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76. Begging

Allah, the Wise, has said:

وَ أَمَّا السَّائِلَ فَلا تَنْهَرْ

“And as for him, who asks, do not chide (him)”1

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said:

لو لا ان السائل يكذب ما قدس من رده

“If it were not for the telling of lies by the beggars, one who rebuffed them, would not be consecrated”2

Short Explanation

Some people have transformed themselves into beggars, adopting begging as their profession; despite possessing the means, they extend their hands before others, requesting help and assistance. These are those who, on the Day of Judgment, shall meet God in a state that their faces shall be devoid of flesh.

A Mu'min is one, who does not bark like a dog, does not possess avarice, and whose self-esteem prevents him from stretching out his hands before every Tom, Dick and Harry. How then is it possible for the face, which falls into prostration for God and the hands that rise up towards the heavens in the qunoot, to humiliate and debase themselves before others?

Of course, the Mu'mins ought to identify those that are needy and while preserving their respect and esteem, assist them in order that they do not stretch out their hands for begging.

1) Imam Sadiq and the Beggar

Masma’ Ibn A'bd al-Malik relates:

We were in the company of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) at Mina (where the Pilgrims halt during Hajj) and engaged in eating grapes that lay before us in a vessel when a beggar approached us and asked the Imam (peace be upon him) for some help.

The Imam (peace be upon him) ordered a bunch of grapes to be given to him. When the grapes were offered to him, the beggar refused saying: I am not in need of this. I require dirhams.

The Imam (peace be upon him) said: May God increase your sustenance. The beggar departed but returned shortly and said: Give me that bunch of grapes. The Imam (peace be upon him) said: May God increase your livelihood, but this time did not give him any grapes.

Not very long afterwards, another beggar arrived and asked him for something to be given to him. The Imam (peace be upon him) picked up three grapes with his own hands and handed them to him. The beggar took the grapes and said: Praise be to the God of the Worlds, Who provided me these grapes.

Hearing this, the Imam (peace be upon him) said to him: Wait.

Then filling his two palms with grapes, he handed them to the beggar. The beggar took the grapes and again praised God.

When the Imam (peace be upon him) heard this, he turned to his slave and inquired: How much money do you have with you? The slave replied: Twenty dirhams. The Imam (peace be upon him) handed them over to the beggar. The beggar once again praised God, saying: O’ Lord! Praise is for You, this money is from You and You do not have any partner.

For the third time, the Imam (peace be upon him) asked him to wait and this time, removing his garment, handed it to him. The beggar took the garment and, wearing it, said: Praise be to the God, who has dressed and covered me. Then, addressing the Imam (peace be upon him), he said: O’ Aba A’bdillah! May God grant you a goodly recompense!

Having prayed for him (peace be upon him) the beggar began to move away; however, this time the Imam (peace be upon him) did not stop him.

We figured that had the person not prayed for the Imam (peace be upon him) and had continued to only praise God, the Imam (peace be upon him) would have continued to bestow him with gifts.3

2) Abbas Dous

Once A'bbas Daus was in the public bath when a person approached him and said: I intend to start begging and hence I desire to remain with you in order to acquire its skills from you!

A'bbas said: It is not necessary for you remain with me. Just keep in mind that the art of begging has three principles and if you utilize these three principles, you would be a perfect beggar: Firstly, you must beg, irrespective of the place; secondly, you must beg, irrespective of the person; and thirdly, you must accept irrespective of whatever is given to you. The person kissed the hand of A'bbas and left.

One day coincidentally, A’bbas had gone to the public bath in order to cleanse himself and rid his body of its excess hair. There he was approached by that person, who said to him: Give me something. A'bbas said: Are you begging in the public bath? The person said: (I beg) irrespective the place. A'bbas said: (You beg) even from A'bbas? The person said: (I beg), irrespective of the person. Finally A'bbas said: Even if it be the excess hair of the body? The person replied: (I take) irrespective of whatever is given.

