“And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.”
In Al-Basra lived two great scholars; Al-Khalil Ibn Ahmad Al-Farahidi [born 100 Hijra/ 718 CE and died 170 Hijra / 786 CE] and Abdullah Ibn Al-Muqafa [born 106 Hijra/ 724 CE and died 142 Hijra / 759 CE].
They met once and after they departed, they were asked what they thought of each other.
Al-Farahidi said: “His (Al-Muqafa) knowledge is bigger than his intellect !”,
but Ibn Al-Muqafa said: “His (Al-Khalil) intellect is bigger than his knowledge !”.
Al-Khalil was content with just having the basic necessities of worldly goods and kept his distance from the rulers. In contrast, his own students engaged with the rulers and enjoyed luxurious lifestyles.
It is even narrated that the ruler sent for him to teach in his court, for which he would be rewarded handsomely. His reply was by showing the messenger the dried bread he had at home and by saying: “As long as I have this, I am in no need to go to Baghdad !”
It is certain that he was a mathematical genius, a great man of literature, a musician, etc.; a polymath in short.
He was the third person in the history of the world to write a dictionary.
As far as I am aware, the first dictionary was written by the Indians and the second one was written by the Chinese.
He was a master of the Arabic language, but he may have known some Persian and some Greek.
As to Ibn Al-Muqafa, he went on to be very close to the rulers.
He was a genius, generous and of good character. He was an honourable man.
He says: “If you were to be kind to a human being, be aware not to remind them of your kindness. And if a human being is kind to you, be mindful not to forget their kindness !”
He was a Manichaean and then he became a Muslim.
He knew several languages and indeed, he translated ‘Kalila wa Dimna’ from Pahlavi into Arabic. Some even say that it was his invention, but I doubt it. They were not his peers nor his friends.
Kalia wa Dimna is a series of stories about life in general but its main characters are animals. His work was to be translated to over 20 languages afterwards including Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, Latin, French and English. It would not be far from the truth to say that his work was a precursor to the modern Animal Farm and Disney.
Unfortunately, he took a dislike to the local governor, who happened to be a very cruel man and of a cruel family. Moreover, he wrote a letter to support the case of Abdullah bin Ali, who was the uncle of Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ali nicknamed Abu Jafar Al-mansour (the victorious!). Abdullah bin Ali opposed Abu Jafar in a war but lost and managed to flee. He asked Ibn Al-Muqafa to write a letter to Abu Jafar to guarantee his safety. Ibn Muqafa did his best. However, Abu Jafar was a psychopath like Charlemagne, Gengis Khan and many others in the East and the West. And so he took offence to the letter of Ibn Al-Muqafa and ordered his local governor to dispose of him the Khashoggi way. And he did under the pretext that he was a hypocrite.
It will be a long time before humanity will be able to hold its rulers into account.
Somehow, I find it very hard to believe that a heart can be at peace if it does not side with the people of peace or that it can find peace if it opposes the people of peace.