“I did not come here to look at elephants.”
1 – Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“One day, Ibn Taymiyyah said to me, regarding an action that is permissible: “This goes against what those who are of the higher levels should be doing, even if its abandonment is not a condition for being from the successful.”"
['Madarij as-Salikin'; 2/26]
2 – al-Hafidh Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Ahmad az-Zaydi said:
“Deal with optional acts of worship (nawafil) as if they are obligatory, and acts of disobedience as if they are kufr, and your desires as if they are poison, and socializing with the people as if it were fire, and nurturing of your soul as if it were medicine.”
['Khilasat al-Athar'; 3/401]
3 – It was narrated, regarding Yahya bin Yahya:
“…that when he was a young boy, he travelled from al-Andalus to Madinah in order to study with al-Imam Malik. One day, he was attending a lesson, along with Malik’s students. Suddenly, someone called out: “The elephants are here!” So, the companions of Malik all went out to look at the elephants that were passing by, except for Yahya, who stayed in his place.
al-Imam Malik then said to him: “Why did you not come out to see the elephants? I’m sure you’ve never seen one in al-Andalus.”
Yahya replied: “I came from my homeland to look at you, and to learn from your guidance and knowledge. I did not come here to look at elephants.”
So, Malik became impressed at this boy’s seriousness, and called him ‘The Wisest of al-Andalus.’”
[''Uluww al-Himmah'; p. 78]
4 – It was narrated, regarding ‘Abd ar-Rahman ad-Dakhil:
“…that he was from the ‘Abbasids. When he set out for al-Andalus, he was given a beautiful slavegirl as a gift. So, he looked at her, and said: “Verily, she has a great status with my eyes and heart, and if I were to be distracted from her by the tasks I aspire to accomplish on this journey, I would have wronged her. And if I were to be distracted by her from the tasks I aspire to accomplish on this journey, I would have wronged my aspirations. Therefore, I have no need for her at this time,” and he returned her to her owner.”
['Nafh at-Tib'; 4/43]
5 – ash-Shafi’i said:ا
They looked to it, and when they realized * That it is not an abode for those who are truly alive;
They made it a transitory station, and took * Righteous actions as a vehicle.