accomplished student). Imam Malik was so impressed by his respectful etiquette that he told his students, ‘This was Ibn Mubarak, the jurist of Khurasan.’”

At another time Ibn Mubarak was in the gathering of Hammad bin Zaid. The students of Hadith requested Hammad to ask Ibn Mubarak to narrate Ahadith. When Hammad asked him he exclaimed, “Subhan Allah, how can I narrate while you are present?” His teacher swore in Allah’s name, and said, “You must do it.” Now there was no other option but to honor his oath and narrate Ahadith. Out of respect for his teacher Ibn Mubarak only narrated the Ahadith that he had learned from Hammad and did not narrate any other Ahadith.

Competent and respectful students are always a source of pride for their teachers, and Ibn Mubarak had both of these traits. He mentioned himself that, “It took me twenty years of serious effort to seek knowledge, but forty years to learn proper etiquette.”

In his time the pursuit of Hadith sciences was highly regarded and all students of faith would desire to attain this honor. That is why we see a number of extraordinary personalities among Hadith scholars who were blessed with the best of qualities. Despite this the personal lives of narrators of Ahadith were scrutinized in minute details by Hadith scholars to address the grave issue of Hadith fabrication. They criticized every little thing and did not spare even small flaws and weaknesses of the narrators. Yet it is surprising to note that we find no criticism about Ibn Mubarak in the books of biographical evaluation of narrators. This is an extraordinary status that only a select few have earned.

Like every great Hadith scholar Ibn Mubarak too compiled some rules of Hadith narration. Mujeebullah Nadvi has stated some of these in his book ‘Taba Tabaeen’:

p<{color:#000;}. For a Hadith to be correct and considered authentic, it is important that all its narrators are reliable and Faqeeh (a Faqeeh to Ibn Mubarak is a person who understands the impression of words, the grammar rules, the expressions of language and the nuance of meanings). The status of Ahadith whose narrators are reliable but not Faqeeh is a notch lower.

p<{color:#000;}. To have fewer narrators in the chain of Hadith is not a proof of its validity and authenticity. If every narrator is reliable, however, even if it is a long chain of narrators, then the Hadith will be more authentic.

p<{color:#000;}. The authenticity of a Hadith is based on the narrator having heard it himself and recording and preserving it; then narrating it with optimum responsibility.

p<{color:#000;}. Ibn Mubarak accepted the rule of Darayat (evaluating a Hadith from the assessment of its contents rather than the reliability of its narrators) only in special cases.

p<{color:#000;}. He did not approve at all if the narrator did not clearly mention his teacher.

From the early part of his youth onwards Ibn Mubarak’s whole life was spent in the service of Hadith. Even though he was engrossed in the study of Hadith day and night, yet the value of this branch of knowledge remained so high in his mind that he would not tolerate at all when someone took even a slightly casual approach in this matter. Once someone inquired about a Hadith on the way. Ibn Mubarak responded with disapproval and said, “This is not the time and place for narration of Hadith.” Another time the city mayor came to Ibn Mubarak along with a hired royal scribe. Ibn Mubarak thought that the royal pompousness was not in match with the sincere yearn for knowledge. He did not allow him to hear the Hadith recital. However, when the mayor got ready to leave, Ibn Mubarak followed him and held the rein of his horse (as a mark of respect for the guest). He asked, “Why are you holding my horse’s rein when you denied me the Hadith recital?” Ibn Mubarak said, “I can humble myself in order to be hospitable, but I cannot let the Hadith of the Prophet belittled.”

[]Throne of Knowledge

Abdullah bin Mubarak’s life was like that of a soldier, engaged in a constant strife. He did not station himself in one city for too long, though he mostly lived in Khurasan and Baghdad. Wherever he went he kept on augmenting his knowledge. The unusual thing was that Ibn Mubarak would join a study group as a student, but people would recognize him and become his student. The scholars and Islamic jurists of his time would be ever ready to benefit from his knowledge. Ibn Mubarak once came to the gathering of a famous Hadith scholar Hammad bin Ziyaad. Hammad did not recognize him and asked him where he was from. When he answered that he was from Khurasan he asked again, “Which city of Khurasan?” Ibn Mubarak replied that he was from the city of Marv. Hammad asked him if he knew Abdullah bin Mubarak. “I am in front of you,” replied Ibn Mubarak. Hammad was overjoyed and embraced him right away.

