Dawud al-Ta’i

September 8, 2009

Abu Sulayman Dawud ibn Nusayr al Kufi al Tai (Allah have mercy upon him) (d. 160 or 165) narrated hadith from a number of the Tabi’un and took fiqh from Abu Hanifa who predicted that he would devote himself entirely to worship. Ibn Ziyad al Lu’lu reported, “Zufar and Dawud al Ta’i al Kufi at first were colleagues, then Dawud left fiqh for asceticism while Zufar combined the two.”

Ibn al Jawzi in Sifat al Safwa narrates that Abu Hanifa said to Dawud: “Abu Sulayman! As for the instrument, we have mastered it.” Dawud said: “What is left?” Abu Hanifa said: “What is left is to put it into practice!” Dawud said: “When i heard this, my soul stirred me to seclusion and solitariness, but i told it: Sit with them for a year and do not raise a peep during that time.” During that year, he said. “A question would come up which made me crave to answer it more than someone parched craves water, but i would not answer.” After one year, he went into seclusion.

Among Dawud’s sayings: “Fear Allah and keep piety with your parents; fast from the world and make death your breakfast; run away from people as you would from a lion, without disparaging them nor leaving their congregation.” “Be satisfied with little from the world together with safety in Religion, just as worldly people are satisfied with the world together with corruption in their Religion.” “Despair is the natural end of our deeds, but our hearts drag us to hope.” “Beware! Lest Allah find you where he forbade you to be; beware lest He not find you were He ordered you to be; be ashamed of His nearness to you and His power over you!” To a student who wished to learn archery: “Archery is fine but your days are counted; look well how you spend them.”

Abu Bakr Muhammed ibn Abi Dawud said he heard Shiduyah ask Dawud: “What do you think of a man who enters upon those [‘Abbasi] princes and commands them good and forbids them from evil?” Dawud said: “I fear he will be lashed.” He said: “What if he endures it?” Dawud replied: “I fear the sword fro him.” He said: What if he endures it?” Dawud replied: “I fear for him the deeply-hidden disease – vanity (al-‘ujb).”

Muhammed ibn “Uthman al-Sayrafi said that Dawud only came out of his house upon hearing the iqama then, when the Imam gave salam, jumped up and returned to his house. His daily diet was bread, salt, and water. One time he ate dates out of craving, after which he swore never to touch dates again. One time his maidservant cooked him a dish but he said: “Take it to So-and-so’s orphans. If i eat it, it will end up in the midden, but if they eat it, it will be stored up in the Divine presence.”

At a funeral one day, Dawud was heard to say: “Whoever fears the Divine threat, all that seems far looms near to him; whoever harbours endless hopes, his deeds are feeble; everything that is going to take place is actually near! Know, my brother, that everything that keeps you away from your Lord is a misfortune for you. Know that the dwellers of the graves are happy for what they sent forth and regret their useless occupations, while the dwellers of the world fight and compete with one another precisely over what the grave-dwellers regret.”

Visitors once said to one another, upon seeing him sitting on the dusty ground: “This is an ascetic (zahid).” He said: “The ascetic is one who first evaluates then leaves!” When Sufyan al Thawri visited him with Abu Khalid al Ahmar the latter was miffed that Dawud did not so much as look at Sufyan, but Sufyan told him: “He is unconcerned by affection; did you not see his eyes? They see other than what we fiddle with.” To another visitor who offered to have the cobwebs in his ceiling swept Dawud said: “Do you not know that he, peace be upon him, detested superfluous gazes?” After that he refused visitors and communicated from behind his door.

Dawud inherited from his parents or his freedwoman twenty pieces of gold which sufficed him for twenty years, after which he would sell the wood of his roof for sustenance until he lived in the last sheltered corner of his house. Hammad [ibn Salama] and / or Abu Yusuf said to him: “Dawud! You are satisfied with so little of this world!” He replied: “Do you know who is satisfied with much less? Those who are happy with all this world in exchange for the hereafter!” To al-Harith ibn Idris who asked him counsel Dawud replied: “The soldiers of death await you.”

Dawud’s frequent prayer: “Allahumma! Your care has piled cares upon me and barred my way to sleep. My desire to see You has tied me up and barred me from pleasures. I am in your jail – O Generous One – under arrest!” The he would repeat a verse of the Qur’an over and over. His neighbour, overhearing, said “It would seem to me as if all the pleasures of this world were summed up in that verse.” Abu Nu’aym [al-Fadl ibn Dukayn] said he saw an ant crawl on Dawud’s face lengthwise and widthwise while Dawud did not even feel it because of his anxiety and sorrow. Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi said he was present at Dawud’s deathbed and he never witnessed a harder agony. Hafs ibn ‘Umar al Ju’fi said the reason for his final illness was that Dawud read a verse that mentioned hellfire that affected him deeply. He repeated it all night long until morning then gave up the ghost, his head resting on a clay brick.

Ibn al-Jawsi said the report that “Dawud al Ta’i was a silk-maker” is probably about Dawud ibn al-Hind alBasri rather than al-Ta’i, who did not have a profession. That report states that for forty years, he left his house with his luncheon which he gave away as alms, then he would go home and eat dinner with his family and they never knew that he was fasting.

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