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16. Stinginess

Allah, the Wise, has said:

الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ وَ يَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبُخْلِ وَ يَكْتُمُونَ ما آتاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَ أَعْتَدْناَ لِلکاَفِرِينَ عَذاَباً مُهِيناً

(Those who are niggardly and bid people to be niggardly and hide what Allah has given them out of His grace; and We have prepared for the unbelievers a disgraceful chastisement.)1

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said:

جَاهِلٌ سَخِيٌّ اَحَبُّ اِلىَ اللهِ مِنْ عاِبِدٍ بَخِيلٍ

(An ignorant but generous person is more beloved to Allah than one, who is devout but parsimonious.)2

Short Explanation

Stinginess, or refraining from giving things to others and collecting wealth and riches for oneself, is one of the signs of love for the world. It impedes one from adorning oneself with several praiseworthy virtues like charity, munificence, self-sacrifice and helping others. It is for this reason that the holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: No miser shall enter Paradise.

Stinginess is such a repugnant vice that if a person gets afflicted with it, he keeps his family in poverty, detests guests coming to his house, abstains from visiting others in order that none visit him, withholds himself from associating with generous persons and feels uneasy about other people’s generosity. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) always sought refuge in God from this deadly vice.3

1) The Miser’s Sin

Once, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was engaged in circling the Ka’bah seven times when he witnessed a man holding the curtain of the Ka’bah and imploring: O’ God! By the sanctity of this House, forgive me!

Approaching him, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)asked him about his sin.

The man replied, “My sin is too enormous for me to describe to you.”

“Woe be unto you! Is your sin greater or the earth?” asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).

“My sin.”

“Is your sin greater or the mountains?”

“My sin.”

“Is your sin greater or the Throne of God?”

“My sin.”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked, “Is your sin greater or God?”

To this the man replied, “God is the Greatest, Loftiest and the Most Glorious.”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) exclaimed, “Woe be unto you! Inform me of you sin”.

The man explained, “O’ Prophet of God! I am a wealthy person, but whenever a poor man approaches me for help, I feel as if a bolt of fire has approached me.”

On hearing this, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) warned:

“Stay away from me and do not burn me in your fire! By He, Who has sent me with Guidance and Honour, if you were to offer prayers between al-Rukn and al-Maqaam (around the Ka’bah) for two thousand years and weep in such a measure that your tears flow as rivers and quench the trees, and after all this, if you were to die while still possessing the vice of stinginess, God would hurl you into Hell. Woe be unto you! But do you not know that Allah has said:

And whoever is niggardly is niggardly against his own soul4 and He has also said: And whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, is among the successful ones.”5

2) Mansur Dawaaniqi and his Stinginess

Mansur Dawaaniqi, the second Abbasid Caliph, was well known for his stinginess and parsimony. For instance, as a result of his reluctance to part with his money, he would give the poets who came before him the following warning:

If someone, other than you, also happens to know the poetry that you are about to recite or if it is established that it belongs to someone else, you should not expect any prize or reward. And if the poet happened to recite one which was his own, Mansur would give him money according to the weight of the scroll upon which the poetry was written! Furthermore, he possessed a sharp memory and also had a servant and a slave-girl, who were extraordinarily quick at memorizing things.

When a poet recited his poetry, Mansur would say to him: “This, which you have recited for me, is not something new. Not only I, but even this slave of mine and the slave-girl, behind the curtains, know it.”

Then, upon his orders, the slave would recite the poem after which, the slave-girl, having heard its recitation three times - once by the poet, once by Mansur and once by the slave - would also recite it. The astounded poet would then be sent off empty handed and without any reward!

Asmae’e, the renowned poet, became annoyed with the miserliness of Mansur and decided to compose a poem using difficult words and write it on a broken stone pillar. When this was done, he dressed himself up as a tribesman and covered his entire face except his eyes. He then presented himself before Mansur and with a disguised accent, informed him that he had composed some verses and sought his permission to recite them before him.

As usual, Mansur informed Asmae’e of the conditions, which he accepted. Then Asmae’e began reciting the poetry, which comprised of difficult and uncommon words and intricate and complex sentences.6 Mansur with all his acumen, and the slave and the slave-girl with all their sharpness of mind, were unable to memorize it and for the first time appeared bewildered and taken aback.

With no alternative left, Mansur said to him, “O’ Brother! It appears that the poetry is your own work. Bring me your scroll so that I can reward you according to its weight.”

Asmae’e said, “I could not find any paper and so I have written my poem on a stone pillar, which presently lies on my camel.” He brought the stone pillar and placed it before Mansur, who was totally baffled. He realized that even if he were to place his entire treasury on one side of the scale, it would not match up to the weight of the stone pillar.

Turning to the poet and he inquired, “O’ Arab! Are you not Asmae’e?”