Well known scholars like Muammar bin Rashid, Abu Ishaq al Fazari, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, Ishaq Rahviya, Abu Daud al Tayalisi and Fuzail bin Ayaz were among Ibn Mubarak’s students. Moreover, anywhere he went people would request him to teach them and thus a study circle would begin. His students were highly impressed by his knowledge and personality. Fuzail bin Ayaz used to swear about his teacher in these words, “I have never laid my eyes on anyone like Ibn Mubarak.”

[]Ibn Mubarak – A Balanced Personality

Ibn Mubarak’s time was the best of times. The Islamic world shone with the presence of honorable Tabaeen (those who learned from the companions of the Prophet), Hadith scholars, jurists and spiritual leaders. Even among these outstanding contemporaries, Ibn Mubarak earned a special status due to the collection of worthy qualities in his personality. Mostly people who specialize in one area or department of knowledge do not excel in other fields. Similarly, people who devote themselves to one branch of religion sometimes lack in other aspects. However, the beauty of Islam is its balance and the Prophet (SAW) was a perfect example of this balance. The noble messenger was a complete role model in every aspect of human life. His companions understood the significance of doing their best in all areas, but as time passed, some confined themselves to just studies and teaching, while others concentrated on either Jihad, worship or social welfare. In doing so they appeared to practically ignore or belittle the other aspects of religion. In effect, the various branches of Islamic faith got distributed among different factions and the number of people acting upon the Quranic instruction “Enter into Islam completely” (Surah Baqarah verse 208) decreased over time.

Abdullah bin Mubarak’s personality stood out among his contemporaries in that he did not leave out any aspect of religion. His performance and character were topmost in each aspect such as scholarship, Jihad, worship, piety, service of humanity, etc. Along with all this, he was a successful merchant too. He had divided his year into three parts. Four months were given to knowledge and business, another four would be spent in Jihad, and the remaining four in Hajj travel. Usually people think that business is a worldly endeavor, thus it is improper for a religious person to spend his time in business dealings. Once a student of his, Fuzail bin Ayaz, inquired as he saw him busy in his trade, “You tell us not to care for this world while you take precious goods from Khurasan to Hijaz.” Ibn Mubarak replied, “I do business only to avoid dependence on anyone, to protect my honor and self-esteem, to fulfill my obligations towards all those who have due rights on me, and to be able to worship Allah with full focus and contentment.”

Ibn Mubarak began his journey in Islam with the pursuit of knowledge, followed by increased inclination towards Jihad. The first time he experienced Jihad and risked his life in combat for the sake of Allah, he spontaneously uttered, ‘Inna Lillah…’ (surely we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return). Someone asked about this statement (which is usually said when one experiences a tragedy). He replied, “I spent all my life in gaining knowledge, but I found the door to Jannah here (in Jihad).” After returning from his trip he authored his book ‘Al Jihad’.

In that period there were frequent battles being fought between the Romans and the Muslims. Ibn Mubarak participated in these battles and demonstrated his bravery. Once the two armies confronted each other. A Roman arrogantly came forward and called upon the Muslim army for someone to face him. A man whose face was covered in veil came out from the Muslim camp and killed him, followed by killing five more one after the other. The Muslim soldiers excitedly removed the veil from the brave Muslim fighter’s face and saw that he was Ibn Mubarak. In most battles his gallantry was noteworthy. Abdur Rahman bin Mahdi says that his eyes had not seen anyone as courageous and valiant as Abdullah bin Mubarak. He did not fear death. Despite this courage, the thought of accountability in the hereafter would bring tears to his eyes. Accountability of the Day of Judgement always surrounded him. Once he was offered the Zamzam water when he was sitting near the Kaaba. He faced the Kaaba and said, “The Prophet’s Hadith tells us that whatever intention we have while drinking Zamzam it is fulfilled; and I intend it to quench my thirst on the Judgement Day.”

