Sufyān Al-Thawrī

Not Speaking in Front of Elders

Samurah b. Jundub – Allāh be pleased with him – said:

I was young during the time of Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ and I had memorised things he had said; nothing stopped me from speaking except for the fact that there were amongst us men who were older than me.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Kitāb Al-Janāʾiz #964.

Al-Ḥasan b. ʿUtaybah reports:

Sufyān Al-Thawrī said to Sufyān b. ʿUyainah, “Why do you not speak (narrate)?” He replied, “While you are alive, no way.”

Al-Khaṭīb Al-Baġdādī, Al-Jāmiʿ li Akhlāq Al-Rāwī #698.

Ḥusayn b. Al-Walīd Al-Naysābūrī said: a reliable person informed me:

ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (Al-ʿUmarī, great-great grandson of ʿUmar) was once asked about something to do with ḥadīth, so he replied, “As long as Abū ʿUthmān (his older brother) is alive, then no.”

Op. cit. #699.

It is reported that ʿĀṣim said:

Zirr (Ibn Ḥubaysh) was older than Abū Wāʾil (Shaqīq b. Salamah); so if they ever sat together [in a gathering] Abū Wāʾil would not speak with Zirr (out of respect).

Op. cit. #702.

It is also reported that:

When Ibrāhīm and Al-Shaʿbī were together, Ibrāhīm would not speak about anything, because of his age.

Op. cit. #703.

It is reported from Abū ʿAbdillāh Al-Muʿayṭī that he said:

I saw Abū Bakr b. ʿAyyāsh in Makkah. Sufyān b. ʿUyainah came to him and knelt in front of him. Abū Bakr asked him, “How are you Sufyān? Sufyān, how is your father’s family?” Then a man came and asked Sufyān about a ḥadīth, so Sufyān said, “Do not ask me as long as this Shaykh is sitting here.”

Op. cit. #705.

It is reported from Al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī Al-Khallāl that he said:

We were once with Muʿtamir b. Sulaymān while he was speaking to us, when Ibn Al-Mubārak approached. Muʿtamir cut short his speech. It was said to him, “Speak (or narrate) to us.” He replied, “We do not speak in front of our seniors.”

Op. cit. #706.

And it is reported that ʿAbdullāh b. Al-Mubārak was once asked about an issue in the presence of Sufyān b. ʿUyainah, so he replied, “We have been forbidden from speaking in front of our seniors.”

Al-Dhahabī, Siyar Aʿlām Al-Nubalāʾ 8:420.

Getting Ahead of Yourself

It is reported that Sufyān Al-Thawrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

Whoever takes leadership quickly (too early) will harm a lot of [his] knowledge (will not learn what he needs); and whoever does not take leadership can continue to seek knowledge until he reaches [where he needs to be].

Al-Dārimī, Al-Sunan #554.

When the Sinful and the Rabble Take Knowledge

ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd – Allāh be pleased with him – said:

The people will not cease to be well as long as they take knowledge from their seniors. When they take it from their juniors and their bad people, they will be destroyed.

Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr, Jāmiʿ Bayān Al-ʿIlm article 1057.

Al-Firyābī reports:

When Sufyān [Al-Thawrī] would see these rabble writing knowledge his face would change (in anger). So I asked him, ‘O Abū ʿAbdillāh, we notice that when you see these people writing knowledge, it is hard upon you.’ He replied, ‘Knowledge used to be with the Arabs and with the leaders of the people, but when it left them and went to these types – meaning the rabble of society – the religion was changed.’

Op. cit. article 1072.

Why is Knowledge Learned?

It is reported that Sufyān Al-Thawrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

Knowledge is only learned to [apply it and] put into practice the Taqwā of Allāh the mighty and sublime.

Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-ʿIlm article 943.

The Behavior of The Seeker of Knowledge

It is reported that ʿAlī – Allāh be pleased with him – said:

When you learn knowledge, preserve it, and do not mix it with laughter and falsehood, such that the hearts refuse (dislike) it.

Al-Khaṭīb Al-Baghdādī, Al-Jāmiʿ li-Akhlāq Al-Rāwī wa Ādāb Al-Sāmiʿ 1:232

It is reported that Mālik – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

It is upon whoever seeks knowledge to have a solemn, dignified demeanour, fearful [of Allāh]; and to follow in the footsteps of those who went before him.

ibid.

ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān b. Mahdī reports:

A man laughed in [the circle of] Hishām Al-Dustawāʾī, so Hishām said to him, “Young man! You seek knowledge laughing?” He replied, “Is it not Allāh who makes [us] laugh and cry (as stated in the Qurʾān)?” So Hishām replied, “Then go and cry.”

Op. cit. 233

Ismāʿīl b. Yaḥyā reports:

Sufyān once saw me joking with a man from Banī Shaybah at the House (Kaʿbah). I laughed, so he said to me, “You laugh here? A man used to hear a single ḥadīth and its demeanour and guidance would be seen on him for three days.”

Op. cit. 234