The Messenger of Allah (salla Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When gentleness is a part of something, it always beautifies it. When it is removed from something, it always makes it ugly.” (Muslim)
People love gentle, flexible and easygoing people. They feel at ease with them and find it easy to trust them. This happens especially if they are eloquent in speech and able to deal with others skilfully.
The most prominent student of Imam Abu Haneefah, and one of the most famous Hanafi scholars, was Abu Yoosuf al-Qâdi. Abu Yoosuf was poor early in his life, and his father used to prevent him from sitting in the classes of Abu Haneefah; he would order him to go to the markets and earn a living instead. At the same time, Abu Haneefah was very keen about his student and would scold him if he was absent.
One day, Abu Yoosuf complained to Abu Haneefah about his disagreement with his father. Abu Haneefah sent for the father and asked him: “How much does your child earn each day?” The father said: “Two dirhams.” Abu Haneefah said: “I will give you the two dirhams; let him seek knowledge.” After that, Abu Yoosuf stayed by his teacher for years.
As he grew through his youthful years and surpassed his peers, he became afflicted with a difficult illness that left him bedridden. When Abu Haneefah saw him, he feared that he would die. He walked out, saying to himself: “O Abu Yoosuf, I had hoped that you would tend to the people after me!” He dragged himself to his class, where his students were waiting.
After some time, Abu Yoosuf recovered. When he bathed and dressed to go to his shaykh’s class, those around him asked: “Where are you headed?” He replied: “I am going to my shaykh’s class.” They said: “Are you still concerned with seeking knowledge? You have acquired enough! Didn’t you hear what the shaykh said about you?” Abu Yoosuf asked: “What did he say?” They replied: “He said: ‘I had hoped that you would tend to the people after me’ – meaning that you have acquired all the knowledge of Abu Haneefah, and that he was hoping you would replace him after he died.”
Abu Yoosuf became a little conceited after hearing these words. When he entered the mosque and saw the study circle of Abu Haneefah in one corner, he went off to another corner, where he began to teach and pass verdicts. Abu Haneefah noticed the new study circle and asked: “Whose circle is this?” He was told: “That’s Abu Yoosuf.” He asked: “Has he recovered from his illness?” The people said: “Yes.” He then asked: “Why didn’t he come to our class?” They said: “Your words were repeated to him, so he has sat down to teach and no longer needs you.”
Abu Haneefah wondered how he could deal with this gently. He began to reflect and then decided to teach him a lesson.
He turned to one of his students and said: “So-and-so, go to the shaykh seated over there [Abu Yoosuf] and tell him: ‘Shaykh, I have a question.’ He will be happy to learn your question because he has only sat there to be asked in the first place! Tell him: ‘A man gave a tailor an article of clothing to be shortened. When he came back for it, the tailor denied that he had ever taken it. The man went to the police, who came back with him and confiscated the garment from the shop. The question is: Does the tailor deserve to be paid for shortening the garment or not?’ If he responds with: ‘He deserves…’ – tell him: ‘You’re wrong.’ If he says: ‘He doesn’t deserve…’ – tell him: ‘You’re wrong.’”
The young student rejoiced after hearing this trick question and ran off to Abu Yoosuf. He said: “Shaykh, I have a question.” Abu Yoosuf asked: “What is your question?” The student narrated the whole situation, as explained to him by Imam Abu Haneefah. Abu Yoosuf answered immediately: “Yes, he deserves his pay since he did his work.” The questioner said: “You’re wrong.” Abu Yoosuf was surprised at his response; he thought it over once again and said: “No, he doesn’t deserve to be paid.” The questioner said: “You’re wrong.” Abu Yoosuf looked at him and asked: “By Allah, who sent you?” The student pointed in the direction of Abu Haneefah, and said: “The shaykh sent me…”
Abu Yoosuf stood up from his seat and walked over to the circle of Abu Haneefah. He said: “Shaykh, I have a question.” Abu Haneefah ignored him. Abu Yoosuf proceeded to get closer until he fell on his knees between the hands of the shaykh. With perfect manners, he said: “Shaykh, I have a question.” Abu Haneefah asked: “What is your question?” He said: “You know it.” He said: “The question regarding the tailor and the garment?” He replied: “Yes.” He said: “You go ahead and answer it. Aren’t you a shaykh?” Abu Yoosuf said: “No, you are the shaykh.”
Abu Haneefah answered: “We have to check how much the tailor shortened the garment. If he had shortened it to match the man’s height, that implies that he had done the task assigned to him before he decided to steal the garment. In this case, that would mean he had completed the task and, hence, deserves payment. However, if he had shortened it to match his own height, that implies that he did this task for himself, in which case he would be undeserving of payment.”
Abu Yoosuf kissed the forehead of Abu Haneefah and stayed by his side until the latter’s death. Only then did Abu Yoosuf sit and teach the people.
Indeed, how beautiful it is to deal with matters calmly and gently. If spouses, parents, managers and teachers would imbibe gentleness in their dealings with others, most of our problems and scuffles would come to an end. It is highly desirable to be gentle, whether you are driving, teaching or conducting business transactions.
© IIPH 2014
From Enjoy Your Life! by Dr. Muhammad al-‘Areefy