A famous scholar of Madinah Qasim bin Ahmed narrates, “Once I wondered why Abdullah bin Mubarak’s rank and honor is so high, when we are also equally diligent in prayer, fasting as well as other scholarly academic work. Soon I found my answer when he and I became colleagues in our journey to Syria. We camped at a place when the night fell. When we sat down for dinner, all of a sudden the lamps went out. One of our colleagues stood up to light the lamps again. I glanced at Ibn Mubarak and saw that his face was wet with tears. We all were uncomfortable in the pitch darkness of the moment, but for Ibn Mubarak it was a reminder of the next world, the darkness of the grave and the loneliness one has to endure there. That day I realized that it was due to this fear of accountability that had raised his ranks among people.”

The first book that Ibn Mubarak wrote was ‘Kitab-uz-Zuhd’ in which he emphasized the importance of shunning worldly pleasures. When he lectured his students on this topic, his eyes would overflow with tears and his voice would choke. In this book he compiled the Ahadith on this topic as well as quotes of the companions and the interpretation of various verses as narrated by Tabaeen.

[]Spending in Allah’s Way

Abdullah bin Mubarak inherited abundant wealth from his father. When he started his own business Allah blessed his efforts and his trade flourished really well. He used to spend his wealth generously for the sake of Allah’s pleasure. The incidents in this regard are many and teach the rich and wealthy a great lesson. The truth of the matter is that the love of wealth and this world cannot be combined with awareness and fear of Allah in one heart. Ibn Mubarak always tried his best to have someone share food with him. He preferred to eat with a guest. He would say that a meal that is shared with others will be easier to be accountable for. At times he himself would be fasting, but would have guests over for lunch. His house in Marv was a focal point for people in need. Those who needed a loan or wanted to get rid of the burden of interest would be at his door. Many students had their allowances fixed for them. Widows and orphans would also surround Ibn Mubarak for their needs. In addition, he would make extra effort to find indebted people in order to pay off their loans. Every year hundreds of thousands of Dirhams were spent in helping the poor and the needy.

Ibn Mubarak used to stay at an inn in the city of Raqqa on his way to Syria. There was an attendant at this inn who used to serve him and also desired to learn Hadith. Once Ibn Mubarak made his stop at the inn and did not see the attendant. Upon inquiry he was told that the attendant was indebted to a man who had him arrested when he could not pay off the loan. Ibn Mubarak went straight to the lender and found out all the details. He paid the attendant’s loan and asked the lender to swear that he would not disclose to him as to who paid his loan. Then he soon left the inn and departed the city. When the young man was released and came back to the inn, he found out that Ibn Mubarak had come for a stay and had asked about him. The attendant was sorry for missing the chance to meet him. He traveled onto the route for Syria following the caravan and caught up with him. When he met with Ibn Mubarak, he told him how someone had secretly paid his loan and thus he was released. Ibn Mubarak just responded by saying, “Thank God you were saved from the trouble,” and did not tell him anything more. When Ibn Mubarak passed away the lender revealed the secret.

Ibn Mubarak worked diligently in releasing people from the burden of loans and in helping them stand on their own feet. A man had a loan of 700 Dirhams. He mentioned it to Ibn Mubarak, who sent a note with the man to his treasurer, stating to pay him 7,000 Dirhams. The man in debt verbally told the treasurer that he needed 700 Dirhams. Thinking that Ibn Mubarak had made a mistake, the treasurer sent him back with a note asking for clarification about the amount. Ibn Mubarak responded by instructing that he should give 14,000 Dirhams. The treasurer shockingly wrote back that with this kind of spending he will lose all his wealth in a matter of days. Ibn Mubarak wrote back quoting a Hadith, that “If a Muslim gives a pleasant surprise to his Muslim brother on something that he was not expecting then Allah will forgive him.” Then he wrote, “Now don’t you think that giving 14,000 is a good deal?”

During Hajj Ibn Mubarak’s generosity was a treat to watch. He served the pilgrims with great fervor and arranged for their food by sending the goodies on camels. His companions that traveled with him for Hajj would give their money bags to him as the group leader. He would write their names and the amount on each bag and keep them safe. Then he would take care of all payments of food, lodging and every other expense and comfort, to the extent that they would also buy gifts for their families. After returning home from Hajj, he would invite all his Hajj companions to dinner and return the money bags to their owners with the whole amount still intact. At one of these dinners someone asked him why he did not tell them before that the Hajj expenses were a treat from him. He said, “If I did, people would hesitate in spending my money. This way they spend with ease and happiness and I get the reward of looking after the pilgrims.” He would also remember his friends and relatives who stayed behind and he would bring back gifts for them from Makkah and Madinah.

