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?”
“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.