Wisdom of Abdullah Mubarak

Someone asked Abdullah Mubarak,* “What is the best human quality?”
He replied, “Wisdom.”
What if someone is not wise?  What is then the best human quality?”
“What if a human being is not polite, then what?”
“Having a wise friend who can guide one to the right path.”
“What if that is absent as well?”
“Constant silence.”
“Let us say that one could not keep silent, then what is the most beneficial quality?”
Abdullah finally replied, “A human being who is not wise, nor polite; who has no wise friends and cannot keep him or herself quiet is better off dead!”

* * *

Although Abdullah ibn Mubarak was a learned and pious scholar, who made many pilgrimages to Mecca, the circumstances of the time were such that he also frequently fought in border wars against encroaching enemies, usually of a different faith.

Once it happened that as he was fighting, his opponent asked him for a small moment so that he could worship his idol.  Abdullah agreed to this, and the pagan went to a corner and began his prayer. As Abdullah waited, it occurred to him that while the non-believer was engaged in his idolatry would be the most appropriate time to kill him.  Softly approaching from behind, he slowly raised his sword to strike, when suddenly he heard a powerful voice say : “You will be asked about your disregarded promises.” With a cry of remorse, Abdullah fell to his knees.

When the pagan saw what had occurred, he asked Abdullah why his had not killed him when he had the opportunity.  On hearing the story, tears began to roll down his cheeks, and he said, “Such a God who reminds His servants of honour even for the sake of one who does not believe in Him must indeed be worshipped.”

* * *

Abdullah Ibn Mubarak said: Discipline is the knowledge of the self.

*Abdullah Ibn Mubarak (726 – 797 CE) was a renowned scholar of Khorosan.  He was particularly known for his collection of Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, who passed away less than a century before Abdullah’s birth; he is said to have known 25,000 of these sayings.

3 Replies to “Wisdom of Abdullah Mubarak”

  1. Juan Amin Betancur

    En el fondo de esta linda enseñanza sobre cualidades humanas y guerras en el mundo, hay un tema difícil; ser una persona espiritual que lucha por cultivar cualidades, y sin embargo, enfrentarse a la necesidad de participar en una guerra para defender ideales supremos. Tengo una pregunta, muy querido Nawab: ¿Cómo conciliar estas realidades de la mejor manera en la vida cotidiana?

    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Well, it is a question that we ask ourselves, of course – but how did Abdullah reconcile the differences? The story does not tell us what he thought when the idea came to him to kill his enemy when he was praying. Perhaps he thought it was his destiny, as a believer, to kill the ‘infidel’, or perhaps he thought that a promise made to such a person would have no importance – we don’t really know. All we know is that the Spirit of Guidance set him straight. So, we could conclude that even highly spiritual people (we have not said why Abdullah should be considered highly spiritual –but if one hears the Divine Voice so clearly, there must be some spiritual development) – we can conclude that even highly spiritual people can make mistakes, but if we listen well to the Spirit of Guidance, we may be rescued from our follies.


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