Often times it is observed that even those people who want to live according to their faith are unable to set their priorities right. If they have made a tradition to offer Hajj every year, they will go for Hajj no matter what the circumstances are. They prefer their voluntary Hajj even though the people around them may be struck with a sudden tragedy or deprived of basic needs. Ibn Mubarak was different; he used to go for Hajj annually, but if he saw someone in need and he did not have enough to both provide for the needy and go to Hajj, he would give priority to his fellow human beings. Once when he was on his journey to Hajj, he came across a poor girl who was searching for something in garbage. He walked up to her and saw that she had a dead chicken in her hand. He asked her what she would do with it. She said, “Some tyrants have killed our father and kicked us out of our house. My brother and I are on our own, without food and clothes. We haven’t eaten for two days. I left my brother at home who is too worn out because of hunger. I am going to take this dead chicken home. Even though it is Haram (prohibited), but not for us,” and she began to cry. Ibn Mubarak was deeply moved by her story and cried with her. Then he gave the girl whatever he had with him and returned home with only 20 gold coins (enough for the return journey to Marv). He then told his treasurer, “Now let’s go back home; I hope that Allah will accept our Hajj based on our intent.”

[]Preaching of Islam

Abdullah bin Mubarak knew the true merit of knowledge. He was ever ready to spend on spreading the message of Islam. He cared about his students’ needs and would keep an active search for students who needed scholarships. People who did not value this trait asked him why he spent so much on students’ scholarships. He would reply that he supported those whose yearn for knowledge and honesty he knew personally. He would argue that those students had personal and family commitments and financial needs, and if they were to go after earning their living then who will acquire knowledge and spread it. Helping these students was therefore equivalent to helping the cause of Islam. He believed that after the end of prophethood there was nothing more worthy than to spread Islamic knowledge.

Among the various fields of knowledge he especially had keen interest in the spread of Hadith sciences. Once some people questioned him as to why he is spending on students from out of town. His answer was: “I find them more passionate in learning Hadith. If I don’t support them, then how will they quench the sincere desire for knowledge they have? Today if their financial needs are taken care of, tomorrow they will spread the knowledge of Ahadith of our Prophet (SAW) in the Ummah. I do not know of anything more noble than this work.”

Ibn Mubarak was always concerned about the growth and success of all his students. Once in his class there was a very quiet student who never asked a question. Other students were actively engaged in interacting with the teachers and among each other. Ibn Mubarak wrote a tiny note with poetic verses on it and gave it to him. The verses meant the following:

Today you hesitate in asking

Tomorrow you will be empty handed

Poke the teacher with questions

You will find him kind and attentive towards you

Remember, if you do not cry out (for help) like widows

You will be leaving (this class) empty handed.

Ibn Mubarak advised his students to pay attention to five things:

p<{color:#000;}. Have the right intention;

p<{color:#000;}. Listen to the teacher with full focus;

p<{color:#000;}. Ponder upon the points they have heard;

p<{color:#000;}. Remember what they have heard and understood;

p<{color:#000;}. Spread what they have learnt to others.

He would tell them that if they were careless about even one of the above points, their knowledge would remain imperfect.

Ibn Mubarak not only cared about students but was also concerned about the scholars. While he encouraged them, he often warned them as well. He reminded them that the scholars had the legacy of prophets; if they indulged in the greed for the world then where would the common person go to learn his religion and who would they look up to as role models?

Once he was asked, “Who are the lowly ones?” He replied, “Those who use religion to earn their living.” Then he quoted the Prophet’s Hadith that talks about the hypocrisy of scholars. He was clearly against turning the religion into a profession. He believed that when money is involved then it is not easy to maintain sincerity. That is why prophets always told their people that they expected no reward from them for delivering the message of Allah. The best approach in this path is to not desire wealth, fame, position or honor. It is unfortunate that despite such clear advice many people have turned Islamic seminars and training courses into a business. Some even sit on the Shari’ah boards of various commercial entities / banks and receive money for issuing religious verdicts (Fatawa). Many Islamic institutions are charging money for online Islamic courses. Even where the structure is not exactly profit based, there is a culture of receiving gifts and favors from people. Abdullah bin Mubarak is an exemplary role model for us in this regard, who spread knowledge and preached religion selflessly and even contributed financially instead of receiving money for his services.