Asmae’e took off the covering from his face and everyone observed that the poet was indeed Asmae’e.7

3) The Four Arab Misers

It has been said that there were four Arab misers.

The first of them was Hatiah. It has been narrated that one day, Hatian was standing at his doorstep with his staff in his hand when a person, passing by, said to him:

“O’ Hatiah! I am your guest today.”

Pointing to his staff, Hatiah tersely answered, “I use this staff to welcome and entertain my guests!”

The second of the misers was Hameed Arqat. In connection with him, it has been reported that once, he invited a few people to be his guests and offered them dates to eat. The guests, while eating the dates, also consumed the seeds whereupon Hameed created uproar by rebuking them for eating his seeds as well.

The third of the misers was a person by the name of Abul Aswad Duali. It has been related that one day, he gave one date to a pauper, who said:

“ May God give you one date in Paradise.”

Hearing this, Abul Aswad Duali commented, “If we give our things to the miserable ones, we shall become more miserable than them!”

The fourth of the misers was Khaalid Ibn Safwaan, about whom it has been reported that whenever a dirham would come into his hands, he would say to it:

“O’ Money! How much you have wandered and travelled before coming into my hands. But (now that you have reached me,) I shall drop you into my safe and your captivity shall be a long and protracted one”.

Saying this, he would drop the money into his chest and lock it.

The people said to him, “Since you possess so much wealth and riches, why don’t you give some of it as alms?”

He replied: “I have a much longer life ahead of me.”8

4) Zakaat from Tha’labah Ansaari not Accepted

Once, Tha’labah Ibn Haatib Ansaari approached the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and beseeched:

“O’ Prophet of God! Pray to God that He grants me wealth and riches.”

“Little wealth for which you are able to offer thanksgiving, is better than immense riches for which you are unable to offer thanksgiving,” the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) advised him.

Tha’labah went away but approached the Holy Prophet for the second time, repeating his request.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “You shall not obey me. By God! If I wished that the mountains would turn into gold for me, they would do so.”

For the second time, Tha’labah went away, but returned a third time and again placed his request before the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and implored, “Do pray for me. I avow that if God grants me wealth, whoever possesses a right in it, I shall give it to him.”

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) prayed for him and God answered his prayers. Tha’labah initially purchased some sheep, which slowly grew in number till they became plentiful.

Earlier, he used to offer all his prayers behind the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) but after his wealth and riches began to increase, he would only be present for the Dhuhr and the A’sr prayers, and spent the rest of his time looking after his sheep.

As time passed, his work increased to such an extent that he could only manage to come to Madinah for the Friday prayers and eventually even this became a thing of the past. He would only come up to the road leading towards Madinah and seek news of the city from the passers-by.

One day, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) inquired about him, whereupon he was informed that Tha’labah’s sheep had increased manifold and he had settled outside Madinah. Hearing this, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) cried out three times: “Woe be unto Tha’labah!”

After a period of time, the verse pertaining to zakaat was revealed. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) selected two people, one from Bani Sulaim and the other from Juhniyah, and gave them written authority, empowering them to collect the zakaat.

Approaching Tha’labah, they read out the order for the collection of zakaat. After some thought, Tha’labah said:

“This is Jizyah(poll-tax)or something akin to it. Go and collect it from others and come back to me later.”

They proceeded to a person from the tribe of Bani Sulaim and read out the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.) orders at which he handed over the best of his camels to them as his zakaat. The collectors explained to him that they had not asked him to give the best of his camels, but he insisted by saying that he was giving the camel through his own choice.

The collectors collected the zakaat from the others and on the way back, again approached Tha’labah and sought his zakaat.

He said, “Let me have a look at that decree.”

After reading it, he once again repeated, “This appears to be Jizyah or something similar to it. Go away and let me ponder over it.”

The collectors returned to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), but before they could speak he exclaimed: “Woe unto Tha’labah!” and then prayed for the generous person from Bani Sulaim. The collectors explicitly narrated to him their encounter with Tha’labah whereupon the following verses were revealed:

And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He gives us out of His grace, we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the righteous ones. But when He gave them out of His grace, they became niggardly of it and they turned back and they withdrew. So in consequence He effected hypocrisy e into their hearts till the day when they shall meet Him because they failed to fulfil towards Allah what they had promised with Him and because they told lies.9

One of Tha’labah’s relatives, who had been present during the revelation of the above verses, informed him of the incident. On hearing about it, he hastened to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and entreated him to accept his zakaat, but he refused saying:

“God has ordered me not to accept your zakaat.”

Tha’labah was devastated to hear this.

“This is a consequence of your own deeds. I had ordered you but you refused to comply with my orders,” the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said.

