Imam Ahmad used to mention the virtues of his sheikh, Imam Ash Shafi’ee to his wife. He would mention to her the extensive and superb knowledge of Imam Ash Shafi’ee as well as his taqwah (i.e. piety). Imam Ahmad invited Imam Ash Shafi’ee to come visit him at his home. When the time for dinner arrived, Imam Ash Shafi’ee ate until he was full and went to the guest room for some sleep.
The wife of Imam Ahmad said to him: “O Ahmad! Is this the same Shafi’ee that you used to tell me so much about?“
Imam Ahmad said: “Indeed he is!“
So she said: “I noticed three things about him worthy of criticism! Firstly, when we served him …the food, he ate plenty of it! Secondly, when he went into the guest room, he went to sleep without standing up to perform the night prayer (i.e. tahujjud)! Lastly, when he prayed Salat ul Fajr with us, he did not perform ablution (i.e. wudhu)?!”
So Imam Ahmad went to Imam Ash Shafi’ee to ask him about these three matters his wife noticed. Imam Ash Shafi’ee said to him, (the way a father would explain to his son): “O Ahmad! I ate plenty because I know for certain that your food is halal (i.e. permissible islamically) and you are a generous man! And the food that comes from a generous man is a cure, while the food that comes from a stingy man is a disease!
However, I didn’t eat plenty of food in order to achieve my fill; rather I ate plenty of your food in order to derive the cure from it! As for the reason I didn’t stand up at night to perform the night prayer, when I laid my head down to get some sleep, I looked and all I could see was the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (Sallahu alaihi wa salam) right in front of my face! So I deducted 72 fiqh related benefits from them for the Muslims to benefit from. Thus there was no opportunity for me to stand and perform the night prayer!
As for the reason why I prayed Salat ul Fajr without performing ablution, by Allah! My eyes never tasted the sweetness of sleep in order for me to renew my wudhu!! I was awake the whole night, so I prayed Salat ul Fajr with the same wudhu I had for Salat ul Isha!!!“
[Collected by Al Hafidh Ibn Hajr in Fath ul Bari concisely and by Abu Nu’aim in Hilya tul Awliyaa’. Translated by Abu Azzubayr Shadeed Muhammad on 3/30/2010 in the City of Riyadh Saudi Arabia]