[]Seclusion – A Priority

Abdullah bin Mubarak’s personality was such that people would flock towards him with adoration wherever he went. When his popularity kept growing, he left his residence in Marv and started living in an unknown place in Kufa. When he was asked about this he said, “People like it when surrounded by fans, but I dislike it; whereas it is disliked to be anonymous and yet I prefer it.” Throughout his life many times he reflected this preference. Once he was at a drinking water station in a huge crowd. Due to pushing and shoving in the crowd he fell down. When he got up he said to his colleague, “One should live like this that people don’t recognize him nor give him too much attention, special honor, or recognition.”

Ibn Mubarak preferred seclusion due to three reasons. First, it gives a person time to reflect and ponder. Second, one stays away from useless talk and backbiting. Third, one is less likely to become arrogant as there is no excessive attention of people. Some people requested Ibn Mubarak that it would be really good if he did not go home right away after prayers, and instead talk to them. He said, “I leave to be with the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and those following them (Tabaeen).” People asked in surprise, “Where are the companions and those following them?” He clarified, “I spend my time in study which is indirectly being in the company of the Prophet’s companions and their followers (Tabaeen). I ponder over their deeds and their legacy. What would I gain in your company as people mostly indulge in backbiting. Now that many years have passed since the early period of Islam, resisting the company of people draws one closer to Allah. The careful one should run away from people like you run away from a lion. If one guards one’s religion, and does his best, it can be expected that Allah (SWT) will not let his efforts go to waste.”

Despite this critique of people’s behavior, Ibn Mubarak’s popularity was such that his fans were present in every city and town. Once he traveled to the city of Raqqa. At the same time the caliph Haroon Rasheed was also present there. When people heard the news of Ibn Mubarak’s visit, the whole city rushed to welcome him. Everyone was going in the same direction. The caliph’s slave girl saw the scene from the balcony of the palace. She asked around as to whose arrival had created all this excitement. People told her that the scholar of Khurasan Abdullah bin Mubarak was visiting. On hearing this she spontaneously commented that the real kingdom was Ibn Mubarak’s, while the caliph could not gather people without the aid of his guards and servants. During that time the Muslim empire spanned three continents and a huge army was appointed to guard and serve the caliph. In this regard Ibn Mubarak’s own comment reflects the truth. He told his students, “A righteous person is more honorable than a king. A king gathers people around him, while the righteous person flees from people but the people are always after him.”

Abdullah bin Mubarak did not approve of getting close to the ruling class. Haroon Rashid tried to meet him several times, but he kept postponing. Ibrahim Mosuli was Haroon’s courtier and loved Ibn Mubarak. He narrates, “Once Haroon insisted on arranging a meeting with Ibn Mubarak, but I kept putting it off, because I knew that if Ibn Mubarak saw something against Shari’ah at the royal court, he would openly criticize the caliph; and I feared an unpleasant outcome.” All of Ibn Mubarak’s companions knew that he would rather stay away from the royalty. They also knew that in his view it was detrimental for scholars to get too cozy with the royalty. Ibn Mubarak was saddened when his friend Ibn Uliya befriended some elite ministers and frequently attended their high-class gatherings. Once when Ibn Uliya came to visit Ibn Mubarak, he noticed that he seemed a bit upset. On returning home he wrote a letter to Ibn Mubarak and asked about his reserved behavior. In reply Ibn Mubarak wrote a few poetry verses conveying the message that his growing interaction with the royalty may be out of necessity but it is bound to affect his religion. Ibn Uliya understood the message and kept away from these gatherings.

[]Noble Character and High Morals

Abdullah bin Mubarak possessed excellence in morals and character, as endorsed by his contemporaries. He was highly God conscious in his dealings with fellow humans. In Syria, he once borrowed a pen from someone, and later forgot to return it. When he came back to his home town Marv, he realized that the pen was still with him. He traveled all the way back to Syria to return the pen and was not content until he had done so. He used to say, “Returning one Dirham that is doubtful is better than spending 100,000 Dirhams in the path of Allah.”

