Youthful Leader of Aged Intellectuals
The second century of Hijrah was the age when Islamic sciences spread far and wide. It could be said that this was the time when the sun of sciences and knowledge was rising on the Islamic horizons and spreading its brilliance all around. Students in quest of knowledge were flocking in all the universities and colleges, especially those connected with the study of religious jurisprudence, traditions, and Quranic exegesis. In all these countries where Islam was the predominant religion a personality was gauged depending upon knowledge and intelligence and on this basis alone one was remembered even after one passed away.
Kufa, Baghdad , Basra and Medina were the centers of education during this period. This is an episode of the reign of the Abbaside, Mahdi the third, that one day the caliph arrived in Basra with all the royal pomp and glory in order to tour this city, which had earned the reputation of being a great seat of learning. Thus he came to Basra accompanied by the great scholars and military officers of his kingdom. When his entourage passed through the city the great scholars of the place were leading the procession. It was the time when scholars also permitted and favored according respect to royal figures, and this was the method of paying
homage. The Abbaside caliph saw that a young man, whose name was Ayaz ibn Muawiyah standing in the front surrounded by rows of scholars all around him, because this youth was having divinely gifted intelligence and astonishing knowledge. Not only this, he had just stepped into adolescence, when he scaled the peaks of intellectual accomplishments. Seeing this spectacle the caliph was very much distraught and addressing the scholars said, “Shame on your white beards. Is there none among you who could come forward and send this youth to the rear?”
After that, the caliph looked towards Ayaz and said, “What is your age?” Ayaz who was a witty genius having great presence of mind replied at once, “O Caliph! My age is same as the age of Usamah ibn Zaid when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) appointed him as the commander-in-chief of the army. And this army included among other companions, Umar, Abu Bakr and other senior people and all were obliged to accept the leadership of this lad.”
When the haughty caliph heard this reply he was astonished at the intelligence, wit and wisdom of this young man. He said, “Bravo! You indeed deserve to walk before these scholars.” At that time Ayaz was only seventeen.