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48. Generosity

Allah, the Wise, has said:

فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطى‏ وَ اتَّقى وَ صَدَّقَ بِالْحُسْنى‏ فَسَنُيَسِّرُهُ لِلْيُسْرى ‏

“Then as for him who gives away and guards (against evil), and accepts the best, We will facilitate for him the easy end.”1

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

لاَ يَصلُحُ دِينَکُم إِلاَّ السَّخاَءُ وَ حُسنُ الْخَلقِ‏.

“Nothing shall ensure the welfare (and interests) of your religion except generosity and good disposition.”2

Short Explanation

Generosity is one of the ethics of the Prophets, a pillar of faith and a ray of the light of firm faith. The Noble Prophet (s.a.w) has said: “The 'auliya' of Allah are, essentially and inherently, generous.” Hence, in order to acquire this attribute, a Mu'min should endeavour hard to be munificent and generous towards relatives, deserving ones and the like, for the pleasure of Allah.

It is better that a person's generosity is associated with a thing that is dear to him - eatables, clothes, money etc. - and that no obligation is placed upon the person towards whom generosity has been exhibited; man should only view himself as a trustworthy person, whose responsibility is to pass on Allah's things to deserving and needy individuals. As such, he should stay away from frugality and refrain from withholding the Divine trusts; this is because it is not known whether or not they would yield any benefit, if given after his death, and whether or not his inheritors would expend them in a correct and appropriate manner?

1) What Shall I Answer Imam al-Zaman?

Sheikh ZainulAbidin Mazandarani, a student of the author of (the book) Jawahir and (also of) Sheikh Ansari, lived in the city of Kerbala. In connection with his generosity and alms-giving, it has been recorded that he would borrow as much money as he could and then distribute it amongst the needy, and his debts would then be repaid by those coming to Kerbala from India.

One day a destitute arrived at his door and asked for alms. Not having any money with him, the Sheikh picked up his copper jar, handed it to him and said: “Take this and sell it.”

A couple of days later when his family members realized that the jar was missing, they created an uproar, shouting: “A thief has taken away our jar.” When the Sheikh, who was in his library, heard the outcry, he said to them: “Do not accuse the thieves for I am the one who has taken the jar.”

Once, on one of his trips to Samarrah, he fell seriously ill. Mirza Shirazi paid him a visit and began comforting him, whereupon the Sheikh said to him: “I am not at all fearful of death; my uneasiness is due to the fact that according to our beliefs, when we die, our souls are taken in the presence of the Imam-e-Asr (peace be upon him). If, at that time, the Imam were to question me: “O' Zainul 'abidin! With the credibility and esteem that we had bestowed upon you, you could have borrowed a greater amount of money for helping the needy than what you used to; why then did you not do so? … What shall I answer him (a.s)?'”

It is reported that Mirza Shirazi was greatly affected by these words; returning home, he brought out all the religious taxes that lay in his house and distributed them amongst the needy.3

2) More Generous than Hatim

Hatim Tai was questioned: “Have you come across any one more generous than yourself?” He replied: “Yes, I have.” He was asked: “Where?” He said: “I had been travelling in the desert when I came across a tent. Inside it there was an old lady while behind the tent a goat lay tied. When the old lady saw me she approached me and held the reins of my horse so that I could dismount. A little later, her son arrived and was immensely pleased to have me as their guest. The old lady said to him: “Commence the preparations to entertain our guest. Go and slaughter the goat and prepare some food.”'

The son said: “First I shall go and collect some firewood,” but the old lady said: “Going to the desert and bringing the firewood shall consume a lot of time due to which our guest would have to remain hungry for long, and this would be contrary to social etiquette.”

So the son, breaking the only two lances that he possessed, slaughtered the goat, prepared the food and presented it before me.

When I investigated about their condition, I realized that the goat had been their only possession and despite this, they had slaughtered it for me.

I said to the old lady: “Do you recognize me?” When she replied in the negative, I said: “I am Hatim Tai. You must come with me to my tribe so that I can entertain you and shower you with gifts and presents!”

The old lady said:

اِنَّا لاَ نَطلُبُ عَلىَ الضَّيفِ جَزاَءً

“Neither do we seek any reward from our guests nor do we sell bread for money, and she refused to accept anything from me.”

Witnessing this generosity, I realized that they were far more generous and munificent than me.4

3) Allah Loves Generosity

Once, a group of people from Yemen arrived in the presence of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w). Amongst them was a person who, despite being eloquent in speech, spoke with the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) more harshly and discourteously than the rest, such that eventually the Prophet became enraged - the vein of his forehead swelling up and the colour of his face transforming.

(At that moment) Jibra`il descended and said: “Your Lord sends His greetings and Says:

هَذَا رَجُلٌ سَخِيٌّ يُطْعِمُ الطَّعَامَ‏

'This man is generous by nature and feeds the people.'”

As soon as he heard this, his (s.a.w) anger subsided and he said: “Had it not been for the fact that Jibra`il had informed me on behalf of Allah - the Mighty, the Glorious - that you are a person, who is generous and feeds the people, I would have expelled you from my presence such that your instance would have served as an example for the others!”

The man from Yemen said: “Does your Allah love generosity?” When the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) replied in the affirmative, the Yemeni declared:

أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاٌ إِلٌهَ إِلاَّ اللٌّهُ وَ أَنَّكَ رُسُولُ اللٌّهِ

“I bear witness that there is no creature or entity worthy of worship except for Allah and that you are His Messenger.”

