Hassan al-Basri was one of the greatest Tabi’en (students of the Companions RA). Once, after giving the Friday sermon a group of slaves came to him and said, “Shaykh please, next week, give a speech about freeing the slaves!” Hassan agreed and next week there, waiting anxiously, were the slaves. Hassan ascended the pulpit as the sun rises to the heavens. His speech moved hearts and brought tears to dry eyes, but he failed to mention anything about freeing slaves? The slaves thought to themselves that the Shaykh must have forgot, thus, once again, the following week they took the 50 yard line seats and waited hoping soon to be free. However, the Shaykh failed to mention anything again? After a number of weeks the slaves were sure that the Shaykh sold them out, gotten cold feet and they began to hold the Shaykh in contempt.
One year passed and the tired slaves entered the Masjid of the Shaykh. They had long since forgotten their request and were taken aback, when suddenly he began to mention the conditions of slaves and the importance of freeing them! Their faces looked like bright lamps as the Shaykh encouraged all to free their slaves in exchange for Allah’s mercy and pleasure.
After the sermon the slaves were freed and they ran to the Shaykh asking why he waited one year to give the speech. Hassan al-Basri responded: “At the time you ask me to give the speech I readily agreed. However, after you left I realised that I had no slave of my own. Being a poor man I had to save some money for around one year’s time in order to purchase a slave. Today, alhumdulillah! I was able to purchase a slave. After I purchased him I went to the market and freed him. Finally, I went to the Masjid and gave my sermon.” Looking baffled the freed men asked, “But why? Why did you go to all this trouble?” The Shaykh responded, “If I gave that speech a year ago I would have been encouraging the people to do something that I had not done. Thus, I decided to wait until I freed a slave so that my actions and words would be equal.”
May Allah reward Hassan al-Basri, enlighten his grave and bless us to be those who act on what they know.