Hearing this, A'bbas exclaimed: Bravo! You have learnt the principles of begging excellently.4

3) The Limits of the Impoverished Ones

Abu Baseer states: I informed Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him): One of your Shiites, a pious person by the name of U'mar, due to his destitution, approached Isa Ibn Aa’yan and sought some help from him. However, Isa said: ‘I have some zakaat in my possession but I shall not give it to you for I have observed that you have purchased meat and dates, which indicates that you are not indigent.

U’mar said: In one business transaction my share of profit turned out to be one dirham; I spent one-third of it to purchase some meat, spent another one-third for purchasing some dates and utilized the remaining in fulfilling other requirements of the house.

The Imam (peace be upon him) was visibly disturbed upon hearing this and placing his hand upon his forehead (as a sign of distress and disconcertedness) said: God has stipulated for the impoverished, a share in the wealth of the affluent ones in a measure that would enable them to lead their lives in a good manner; had that measure not been sufficient, He would have stipulated an even greater share.

Therefore, the poor ones ought to be given in the measure such that they are able to provide for themselves with respect to food, clothing, marriage, charity and Hajj; strictness and stringency ought not to be exhibited with respect to them, especially for the likes of U'mar, who is of the pious ones.5

4) The Respectable Destitute

Once Amirul Mu'mineen (peace be upon him) sent nine hundred kilograms of dates from his own farm situated in Yanba’ (in the outskirts of Medinah) for one person. This person was of those who, though in need of financial help never permitted himself to ask for it, neither from him (peace be upon him) nor from others.

A person commented to the Imam (peace be upon him): By God! That person had never sought any help from you that you gave him this gift. It would have been quite sufficient had you given him just one kilogram!

The Imam (peace be upon him) said: May God never increase the likes of you among the people! I exhibit munificence while you exhibit parsimony? If I do not give him that which he expects from me except after he has asked me for it, I would not have been doing him any favour. This is because I would then have compelled the face, which prostrates on the ground before God and worships Him, to plead before me.

And one who acts thus with his brother Muslim, despite knowing that he is deserving of help, has not spoken the truth to God. This is because when he prays for his brother Muslim saying:

اللهم اغفر للمؤمنين و المؤمنات

“O’ Lord! Forgive the male and female believers!” he seeks forgiveness for his brother Muslim, he is effectively seeking Paradise for him. But at the same time when it comes to giving to him the temporal provisions of this world he exhibits stinginess!

Thus it is inappropriate for him to speak out something which he does not practice.6

5 ) The Young Beggar

Once a young man and his wife were having their meals which consisted of roasted chicken, when a beggar came up to the door and asked for some help. The young man came out and with great harshness, drove him away from his house. The needy one having faced the outburst, turned and walked away.

It so happened that after a period of time this young man lost all his wealth and became a pauper. He also divorced his wife, who subsequently got married to another person.

As fate would have it, one day this lady and her second husband were having their food – roasted chicken – when suddenly a beggar came up to the door and sought help. The man said to his wife: Arise and hand this chicken to the beggar. The lady picked up the food and approached the beggar, but when her eyes fell upon him, she recognized him to be her erstwhile husband. Handing him the chicken, she returned; her eyes swimming in tears.

When the husband noticed this, he asked her the reason for her weeping. She replied: This beggar was my former husband. She then went on to narrate the entire incident of her former husband and the beggar, and how he had scolded him and driven him away.

When the lady completed her narrative, her second husband said: O’ Wife! By God! I was that beggar!7

  • 1. Holy Qur'an, ch. Al-Dhuha (93), vs. 10.
  • 2. Jaame' al-Sa'adaat, vol. 2, pg. 98
  • 3. Baa Mardum In Guneh Barkhord Koneem, pg. 123; Bihaar al-Anwaar, vol. 47, pg. 42.
  • 4. Daus is a tribe from Yemen and this A'bbas Daus was proverbial and beguiling in the art of begging.
  • 5. Pand-e-Taareekh, vol. 1, pg. 142; Sharh Man Laa Yahdhuruhu al-Faqeeh, the Book of Zakaat, pg. 36.
  • 6. Islam Wa Mustamandaan, pg. 251; Furu’ al-Kafi, (Old Publication), pg. 167.
  • 7. Dunyaa-e-Jawaan, pg. 331; Aathaar al-Saadiqeen, vol. 8, pg. 139.

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