Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in Manaqib al-Shafiʿi and Naqd Abi ʿAbd Allah al-Jurjani fi Tarjih Madhhab Abi Hanifa relates the following example of the Imam's perspicuity at an early age:
Al-Shafiʿi was sitting at Malik's feet one day when a man came in and
"I sell turtle-doves, and one of my customers returned one of them to me today, saying that it does not coo, so I swore to him on pain of divorce that my turtle-dove coos all the time!"
"You have divorced your wife and are not to approach her."
Al-Shafiʿi was fourteen at the time. He said to the man:
"Which is more, your turtle-dove's cooing or its silence?"
The man said: "Its cooing."
Al-Shafiʿi said: "Consider your marriage valid, and there is no penalty on you." Whereupon Malik frowned at him saying: "Boy! How do you know this?" Al-Shafiʿi replied: "Because you narrated to me from al-Zuhri, from Abu Salama ibn ʿAbd al-Rahman, from Umm Salama, that Fatima bint Qays said:
'O Messenger of Allah! Abu Jahm and Muʿawiya have both proposed to me.'
The Prophet ﷺ replied: 'As for Muʿawiya he is penniless, and as for Abu Jahm he does not put down his staff from his shoulder [from travel].'
1 Meaning: in most of his states; for the Arabs declare the more
frequent of two actions [exclusively of the other] because of its
constancy. And since the cooing of this man's turtledove is more than its
silence, I declared it constant in its cooing."
Malik was pleased at his reasoning.2
1 Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.
2 In Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafiʿiyya al-Kubra (5:147-148).
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