Iyas ibn Mu‘awiyah al-Muzani [d. 121H, 739CE] was a man of consummate eloquence and intelligence, proverbial for his reason and quick wit. It is said that once every hundred years a person is born with a perfect mind, and that Iyas was one such person.
He narrates how, when still a child at a primary school [maktab] in Damascus, a group of Christians gathered around and began to make fun of Muslims who claim that in paradise food leaves behind no excrement. ‘“Teacher,” I said, “would you not agree that most food is taken up and dispersed in the body?” “Yes,” he replied. I said: “Why then do you deny that in paradise the Almighty can make the remainder disappear totally inside the body?” He said: “You are a little devil.”’
Two men once came to plead before him. One of them said: ‘I went down to the river to bathe. I had a brand new green djellaba that I took off and placed by the bank of the river. This other man came wearing an old red djellaba. He took it off and went into the water. When he came out he ran ahead of me and took my green djellaba.’ Iyas asked them: ‘Do either of you have any proof?’ They said no. So he ordered a comb to be brought into the court and had them combed. Some green woollen threads were found in the hair of the owner of the green djellaba so Iyas ordered it restored to him.
A Persian squire [dihqan] came to see him and asked him about intoxicating drink, and whether it is licit [halal] or illicit [haram]. ‘It is illicit,’ said Iyas. ‘How so?’ said the squire. ‘Tell me, are dates licit or illicit?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘What about dodder?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘And water?’ ‘Licit,’ replied Iyas. ‘So what is it that makes these things incompatible? Is not date wine made from dates, dodder and water? What is it that makes date wine illicit and all these other things licit?’
Iyas answered: ‘If I were to take a handful of earth and throw it at you, would you feel pain?’ The squire said: ‘No.’ ‘What if I cupped my fingers and threw some water at you, would that pain you?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘And what if I took a handful of straw and hit you with it, would that cause you pain?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘If I now took the handful of earth, and kneaded it with water and straw making it into lumps, and I left it out to dry and then hit you with it, would this cause you pain?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the squire, ‘it may even kill me.’ Iyas said: ‘So also with dates, water and dodder. If mixed together and then aged they become illicit.’
Iyas once said, “I was reduced to silence by only one man. I was sitting in my court chamber in Basra when a man entered into my presence and testified that a particular orchard – and he specified its borders – was the property of so-and-so. I asked him: ‘How many trees does it have?’ He fell silent then said: ‘May I ask his honour the judge how long he has been judging in this chamber?’ ‘Since such-and-such a time,’ I replied. The man asked: ‘How many beams are there in this ceiling?’ ‘You are quite right,’ I replied, and I allowed his testimony.”
[Ibn ‘Asakir, Tahdhib al-Tarikh al-Kabir, 3:11 and al-Safadi, Al-Wafi bi’l Wafayat, 9:465-467 translated by Khalidi, Tarif In An Anthology of Arabic Literature: From the Classical to the Modern, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 50-51]