Atta Ibn Abi Rabah

In the last ten days closing the month of dhul-Hijjah in the 97th year of Hijrah, the Ancient House (Kaabah) had been receiving visitors from every valley and mountain paths intending to make hajj. There were the young and the old, blacks and whites; Arabs and non-Arabs. All of them gathered in the presence of the Lord of Mankind in reverence of Him. Amongst the hujjaj was Sulayman ibn AbdulMalik (the Khaleefah of the Muslims) circumambulating the House of Allaah bareheaded and barefooted with nothing on him except the two pieces of cloth (ihram). His appearance was just like every other worshippers. Behind him were two of his sons. They had hardly finished their tawaf when they met with one of the distinguished personalities of Makkah. Where is your companion? Sulayman asked, "He is over there praying", he answered. The Khaleefah went in the direction that was pointed to him, his sons behind him. People scurried to make way for the Khaleefah to pass.

When they all got to where the person Sulayman intended, they found him still praying. The crowd including the Khaleefah himself sat all around him waiting for him to conclude his prayer. The children of the Khaleefah marveled at the man who could so keep the leader of the Muslim community waiting and found him no other than a black man with rough hair. When he sits, he perches like black crow. When the man concluded his prayer he turned towards the Khaleefah. Sulyman greeted him and the man responded Similarly. Then the Ameer al-Mumineen continued to ask him questions about the rites of hajj one after the other.

And the man responded to every question clearly and convincingly, linking every answer to the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). When the Khaleefah was through with his questions. He thanked the man and got up with his sons in tow and the three of them went in the direction of saee. They were barely halfway to the place of saee when the two sons of Sulayman heard a caller announcing: "None should pass fatwa in this place except Ataa ibn Abi Rabah.!" One of the sons approached his father and asked:"How come you ordered to be announced that no one should give fatwa in the Masjid al-Haram other than Ataa while we attended the sitting of this one who did not care about the Khaleefah nor did he revere him as is due to his greatness?" Sulayman responded to his son:"The person we sat in his presence is no other than Ataa ibn Abi Rabah, the inheritor of the knowledge of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA). Oh my son! Seek for knowledge for it is through knowledge that the lowly attain nobility, an obscured person becomes popular and attain a lever higher than that of kings." No Exaggeration Sulayman was not exaggerating in his address to his son with regard to knowledge.

Ataa ibn Abi Rabah, in the days of his youth, Was a slave boy to a woman among the inhabitants of Makkah except that Allaah honoured him by setting his foot upon the path of knowledge. While he was a slave, he divided his time into three: the first part, he devoted in the service of his slave mistress as was due to her; the second part, he devoted to worshipping his Lord; the third, he devoted to seeking knowledge. He benefited from the knowledge of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) through those who remain of the Companions. He learnt from Abu Hurayrah, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr and others among the Sahabas (Companions) until his heart was filled with knowledge and understanding. When his mistress saw that his slave had committed his entire being to Allaah and was devoted to knowledge, she willingly relinquished her own rights over him, perhaps Allaah might favour Islam and Muslims with him.

Since then, Ataa took the Haram as his place and as a home to return to and as his school where he sought knowledge and as a place of worship where he sought closeness to Allaah with taqwa and obedience until it was said of him that the mosque became his bedplace for about twenty years. The noble tabiee, Ataa ibn Abi Rabah, climbed to a status in knowledge that only a few attained in his time. It is reported that Abdullah ibn Umar said of him when he came to Makkah for Umrah and people gathered around him asking him questions about the deen. He said, "I am surprised at you people of Makkah, you gathered around me to ask me questions while there is Ataa ibn Abi Rabah in your midst?!" Ataa did not attain this noble status except by two things.