After the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), Tha’labah approached Abu Bakr, who refused to accept his zakaat. During U'mar’s caliphate, Thalabah approached him, but he too refused and U'thman too followed suit, till death finally overtook Tha’labah.10

5) Sa’eed Ibn Haroon, the Miser

Sa’eed Ibn Haroon, the scribe from Baghdad and a contemporary of Mamun, the Abbasid Caliph, was notorious for his miserliness.

Abu Ali Di’bil Khazaai, the renowned poet (d. 245 A.H.) says:

Accompanied by some other poets, I had gone to Sa’eed’s house and we were with him from morning till afternoon. When the afternoon was approaching, we began to feel hungry and became restless and disturbed as a result.

Sa’eed had an old slave, to whom he said, “If there is something to eat, bring it before us.” The slave departed and returned a short while later bringing with him a dirty dinner-cloth. He spread this out before us and laid just one piece of dry bread on it. He then brought an old bowl, broken at the rim and filled with hot water, and which contained an old, raw and headless cock!

As the slave placed the bowl on the dinner-cloth, Sa’eed’s eyes fell upon it and noticing the headless cock, he reflected for a moment and then said, “O’ Slave! Where is the head of this cock?”

The slave replied, “I have thrown it away.”

Hearing this, Sa’eed screamed, “I do not approve of one who throws away the legs of a cock, never mind one who throws away its head. This act (of yours) augurs ill (for me) for the head of a cock possesses many benefits:

Firstly, from its head emanates a sound, which informs God’s servants of the time for prayers; by means of it, the sleeping ones awaken and those, who worship in the nights, ready themselves for the night prayers.

Secondly, the crown that lies on its head resembles the crown of the kings and so, it possesses a distinction in comparison to the other birds.

Thirdly, it witnesses the angels by means of the two eyes, which are located in its skull. In addition, poets liken coloured wine to its eyes because when they desire to describe red wine, they say: ‘This wine is like the two eyes of the cock.’

Fourthly, the brain in its head is a cure for kidney problems. Besides, no bone is tastier than the bone of its head. If you have thrown it away under the impression that I would not eat it, you have erred greatly. And supposing that I do not eat it, my family would eat it and if they do not eat it, these guests of mine, who have not eaten anything since morning, would eat it.”

He continued angrily, “Go and locate it and should you fail to do so, I shall punish you.”

The slave pleaded “By God! I do not know where I have thrown it.”

Sa’eed retorted, “By God! I know where you have dropped it; you have dropped it in that ominous looking stomach of yours!”

“By God! I have not eaten it,” bemoaned the slave. You are the one who is lying.”

Infuriated, Sa’eed stood up and seized the slave by the collar in an attempt to hurl him onto the floor, but in the process his foot struck the bowl tipping it over and spilling its contents. A cat, which sat nearby, made the most of the opportunity and picking up the headless cock, darted away with it. We too came out of the house, leaving Sa’eed and his slave to themselves, as they grappled with each other.11

  • 1. Holy Qur'an, ch. Al-Nisaa (4), vs. 37.
  • 2. Jaame’ al-Sa’adaat, vol. 2, pg. 110.
  • 3. Ihyaa al-Quloob, pg. 96.
  • 4. Holy Qur'an, ch. Muhammad (47), vs. 38. (وَ مَنْ يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّما يَبْخَلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ)  Ibid, ch. Al-Hashr (59), vs. 9((وَ مَنْ يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
  • 5. Jaame’ al-Sa’adaat, vol. 2, pg. 110; I’lm-e-Akhlaaq-e-Islami, vol. 2, pg. 154.
  • 6. و العود قدد نددنلي، و الطبل طبطبطبلي     و الرقص قد طبطبلي، و السقف قد سقسقسقلي
  • 7. Daastaan-ha-e-Maa, vol. 2, pg. 102; I’laam al-Naas, pg. 54.
  • 8. Namunah-e-Ma'arif, vol. 2, pg. 493; Mustatraf, vol. 1, pg. 171.
  • 9. Holy Qur'an, ch. Al-Taubah (9), vs. 75-77.
    وَ مِنْهُمْ مَنْ عاهَدَ اللَّهَ لَئِنْ آتانا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ لَنَصَّدَّقَنَّ وَ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ فَلَمَّا آتاهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ بَخِلُوا بِهِ وَ تَوَلَّوْا وَ هُمْ مُعْرِضُون فَأَعْقَبَهُمْ نِفاقاً فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ إِلى‏ يَوْم  يَلْقَوْنَهُ بِما أَخْلَفُوا اللَّهَ ما وَعَدُوهُ وَ بِما كانُوا يَكْذِبُون
  • 10. Pand-e-Taareekh, vol. 1, pg. 73; Asad al-Ghaabbah, vol. 1, pg. 237.
  • 11. Lataaif al-Tawaaif, pg. 341.

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