This is a story of Imam Abu Hanifah(R.A.). It was one afternoon. At this latter period of Imam Abu Hanifah(R.A.) life; with age his body had become somewhat heavy, causing him some difficulty in moving around. Also, his house was situated on high ground, with a fair number of steps to climb to reach the entrance.
This particular afternoon Imam Abu Hanifah(R.A.) had just climbed up the steps and entered his house, and had just sat down with the intention of lying down to rest, when somebody called out to him from the bottom of the steps:
I wish to ask you some question. Please come down. Imam Abu Hanifah(R.A.) came down and asked, What is the question that you wish to know?
The person replied, Oh! Just as you had reached the last two or three steps I forgot!
Imam Abu Hanifah(R.A.) said, It is of no consequence. When you remember, you may ask, and Imam-saheb went back up the stairs.
Just as Imam-saheb was about to lie down to rest, this person called out again, I’ve remembered! Come down. Imam-saheb climbed down again. This time, too, it was the same story: The person said, I had remembered, but ” just as you reached the last step, I forgot!”
Sometimes it was the last step that Imam-saheb had reached, sometimes it was the third or fourth last step, but every time it was the same story, that he had remembered but had forgotten again!
In this way he made Imam-saheb climb up and down six or seven times! Then finally, when Imam-saheb had climbed down and enquired, What is the question? this person replied, Yes! Yes! Now I remember!
Imam-saheb said, Go ahead and ask.
The person asked, What is the taste of faeces?
Let us pause for a moment. He wanted to know what faeces tasted like! Is this a question to put to anybody? How much trouble and inconvenience did he not put Imam-saheb to, to ask this?
However, with an even temperament (mustaqil mizaj), with steadfastness (istiqamat), with a firm stance (thabite-qadam), Imam-saheb responded very calmly, It depends. What type of faeces are you enquiring about – the taste of fresh faeces, or the taste of stale faeces?
The person said, Well… Both! Tell me the taste of fresh faeces and stale faeces.
Imam-saheb answered, “The taste of fresh faeces is sweet, whereas the taste of stale faeces is bitter.
The person said, What, did you taste each of them?
Imam-saheb replied, There is no necessity for one to taste each in order to determine these qualities. There are some signs and indications which will equally lead us to this conclusion. I have noticed that flies tend to settle on freshly passed faeces. Flies are attracted by sweetness. So, one can conclude that freshly passed faeces taste sweet. Flies do not settle on stale faeces. Bitterness repels flies. So, again, one can conclude that stale faeces are bitter!
The person said, What you have stated is absolutely correct!
Imam-saheb, in turn, asked him, Why do you say so?
The person explained, I knew the answers beforehand!
He explained further, We were a few people sitting together, having a discussion, and the question came up: In this present age, who is that person who is a sahebe-hilm(a person who is tolerant)?
These people wanted to know who is the most accomplished in the quality of hilm, of selflessness, of giving sarifice(qurbani), of undergoing personal inconvenience for the sake of others.
It was our unanimous opinion that it was Imam Abu Hanifah. I came specifically to put you to the test, so that I could see for myself whether our unanimous opinion was correct or not !
Source: “FOR FRIENDS – Booklet 8 “