‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah
Ahmed ibn Hambal rahimahu Llah said, “Allah bestows the treasure of knowledge to one whom He loves. If knowledge would have been kept only for a specific people then those with the noblest lineage would be most deserving of it. However, ‘Ata’ (ibn Abi Rabah) was an Abyssinian slave, Yazid ibn Habib was a Nubian, and Hassan al Basri and Ibn Sirin were both slaves.”
Sayyidina ‘Ata’ rahimahu Llah is among the prominent Tabi’in in fiqh, knowledge, piety, and virtue. He has the fortune of meeting at least 200 Sahabah. He was a high ranking faqih, prominent scholar, reliable mufti and is responsible for narrating a great number of ahadith. Only two people were seated on the pedestal of ifta in Makkah, ‘Ata’ and Mujahid, with ‘Ata’ being the more distinct of the two.
Sayyidina ‘Ata’s rahimahu Llah agnomen was Abu Muhammad. His father’s name was Aslam. He was born as a slave, two years after the beginning of ‘Uthman’s caliphate, in the year 27 A.H, and was nurtured in the sacred environment of Makkah Mukarramah. He grew up to become an outstanding scholar of Qur’an and hadith. Sayyidina Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma would tell the people, “You gather around me, O people of Makkah, while you have ‘Ata’ in your midst.” Sayyidina Ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma expressed similar sentiments.
Among his salient qualities was that he had immense love coupled with respect for the words of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He would not tolerate anyone talking while the ahadith of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were being mentioned. Once during a lesson of hadith, a person spoke out. ‘Ata’ became extremely angry at this. He went on to explain that knowledge increases when ahadith are recited. He said, “Whenever a person relates a hadith to me, whether I heard it before or not, I listen to it so attentively that the relater senses that I have never heard it before.” The Urdu proverb is very true: The respectful are fortunate while those devoid of respect are deprived of fortune.
Another excellence of his was his humility. Despite his extensive knowledge, he would not issue any ruling based on his own personal opinion. If he could not find the exact case in the collections of ahadith or sayings of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, he would express his ignorance on the matter. Once when he did this, people told him to express his opinion. He submitted, “I am ashamed of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala that my [personal] opinion be followed on His land.”
His fiqh is accepted by all. In fact, the great jurist, Abu Hanifah rahimahu Llah attested to his fiqh saying, “I never saw anyone I met more superior to ‘Ata’.” In the era of the Banu Umayyah, an announcement was made during the Hajj season that no one should pass verdicts to people besides ‘Ata’. He had the honour of performing Hajj 70 times. Abu Jafar Muhammad al Baqir rahimahu Llah remarked, “No one remains more knowledgeable about the rituals of hajj than ‘Ata’.” Here you have the noble great grandson of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam attesting to the knowledge of a man of African origin. Abu Jafar rahimahu Llah told the people, “Stick to ‘Ata’. By Allah, he is better than me.”
Those who would sit in his company during the Hajj season would become acquainted with the rulings of Hajj. Once Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahu Llah went to a barber during the season of Hajj, but before the barber began cutting his hair, he wished to agree on a price. The barber told him that conditions are not made in worship. Abu Hanifah then sat down away from the Qiblah. The barber gestured to him to face the Qiblah. He wanted the barber to start from the left but the barber started from the right. The barber then told him to continue reciting takbir when he noticed that he was quiet. As he got up to leave, the barber told him to perform two rak’at of salah and then leave. When asked where he had acquired this knowledge, the barber responded, “I saw ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah doing this.”
He spent his time in the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. He would recite 200 or more ayat in his Tahajjud salah. No time of his was spent without the remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Even his gatherings were not devoid of dhikr. When in a gathering, he would remain silent most of the time, engaged in dhikr. However, when he spoke, those around felt as if inspiration was descending upon him.
He studied at the feet of a number of Sahabah including Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn ‘Amr, Ibn ‘Umar, Abu Sa’id al Khudri, Abu Hurairah, ‘Aisha, and Umm Salamah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. His students are innumerable. Some prominent men among them are Mujahid, Zuhri, Ayub al Sakhtiyani, A’mash, Awza’i, ‘Amr ibn Dinar, and Ibn Ishaq.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 225 referenced to Tahdhib al Asma’, vol. 1 pg. 333.
 Ifta: The process of issuing religious edicts known as a Fatwa, plural Fatawa.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 201; Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 226 referenced to Tahdhib al Asma’, vol. 1 pg. 334.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 201; Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 226 referenced to Tadhkirat al Huffaz, vol. 1 pg. 86.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 225 referenced to al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 5 pg. 345.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 226 referenced to al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 5 pg. 246.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 201; Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 227.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 227 referenced to Tahdhib al Asma’, vol. 1 pg. 334.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 229 referenced to Mukhtasar Safwat al Salah, pg. 158
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 201.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 227, 228 referenced to Ibn Khalikan, vol. 1 pg. 319.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 201; Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 228, 229 referenced to Mukhtasar Safwat al Salah, pg. 158, Tadhkirat al Huffaz, vol. 1 pg. 86.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 200.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 7 pg. 202; Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 229 referenced to Tadhkirat al Huffaz, vol. 1 pg. 86.
 Siyar al Sahabah, vol. 7 pg. 225 referenced to Mukhtasar Safwat al Salah, pg. 158.Back to top