The exemplary young Companions: Generosity and selflessness

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Last Updated on 5th February 2021

Rahmatullah Khan Shakir (1901-2000), Former Assistant Editor and Manager of Al Fazl

Slaughtering camels for the needy

Hazrat Ubaidullahra bin Abbas was very young during the time of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Generosity became his hallmark when he grew to adulthood. Every day, he would slaughter a camel to host the needy. His brother termed it extravagance and disapproved of it. Instead of giving up this good habit, Ubaidullahra started slaughtering two camels daily. (Usdul-Ghabah, Vol. 3, p. 421)

Invitation to access personal belongings

Hazrat Abu Shuraihra accepted Islam before the fall of Mecca and was very generous by nature. He had announced it publicly that whoever could get access to the milk [of his animals], ghee [butter] or lamb was freely allowed to use them. Everyone was allowed to use his belongings unhesitatingly. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 4, p. 1689)

Paying off the debt of the deceased

Hazrat Abu Qatadahra was born 18 years before the Hijra of the Holy Prophetsa. Hence, he was quite young when he embraced Islam. 

Once, he was sitting in the company of the Holy Prophetsa, when the dead body of an Ansari was brought for funeral prayer. The Holy Prophetsa enquired from people if he owed anybody anything. The people replied in the affirmative. 

He then asked if he had left anything in his inheritance. The people replied that he had left nothing. At this, the Holy Prophetsa asked the people to offer his funeral prayer. Hazrat Abu Qatadahra asked, “O Prophetsa of Allah! Will you offer his funeral prayer if I pay off on his behalf?” He replied, “Yes.” 

Hazrat Abu Qatadahra rose to his feet, brought money from his home and paid off all the debt of the deceased. (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 6, p. 403)

Distributing wealth among the needy

Hazrat Saeed bin Al-Aasra was a wealthy young man of the Banu Umayyah family, whose generosity and liberality was well reputed. It was his practice to invite his brothers, their sons and his dependents at lunch once a week. He would help the needy with cash and clothes as well. 

Every Friday night, in the mosque of Kufa, he would distribute pouches full of dinars among the worshippers. He would never turn down any needy person who asked him for something. He was so cautious in this regard that when he would not have anything to give to somebody asking for money, he would give him a written note saying to come and collect the money later. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 2, p. 621)

It is related about him that once, somebody followed him when he had returned from the mosque. Thus, Hazrat Saeedra asked him what he was up to. He replied that he had seen him returning alone and therefore he wished to escort him. 

Hazrat Saeedra asked him to call his servant and also to fetch a pen. The latter complied. Hazrat Saeedra gave him a bill of exchange of 20,000 and said that although he did not have the money at that time, he should come and collect it later. 

At his death, Hazrat Saeed bin Al-Aasra owed 10,000 gold coins. His son asked how he had to owe this amount. He was told that he supplied people’s needs and sometimes gave them before they had even asked. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 2, p. 621)

Hazrat Muazra bin Jabal passed away at the young age of 36. He was so generous and sympathised with the destitute so much that by the time he died, his entire property had been sold. (Usdul-Ghabah, Vol. 1, p. 421)

Provisions for the elderly

An old lady came to Hazrat Saadra bin Ubadah and told him that there were no mice in her house, by which she meant that she had no grains and cereal etc. (Mice are found where there are grains etc.) 

In reply, Hazrat Saadra commented, “What a nice way to ask. You may go and henceforward you will find mice all over your house.” 

Thus, he filled her house to its capacity with grains, edible oil and other food items. (Darus-Sahabah fi-man Dakhala Misr min-as-Sahabah, p. 100 [under “Qais bin Ibadah”, No. 221])

Generosity of Hazrat Zubairra bin Al-Awam

Hazrat Zubairra bin Al-Awam accepted Islam when he was only 16 years old, but he was fully imbued with the Islamic teachings. He owned about a thousand slaves, who would provide for him a reasonable amount everyday by working on daily wages. But instead of spending anything out of it on himself or on his family, he would give all of the money in charity, without keeping even an iota of it for himself. (Al-Isabah, Vol. 2, p. 460)

Hazrat Zubairra was so generous that despite being so rich, he fell into a debt of 2.2 million dirhams. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Farzul-Khumus, Bab Barkat-ul-Ghazi fi Malihi Hayyan wa Mayyitan)

The door of Hazrat Zubair’sra house was always open for the poor and destitute. 

