When Sa’id bin Jubair (radiyaAllahu ‘anhu) entered into the court of the ruthless governor, Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf Ath-Thaqafi, the latter asked the former, “What is your name?”
“Sa’id bin Jubair.”
“Rather, you are ‘the miserable one, son of the broken one,” said Al-Hajjaj, immediately showing hostility towards Sa’id. This was the way he treated all of his enemies – basically, anyone who criticized him was his enemy.
“Rather, my mother knows my name better than you do,” said Sa’id, with the calmness and composure that one should show when responding to an ignorant person.
“You are wretched, and so is your mother,” said Al-Hajjaj.
“As for the unseen world, One other than you knows it,” said Sa’id.
“I will cause you to change in this world with a blazing fire,” said Al-Hajjaj.
“Had I known that that was in your hands, I would have taken you as a god,” said Sa’id.
“And what do you say about Muhammad (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam)?” asked Al-Hajjaj.
“He is the Prophet of mercy, the Imam of guidance – may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him – and the Messenger of the Lord of all that exists, sent to all of mankind with a good exhortation.”
“And what do you say about ‘Ali bin Abu-Talib ?” Al-Hajjaj asked. “Is he in Paradise or in the Hell-fire?”
“Had I entered it, I would have seen its dwellers,” said Sa’id.
“And what do you say about the Caliphs (Khalifahs)?”
“I am not a guarantor for them,” said Sa’id. “Each person is held ransom for only that which his own hands have reaped.”
“Should I curse them or praise them?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“I will not say that which I do not know,” said Sa’id. “I am required to be accountable only for the affairs of my own soul.
“Who among them do you like best?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“The one whom the Creater (Allah ‘azawajal) is most pleased with,” said Sa’id.
“And who among them is Allah most pleased with?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“The knowledge thereof is with the One who knows their secrets and their private discources,” said Sa’id.
“And what kind of a man will I be on the Day of Resurrection?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“I am too insignificant for Allah to reveal to me the unseen world,” said Sa’id.
“You refuse to be truthful with me,” said Al-Hajjaj.
“To the contrary, (I said what I said because) I did not want to lie to you,” said Sa’id.
“Forget about all of this,” Al-Hajjaj said. “Tell me why you never laugh.”
“I have never seen anything that should make me laugh,” said Sa’id. “And how can a created being laugh when he was created from clay, which is consumed by fire!”
“Then what is the matter with us that we laugh?” asked Al-Hajjaj.
“Hearts (of people) are not at the same level,” said Sa’id.
“Have you ever seen any form of entertainment (i.e., musical instruments)?”
“I do not know what you are referring to,” said Sa’id. Al-Hajjaj then asked one of his underlings to bring a lute (a stringed instrument) and a flute. When they were brought and someone began to play the lute and blow into the flute, Sa’id began to cry.
“What is making you cry?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“O Hajjaj, you have reminded me of a tremendous matter,” said Sa’id. “By Allah, after what I have seen here, I will never eat to satiety, quench my thirst, or wear (nice) clothing, and I will continue to remain in a state of sadness.”
“Fine, but what is your view concerning this entertainment?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“O Hajjaj, by Allah, that is the sadness (I am referring to). As for this blowing instrument, it reminded me of a tremendous Day, the Day on which the trumpet will be blown. As for the lute, a tree was wrongfully cut (for it to be made). And as for the strings, they are from the bowels of sheep (which were wrongfully slaughtered (since they weren’t slaughtered for food or any beneficial use, but rather for forbidden entertainment)). They will be resurrected with you on the Day of Resurrection.”
“I am more beloved to Allah than you are?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“No one goes to his Lord until he knows how he ranks with Him,” said Sa’id. “And Allah knows best about the unseen.”
“And how is it possible that I will not go to my Lord as I am today (i.e., dignified – as he deemed himself to be)?” said Al-Hajjaj. “I am with the Imam of the Jama’ah (the main body of Muslims), while you are with the Imam of division and Al-Fitnah (trial or tribulation, the source of discord).”
“I am not outside of the Jama’ah,” said Sa’id. “Nor am I pleased with the trials or tribulations; but the decree of Allah (‘azawajal) is executed: nothing can prevent it (from being executed).”
“What do you think about that which we are gathering for the Leader of the Believers?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“I have not seen (what it is that you are gathering for him),” said Sa’id. Al-Hajjaj ordered for gold, silver, pearls, and precious jewels to be brought to him; when they came, he put them between the hands of Sa’id ibn Jubair.
“This is good, if you fulfill its condition,” said Sa’id.
