Some Life Accounts of Ibn al-Jawzi

Some Life Accounts of Ibn al-Jawzi

I pondered over the circumstances of notable people and found most of them apparently lost.

Among them are those who exceeded in committing sins in their youth, while others have slacked acquiring knowledge (‘ilm), while some increased benefitting from their pleasures.

In their old age, all of them were full of regret for being unable to recoup for the sins done in the past, for the strength that have now weakened or for a virtue that has been lost. The old age is therefore spent in sorrow.

If the old man has any sense of his sins committed in the past, he cries out, ‘How regretful am I for the sins that I committed!’ If he is not conscious about their seriousness, he instead regrets about the pleasures he missed.

As for the one who spent the period of his youth in seeking the [sacred] knowledge, then in his old age he celebrates the fruits of the trees he planted, and gains pleasure from publishing what he compiled. He does not see any loss in the pleasures of the body that he missed out, compared to what he gained from the pleasures of knowledge.

This includes his pleasures in seeking knowledge through which he thought to attain the goal. Perhaps those acts were more pleasant than what he attained thereby; just as poet stated:

“I shake with joy when wishing her arrival,
As many wishes are sweeter than victory”

I pondered over myself in comparison to my family members who spent their lives in earning the worldly pleasures, while I spent my childhood and youth in seeking knowledge. I found myself that I never felt having missed out on what they gained, apart from the fact that had I attained that, I would regret over it.

I then contemplated my situation and found out that my life is better than theirs and my notability among the people is higher than theirs. As for what I gained in terms of knowledge, that is indeed priceless.

Iblis (Satan) said to me, ‘But you have forgotten to take account of your tiredness and sleeplessness.’

I replied to him, ‘Oh ignoramus! Cutting off the hands has no impact when one is looking at Yusuf (AS). How a lengthy path driven one to a friend!

“May Allah reward the path to Him with goodness.
Even if it leaves the camels like an empty food container.”

During the sweetness of my pursuit for knowledge, I underwent hardships that are sweeter for me than honey because of what I sought and hoped for.

During my childhood, I would take with me dried pieces of bread, I would depart to acquire the knowledge of hadith, and would sit down on the banks of River ‘Isa. I was unable to eat apart from being closer to the water.

Each time I ate a morsel, I would drink water over it. The eye of my ambition would not see anything except for the pleasure of seeking knowledge.

The fruits of that pursuit ripened for me because I became known for having heard considerably about the life accounts of the Prophet (ﷺ), his etiquettes, the life accounts of his companions and their followers. I became like Ibn Ajwad in knowing the way of the Prophet (ﷺ).

The fruits of my conduct had borne fruits that cannot be sensed by knowledge. Even during my childhood, during the time of maturity and bachelorhood, I can remember my ability to do things which the ‘self’ (nafs) craved for (of sin), just like the pining of a thirsty person for clean and pure water. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fear of Allah that was harvested in me.

If it were not for the errors, that no human is free from, I feared on myself from haughtiness (‘ujb).

However, Allah, the Most High, protected me and taught me. He informed me of the secrets of knowledge in recognising Him, and preferring seclusion with Him; to the extent that if Ma’ruf [al-Karkhi] and Bishr [al-Hafi] were present in my company, I would feel congested.

He then returned and immersed me in delinquency and negligence, to the extent I felt myself to be most unfortunate and bad.

Sometimes, He would wake me up for nightly voluntary prayers (giyam al-layl) and silent entreat with Him. Sometimes He would prevent me from doing this, despite the good health of the body.

If there were no glad-tidings of the [sacred] knowledge, which is part of education and perfection, I would be driven either to become haughty while performing good deeds or assuming hopelessness during inaction.

However, my hope in His Grace moderated my fear of Him.

Hope can sometimes become overpowering due to the strength of its causes. That is because I saw that the Almighty cared for me since my childhood. My father passed away before I attained consciousness, while my mother would not pay attention to me. He placed the love for knowledge in my disposition and He kept placing me into the most important priorities in the order of merit, taking me to those who would lead me to the most correct ways, until He perfected my affairs.

How many times my enemies tried to harm me, yet He stopped them from approaching me. When I see that He has helped me, granted me with insight, defended me and bestowed me with abundant favours, then my hope in the future strengthens because of the things I saw in the past.

More than two hundred thousand people repented on my hands in the sermons and two hundred people have embraced Islam on my hands.

How many times the eyes of the arrogant flowed with tears due to the effect of my sermons, which had never flowed before. It is appropriate for the one who has observed this favour that he hopes for the perfection. Sometimes the causes of fear appeared through my vision which contributed to my negligence and blunders.

I sat down one day and saw around me more than ten thousand people. There was no one among them but his heart had softened or his eves had shed tears.

I told to myself: ‘What will happen to you, if they are saved and you are destroyed? I shouted with the tongue of my affection, ‘My Lord and My Master! If you decide to punish me tomorrow, do not let them know about my punishment, as a protection of Your honour and not because of me, so that it is not uttered, ‘He [Allah| punished the one who guided (others) to Him.’

My Lord! It was said to your Prophet (ﷺ), ‘Kill Ibn Ubayy, the hypocrite’. He responded: “[No] for the people will then say that Muhammad kills his companions.”[1]

Oh My Lord! Preserve their good perceptions about me through Your grace, from informing them about the punishment of the guide to You. You forbid! By Allah! Oh My Lord! From muddying the clean state.

“Do not sharpen the wooden stick that you turned into an arrow
May the founder of nobility take care from breaking it
Do not dehydrate the plantation who plants
Due to the direction of your bestowal, have turned into a rich garden”

[Captured Thoughts by Ibn Al-Jawzi, P. 558-562]

[1] Bukhari, #3518 and Muslim, #2584 on the authority of Jabir (RA).

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