Then continuing, he said: “By the Allah, Who has sent you in Truth, I have never turned away anyone from my wealth.”

4) Three Hundred Gold Coins

Ibn Abbas narrates: “Once, three hundred gold coins were gifted to the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) which he in turn gifted to the Commander of the Faithfuls(a.s). As the Imam (a.s) took them, he declared: “By Allah! I shall surely give this amount in charity in a manner such that it shall be accepted by Allah.”

Later, Imam ‘Ali (a.s) narrates: “That night, after having offered the 'Isha prayer, I picked up one hundred gold coins and came out of the mosque. As I did so, I happened to encounter a woman and so handed over the money to her. In the morning the people were found to be talking amongst themselves, saying: “Last night ‘Ali (a.s) gave a hundred gold coins in charity to an adulteress.” I was greatly distressed to hear this.

The following night, after the 'Isha prayer, I picked up another hundred gold coins and came out of the mosque saying to myself: “By Allah! Tonight I shall give this in charity such that Allah shall accept this act from me.

As I emerged from the mosque, I found myself face to face with a man and handed over the money to him.”

At daybreak the talk amongst the inhabitants of Madinah was: “‘Ali (a.s) has given a hundred gold coins to a thief, and I became immensely despondent.”

The third night I picked up another hundred gold coins and said to myself: “By Allah! I shall surely give these hundred gold coins in charity to such a person, that Allah shall accept my charity.
After the 'Isha prayer, coming out of the mosque, I ran into a man and handed him the money. In the morning, the people of Madinah were found saying: “Last night ‘Ali (a.s) gave a hundred gold coins to a rich and wealthy person.”

I was extremely pained to hear this and so, approaching the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), I informed him of the incidents that had taken place.

Having heard me, he (s.a.w) said: “O' ‘Ali! Jibrail says: “Allah, the Exalted, has accepted your charities and considers them to be pure. (As for) the hundred gold coins that you had given to the immoral lady on the first night - returning home she turned to Allah in repentance over her past misdeeds and mended her ways. She has set aside the gold coins as her capital and is on the lookout for a husband.

The hundred gold coins of the second night had reached a thief who, upon reaching home, repented over his wrong-doings and utilized the amount for engaging in trade.

The hundred gold coins of the third night had reached the hands of a wealthy person, who had not been paying his zakat for years. Reaching home he began to censure himself saying: “How lowly and base can you be? While you have been violating Allah's ruling and not been paying the obligatory zakat for several years, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, despite not possessing anything, has given you a hundred gold coins.” Having rebuked himself, he then calculated his unpaid zakat of several years and disbursed it.”

It was due to this act on the part of Imam ‘Ali (a.s) that Allah revealed the following verse in his (a.s) excellence:

رِجالٌ لا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجارَةٌ وَ لا بَيْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَ إِقامِ الصَّلاةِ وَ إِيتاءِ الزَّكاةِ يَخافُونَ يَوْماً تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَ الْأَبْصارُ

“Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about.”5

5) The Extremely Generous Companion

Qais was the son of Sad Ibn Ubadah, the chief of the tribe of Khazraj and one of the companions of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w). He never reneged his pledge of allegiance to the Commander of the Faithfuls(a.s) and supported him through thick and thin - transferring his loyalties to Imam Hasan (a.s) after the martyrdom of the Commander of the Faithfuls(a.s).

Qais, his father Sad and his grandfather Ubadah had possessed a public rest-house. In one of the battles during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), he was part of the army in which Abu Bakr and Umar were also present. Sad would borrow money from his friends and spend it over his fellow-companions. Abu Bakr and Umar discussed amongst themselves: “If we allow him act in this fashion he shall soon squander away his father's property”, and so they announced in public: “No one should lend money to Qais.”

When his father came to know of this he, after having recited the congregational prayers behind the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), stood up and said: “I complain before the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) and the people that Abu Bakr and Umar shall turn my son into a miser!”

In one of the battles he was appointed commander of the army. In that expedition which lasted for a few days he sacrificed nine camels for his fellow-companions, who were very few in number. When the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) was informed of this, he said: “Generosity is the conduct of this family!”
When he fell ill very few people came to visit him. This surprised him and he sought to know the reason for this, whereupon he was informed: “The reason for this is that a lot of your wealth lies with the people. Being indebted to you, they are ashamed to present themselves before you!”

Hearing this Qais said: “May destruction strike the wealth that brings about separation amongst the brethren-in-faith!” Then, upon his instructions, it was announced in Madinah: “Whoever possesses any money belonging to Qais is henceforth the owner of that money for Qais has gifted the money to him.”

After this announcement the crowd that had flocked to his house was so great that the stairs leading up to Qais” room broke down and collapsed.6

  • 1. Suratul Lail (92), Verse 5-7
  • 2. Jami’ al-Sa’adat, vol. 1, pg. 308
  • 3. Sima-e-Farzanegan, pg. 357
  • 4. Jawame’ al-Hikayat, pg. 214
  • 5. Islam Wa Mustamandan, pg. 90; Dastan-ha-e-Zindagi-e-’Ali, pg. 165
  • 6. Paighambar Wa Yaran, vol. 5, pg. 165; Qamus al-Rijal, vol. 7, pg. 399

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