“And what is its condition?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“If you use what you gathered to purchase safety from the Greater Terror on the Day of Resurrection, then that is fine. Otherwise”
…every nursing mother will forget her nursling, and every pregnant one will drop her load… (22:2)
“Nothing that is gathered for the world is good other than that which is good and purified,” continued Sa’id.
“Then you consider our action of gathering (this wealth) good and pure?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“In your view, you have gathered it,” said Sa’id. “And you know better whether it is good and pure (i.e., whether you have procured it through lawful means).”
“Would you like to have something from it (i.e., from this treasure)?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“I do not love that which Allah does not love,” said Sa’id.
“Woe unto you!” exclaimed Al-Hajjaj.
“The destruction (that you have invoked upon me) is reserved for those who are sent away from Paradise and are made to enter the Hell-fire,”said Sa’id.
“Choose, O Sa’id, the method in which I will kill you,” said Al-Hajjaj.
“Choose for yourself, O Hajjaj,” said Sa’id. “For by Allah, whatever method you use to kill me, Allah will kill you in the same manner in the Hereafter.”
“Do you want me to forgive you?” Al-Hajjaj asked.
“If there is any forgiveness, then it is from Allah,” said Sa’id. “As for you, you have no exoneration and no excuse (for what you do).”
“Take him away and kill him,” said Al-Hajjaj to his guards. As Sa’id was being taken away, he laughed. When Al-Hajjaj was informed about his laughing (which was something novel for Sa’id), he ordered for him to be brought back to him. When Sa’id returned, Al-Hajjaj asked, “O Sa’id, what has made you laugh?”
“I became amazed at your temerity and brazenness in your dealings with Allah, which is contrasted by His forbearance and leniency towards you,” said Sa’id.
Al-Hajjaj then ordered for one of the guards to bring a Nat’a. A Nat’a was a special kind of carpet that was made of leather. It would be rolled out onto the ground on special occasions only – when someone was about to be killed or tortured. And its purpose was to prevent the blood of the person being tortured or executed from splattering all over the floor, especially if the floor was made of marble or expensive material, as was often the case in the castles of governors and leaders.When the Nat’a was laid out and Sa’id was moved onto it, Al-Hajja said to his guards, “Kill him.”
“First, let me perform two units of prayrer,” said Sa’id. Having faced the Qiblah and commenced his prayer, Sa’id recited this Verse:
Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah .” (6:79)
“Turn him so that he does not face the Qiblah,” said Al-Hajjaj. When the guards executed his instructions, Sa’id recited this verse:
…so wherever you turn yourselves or your faces there is the Face of Allah (2:115)
“Put his face onto the ground,” said Al-Hajjaj, more furious than he probably ever was before in his life. Referring to the ground and the earth, Sa’id then recited Allah’s saying:
From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time. (20:55 )
“Slaughter him!” exclaimed Al-Hajjaj.
“I make you bear witness, O Hajjaj, that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah alone, and He has no partner, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger,” said Sa’id. “I keep these words with you in safekeeping, O Hajjaj, until you meet me on the Day of Resurrection.”
Sa’id then invoked Allah saying, “O Allah, do not give him the power to kill anyone after me.” They then killed him – may Allah have mercy on him.
After he was killed, Al-Hajjaj lived for only fifteen more days. In what remained of his days, he would constantly call out in pain, “What is it between me and Sa’id bin Jubair? Whenever I want to sleep, he takes me by the leg (to prevent me from sleeping).”
One narration indicates that he lived for forty days after he had killed Sa’id. It is mentioned in that narration that when he would sleep, he would see Sa’id in his dream. Sa’id would grab him by his garment and say, “O enemy of Allah! Why did you kill me?” While he was awake, Al-Hajjaj would ruefully say, “What is it between me and Sa’id bin Jubair, what is it between me and Sa’id bin Jubair?”
It is also reported that, during his last days, Al-Hajjaj became paralyzed, so that if he placed his hand on a burning stove, his skin would burn, yet he wouldn’t feel anything. Also, he became very ill; his illness was attributed to worms that entered into his body.
When Al-Hajjaj summoned for Al-Hasan Al-Basri to come to him, Al-Hasan simply said, “Did I not tell you: do not stand in the way of the scholars! You have killed Sa’id!”
“I didn’t call you here in order to ask you to supplicate for me (i.e., for my cure),” said Al-Hajjaj. “I only called you here so that Allah can grant me rest (i.e., death) from the condition that I am in.” Shortly thereafter, Al-Hajjaj died. And it would not be surprising if we were to learn that his last words were: “What is it between me and Sa’id bin Jubair!”
Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah 9/107-108,