The Careful Student (Ḥurayth ibn ʿAbdullāh)
Companion #6: The Careful Student: Ḥurayth ibn ʿAbdullāh
The sound of the wind picks up outside. A slight breeze finds its way through an open window and rustles the papers on the desk. Ḥurayth closes his eyes and enjoys a breath of fresh autumn air before picking up his pen and continuing to write.
Ḥurayth ibn ʿAbdullāh is a great scholar and teacher in the city of Sīstān, famous for recording and compiling ḥadīth. He sleeps just enough to refresh himself each night and devotes the rest of his time to writing, teaching, and worshipping Allah.
There is a knock on the door. Ḥurayth smiles. He can already guess who it might be. While many students come to study with him, none of them is as dedicated and persistent as Ḥamād.
Ḥurayth opens the door wide and welcomes Ḥamād inside. “Salāmun ʿalaykum, Ḥamād! It is good to see you. Have you come for another book?”
Ḥamād grins and holds out a leather-bound book. “Wa ʿalaykum salām. Yes, please. I’ve just finished another round of studying your book on the rules of ṣalāh. There is so much to learn within these pages. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reviewing it over and over again. I discover something new every time.”
“I’m glad it is of service to you,” Ḥurayth says, trying to hide his smile. “You are truly tireless when it comes to learning.”
“I’ve learned that from you,” Ḥamād replies. The two share a special bond that goes beyond that of student and teacher. It is more like the bond of a father and son.
“Please, sit down,” Ḥurayth says, gesturing to a cushioned seat on the floor. He sets a bowl of fruit down in front of Ḥamād, and then joins him on the floor. “And have some fruit.”
“Only if you will eat with me,” Ḥamād says, offering an apple to his teacher.
“I will eat later. Don’t wait for me,” Ḥurayth says. He points to the apple. “It is for you to enjoy.”
At this point, Ḥamād realizes that Ḥurayth must be fasting. He pauses for a moment, apple in hand, unsure of what to do. He is reluctant to eat while his teacher is fasting, but he does not want to reject what his teacher has so kindly offered either. Then he smiles and lets the apple rest in his lap. He will take it with him and eat it later.
Always eager to learn even one new ḥadīth, Ḥamād asks, “Will you please tell me a ḥadīth from one of our Imāms (ʿa)? I feel like I need a reminder.”
“Perhaps this will help. Imām Bāqir (ʿa) has said that if someone fasts all day and prays all night, performs Ḥajj, and gives away all his wealth as charity, his actions are worth nothing if he does not obey and follow the Imāms (ʿa).”
Ḥamād nods, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tries to connect this to what he has learned before. “Because we must obey the Imāms (ʿa) if we truly want to please Allah,” he says as he thinks out loud. “They are his representatives and his guides, so we must follow them. In order to earn Allah’s pleasure, we must earn theirs. This is the path toward true success.”
Ḥurayth gazes at Ḥamād with fatherly pride in his eyes. “May Allah continue to grant you the motivation to learn and memorize ḥadīth. You are a very careful student. I can see that you think deeply about every word.”
“Again, it is what you have taught me,” Ḥamād says. “With your permission, I must be getting home.” As he gets to his feet and helps his teacher to rise, he grins shyly and asks, “May I take your book on ṣalāh home one more time? I still feel my notes are incomplete.”
Ḥurayth claps Ḥamād on the back and chuckles. “You are always welcome to take my books.”
As Ḥamād returns home, he cups his apple in both hands and takes a small bite. The autumn breeze rustles past his cloak, and the aroma of the apple fills the air.
Ḥurayth watches fondly from the window and thanks Allah that he has been blessed with such a considerate and sincere student.
As winter settles over Sīstān like a blanket, the chill never dampens Ḥamād’s spirits. Yet he is quiet, always deep in thought and reflection. The advice from Imām Bāqir (ʿa) which his teacher shared has been weighing on his mind: “If someone fasts all day and prays all night, performs Ḥajj, and gives away all his wealth as charity, his actions are worth nothing if he does not obey and follow the Imāms (ʿa).” Ḥamād has always followed the example of the Imāms (ʿa). He has always given greatest importance to their guidelines and commands. However, he still feels that a great distance separates him from his masters. There is an emptiness in his life he longs to fill.
One frigid morning, he makes his way to his teacher’s home with an extra spring in his step.
