The history of Islam has seen many just, pious rulers, among whom the first four Caliphs, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz of the Umayyads and Mahdi of the ‘Abbasids, Mahmud of the Gaznawids, and especially the early ones from amongst the Seljuks and Ottomans were the most famous. They consistently consulted the pious scholars and saints among the people and were not vexed by their warnings.
Together with Abu Jafar al-Mansur and Ma’mun, Harun al-Rashid was one of the most celebrated rulers of the ‘Abbasids. He ruled over a very vast land stretching from Morocco to China and from Abyssinia to the Caucuses. Although he was not as famous for justice and piety as Mahdi, he was also a just and upright man.
Once he visited the renowned scholars and saints among the people one by one. Dissatisfied with the advice and manners of welcome he received from some of the scholars, he finally knocked at the door of Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad.
Fudayl had lived on plundering. Since he had a powerful gang and himself was very good at fighting, travellers had been much afraid of him. However, he had later repented of what he had been doing and become a much renowned saint of the time.
Fudayl opened his door to the Caliph and without inviting him in, warned him severely. He reminded him of the Day of Judgement and gave him other advice. When one of the men escorting the Caliph attempted to stop Fudayl, the latter reprimanded him, saying: ‘It is you and those like you who seduce the rulers. You do whatever they wish and agree with whatever they order and decree.’ Harun al-Rashid was greatly moved by Fudayl’s warnings and wept for a long time.
Harun al-Rashid was once doing Hajj (pilgrimage) when a man from amongst the crowd called him, saying: ‘O Commander of the Believers! Would you please listen me for a short while? The man was ‘Abdullah a grandson of ‘Umar Bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. The Caliph took him aside and the following exchange ensued between them:
- O Commander of the Believers! How many people do you guess there are here doing pilgrimage?
- So many as only God knows their number.
- Now, beware O Commander of the Believers! All of those who are shedding tears are doing so out of the fear that they may be unable to account in the Hereafter, each for his own deeds. However, you will be called to account for both your own self and all of those people.
This led the Caliph to think deeply for a while. Then he requested the pious scholar to continue. The scholar added:
- By God, O Commander of the Believers! If a man neglects to do his own duty and wastes his own property, the Almighty will punish him. But, have you ever thought what will happen to him if he, as a ruler of innumerable people, neglects to do his duties with respect to the peopie and wastes public property?
This time the Caliph could not help but weep heartfelt tears.