First, he had complete control of himself such that he did not allow it to be busied by things that are not beneficial. Second, he had complete control over his time and never did he allow it to be filled with excess words and actions. Muhammad ibn Sawqah narrated to some of his visitors one day, "Don't you wish that I let you hear some words perhaps they will benefit you as they benefitted me." Then he said, Ataaa ibn Abi Rabah advised me one day saying "son of my brother, those before us used to dislike excess words. I said to him, "what are excess words?" Ataa replied, They used to consider as excess every talk that excludes the Book of Allaah that is read and understood; and the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) that is reported and understood; or the command of good and forbiddance of evil or knowledge that moves one closer to Allaah or the words that are spoken with regards to ones needs and livelihood that one cannot do without." Then he looked at my face, and said: "do you dislike (the words of Allaah) "But verily, over you (are appointed angels in charge of mankind) to watch you. kiraman (honourable) Katibin writing down your deeds. (Q82[Infitar]:10-11)

And-that with every one of you are two angels: onesitting on the right and one on the left. Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it)." (Q50[Qaf]:17-18) Then he said, "Are we not ashamed that were our records shown to us and then we find that most of it is filled not with the matters of religion but with matters of dunya?" The world with its glitters invited Ataa but he turned his back to it. He spent his lifetime while he never had a cloth whose worth ever passed five dirham. Kings and rulers invited him to their palaces to dine with them but he never accepted their invitation because of his fear for his religion. Nevertheless, he never stopped to advise them when there is overwhelming benefit for the Muslim masses and goodness for Islaam.

An instance of this is what Uthman ibn Ataai al-Khuraasaanee narrated. "I rode along with my father one day towards the palace of Hishaam ibn Abdul Malik. We were close to Damascus when we met an elderly man riding on a black donkey, he wore a thick shirt and over that is a worn out cloak with a tightly fitting cap on his head. I laughed in amusement and said to my father, Who is this?" Keep quiet! That is the leader of all the scholars of hijaaz, Ataa ibn Abi Rabah" my father rebuked. When he got close to us, my father alighted from his horse and he too alighted from his donkey. They exchanged words and questions and then they both rode alongside each other until we arrived at the palace gate of the Khaleefah (Hisham ibn AbduIMalik). We had barely sat down when the two of them were invited in. When my father came out I said to him, Tell me what transpired between both of you inside." He told me, "The moment Hisham learnt that Ataa ibn Abi Rabah was at the door, he quickly gave order that he be ushered in. By Allaah, I did not get admission into the presence of the khaleefah except because of his presence. When Hisham saw him, he never stopped saying welcome, welcome come and sit here, sit here until he sat him close to himself, knee to knee, on his velvet seat. He was a most honoured guest.

While Ataa spoke everyone was silent listening to him. Hishaam turned towards Ataa and said, What are your needs Oh Abu Muhammad?" he replied,. "Oh Ameerul-Mumineen, the inhabitants of the two holy cities, the people of Allaah and the neighbours of the Prophet, their supplies and livelihood has been disrupted ... " "Oh yes!" the Khaleefah cuts in, "Boy! Write for the people of Makkah and Madeenah their supplies and sustenance for one year." Then he said, "Do you have any other need Abu Muhammad?" "Yes, Ameerul-Mumineen, the people of Hijaz, the people of Najd, return to them the excess of their zakaat." Ataa said. The Khaleefah ordered immediately, "Yes, Boy! Write that the excess of zakaah be returned to them." "Any other need?" Hisham asked. "yes," Ataa replied, "Fear Allaah with regard to yourself, Oh Ameerul-Muimineen.

Recall that you were created alone and you will die alone and you will be resurrected alone and you will account (to Allaah) alone., None (of your royal retinue) that you are seeing now will be with you."Hisham fell down weeping due to the weight of the words of Ataa on him. We were barely out of the gate when a man caught up with us with a bag (of money). I do not know how much is in it. The man said, "The Ameerul-Mumineen sent me with this to you." Ataa said, "Take it away from me!, No reward do I ask of you for it (my message), my reward is only from the Lord- of the worlds." (Q26[Shauaraa]: 109) By AIIaah, he entered into the presence of the Khaleefah and came out without taking a sip of water. "Ataa ibn Abi Rabah lived long until he attained 100 years of age filled with knowledge and righteous actions. He performed Hajj 70 times before his death: May Allaah have mercy on the soul of Ataa ibn Abi Rabah and may He keep us firm upon the footsteps of the noble predecessors. (Amin)


This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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