Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad – The Reformed Ascetic

In the book Safīna al-Bihār the story of Fuḍayl ibn ‘Iyāḍ is mentioned which shows how one verse of the Qur’ān completely changed his entire life. This verse permeated through to the depths of his existence and uprooted the effects of years of robbery and pillaging, making him repent and causing him to become a miraculous individual and a cause of wonder for people of his time.[1]

Fuḍayl ibn ‘Iyāḍ was a notorious thief and a pillager who would pillage caravans travelling between the towns of Abiward (in modern-day Turkmenistān) and Sarakhs (in modern-day Mashad, Iran).[2] There wasn’t a single caravan that would pass through this route and be safe from his hands and when he would raid them he wouldn’t hold back from anything. It just so happens that he fell in love with a girl and in the middle of the night he climbed the wall of her house with the intention of taking her. As he entered the garden of her house he overhead someone reciting this verse of the Qur’ān: “Has not the time yet come for those who believe that their hearts should be humble for the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?”[3]. With tears flowing down his cheeks he told himself: “Now! Now it is close, I swear by God the time for the heart to become humble is close!”

After this, he returned back from there and went to a nearby wasteland. There was a hostel nearby to where he had gone and when the people staying there saw Fuḍayl had arrived they began to tell themselves to get ready to leave as soon as possible. Others suggested that they stay put until the morning as if they left now Fuḍayl would attack them on the road. Fuḍayl heard about this and told them about his repentance and how they can now rest assure that they are safe from any harm. From there he left and sought company with Imām Sādiq (a) and not only became one of his companions but became one of the companions of the secrets (asḥāb sir), to the extent that he would narrate from the Imām and all of our great biographers have recorded him to be trustworthy.[4]

Marḥῡm Nῡri in his work al-Mustadrak in his commentary on the work Misbāḥ al-Sharī’a says:

“It is not unlikely that the work Misbāḥ al-Sharia is the writing that has been narrated from Fuḍayl, according to his own understanding and view. That which I believe in regard to this is he had collected a number of sayings from Imām Sādiq’s gatherings where the Imām would give advice and recommendations. So if anything is seen within this work which is a contradiction (with the accepted ideas of the Imām) then this is from Fuḍayl’s own understanding of what was said, and not that he has lied or concocted things (from himself), as this would contradict the consensus on his trustworthiness.”[5]

After being in the presence of the Imām he left for Makkah and in the year 187 hijrī passed away on the day of Ashῡra.

Source: Anwār al-Malakῡt by Allāmah Tehrāni, v.2, p.40-41


1 – Safīna al-Biār by Shaykh Abbās Qummī, v. 2, p. 369. The story is also mentioned in al-Ikhtisās of Shaykh Mufīd p.41 and Biār al-Anwār of Allāmah Majlisī v. 75, p. 225

2 – It appears that this route which Fuḍayl would pillage was part of the historically known “silk route”, a network of routes connecting the East to the West and very popular amongst merchants and travellers.

3 – Surah Hadīd, verse 16

4 – There is a unanimous agreement by the scholars of rijāl that Fuḍayl was considered to be a trustworthy man however there is a discussion over his madhab as to whether he was Shī’ī or a Sunnī. Refer to Mu’jam al-Rijāl by Syed Khoei, v. 14, p.352

5 – Khātima Mustadrak al-Wasā’il by Muhadith Nῡri, v. 3, p. 328

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