Al-Hasan al-Basri, the leader of the disciples of the Companions of the Prophet was, in fact, the son of Yasar the slave of Zayd ibn Thabit al-Ansari. His mother Umm ul-Hasan was a slave woman of Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet, peace be upon him. So he was born in the house of the Prophet, and his father’s master was one of the famous scribes who recorded Divine revelation for the unlettered Prophet.
Yasar, father of Al-Hasan was a slave captured in Misan between Basra and Waset in Iraq. He lived in Madinah where he was liberated from slavery. Then he got maried two years before the end of Uthman’s caliphate. Al-Hasan was brought up in Wadi al-Qura. Another report says that Umm ul-Hasan was captured and taken prisoner of war when she was pregnant. She gave birth to Al-Hasan in Madinah. What is sure, however, is that Al-Hasan was the son of two ex-slaves.
Muhammad ibn Salam says that Umm Salamah used to send Umm ul-Hasan to do anything for her. Al-Hasan used to cry in his mother’s absence; so Umm Salamah would breast-feed him for some time. She would also bring him out to the Companions of the Prophet while he was still young. They would pray for him. Once he was bought to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “Allahuhummah Faqqih’hufiddeen wa habbib ilayhin naas’ (”O Allah! Make him well-versed in religion and make people love him.”)
Al-Hasan al-Basri was as his name implies, the greatest scholar of the city of Basra. He met ‘Uthman, Talhah and a number of other senior Companions of the Prophet peace be upon him. Abu Hilal says: I heard Al-Hasan say: “Moses the Prophet of God, used to cover his private parts whenever he took a bath.” Ibn Buraydah asked Al-Hasan: “Whom have you heard this from?” “From Abu Hurayrah,” he said.
Al-Hasan said: “I used to enter the rooms of the Messenger of God during the caliphate of ‘Uthman; I would touch their ceilings for I was a grown up boy then. I was 14 years old when ‘Uthman was killed.”
Once he was narrating a hadith and then he stopped and began to cry. A beautiful tradition reported by Al-Hasan al-Basri on the authority of Anas ibn Malik is the following. He said: The Messenger of God peace be upon him used to give the Friday sermon while standing near a piece of wood against which he would lean his back. When the number of people increased in the mosque he said: Make a pulpit of two steps for me, which they did. When the Prophet stood up to give the sermon on Friday the said piece of wood moaned as if it expressed its feeling of missing the Messenger of God peace be upon him. Anas commented: I was in the mosque and heard the piece moan. It continued to cry until the Prophet descended to it and hugged it. Then it was silent. (Mutawatir)
So what made Al-Hasan al-Basri cry? He said (words mixed with tears) ”O slaves of Allah, A dead tree cried because it missed the Prophet so much, yet we do not have the same feeling towards the Prophet. (Yani if a tree can cry for the Prophet and I never did, then the tree is better than me.)
Rabi’ah ibn Kulthum quotes Al-Hasan al-Basri as saying: We learnt from Abu Hurayrah the following: “The Prophet ordered me to do three things: To take a shower every Friday, to finish my prayers nightly with one final prostration and to fast three days of every month.”
Muhammadibn Sa’ad says in his famous encyclopedia, At-Tabaqat, that Al-Hasan al-Basri was all embracing in his knowledge, a real scholar of a high standard, one who excels in jurisprudence, reliable as a source, trustworthy, a sincere worshipper, overflowing with learning, outspoken, beautiful and handsome. He was also one of the bravest men. No one looks like him except a Prophet. That is why Ibn Burdah said: “No one is similar to the Companions of the Prophet as he was.” Thus Abu Qatadah said: “Keep close to this old man, for I have seen no one whose opinion is like that of ‘Umar as Al-Hasan is.” So Anas ibn Malik said: “Ask Al-Hasan for he still remembers while we forgot.”
He was described as being very tall and well built. they said he participated in 70 battles and his students narrate that in the middle of battle we would line behind him so he would be leading the army.
One of the ulmaa said, ‘I never met an Alim at that time except that they benefited from hasan al basri. Anas ibnu malik once said to his students ‘Ask this man (refer to him) for he has remembered and we have forgotten.
It was said if you want to know the science of inheritance go to so and so, if you want to know the fiqh of hajj go to so and so , if you want to know the seerah go to so and so if you want to know tafseer go to so and so etc and if you want someone who has mastered all these sciences then go to hasan al-basri.
