Asad bin al-Furat: The Conqueror of Southern Italy
adh-Dhahabi introduced him in ‘Siyar A’lam an-Nubala” (9/14):
“Asad bin al-Furat, the Imam, the ‘Allamah, the Qadi, the Amir, the forerunner of the Mujahidin, Abu ‘Abdillah al-Harrani then al-Maghribi. He was born in Harran in 144 according to Ibn Makula. Others have said he was born in 145.”
In ‘Shajarat an-Nur az-Zakiyyah fi Tabaqat al-Malikiyyah’ (p. 62), Shaykh Muhammad Makhluf al-Maliki said:
“He traveled with his father when he was two years of age with the army of Arabs under the leadership of Ibn al-Ash’ath, and he entered Qayrawan in the year 146. He then entered Tunis and dedicated himself to reciting and studying the Qur’an and its sciences. He heard ‘al-Muwatta” from Ibn Ziyad (‘Ali bin Ziyad at-Tunisi), and when he was eighteen, he traveled east. He lived in Madinah for some time, and reviewed ‘al-Muwatta” with Malik himself.
He then traveled to Iraq and met the most famous companions of Abu Hanifah, including the two leading scholars Abu Yusuf and Muhammad bin al-Hasan. He obtained much useful knowledge from them, and he then traveled to Egypt and met a group of the most famous scholars including ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin al-Qasim. He stayed with him for some time, and this is where he wrote ‘al-Asadiyyah.’
He then returned to Qayrawan, and this is where he became famous for his knowledge and his reputation became great. In the year 212, the governor Ziyadatullah al-Aghlabi gathered his army naval fleet and prepared them to invade Sicily, and the commander and judge of the army was Asad bin al-Furat. He went out as part of a huge caravan that included scholars and his supporters.
When Asad saw this huge number of people of all types in front of him and behind him, he said to them after praising Allah: “There is none worthy of worship except Allah, without any partners. O people! By Allah, I did not inherit any position of leadership from my father or grandfather, and none of my ancestors have ever seen a gathering such as this! I am not witnessing what you see for any reason other than the pens (i.e. due to learning and studying knowledge, writing it, and placing oneself at its service). So, exert yourselves and exhaust your bodies in seeking knowledge and writing it. Be patient upon its hardship, as you will attain the good of this world and the next through it.”
This caravan stretched all the way to Marsa Susah (on the northern coast of Libya), and the fleet of ships departed from there towards Sicily. After enduring much hardship, he finally entered it and made a great conquest! He died of his wounds during the siege of Syracuse (southern Italy) and was buried there, may Allah have Mercy upon him.”
adh-Dhahabi concluded in ‘as-Siyar’ (9/15):
“…In addition to his immense knowledge, he was also a courageous and heroic warrior. The leader of Sicily confronted him with an army of 150,000, and a man said: “I saw Asad carrying the banner of his army that day while reciting ‘Ya Sin.’ He then charged the enemy and defeated them, and I saw the blood flowing on the banner and onto his arm,” and he became ill and died while laying siege to Syracuse.”