A Brilliant Qadi (Judge)

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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]

When the Second Caliph Umar was Overruled by the Judge

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Sa‘eed bin Musayyib narrates that Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) once intended to take the house* of Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to include it in the Masjid. However, Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) refused to hand the house over. When Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) resolved that he would certainly have possession of the house, Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed that they appoint Hadhrat Ubay bin Ka‘b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to pass judgement between them. Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) agreed and they both approached Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). After they had related the matter to him, Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Allah sent revelation to Hadhrat Sulayman bin Dawud instructing him to construct Baytul Maqdis [in Jerusalem]. The land belonged to a man whom Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) approached to buy it from him. However, when Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) handed over the money to the man, he [the man] asked, ‘Is this price that you are paying better or is that which you are taking from me better?’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) replied, ‘Certainly that which I am taking from you is better.’ ‘In that case,’ said the man, ‘I shall not accept it.’

Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then gave the man a higher price. The man then did the same thing two or three times until Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) made the condition with him, ‘I am buying the land from you at the price you fix. You may therefore not ask me which of the two is better.’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) took the purchased land from him at the price he fixed, which happened to be twelve thousand Qintar of gold (one Qintar equals four thousand gold coins). Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then felt that the amount was too big to give the man. Allah then sent revelation to him saying, ‘If you are paying him from something that is your own, then you know best (what you have to do). However, if you are paying from what We have provided for you, then give him whatever he is pleased with.’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then paid the amount.”

Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) continued, “I feel that Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) has a greater right to his house, which cannot be taken from him until he is pleased.” Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) then said, ‘Since you have made the decision in my favour, I wish to make it Sadaqah [a charitable gift] for the Muslims.’

[Hayatus Sahabah (The Lives of the Companions), by Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhelwi, excerpted from the English translation by Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias, Zam Zam Publishers, Karachi, June 2013, vol. 2, pp. 133-134 (related by Abdur Razzaq, as quoted in Kanzul Ummal vol. 4 p. 260. Also related by Ibn Sa‘d vol. 4 p. 13. Ibn Asakir relates a similar narration, as do Bayhaqi and Ya‘qub bin Sulayman – quoted in Kanzul Ummal vol. 7 p. 65). Words in square brackets have been added.]

*His house was next door to Masjidun Nabawi