Muath ibn Muath said: I said to Al-Ashath: You have met Atta and you had questions to ask why didn’t you ask him? He said: “I have never met anyone after Al-Hasan al-Basri but was small in my eyes.” Hammam says: “It is said that the earth will never be lacking in seven men; through them people will get rain, and with their blessing they will be defended and I hope that Al-Hasan is one of them.”
Abu Jafar ar-Razi said: “I remained a student of Al-Hasan for ten years during which I always heard something new.” Once al-Hasan described the effect of the Qur’an on the believer. He said: “Son of Adam! By God if you recite the Qur’an then believe in it then your sadness will be long in this life, so will be your fear and your weeping.” That is why one contemporary of Al-Hasan says: I never saw anyone who had such a long time of sadness as al-Hasan al-Basri. Everytime I met him I thought he had a new misfortune.
Imam Al-Qassir said: Once I asked al-Hasan about something. Then I said: Scholars of jurisprudence say so and so. He said: “Have you ever seen a real scholar of this category. Such a scholar is he who is not interested in this life, who knows his sins and who continuously worships his Lord?” Khalid ibn Safwan was a close neighbour of Al-Hasan al-Basri. Describing him once he said: “I never saw a man like him. His outward appearance is identical to his inner reality, his words are identical to his deeds; if he enjoins what is right he is the first to do it, and when he forbids what is wrong he is the farthest one from it. I found him never in need of other people, but people were in need of him.”
Al-Hasan al-Basri once swore by God that he will be humiliated by God who honours money. That is why he said: “Two bad comrades are the dinar and the dirham. They are useful to you only when they leave you.”
Hajjaj al-Aswad said: A man once expressed the following wish. He said: I wish I were a hermit (Zahood) like Al-Hasan, as pious as Ibn Sirin, as a good worshipper as Ubadah ibn ‘Abd-Qays and as understanding jurisprudence as Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib. Those who heard these wishes said: “All these are found in al-Hasan al-Basri.”
Iyas ibn Abi Tamima said: I saw al-Hasan at the funeral of Abu Raja. He was riding a mule and Al-Farazdaq, the famous poet, was along his side on a camel. The latter said to Al-Hasan: “You and I are higher than all those attending the funeral.” They will say: “Look! The best and the worst are together alone.” Al-Hasan very humbly said: “O Abu Firas. It may be that a bad looking person is much better than me; and you are better than many old men who are polytheists. What have you prepared for death?” Al-Farazdaq said: “The testimony that there is no diety except God.” Al-Hasan said: “It has its own conditions. Don’t attack chaste women in your poetry.” Al-Farazdaq asked: “Is there any chance for repentence?” Al-Hasan said: “Of course there is.”
Sahl ibn Husayn al-Bahili said: Once I sent to ‘Abdullah son of Al-Hasan al-Basri and asked him to send me all the books of his father. He wrote to Sahl saying: “When my father became seriously ill he asked me to collect them which I did. Then Al-Hasan ordered his servant to burn them all except one paper which he sent to his son. When the latter came to his father Al-Hasan he asked him to read the contents of the paper which he did and al-Hasan approved it.”
When death approached Al-Hasan he began to say: “We are for God and to Him we will return.” When he repeated this his son said: “My father you make us sad for your sake. Have you seen anything around you which you do not like?” Al-Hasan said: “It is only myself, nothing is more heavy for me than it is.”