His life was full of incidents like this. Actions that would not bother the common person at all were serious sins in his eyes. Once he was in combat with a Zoroastrian. During fighting when it was time for the Zoroastrian to pray, Ibn Mubarak paused the fight upon his enemy’s request. However, when he was bowing down to the Sun as his god, the thought of killing him crossed Ibn Mubarak’s mind. Then he remembered this verse from the Quran and stopped himself. “Fulfill your promises and commitments, indeed you will be asked about them” (Surah Bani Israel, verse 34). When the enemy was done with his prayer and saw Ibn Mubarak’s face reflecting the intensity of emotions, he inquired what he was thinking. Ibn Mubarak plainly told him his thought of killing him and why he had stopped. The Zoroastrian was so impressed by his answer that he later accepted Islam, saying, “The best (most fair) Lord is the Lord who will punish His friends for doing wrong even to the enemy.”

On the one hand Ibn Mubarak practiced wisdom in terms of reforming the wrongs in people, and on the other hand he did not tolerate any violation of religion. He disapproved any act that was against the Sunnah. He would not compromise by staying quiet, nor did he scold people to correct them. Instead, he would make an effort to convey his message in the best possible manner. Once someone sneezed and did not say, ‘Alhamdulillah’. First Ibn Mubarak waited for a bit then asked him, “What should we say when we sneeze?” He quickly said, “Alhamdulillah”. Ibn Mubarak responded by saying, “YarhamukAllah.”

Some people have the habit of asking question after question to the point of annoyance when they get hold of a scholar. Typically these people do not ask questions to understand something but just to convey their own perspective, no matter how flawed or superfluous it may be. It is nearly impossible to convince these people no matter how logical the answer may be. They become upset – not just with the scholar but often with religion itself – if they are reprimanded. If they are ignored or if the scholar remains silent then they think he does not have a convincing answer to their question. Abdullah bin Mubarak had a clever way to answer such weird questions without causing any ill-will. Once a person asked him, “O Sheikh tell me what kind of habits are beneficial?” Ibn Mubarak replied, “The ones that are related to the use of intellect.” He asked, “What if a person does not have intellect?” Ibn Mubarak replied, “Then he should have good manners and etiquette.” The man asked again, “What if he is devoid of that too?” He said, “Then he should be compassionate and empathetic so that people consider him as sincere to them.” The man did not stop at this and asked yet again, “What if he cannot do this either?” Ibn Mubarak replied, “Then he should keep quiet so that his flaws remain hidden.” “And if he cannot even do that?” asked the man. “Sudden death would be beneficial for such a person so that people and he himself can be freed from his misfortune,” Ibn Mubarak concluded. At another time a person asked him, “Is there anyone left who can give advice?” He responded spontaneously, “Is there anyone left who is willing to take advice?”

[]Golden Quotes by Ibn Mubarak

Abdullah bin Mubarak was blessed with the gift of articulation. He communicated in beautiful prose as well as poetry. Even today his golden quotes are a great inspiration for readers. On one occasion he said, “People who cry over the inadequacy of material wealth they have become happy with just a little religion and consider it enough for themselves. Look at kings, how they neglect their religion for the sake of this world. So you should try to get closer to the Almighty and ignore the worldly riches of the kings.”

Once someone asked, “How can goodness reach the heart?” Ibn Muabarak replied, “When the heart is covered with the love of the materialistic world and sins, then purity cannot enter it.” At another occasion someone asked him, “What should one do to accomplish great deeds?” Ibn Mubarak said, “Small deeds can become huge due to the purity of intentions and great acts of righteousness can be insignificant if the intention is screwed up.”

Once Ibn Mubarak asked Musayyab bin Wazih, “Do you know what brings general discord and widespread chaos?” Musayyab replied that he did not know. Ibn Mubarak said, “When the elite is corrupted then corruption becomes widespread.” Then he said, “There are five classes of the Ummah, and when they deteriorate then the whole environment gets polluted:

p<{color:#000;}. Scholars of Islam – who are the inheritors of the prophets. If they become materialistic, then who will be the role model for the public?

p<{color:#000;}. Businessmen and traders – who are the emblem of trust and honesty. If they fall into cheating and deception then who can be trusted?

p<{color:#000;}. Fighters in the way of Allah (Mujahideen) – they leave their homes for the sake of Allah, but if they start stealing the spoils of war then how can the enemy be defeated?

p<{color:#000;}. Righteous and devout believers – they are the true kings on earth. If their dealings are corrupted then who else can people look up to?

p<{color:#000;}. The rulers – who are the protectors of the citizens; if the shepherd turns into a wolf then who will safeguard the herd?”