Qais bin Abi Azim says that he had not seen anybody who spent so graciously and selflessly as Zubairra. (Fath-ul-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 83)

Distributing wealth among one’s tribe

Hazrat Talhara sold a property of his for 700,000 dirhams and gave all of this money in the way of Allah. His wife, Saadira bint Auf, reports that once, she found her husband upset. She asked him the reason for his sadness and asked whether she had committed any mistake. 

He replied in the negative and said, “You are such a good wife to me. The fact is that I have accumulated a large amount of money and I am thinking as to what to do with it.” She replied, “Have it distributed.” 

Immediately, he called for a maid and distributed 400,000 dirhams among his tribesmen and women. (Tabqat Ibn Saad, Vol. 3, p. 165, Zikr Talha bin Ubaidullah)

Offering every last crumb for one’s friends

Hazrat Jafarra, the brother of Hazrat Alira, embraced Islam at a young age. Generosity and graciousness were his special traits. He would treat the poor and destitute with extreme compassion. He would take them to his home and host them. 

Hazrat Abu Hurairahra reports that he found Jafarra to be the best towards the destitute. He would take the Ashab al-Suffah [companions who remained in the close company of the Holy Prophetsa in Masjid al-Nabawi] to his home in order to host them with whatever was available, so much so that sometimes he would bring empty containers of honey and oil. Abu Hurairahra says they would tear it apart and lick it out. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Manaqib, Bab Manaqib Ibn Abi Jafar bin Abi Talib)

Eagerness to eat with the less privileged

It was common practice for Hazrat Abdullah bin Umarra to share his meal with a less privileged person. 

Once, some people criticised his wife that she did not serve her husband well. In reply she said, “What shall I do? I cook meals for him, but he shares it with someone less privileged.” His wife sent a message for those underprivileged people not to sit along the path [he used] henceforward. But Abdullahra would call them from their houses. 

His wife sent another message not to come even when he called them. Thus, the next time they did not answer and that night, Hazrat Abdullahra ate nothing from his meal. (Tabqat Ibn Saad, Vol. 4, p. 125, Zikr Abdullah bin Umar)

Hazrat Saadra bin Ubadah’s generosity was well reputed far and wide. As night fell, a servant of his would announce aloud, “Anybody who wishes to eat meat and fat should come here.” 

At times, Hazrat Saadra hosted as many as 80 Ashab al-Suffah at a time. (Al-Isabah, Vol. 3, p. 56. Zikr Saad bin Ubadah)

Parents’ encouragement for their children’s generosity

Hazrat Qais bin Saadra was the standard-bearer of the Ansar and was extremely generous. In one battle, food supplies were short and he hosted the whole army by taking a loan. 

Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra, too, had joined in this battle. Both of them decided to stop him or else he would lose the property of his forefathers. But when Qais’ra father [Hazrat Saadra bin Ubadah] learnt that Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra wanted to stop his son, he complained to the Holy Prophetsa and said, “Who will protect me from these two, who wish to make my son niggardly?” (Usdul-Ghabah, Vol. 4, p. 125, Zikr Qais bin Saad bin Ubadah)

Feeding one’s brethren

Hazrat Qais bin Ubadahra was so generous that wherever he went, a servant always followed him with a bowl full of meat and soup and invited people to come and partake of it. (Usdul-Ghabah, Vol. 4, p. 125, Zikr Qais bin Saad bin Ubadah)

Assisting in the fulfilment of prayers

Once, Hazrat Imam Hasanra saw a man in the mosque supplicating to God to be granted 10,000 dirhams. Hazrat Imam Hasanra came home and sent him the amount he had supplicated for. (Tarikh Dimashq li-bni-Asakar, Vol. 13, p. 245)

Generosity towards an enemy

Once, an enemy of Hazrat Alira came to Medina but had no provisions and no mount with him for his journey. People directed him to Hazrat Imam Hasanra and said that he was most generous. 

