Abu Abd al-Rahman Hatem al-Asamm, a native of Balkh, was a pupil of Shaqiq al-Balkhi. He visited Baghdad, and died at Washjard near Termedh in 237 AH (852 CE). He left a wealth of knowledge and wisdom behind.
Why was he named al-Asamm (which means the deaf)?
It’s told that an old woman went to ask him a question. As she was speaking she passed gas and was really embarrassed. He told her to “raise your voice I can't hear well”, to make her feel that he didn’t hear and that she won’t be embarrassed. She left thinking he had hearing problems. So long as that old woman was alive, for close to fifteen years, Hatem made out that he had hearing problems, so that no one should tell the old woman that he was not.
A man once went to Abu Abd al-Rahman and asked:
Tell me what is the head, the center and the tail of detachment (zuhd)?
He said the head of the detachment is trusting in Allah (swt), the middle is patience (sabr), and the tail is devotion.
He was once asked:
How do you control your desires for more?
He said: “I knew a little of sustenance is enough so I asked for less, and my duties won’t be accepted unless I do them, and my fate shall come to me so I am waiting for it, and I learned that I can't hide from the eyes of my Creator, so I fear that He sees me busy with things other than the good deeds He ordered me to do.”
One of his sayings was:
The difference between my life and the kings’ lives is only in one day.
We both can no longer enjoy yesterday’s joys, and for tomorrow we all have no idea what will happen to us. So the difference is only today and whatever happens today.
It was said that when he entered Baghdad its’ people told him: Oh Abu Abu Abd al-Rahman, you are a foreigner (his mother language is not Arabic), yet still no one who engages you in a debate could win over you. He responded:
I have three characteristics during a debate:
1) I am happy when my opponent make a correct argument,
2) Saddened when they make a mistake, and
3) Restrain myself from belittling them.
This was told to Ahmed Bin Hanbal, who said how enlightened this man is. When he met Ahmed Bin Hanbal he was asked:
How to survive from other people’s harm?
He said, with three things:
1) Give them money and not take any of theirs,
2) Give them what belongs to them and not ask for what belongs to you, and
3) Endure their wrong doings without forcing anyone to do anything.
A man once said to him I was told that:
You cross the desert without good or enough food and supplies (zad).
Hatam said: Indeed I have good zad (food and supplies) which are as I see:
1) The world (dunya) belongs to Him, Allah (swt),
2) That all of the creations are His slaves and dependents, and
3) Allah’s (swt) ruling will take place on any land.
The man said to him, I say your zad (food and supplies) is the best zad.
Shaqiq al-Balkhi (his teacher) asked Hatem al-Asamm:
What have you learned as a student?
He said, the following six things:
1) I realized that all people worry about sustenance so I delegated it to my Creator. “There is no creature on earth but its sustenance is depended on Allah” (Quran 11:6).
2) I learned that every person has a friend, a confidant who keeps his secrets and vent to. But I realized that all friends don't come with you to your grave, so I sought a friend who can be my companion in my grave, I found it to be good deeds.
3) I learned that each person had an enemy so I wanted to identify my enemy: I discovered that those who tricked me or took my money or oppressed me are not my enemy, I realized my enemy was the one who wished me to stop following Allah’s commands, i.e. Satan (Iblis) and his soldiers. As Allah (swt) said: "Satan is an enemy to you, so treat him as an enemy" (Quran 35:6).
4) I learned that everyone has someone who seeks them, I realized that entity is the Angel of Death so I made myself available to him.
5) I looked at God’s creation, I liked some and disliked others, those who I admired didn’t give me anything, and those I didn’t admire took nothing away from me. So I questioned where does this feeling comes from? I realized when I avoid envy (hasad), it made me love and wish for everyone what I wish for myself.
6) I also learned that each person had a home to go to, and I realized my home is going to be my grave so every deed I could do was dedicated to improve my home (grave).
After hearing these, his teacher said to him that you have learned very well.
Excerpted from khutbah given at Islamic Center of Hawthorne, California on February 14, 2020 by Imam Othman Rakha in Arabic and translated in English.