Hassan bin Thabit (r.a.)

Hassan bin Thabit, who was one of the greatest poets of Arabs, had just become a Muslim. At that time, the polytheistic poets criticized and disturbed the Muslims by their satiric language. The Muslims needed a poet to answer those poets. For, Arabs gave importance to poetry at that time. When Hassan bin Thabit heard that such a poet was needed, he entered into the presence of the Messenger of Allah at once. He held his tongue with his hand and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I am ready to help you with my tongue. I will overcome them through satire.” [1]

However, the people he would satirize belonged to the tribe of Quraysh, to which the Prophet also belonged. It was possible to harm the Messenger of Allah while satirizing them. The Messenger of Allah pointed out this issue by saying,

“How will you satirize them? You know that I am a relative of them.”

Hassan bin Thabit answered him as follows:

“O Messenger of Allah! I will discriminate between you and the polytheists of Quraysh as easily and kindly as pulling a hair out of dough.” [2]

Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) allowed him. However, he told him to consult Hz. Abu Bakr in order to learn the lineage of the polytheists. For, the one who knew about lineage the best among the Companions was Hz. Abu Bakr. After that, Hassan started to attack the polytheists with his satire and relieved the Muslims. Not only did he satirize the polytheists but also praised the Prophet and Islam, giving great joy to the hearts of the believers. He wrote the following in a poem:

“When the clean forehead of the Messenger of Allah is seen in the dark, it looks like a lamp that sheds luminous light and eliminates darkness.”

Hassan bin Thabit, who became a Muslim during the Migration, was 60 years old then. He belonged to the tribe of Khazraj, one of the oldest tribes of Madinah. His ancestors had come from Yemen. On the other hand, he was a distant relative of the Prophet.

After becoming a Muslim, he gave up writing about non-Islamic issues and started to write and recite in Islamic issues. He was so successful in the poems that satirized the polytheists and defended the Messenger of Allah that he started to be called “the poet of the Messenger of Allah”.

The Messenger of Allah made a special place for him in the mosque. He sometimes recited poems there and made the believers happy. The Messenger of Allah would listen to his poems by smiling. Once, the Messenger of Allah asked him, “Do you have a poem about Abu Bakr?” He said,

“O Messenger of Allah! Yes.” Thereupon, the Prophet said, “I would like to hear it.”

Hassan bin Thabit recited the poem describing the moments Hz. Abu Bakr passed together with the Messenger of Allah and expressing the love of the Messenger of Allah toward Hz. Abu Bakr. After listening to the poem, the Messenger of Allah said, “O Hassan! You are right. He is as you have described.” [3]

The Prophet liked his defense through poems; he sometimes said,

“O Hassan! Answer on behalf of the Messenger of Allah. O Lord! Strengthen him with Ruh al-Qudus (Holy Spirit).”

Once, he prayed as follows due to his service to Islam with his tongue:

“O Allah! Strengthen him with Jibril.”[4]

After becoming a Muslim, some changes occurred in the poetry of Hassan bin Thabit. He no longer included lies and exaggeration in his poetry. Therefore, some people even said his poetry degraded compared to his previous poetry. He answered this claim as follows:

“I agree that my poetry is not as strong as it used to be because Islam does not allow telling lies. As a matter of fact, poetry becomes beautiful with lies, imagination and exaggeration.” [5]

Hassan bin Thabit, who pleased the Messenger of Allah with his poems throughout his life, expressed his sadness after his death through his elegies:

“Did soil cover your body?

I wish I were under soil instead of you.

Will I live among people in Madinah after your death?

I wish I had never been born.”

Abdullah bin Rawaha and Ka’b bin Malik were also famous poets of the Muslims along with Hassan bin Thabit. They also defended Islam. The Quran praises the struggle of those poets and distinguishes them from the poets of the polytheists as follows:    

“Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley?- And that they say what they practice not?- Except those who believe, work righteousness, engage much in the remembrance of Allah, and defend themselves only after they are unjustly attacked. And soon will the unjust assailants know what vicissitudes their affairs will take!”[6]

Hassan bin Thabit lived for 120 years. 60 years of this 120 years passed in Jahiliyya and 60 years in Islam. It is strange that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all lived for 120 years.

Hassan bin Thabit died at the age of 120 during the caliphate of Muawiya. The translations of some of his lines are as follows:

“Richness will not make me forget modesty.”

“The misfortunes of the world will not disturb my peace.”

“Man’s honor and dignity cannot put up with any blemish and wound.”

“A bottle cannot be repaired after it has been broken; neither can man’s honor and dignity.”

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[1]Usdul-Ghaba, 2: 4.
[2]ibid, 2: 5.
[3]Tabaqat, 3: 174.
[4]Tajrid Translation, 2: 360.
[5]Usdul-Ghaba, 2: 4.
[6]ash-Shuara, 225-227.

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