Never Lose Hope in the Reformation of Any Person
Abdullah bin Maslamah Qa’nabi (rahimahullah) was among the leading Muhadditheen of his era. He was the ustaad of many eminent Muhadditheen, the likes of Imaam Bukhaari, Imaam Muslim and Imaam Abu Dawood (rahimahumullah).
It is reported that in the beginning of his life, he would associate with wrong company and would consume alcohol. However, after coming into contact with the great Muhaddith and saint, Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah), there was a complete transformation that entered his life and he became among the stalwarts of Islam.
Below is the incident that led to his repentance and reformation:
Abdullah bin Maslamah was once seated at the door of his house, waiting for his friends to arrive. While seated, he had seen the great Muhaddith, Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah), pass by his home, riding on his donkey. There were many people who were walking besides and behind the donkey of Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah), with the intention of drawing benefit from his words and company.
On observing Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) and the large crowd of people around him, Abdullah bin Maslamah asked someone present, “Who is this person?” The man replied, “He is Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah).” Abdullah bin Maslamah asked, “What is his occupation?” The man replied, “He is a Muhaddith (a person who narrates the Ahaadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)).”
Hearing this, Abdullah bin Maslamah (rahimahullah), who was wearing a red lungi at that time, stood up and moved to meet Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah). Upon reaching Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah), he addressed him in an abrupt manner saying to him, “Narrate a Hadith to me.”
Looking at the outer appearance of Abdullah bin Maslamah, Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) realized that this person was a person not committed to deen. Hence, Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) responded, “How can I narrate Ahaadith to you while you are not from the students of Hadith! (i.e. you are not dressed appropriately and you have not adopted the etiquettes of those who wish to study the Mubaarak Ahaadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam))”
When Abdullah bin Maslamah heard this, he became enraged. He drew out his knife and threatened Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) saying, “You either narrate a Hadith to me now or else I will stab you!” Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) thus commenced narrating, “Mansoor narrates from Rib’ee, who reports from Hazrat Abu Mas’ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, ‘If you lack the quality of hayaa (shame), then do as you please (i.e. when one loses his hayaa (shame), then he will have no respect in him and he will be prepared to commit any type of sin).’”
Imaam Shu’bah (rahimahullah) was a personification of the mubaarak sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Hence, when these words emanated from his heart, they had such a profound impact upon the heart of Abdullah bin Maslamah that he was immediately overcome by remorse and sincerely repented for his sins. He threw his knife to the ground, returned home and disposed of all his alcohol.
He thereafter said to his mother, “My friends will soon arrive. When they come then allow them to enter and feed them. Once they have eaten, then inform them that I have changed my life and disposed of all the wine.”
He then set out for Madinah Munawwarah with the intention of changing his life and studying Hadith under the great Imaam of the time, Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah). He remained with Imaam Maalik (rahimahullah) until Allah Ta‘ala blessed him with the wealth of deen and he became an Imaam in the science of Hadith. (Tawwaabeen libni Qudaamah pg. 158)
From this incident, we understand that one should never lose hope in the reformation of any person. There were many people who were leading lives of sin, but then turned to Allah Ta‘ala in sincere repentance. They then connected themselves to the special friends of Allah Ta‘ala, and reformed their lives through remaining in their company. Thereafter, Allah Ta‘ala blessed them with such piety and acceptance that they became role models for the ummah to follow.