His funeral was attended by Muslims Christians and Jews. It was said as a city the only day in history the asr prayer was not established in the masjid of Al-Basra was the day hasan al-basri passed away because everybody left the city to attend his funeral no one was left in the city to call athan etc
Here are a few wise sayings of Al-Hasan:
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: By Allāh, never was a person given an abundance of worldy wealth and then not feared this might be a plot against him [for his wrongdoing] except a person lacking intelligence and sound opinion. And never has Allāh held back worldy wealth from a person and that person has not thought that a good choice has been made for him except a person who [also] lacks intelligence and sound opinion.[Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Dham Al-Dunyā article 42]
Hassan Al-Bāsri may Allāh have mercy on him said: “The heart becomes corrupt through six means: 1. Committing a sin in the hope of repenting. 2. Seeking knowledge and not applying it. 3. Practice without sincerity. 4. Eating the sustenance of Allāh without appreciating Him. 5. Not being pleased with his destiny. 6. Burying the dead but not learning from them.” [Taqwa – The Provision of The Believers, p. 30]
Al-Hassān Al-Bāsri may Allāh have mercy on him said: “Stay away from the busying aspects of life, and surely, life has abundant busying aspects. Every man who indulges in an aspect of life that fills his time, then the door he opened will open ten more doors of busying aspects for him.” [Az-Zuhd, by Abdullah bin Al-Mubārak, p.189]
Al-Hasan al-Basrī: 4 signs of wretchedness: 1. Hard heart 2. Dry eyes 3. Excessive hope for this life 4. Greed [Az-Zuhd, no. 36]
al-Hasan al-Basri said: “Allah (SWT) has encouraged you to seek our Jannah, but you do not seem to desire it or long for it.” [al-Mawa’idh wal-Majalis’ pg.181]
It is reported that Al-Ḥasan Al-Baṣrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: Verily, you will find the believer (muʾmin) consistent time after time, upon one way, showing the same face; [whereas] you will find the hypocrite (munāfiq) changing colors, trying to be like everyone around him, running with every wind. Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-ʿIlm #1936
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: Verily, Allāh lets [a person] enjoy a blessing for as long as He wills. But when He is no longer thanked for it, He turns it into a punishment. Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Kitāb Al-Shukr article 17
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: How strange it is that a people whose departure (from this world to the next) has been announced, and whose predecessors have already departed, still play around! Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-’Ilm article 843.
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – once said during the funeral of a man: May Allāh have mercy on the man who works for the likes of this day; for today you are able to do what these brothers of yours, the residents of these graves, cannot do. So make full use of your health and free time before the day of distress and accounts comes upon you. Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Dhamm Al-Dunyā article 53.
It is reported that Ibrāhīm Al-Taymī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: What a great difference there is between you and those people [of the past, the Salaf]! Worldly wealth came to them but they fled from it, whereas the world turns its back on you and you go after it. Ibn Al-Mubārak, Al-Zuhd wa Al-Raqā`iq article 538.
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: By Allāh, never was a person given an abundance of worldy wealth and then not feared this might be a plot against him [for his wrongdoing] except a person lacking intelligence and sound opinion. And never has Allāh held back worldy wealth from a person and that person has not thought that a good choice has been made for him except a person who [also] lacks intelligence and sound opinion. Ibn Abī Al-Dunyā, Dham Al-Dunyā article 42.
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: “Son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days, whenever each day passes then part of you has gone.” [Reported by Salih al-Murri]
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: “Death has shown the reality of this worldly life. It did not leave any happiness for those who are wise.” [Reported by Mubarak ibn Faddalah]
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: “The laughter of a believer is a sign of the inadvertence of his heart.” [Reported by Thabit]
It is reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said: “A believer believes in what God has said. He is the best of men in his deeds, but he fears God most, so that if he spends the size of a mountain of money, he would not be sure of his reward until he sees this with his own eyes. The more righteous and charitable the believer is, the more afraid of God he becomes. While the hypocrite says: Men are too many, I shall be forgiven. There is no harm on me. Thus he acts badly, but wishes many things from God.” [Reported by Talhah ibn Sabih]
Imam al-Hassan Al Basri said: “We laugh and yet – who knows? – perhaps Allaah has looked at some of our works and said: “I will not accept anything from you.” Woe to you, son of Adam! Can you fight Allaah? Whoever disobeys Allaah is fighting Him. By Allaah! I have met seventy veterans of Badr. Most of their garments were wool. Had you seen them you would have said they are crazy, and had they seen the best among you they would have said: “Those people will have no part in the Hereafter.” Had they seen the worst among you they would have said: “Those people do not believe in the Day of Reckoning.” I have seen people for whom this world was cheaper than the dust under their feet. I have seen people the like of whom would come home at night, not finding more than his own portion of food, and yet say: “I shall not put all of this into my belly. I shall certainly give some away for Allaah’s sake.” Then he would give away some of his food in charity, even if he were more in need of it than its recipient.” Narrated from `Alqama ibn Marthad by Abu Nu`aym in Hilya al-Awliya’ (1985 ed. 2:134)
This wise saying of Al-Hasan al-Basri reminds me of another saying which describes real faith according to Islam. Faith is not mere wishes but what you have in your heart which is confirmed by your deeds. This means that deeds are the real test of faith.