The Honor and Self-Respect of the Salaf
1 - Sufyan ath-Thawri said:
"ًWere it not for the fact that it would lead to my humiliation, I would have moved to live amongst a people who do not know me."
['Siyar A'lam an-Nubala''; 7/208]
Translator's note: The point here is that Sufyan's severe caution from and hatred of being in a state of humiliation and lowliness caused him to prefer to live with the people who knew him well, in order that they give him the respect he deserved, rather than live with people who would deal with him while not knowing his status.
2 - Abu Sa'id Bakr bin Munir said, in regards to al-Bukhari:
"The Amir Khalid bin Ahmad adh-Dhuhali sent to Bukhara, for Muhammad bin Isma'il al-Bukhari: "Bring to me your books 'al-Jami' as-Sahih' and 'at-Tarikh,' so that I can learn them from you."
So, Muhammad bin Isma'il al-Bukhari said to the messenger:
"I will not not humiliate this knowledge, nor will I carry it to the gates of the ruler. So, if you desire something from it, come and attend my lessons in my mosque, or come to my home. If this is not good enough for you, you are the ruler: you can prevent me from giving lessons, so that I can have an excuse before Allah on the Day of Resurrection, for I will not conceal this knowledge, as the Prophet said: "Whoever is asked about knowledge and conceals it, shall come on the Day of Resurrection wearing a bridle of fire.""
And this was the reason for the friction between al-Bukhari and the ruler."
['Hadi as-Sari' (the introduction to 'Fath al-Bari'); p. 493]
3 - A student of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated:
"One day, some wealthy men entered the mosque of al-Khatib, carrying some money in his sleeve, and said to al-Khatib: "Fulan sends his greetings to you, and tells you to spend these dinars on your needs."
al-Khatib replied: "I have no need for this money," and straightened his face.
The man replied: "Do you pretend that you are not in need of this?" and he emptied the sleeve full of coins on al-Khatib's carpet, saying: "This is three hundred dinars."
al-Khatib's face then became red with anger, and he took hold of the carpet, shook the coins off of it, and stormed out of the mosque.
I wil never forget the honor with which al-Khatib left that mosque, and the humiliation in which he left that man, sitting on the floor, collecting his scattered coins from here and there."
['Tabaqat ash-Shafi'iyyah'; 3/14]
4 - It was narrated, regarding Shaykh Sa'id al-Halabi:
...that he would extend his feet forward while giving his lessons. One day, Ibrahim Basha (the son of Muhammad 'Ali; the tyrant ruler of Egypt in the late 1800s who fought to suppress the da'wah of Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Wahhab) entered upon one of his lessons, and Sa'id al-Halabi did not move his feet, or alter his sitting position. Ibrahim Basha became alarmed, but didn't say a word.
When he left the mosque, he sent Sa'id al-Halabi a pouch filled with one thousand gold pounds, to which Sa'id al-Halabi replied: "Tell al-Basha that the one who extended his feet does not extend his hand."
[''Uluww al-Himmah'; p. 113]
5 - It was narrated, regarding Sayyid Qutb:
...that when he was asked to issue an apology to the tyrant, 'Abd an-Nasir, in exchange for his freedom, he replied: "I will never apologize for my work for Allah."
And when he was asked to write a few words asking for mercy from 'Abd an-Nasir, he replied: "Verily, the index finger that testifies to the Oneness of Allah in the prayer, refuses to write a single letter that would legitimize the rule of a tyrant."
And he also said: "Why should I ask for his mercy? If I have been imprisoned by way of truth, I accept the ruling of truth! And if I have been imprisoned by way of falsehood, I am greater than that I seek mercy from this falsehood!"
And in one of his last meetings, one officer came close to him and asked him about the meaning of the word 'shahid' (martyr), to which Sayyid Qutb replied: "A martyr is one who bears witness that the Shari'ah of Allah is more valuable to him than his own life."
['Sayyid Qutb: Min al-Milad ila al-Istishhad'; p. 61-62, 462, 474, and 481]
Even in the most intense and gutwrenching moments of his life - on his way to the hangman's noose - this hero never ceased displaying pure honor, bravery, and self-respect, telling his executors: "ِAll of your jahiliyyah is filthy. Even your noose is filthy!"
['Sunna'at al-Hayah'; p. 60]