UNIT THIRTEEN – MISERLINESS, GENEROSITY AND ALTRUISM

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It is related that Abu Hurayra said that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “There is never a day wherein the servants (of Allah) get up in the morning, but are not visited by two angels. One of them says: ‘O Allah, give him more who spends (for the sake of Allah)’, and the other says: ‘O Allah, bring destruction to one who withholds.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Zakah, 27; Sahih Muslim, Zakah, 57).

 

NARRATOR

Abu Hurayra, may Allah be well pleased with him.

 

EXPLANATION

1. In the Qur’an, which Allah has sent as the “prescription” for humanity’s salvation, Allah places great emphasis on generosity and its benefits. It is declared, for instance: Those who act meanly (in spending out of what Allah has granted them) and urge others to be mean, and conceal the things Allah has granted them out of His bounty (such as wealth or knowledge, and certain truths in their Book). We have prepared for (such) unbelievers a shameful, humiliating punishment. (an-Nisa 4:37) It can be understood from the verse that Allah has placed meanness among the attributes of unbelievers and has declared that its outcome is a debasing punishment. 19 Refer to Unit Twelve for further information regarding the narrator Abu Hurayra.  As narrated by Adi ibn Hatim, the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “So whoever among you can protect himself from the Fire, even with half a date, let him do so.” Spending from the bounties that Allah has favored us with in consideration of His approval and good pleasure is elemental. Allah’s Messenger informs us that spending done in this way is among the causes delivering a human being from the Fire.

2. As can be gleaned from the hadith in question, miserliness is also not without is consequence. However, what needs to be pointed out at this juncture is that the wealth that is cursed is the wealth of which the prescribed annual alms are not given. Such destruction and ruin is not asked upon those who are lax with respect to supererogatory goodness. The word khalaf mentioned in the hadith comes to mean that which is given, or received, in place of, or in exchange for, another thing. This takes the form of wealth in this world and rewards in the Hereafter. This is the meaning illustrated in the verse, “Whatever you spend (in Allah’s cause and in alms), He will replace it” (Saba 34:39). Talaf implies physical or immaterial ruin, loss, dissipation, or destruction. It is again declared in a Qur’anic verse: “Those who spend their wealth night and day, secretly and in public, their reward is with their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (al-Baqarah 2:274).

Abu Bakr gave away in charity, at a stroke, the forty thousand dinars in his possession, keeping nothing backten thousand at night, ten thousand during the day, ten thousand in secret, ten thousand in publicsuch that it is said that this verse was revealed in relation to him. When Ali possessed nothing other than four dirhams, he gave away all of these, one by night, one by day, the third secretly and the fourth openly. When the Prophet asked him why he had done so, he replied, “In order to be merit my Lord’s words.” Upon this, Allah’s Messenger affirmed that he had.

3. Again, with respect to altruism, the highest level of generosity, it has been stated: “And (indeed) they prefer them over themselves, even though poverty be their own lot” (al-Hashr 59:9). As is evident in the verse above, altruism refers to preferring the needs of another to one’s own needs, even if one is in more need themselves.

4. Allah’s Messenger was the most generous of people. He himself stated: “The generous are near to Allah, near to Paradise, and near to people, and distant from Hell. The miserly, however, are distant from Allah, distant from Paradise, and distant from human beings, but near to Hell.” The best of humankind in terms of his life and outward appearance (ahsan an-nas), the Prophet was the most generous of people (ajwad an-nas) in heart and giving to others. A great many hearts unable to be unlocked with the keys of tenderness and other lofty feelings were opened to him with the key of generosity. Safwan ibn Umayya was one of these: “Anas reports that when the Messenger of Allah was on his way to Hunayn, he had borrowed some weapons from Safwan ibn Umayya. As Allah’s Messenger inspected the war spoils he noticed Safwan gazing upon the herds that were crowding around him in bewilderment and said that Safwan could have as many camels as he wanted. Allah’s Messenger continued giving to Safwan until Safwan was astounded by such generosity. With a heart that was filled with abhorrence of the Prophet, Safwan had changed at once. Indeed, this generosity caused Safwan to abandon his hatred and Allah’s Messenger thus became the dearest of people to him. Winning over Safwan’s heart was of course more precious than thousands of camels and cattle. This generosity shown towards him was not in vain. Safwan immediately ran to his people and announced: ‘O my people! Accept Islam without hesitation, for Muhammad gives in such a way that only one who has no fear of poverty and relies fully on Allah can give!’ Such generosity was enough to guide Safwan and his people, who had been among the bitterest enemies of Islam until just before that day, to the truth.”

 

ALLAH GIVES TEN FOR ONE

A beggar wanted something from Ali. The latter then instructed one of his sons, Hasan or Husayn, saying, “Go to your mother and bring one of the six dirhams that I gave to her.” Upon his return, his son said, “My mother said that she is withholding these to buy flour.” Ali then replied, “A person cannot be said to have truly believed until they trust in Allah more than they trust in whatever they have. Go and bring all of that money.” Fatima subsequently sent the money in its entirety. Ali then gave all of it to the beggar. Scarcely a few minutes had passed when a camel trader arrived. Upon learning that the camel trader was selling the camel for one hundred and forty dirhams, Ali asked if he could purchase the animal on credit. The seller agreed, tethered his camel there and left. A short while later, another man arrived and offered to buy the camel from Ali for two hundred dirhams. After paying his creditor the one hundred and forty dirhams, Ali went home and gave his wife Fatima the balance of sixty dirhams, from whom he had only earlier taken six dirhams. When she inquired in astonishment as to what these were for, Ali replied, “It is the result of Allah’s promise, through Allah’s Messenger, ‘Whoever comes to Allah with a good deed will have ten times as much’” (al-An’am 6:160).

 

LESSONS FROM THE HADITH

1. Good is never left unrewarded.

2. Close-fistedness and sullenness is to no avail.

3. The wealth of the well to do, who do not pay their prescribed annual alms despite their affluence, is deserving of ruin and destruction.

4. The angels too entreat Allah. That their supplication is answered is demonstrated in the hadith, “When one of you says, Amin, as do the angels in the heaven, and they coincide with one another, he will be forgiven his past sins.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Bad al-khalq, 7)

 

EVALUATION

1. “How do the two angels visiting a person each morning entreat Allah?”

2. Protect yourself from the Fire, even with half a ………

3. What is implied in the terms khalaf and talaf used in the hadith?

4. What is altruism? Provide an example.

5. From which of Allah’s Names is generosity derived?

6. Provide an example of the Prophet’s generosity.