Generosity and compassion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad

Abdullah Tahir, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
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The Holy Prophetsa was sent to the world as a mercy for all of mankind. He came with the highest moral standards for the sake of mankind and urged them to abandon evil practices and follow his wonderful example so that they may draw closer to Allah, as mentioned in a hadith:

بُعِثْتُ لأُتَمِّمَ حُسْنَ الأَخْلاَقِ

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I was sent to perfect good character.”(Muwatta Imam Malik, Book 47, Hadith 1643)

No one could ever provide a better example of generosity than the Holy Prophetsa did. It was for this reason that Abdullah ibn Abbasra narrated that the Holy Prophetsa was the most generous of all people (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-munaqib, Hadith 3554).

The Holy Prophetsa used to give others not only what he desired for himself but also sacrificed his own necessities and essentials for others – this was in line with Quranic teachings:

لَنۡ تَنَالُوا الۡبِرَّ حَتّٰي تُنۡفِقُوۡا مِمَّا تُحِبُّوۡنَ ۬ؕ وَمَا تُنۡفِقُوۡا مِنۡ شَيۡءٍ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ بِہٖ عَلِيۡمٌ

“Never shall you attain righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, Allah surely knows it well.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.93)

Students of history and orientalists acknowledge this quality. For instance, the famous Sir William Muir states in his biography of the Holy Prophetsa that he was the most generous of men and due to his modesty and kindliness, patience, self-denial, and generosity, “he disliked saying ‘No.’” (Life of Muhammad,Sir William Muir, Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1877, p. 525)

Below, I shall share some instances from the noble life of the Holy Prophetsa that exemplify his high and noble qualities and demonstrate his extraordinary generosity.

Story of eight dirhams and lessons in generosity and empathy

Once, the Holy Prophetsa went out to the market with eight dirhams to buy a shirt. On the way, he noticed a girl crying. While everyone else ignored her, the Holy Prophetsa went out of his way to inquire about the reason for her tears. She explained that she had gone out to purchase a household necessity with two dirhams, but had unfortunately lost them. The Holy Prophetsa was deeply moved by her plight and gave her two dirhams from the eight he had.

Then, the Holy Prophetsa continued his journey to the market, where he bought a shirt for four dirhams. Before returning, he saw an aged man proclaiming, “Whoever clothes me with a garment, may Allah clothe him with the garments of paradise.” Upon hearing these words, the Holy Prophetsa, driven by his love and generosity, gave the shirt he had just brought to the elderly man.

The Holy Prophetsa then used the remaining two dirhams to purchase another shirt and left the market.

On his way out, the Holy Prophetsa encountered a female slave who was sitting down and crying. In the time before the advent of the Holy Prophetsa, women had little to no respect, and the treatment of slaves was unimaginably harsh. They were often ignored by everyone. However, when the Holy Prophetsa saw how distraught she was, he approached her and asked why she was upset. She responded, “I fear punishment from my master due to the length of my absence.” The Holy Prophetsa consoled her by assuring her that he would speak to her master on her behalf. Upon reaching the house, he knocked on the door and greeted them with “salam.” He then spoke to the master and his family, requesting their forgiveness for the female slave. They not only willingly forgave her but also granted her freedom. (Nuzhat al-majalis wa-muntakhab al-nafa’is, al-Saffuri, Bab fi fadli s-sadaqati wa fi’li l-ma‘rufi khususan ma‘a l-qaribi wa l-jari l-gharib)

A plethora of lessons can be learned from this one incident, such as:

The Holy Prophetsa gave his shirt, which was his favourite type of clothing (Sunan Abi Dawud, 4025)without hesitation in order to help another person.

The Holy Prophetsa did not seek any recompense.

He gave his time to a female slave, whom the Arabs looked down upon with great scorn, and used them for their personal benefits. (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets,Vol. 1, p. 187)

We can learn from this that we should give our time and aid to those who are in need and, as stated by Kahlil Gibran, “Generosity is not in giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is in giving me that which you need more than I do.”  (Sand and Foam, 1926, p. 34)

Giving everything one owns

The Holy Prophetsa had a strong desire to distribute everything for the sake of others on numerous occasions. For example, it is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Holy Prophetsa said:

‏  ‏ لَوْ كَانَ لِي مِثْلُ أُحُدٍ ذَهَبًا، مَا يَسُرُّنِي أَنْ لاَ يَمُرَّ عَلَىَّ ثَلاَثٌ وَعِنْدِي مِنْهُ شَىْءٌ، إِلاَّ شَىْءٌ أُرْصِدُهُ لِدَيْنٍ

“If I had gold equal to the mountain of Uhud, it would not please me that it should remain with me for more than three days, except an amount which I would keep for repaying debts.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-istiqraz, Hadith 2389)

The Holy Prophetsa was selfless and disliked possessing anything that he did not truly need. His character was such that if someone asked for something, he would go to great lengths to assist them, even if it meant utilising his own essential resources, like food and drink. This brings me to my next point.

