The ‘Waṣiyyah’: Golden Advice given by Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) to his student Yūsuf b. Khālid as-Samtī (raḥimahullāh)
“Know that if you harm ten people, you will have enemies, even if they are your mothers and fathers, but if you do good to ten people who are not your relatives, they will become like mothers and fathers to you.
If you enter Basra and oppose its people, elevate yourself over them, vaunt your knowledge among them, and hold yourself aloof from their company, you will shun them and they will shun you; you will curse them and they will curse you; you will consider them misguided and they will think you misguided and an innovator. Ignominy will attach itself to you and us, and you will have to flee from them. This is not an option. It is not an intelligent person who is unsociable to the one who is unsociable until Allah shows him a way out.
When you go to Basra, the people will receive you, visit you and acknowledge your due, so put each person in his proper position. Honour the people of honour, esteem the people of knowledge and respect the shaykhs. Be kind to the young and draw near to the common people. Be courteous to the impious but keep the company of the good. Do not disregard the authorities or demean anyone. Do not fall short in your chivalry and do not disclose your secrets to anyone or trust them until you have tested them. Do not socialise with the base or the weak. Do not accustom yourself to what you disapprove of outwardly.
Beware of speaking freely with fools. You must have courtesy, patience, endurance, good character and forbearance. Renew your clothing regularly, have a good mount and use a lot of what is good. Offer your food to people: a miser never prevails. You should have as your confidants those you know to be the best of people.
When you discern corruption, you should immediately rectify it. When you discern righteousness, you should increase your attention to it.
Act on behalf of those who visit you and those who do not. Be good to those who are good to you and those who are bad to you. Adopt pardon and command the correct. Ignore what does not concern you. Leave all that will harm you. Hasten to establish people’s rights.
If any of your brethren is ill, visit him yourself and send your messengers. Inquire after those who are absent. If any of them holds back from you do not hold back from him.
Show affection to people as much as possible and greet even blameworthy people. When you meet others in a gathering or join them in a mosque and questions are discussed in a way different to your position, do not rush to disagree. If you are asked, tell the people what you know and then say, “There is another position on it which is such-and-such, and the evidence is such-and-such.” If they listen to you, they will recognise your worth and the worth of what you have. If they ask, “Whose position is that?” reply, “One of the fuqahā”.
Give everyone who frequents you some of the knowledge they are expecting. Be friendly with them and joke with them sometimes and chat with them. Love encourages people to persevere in knowledge. Feed them sometimes and fulfil their needs. Acknowledge their worth and overlook their faults. Be kind to them and tolerant of them. Do not show them annoyance or vexation. Be like one of them. Do not burden people with what they cannot do.”
The ‘Waṣiyyah’ is found in several biographies of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh). See in English, Imām Abu Zahra’s book “The Four Imams”.