Abdullah bin Mubarak was 63 years old when he left for Jihad as usual towards Syria. He had only reached Hayiat, a small town near Mosul, when he fell ill. He paused the journey and waited for his condition to get better, but it only got worse. He desired for a wheat drink but when it was brought to him, he found out that it was taken from a courtier of Haroon Rasheed. He refused to have the drink. When his condition got even worse, he realized that his time had come. He asked his slave Nazr to pick him up and lay him on the bare ground. Nazr obeyed his master but became tearful upon seeing Ibn Mubarak lay on the dirt ground. When asked why he was crying, he said, “After all the wealth you have had, it is disturbing to see you so helpless lying on the ground away from home.” Ibn Mubarak comforted him by saying, “Don’t be sad, Nazr. I have prayed to Allah all my life that He blesses me with wealth while I am alive, so that I do not have to depend on others and can spend in His way; and may I die like a destitute, so that I can meet Allah in helplessness and He showers His mercy on me. I am grateful that Allah accepted my prayers.”

A little while before his death, his voice started to choke in his throat. He became anxious that he may not be able to recite the Shahadah. He told one of his students to keep reciting it loudly in front of him, so he would listen and be able to repeat. During this recital of the Shahadah his soul departed his body. It was Ramadan 181 Hijri and 798 A.D.

When the news of his death reached the locals, people began gathering from far and wide, even though he was in a foreign land. Upon seeing such a huge funeral, the governor of Heera thought that he should report the death to the caliph. He wrote to Haroon Rasheed, “There was a foreigner who passed away here and a sea of people gathered for his funeral prayer. When I investigated I was told that it was the funeral of Abdullah bin Mubarak Khurasani.” When Haroon Rasheed read the letter he said, “We are indeed from Allah and to Him we shall return.” He then ordered his minister Fuzail bin Rabee to announce to the public that people should come to him to pay their condolences on the death of Ibn Mubarak. When Fuzail did not give importance to the order, Haroon Rasheed recited a few tragic verses of poetry to show that the incident had really touched him. The person who narrated this incident stated that when he saw the reaction of the caliph on Ibn Mubarak’s death, he realized the meaning of the Quranic verse: “Those who believed and did righteous deeds, Allah will instill their love in people’s hearts.” (Surah Maryam, verse 96).

When his student and famous spiritual leader Fuzail bin Ayaz heard the news of his death, he said, “May Allah have mercy on Abdullah bin Mubarak. He did not leave behind anyone like him.”

[]Attributes and Virtues

As mentioned, Abdullah bin Mubarak paid attention to every aspect of the Islamic way of life. He always made sure that he conveyed and propagated the true spirit and the full picture of religion. Once, someone mentioned about a man who was engrossed in his worship and would spend long hours praying. Ibn Mubarak praised him and then said, “But if you all started following him, who will follow the Prophet of Allah? Who will visit the sick and pray in people’s funerals?” He mentioned other areas, explaining the rights of people over fellow human beings.

He was always concerned about the due rights of others upon him. Due to this quality he earned a special recognition not only among the masses but also among leading scholars and pious people of his time. One incident that is quoted in the books is as follows. Once there was a gathering of the top ranked scholars and religious people. A discussion started on who is the greatest of all spiritual leaders and scholars that can be followed in every aspect. Soon everyone came to the conclusion that no one was a match for Abdullah bin Mubarak. He excelled in Islamic jurisprudence, literature, grammar, language, speech and poetry. Additionally, he was also ahead of his contemporaries in worship, Jihad, Hajj, avoidance of gossip, treatment of friends and family, fairness in dealings, etc. Imam Zahbi narrates this by stating: “What quality does Abdullah bin Mubarak not possess? Compassion, worship, sincerity, Jihad, awesome knowledge, perseverance in religion, politeness and courage; I swear to Allah that I love him and I hope this love will bring goodness for me.” Sufyan Sauri was deeply impressed by Ibn Mubarak and said, “I tried hard to live my days and nights like Ibn Mubarak just for one year, but could not manage it.” Sometimes he would wish that his entire life be like three days of Ibn Mubarak. Sufyan bin Ainiya said about Abdullah bin Mubarak, “I studied the lives of the companions in comparison to Ibn Mubarak and except for the company of the Prophet (SAW), I did not find him to be lacking in anything as compared to the companions.”