Islam 1
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The Holy Prophetsa never said ‘no’ to a legitimate request

Throughout his life, the Holy Prophetsa never said “no” to any request, demonstrating his deep sense of compassion and commitment to serving others.

In a famous hadith, we learn:

مَا سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى اللّٰه عليه وسلم شَيْئًا قَطُّ فَقَالَ لاَ‏.‏

“It never happened that Allah’s Messengersa was asked for anything and he said: No.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Fazail,Hadith 2311a)

In proof of the above narration, the Promised Messiahas stated, in regards to the high standard of the generosity of the Holy Prophetsa:

“There was a time when the Holy Prophetsa owned even more sheep and goats than the Caesar and Chosroes.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol.1, p. 130) In this regard, “One person is reported to have said that never in his life had he seen anyone possess such abundant wealth. The Holy Prophetsa gave the entire flock to that person, upon which the man immediately said: ‘Without doubt, you are a true Prophet, for such generosity cannot be exhibited by anyone else.’ Hence, the exemplary morals of the Holy Prophetsa were such that the Quran makes the following statement:

وَاِنَّکَ لَعَلٰي خُلُقٍ عَظِيۡمٍ

“‘And thou dost surely possess high moral excellences.’ [Surah al-Qalam, Ch.68: V.5]”  (Malfuzat [English], Vol.1, p. 98)

His mercifulness to people of other faith

The generosity of the Holy Prophetsa was not simply limited to his own people; rather, it extended to people of all tribes and backgrounds, both familiar and foreign.

Hatim al-Tai was regarded as a Christian king of the Banu Tayyi tribe. He was also the father of Adiyy ibn Hatim al-Tai, who was a companion of the Holy Prophetsa. Hatim al-Tai was known to be a generous man during the period of jahiliyyah, as mentioned by Ibn Kathir.

“Hatim was a man of such distinction and generosity that many extraordinary events and strange accounts are associated with him. However, by these deeds he did not seek the grace of God or the hereafter but was motivated by desire for fame and recognition.” (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad, English Translation of Ibn Kathir’s Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya, Vol.1, p. 75)

The Holy Prophetsa once took captives of Banu Tayyi and among the captives was the daughter of Hatim al-Tai. She pleaded to The Holy Prophetsa:

“O Muhammad[sa], will you not release me and spare me the malicious gloating of the Arab tribes, for I am the daughter of the leader of my people. My father was the guardian of our sacred objects, he relieved the distressed, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave generous hospitality, provided the best of food, spread peace abroad and never refused the request of the needy. I am the daughter of Hatim al-Tai.” (Ibid. p. 77)

The Holy Prophetsa responded:

“O girl, all these qualities truly describe the believers. Had your father been a believer, we would certainly have been merciful to him. Release her, for her father was a man who loved to perform good deeds, and God Almighty loves good deeds.”(Ibid. p. 77)

In regards to this incident, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:

“It is evident from this that Allah’s Messengersa not only recognised the virtues of non-religious people in practice, but also treated those who belonged to them with kindness. And blessed them with his favours. So the result was that during the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr, when the Tai tribe joined the rebellion due to the instigation of some people, the son of Hatim al-Tai, who himself was running away from Islam, came and explained to his people and made them pledge their allegiance again.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir [2023]Vol.9p. 148)

The Holy Prophet’ssa display of selflessness and compassion was incomparable. Simply for the sake of being good to mankind and seeking the pleasure of Allah, he freed an entire non-Muslim tribe due to the generosity of a king who belonged to that tribe.

As Muslims, we strive to follow the footsteps of the Holy Prophetsa. In order to do so, we must exhibit generosity and selflessness towards everyone, regardless of their religion or background. Moreover, if anyone shows kindness and generosity towards us, we should reciprocate that treatment in an even greater manner. This embodies the true meaning of the Quranic verse.

وَاِذَا حُيِّيۡتُمۡ بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوۡا بِاَحۡسَنَ مِنۡہَاۤ اَوۡ رُدُّوۡہَا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ کَانَ عَلٰي کُلِّ شَيۡءٍ حَسِيۡبًا

“And when you are greeted with a prayer, greet ye with a better prayer or [at least] return it. Surely, Allah takes account of all things.” (Surah an-Nisa Ch.4:V.87)

Following the noble example of the Holy Prophetsa is what all Muslims should strive for. For it is in following his footsteps and obeying him that we can truly win the pleasure of Allah.

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