“I’ve been thinking about the ḥadīth you shared with me some months ago,” Ḥamād says as he joins his teacher for a cup of early morning tea, “about the importance of following our Imāms (ʿa). I think I need to reconnect with the Imām (ʿa) of my time, our master, Imām Ṣādiq (ʿa). I’ve decided to go and meet him.”
Ḥurayth smiles. “You speak so calmly, but I can see that your face is radiant with joy. I am very happy for you, my son.” Ḥurayth is silent for a moment as memories of his times in Medina flood his mind. Especially in his younger days, he traveled often to Medina and returned each time with newfound treasures from the stores of the Imām’s (ʿa) wisdom. With age, the journey became more difficult. Now, it has been years since his last visit.
Ḥamād notices the wistful look in his teacher’s eyes. “I will be sure to convey your salāms to the Imām (ʿa),” he assures Ḥurayth. “It is the least I can do after all you have done for me.”
“Allāhu Akbar, Allāhu Akbar!” As Ḥamād’s caravan enters Medina, the adhān penetrates the air, summoning everyone to prayer. The entire city stops its activities and heads for Masjid an-Nabī. Sighs of relief sweep through the weary caravan as some people raise their hands in duʿā out of gratitude to Allah. While the others gather their belongings and prepare to rest, Ḥamād does wuḍūʾ and joins the wave of people on their way to the masjid. Everything else can wait. First, he must see his Imām (ʿa).
After prayer, Ḥamād waits in the shadow of a pillar until most of the crowd filters out of the masjid. He sees Imām Ṣādiq (ʿa) near the miḥrāb, shaking hands with a last group of men. On his way out, the Imām (ʿa) glances in the direction of Ḥamād’s pillar, pauses, and begins walking toward it. Ḥamād’s pulse quickens as the Imām (ʿa) approaches him.
“Salāmun ʿalaykum, brother,” says the Imām (ʿa) kindly. “You must be a traveler; I don’t remember seeing you before. May I ask what is your name?”
“Wa ʿalaykum salām, my master,” Ḥamād says, swallowing hard, “I am a student of your student, Ḥurayth ibn ʿAbdullāh. My name is Ḥamād.”
“It is good to see you, Ḥamād,” the Imām (ʿa) says with a warm smile. “How is my old friend?”
“Alḥamdulillāh, he is well,” replies Ḥamād. “He is still dedicated to compiling your teachings. He wishes very much that he could be here and sends you his salāms.”
The Imām (ʿa) nods. “Please convey my salāms to him and tell him that I miss him very much as well. I remember the last time he was here, he was working on a book on ṣalāh. Are you familiar with it?”
Ḥamād’s eyes light up. “Oh, yes. I have read it many times, and each time I read it, I learn something new that I did not pick up before. Every time it has something new to offer. I can never say that I am done with it.”
“Then you must know the rules and guidelines for ṣalāh very well,” says the Imām (ʿa).
Ḥamād humbly shakes his head. “I still have a long way to go. What I know is nothing compared to what you know. I have come here to learn from you, follow you, and aspire to be like you.”
The Imām (ʿa) puts a hand on Ḥamād’s shoulder. “You are a careful student, Ḥamād, and Ḥurayth is a worthy teacher. Rest now, and come to my home tomorrow, and I will try to help you in your quest in whatever way I can.”
“Thank you, my master,” Ḥamād says gratefully before bidding farewell to the Imām (ʿa). Once he steps outside the masjid, a familiar fragrance wafts toward him—the sweetness of an apple. It reminds him of home, his teacher, and a certain special book; and it reminds him that his teacher’s heart is here, with him, in Medina, eager to learn something new.
That night, Ḥamād spends some extra time on his prayer rug. He has changed out of his traveler’s clothes into a clean, white robe. A fragrant perfume fills the air as he raises his hands in duʿā and bends for rukūʿ and sajdah. His gaze is focused directly in front of him to help prevent his mind from wandering.
Prayer has always been a way for him to build a special connection with Allah. This connection is a source of strength and inspiration for him, every single day. The more he prays, the stronger this connection becomes. In hard times, he turns to Allah for comfort and support. In good times, he thanks Allah for his blessings and bounties.
He thanks Allah again for bringing him safely to his Imām (ʿa) in Medina and prays that what he learns tomorrow will give him strength, increase him in faith, and help make his prayer more like his Imām’s (ʿa) prayer.