People came from far and wide to seek his prayer, since his prayer was known to be accepted by Allah. Once a blind man came to Ibn Mubarak and he prayed for his eyesight to return. Indeed after some time he began to see. Abu Wahab narrated this incident and stated that he himself was a witness.

Haroon Rasheed recognized Abdullah bin Mubarak’s scholarship and piety despite the fact the Ibn Mubarak would try to avoid him. The caliph considered Ibn Mubarak’s scholarship as a great asset of the Ummah. Once a man who was corrupted in his beliefs was brought before the caliph. Haroon announced the death penalty for him. The man said, “What will you do about the one thousand false Ahadith that I have spread?” Haroon calmly said, “O enemy of Allah, what are you thinking? We have Hadith scholars like Abu Ishaq Fazari and Abdullah bin Mubarak who know how to sift through Ahadith, and they will throw out every false letter that you have fabricated.”

A poet praised Abdullah bin Mubarak in the following words:

The night Abdullah left Marv

All its light and liveliness ended

When righteous scholars are mentioned anywhere

It seems that all are stars and you are the moon.


Reference books:

p<{color:#000;}. Abdullah bin Mubarak by Sheikh Tantawi

p<{color:#000;}. Taba Tabaeen by Mujeebullah Nadvi

p<{color:#000;}. Hulyat ul Auliya wa Tabqat ul Asfiya by Naeem Ahmed bin Abdullah Isfahani

p<{color:#000;}. Bustan ul Muhaddiseen by Allama Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddis

p<{color:#000;}. Tareekh ul Baghdad by Abu Bakr Ahmed bin Ali Alkhateeb

p<{color:#000;}. Hazrat Ibn Mubarak by Muhammad Yousuf Islahi

About the Author

Naima Sohaib, 40, is the author of “Islami Tareekh ki Qabil-e-Fakhr Shakhsiat”, a 480-page book in Urdu about fifteen eminent Muslim scholars, reformists, revivalists and caliphs of the last 1400 years, including several from the twentieth century. The book is written in easy language, punctuated occasionally by pertinent and thought-provoking comments by the author. It is the sequel of her first book “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Azeem Shakhsiat” which discusses twenty prominent Muslim personalities and has seen its fourth edition.

Naima has a Masters in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi and did her B.Sc. in Mathematics from Lahore College for Women. She has also authored several storybooks for children. She lives in Bahrain with her husband and four daughters.

[] About the Translator

Originally from Pakistan, Farah Salman has been living in the US for more than twenty years. She has a master’s degree in English Literature and Elementary Education. She actively volunteers with the Al-Madina School of Richmond Virginia, teaches at the weekend school in Muslim Community Center and conducts a tafseer class for women. Her interest in providing our youth with biographies of real heroes in English led her to translate the current work from Naima Sohaib’s Urdu book ‘Islami Tareekh ki Qabil-e-Fakhr Shakhsiaat’.

Abdullah Bin Mubarak

Abdullah bin Mubarak was a pious Muslim of early Islamic history who is known for his zeal for religious knowledge with an emphasis on Hadith sciences. His transformation from a young adult indulged in music and entertainment to a serious student of religion captivates one's imagination, as does his sincere quest to gain knowledge. His most outstanding characteristic is the balance he achieved in his life - he would spend a third of his time in seeking knowledge and earning his livelihood (he was a trader), a third in Jihad and the remaining in Hajj. He was also known for his charitable spending and generosity. His teachers included leading scholars such as Sufyan Thawri, Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifa. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said about him that there was no one more eager to travel long distances for seeking knowledge. Abdullah bin Mubarak was declared unanimously as the most prominent scholar of his time in a gathering of religious scholars. Remarkably, he excelled in all aspects including jurisprudence, literature, grammar, language, speech, poetry, spirituality and worship, Jihad, Hajj, avoidance of idle talk, charity and dealing with relatives and friends.  

  • Author: Naima Sohaib
  • Published: 2017-09-22 21:20:09
  • Words: 9328
Abdullah Bin Mubarak Abdullah Bin Mubarak