The man came to Hazrat Imam Hasanra, who provided him with both things. Somebody asked Imam Hasanra why he had been kind to such a person who was the enemy of him and his father. He replied, “Should I not safeguard my honour?” (Tarikh Dimashq li-bni-Asakar, Vol. 13, p. 247)

Selflessness of master and slave

Once, Hazrat Imam Hasanra passed through a date orchard and saw a black slave eating bread in such a way that he would put one morsel in his mouth and the other before a dog. In this way, he cast half the bread before the dog. Hazrat Imam Hasanra asked him, “Why don’t you drive away the dog?” He replied, “My sense of honour does not permit me to drive it away.” 

Hazrat Imam Hasanra asked him the name of his master and told him to stay there until he returned. The slave continued with what he was doing in the orchard, while Hazrat Imam Hasanra went to his master and bought both the slave and the orchard from him. Once he returned, he told the slave that he had purchased both him and the garden from his master. He also said, “I emancipate you and gift you with this orchard.” 

When the slave heard this, he replied, “I give this orchard in charity in the name of God in Whose name you freed me.” (Tarikh Dimashq li-ibn Asakar, Vol. 13, p. 246)

Glory be to Allah. Look at the kindness, virtuous habits and generosity, on the one hand, by Hazrat Imam Hasanra and on the other, the indifference and non-covetousness by the Muslim slave. 

Slavery is said to severely damage the human mind and disposition. It deprives one of sublime human talent. Having wiped out high morals and magnanimity, it generates narrow-mindedness and niggardliness instead. But how greatly efficacious is Islam and the love of the Holy Prophetsa that even the Muslim slaves excelled kings in generosity and selflessness. 

Neither worldly riches could have tempted them, nor could their physical bondage and apparent helplessness have hampered their way to spiritual ascent. Islam had generated an open-mindedness and sublimity of thoughts in them that they became absolutely oblivious to their own poverty.  

“A man greater in need than the Ahl-e-Bait

Hazrat Imam Hasanra was very generous and profusely spent in the cause of Allah. Never did a beggar return from his door empty-handed. 

Once, a beggar came while he was occupied in prayer. Quickly, he completed his prayer after he heard the beggar and found signs of poverty and starvation on his face. 

Hazrat Imam Hasanra ordered his servant to bring something from home for the beggar. The servant replied, “There are 200 dirhams at home meant for the Ahl-e-Bait [family of the Prophetsa]. There is nothing else apart from that.” 

Hazrat Imam Hasanra asked him to bring the money, and said, “Now, a man greater in need than the Ahl-e-Bait has arrived.” 

Thus, he handed the pouch to the beggar and also apologised to him for not being able to grant him greater than that. (Tarikh Dimashq li-ibn Asakar, Vol. 14, p. 185)

Generosity contrary to human nature

It has been related elsewhere about Hazrat Asmara bint Abi Bakrra that her husband, Hazrat Zubairra, was very poor when she got married to him. Therefore, she had to live in straitened circumstances. But this poverty caused no miserliness in her. The noble thoughts generated by the Islamic teaching were not affected in the least by it. 

From her sister, Hazrat Aishara, she inherited a property which was sold for 100,000 dirhams. A person who has faced straitened circumstances and poverty naturally becomes very thrifty and spends it frugally when they get some money. But contrary to human nature, Hazrat Asmara spent the whole amount on her poor and needy relatives. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Hibah, Bab Hibat-ul-Wahid lil-Jama‘ah)

These few examples of generosity and graciousness of the Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa will force every fair-minded and realistic person to acknowledge that world history and accounts of various peoples fail to furnish such unprecedented examples. Of course there are some generous people and philanthropists found in the world today; but the selflessness, fear of God and sympathy found in the generosity of the Companionsra cannot be matched anywhere else. 

Regretfully, this is not the point of discussion at the moment; therefore a passing hint of a principal difference has been alluded to. The more one thinks over it, the more such a person will agree with us. 

Another point of reflection in this regard is that the flow of the generosity of the Companionsra was not limited to their brothers, relatives, or friends. The above examples will reveal to the reader that their generosity was beyond the distinction of friend or foe, even the distinction of whether they were of their kind. 

As the pride of beings and the Chief of God’s creation [the Holy Prophetsa] himself was the mercy for all mankind, so would the men and women, who had been trained by being in his company, try their utmost to widen the sphere of their benevolence and generosity.

(Translated by Shahid Mahmood Ahmad, Missionary in Ghana, from the original Urdu, Muslim Nau-jawanon kay Sunehri Karnamey)

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