Malik ibn Dinar

24 September 2011
Malik ibn Dinar al-Sami [d.130 H - 748 CE] 'alayhi al-rahmah wa'l-ridwan

Malik ibn Dinar was the son of a Persian slave from Sijistan (or Kabul) and became a disciple of HASAN AL-BASRI  [d.110 H] alayhir al rahman. He is mentioned as a reliable traditionist, transmitting from such early authorities as Anas ibn Malik and Ibn Sirrin. He was a noted early calligrapher of the Qur'an al karim, he died 130 H (748 CE).

Malik ibn Dinar was given his name after the following incident;

When Malik was born his father was a slave; yet though he was a slave's son, he was free from bondage to both worlds. Some say that Malik ibn Dinar once embarked in a ship. When the ship was far out to sea the mariners demanded, "Produce your fare!" "I do not have it," he answered.

They beat him till he was senseless. When he recovered, they shouted again.

"Produce your fare!" "I do not have it," he repeated.

They beat him unconscious a second time. When he came to, they demanded a third time.

"Produce your fare!" "I do not have it."

"Let us seize him by the feet and throw him overboard," the sailors shouted.

All the fish in the water at that moment put up their heads. Each one held two golden dinars in its mouth. Malik reached down his hand and, taking two dinars from one of the fish, gave it to them. Seeing this, the crew fell at his feet. He walked on the face of the waters and vanished. That is why he was called Malik ibn Dinar.

Maliks Abstinence

Years passed without anything sour or sweet passing Malik's lips. Every night he would repair to the baker's and buy two round loaves on which he broke his fast. From time to time it happened that the bread was warm; he found consolation in that, taking it as an appetizer.

Once he fell sick, and a craving for meat entered his heart. For ten days he controlled himself; then, unable to restrain himself any longer, he went to a delicatessen and bought two or three sheep's trotters and put them in his sleeve. The shopkeeper sent his apprentice after him to see what he would do. After a little while the boy returned in tears. "From here he went to a desolate spot," he reported. "There he took the trotters out of his sleeve, kissed them twice or thrice, then he said, 'My soul, more than this is not meet for you.' Then he gave the bread and trotters to a beggar, saying, 'Weak body of mine, do not think that all this pain I impose on you is out of enmity. It is so that on the resurrection morn you may not burn in Hell. Be patient for a few days, and it may be that this trial will come to an end, and you will fall into bliss that shall never pass away.' "

Once Malik said,

"I do not know the meaning of the statement that if a man does not eat meat for forty days, his intelligence is diminished. I have not eaten meat for twenty years, and my intelligence increases every day." For forty years he lived in Basra and never ate fresh dates. When the season of ripe dates came round he would say, "People of Basra, behold, my belly has not shrunk from not eating them, and you who eat them daily-your bellies have not become any larger." After forty years he was assailed by a mood of restlessness. However hard he tried, he could not withstand the craving for fresh dates. Finally after some days, during which the desire daily increased whilst he constantly denied his appetite, he could resist no more the importunity of his carnal soul. "I will not eat fresh dates," he protested. "Either kill me, or die!" That night a heavenly voice spoke. "You must eat some dates. Free your carnal soul from bondage." At this response his carnal soul, finding the opportunity, began to shout. "If you want dates," Malik said, "fast for a week without breakfasting once, and pray all night. Then I will give y u some." This contented his carnal soul. For a whole week he prayed all night and fasted all day. Then he went to the market and bought some dates, and betook himself to the mosque to eat them. A boy shouted from the rooftop.

"Father! A unbeliever has bought dates and is going to the mosque to eat them."

"What business has a unbeliever in the mosque?" the man exclaimed. And he ran to see who the unbeliever might be. Beholding Malik, he fell at his feet.

"What were those words the boy uttered?" Malik demanded. "Excuse him, master," the boy's father pleaded. "He is only a child, and does not understand. In our quarter many unbelievers live. We are constantly fasting, and our children see the unbelievers eating by day. So they suppose that everyone who eats anything by day is a unbeliever. What he said he said in ignorance. Forgive him!"

When Malik heard this, a fire consumed his soul. He realized that the child was inspired to speak as he had.

"Lord God," he cried, "I had not eaten any dates, and Thou didst call me a unbeliever by the tongue of an innocent child. If I eat the dates, Thou wilt proclaim me an unbeliever. By Thy glory, if I ever eat any dates!"


    1"How Malik ibn Dinar Came To Be So Named": T.A., 1, 41-42. The source was Hujwiri, P. 89; the curious derivation of the name appears to have been Attar's invention.
    2Thabit ibn Aslam al-Bunani, a well-known traditionist and ascetic, died c. 130 (748).
    3"Malik and His Licentious Neighbour": T.A., I, 43-44.
    4"Malik and His Abstinence": T.A., 1, 44-45.
    5For Malik's abstention from dates, see Abu Nu`aym, II, 366; al-Qushairi, Risala (Cairo, 1330 (A.H.)), P. 63.