Dislike of Unnecessary Goods
The Prophet did not like, even for a short time, to keep money or provisions in his house in excess of his needs. In the same way, he did not allow the goods of charity which were the property of common people to remain with him for a moment. He would have no peace of mind till they had been given away.
It is related by Hazrat Ayesha that, “I had six or seven dinars during the last illness of Holy Prophet. The Prophet commanded me to distribute them but due to his illness I could not find the time for it. Later, he asked what I had done with the dinars and I told him that owing to pre-occupation with his illness I had forgotten about them. The Prophet, then, sent for the dinars and placing them on the palm of his hand remarked: ‘What would the assumption be of the Apostle of Allah if he joined Him in such a state that these were lying with him.”
It was the practice of the Prophet to distribute articles of charity as soon as they were received. Uqba bin-el-Harith relates that, “Once in Madina I offered the Asr Prayers behind the Prophet. The Prophet finished the Prayer-service and left abruptly for one of his wives apartments. The people could not understand it and they were worried. On returning, the Prophet felt that we were surprised at the manner of his departure. He, thereupon, explained that in the course of the service he had remembered that there was some gold in his house and he did not like that a night should pass with the metal still lying with him.”
The Prophet guided his Companions and the entire Ummah along identical lines and infused into them the same values of generosity and self-denial. So forcefully and earnestly did he exhort the people to practise charity that as anyone reads the relevant traditions he begins to doubt if he really has a claim over anything that is in excess of his needs. When we look at ourselves and reflect on the things of comfort and luxury were freely make use of in everyday life we are caught in a curious predicament. Everything seems so unnecessary, redundant and superfluous. Costly dresses, sumptuous meals, luxurious carriages— all stand out as wrong and wasteful. What the Prophet said though appertained only to advice and extortion and there is no law against it. But, such was the way of the Prophet.
Verily in the Messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh into Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much. (Al-Ahzab:21)
The Prophet once said: “He who has a conveyance in excess should give it to him who is without a conveyance; he who has a meal in excess should give it to him who is without a meal.9 He, also, said: “He who has a meal for two should share it with the third, and he who has a meal for three should share it with the fourth.” Another of his traditions reads: “He is not my follower who eats his fill and sleeps comfortably in the night while his neighbour, by his side, goes hungry, even though he may not be aware of it.”
It is related that once a man came to the Prophet and said: “O Prophet of Allah! Provide me with clothes.” “Is there no one among your neighbours,” asked the Prophet, “who may have two pairs of clothes in excess of what he needs?” The man replied that more than one of his neighbours were in that happy position. The Prophet, thereupon, remarked, “May Allah not bring him and you together in Heaven.”
The Importance of Compassion in Islam
The Holy Prophet placed human beings on such a high pedestal of nobility and ascribed such great virtue to taking care of their needs and bringing succour to them that no higher and more admirable conception of humanity and brotherliness can be possible. From the Islamic point of view, a shirker and transgressor in respect of the rights of man is no better than a renegade and a backslider in the path of God. It is stated in one of the Divinely inspired traditions of the Prophet that on the Day of Judgment God will say to His slave: “I fell ill you did not visit me.” The slave will reply, “Thou art the Lord of the World; how could I visit Thee?” God will, thereupon, say, “Did you not know that such-and-such a slave of Mine was ill but you did not care to visit him? Had you gone to see him (in order to be of comfort or help) you would have found it with Me.” He will, again, ask, “O son of Adam! I asked you for food and you did not give it to Me.” The slave will reply: “Thou art the Lord of the World; how could I give you food?” God will then, say: “Are you not aware that such-and-such a slave of Mine begged you for food but you did not give it to him? Had you fed him you would have found it with Me.” God, again, will ask: “O son of Adam! I asked you for water and you did not give it to Me.” The slave will reply: “Thou art the Lord of the Worlds; how could I give Thee water?” God will say: “Such-and-such a slave of Mine asked you for water but you did not give it to him. Had you given it to him you would have found it with Me.”
The extent of benevolence, kindliness and fellow-feeling was such that the Holy Prophet laid it down as a permanent law and maxim that “no one among you (the Muslims) can became perfect in Faith until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
Impact of the Prophet Teachings
The life and character of the Prophet made such a powerful impact on the hearts and minds of the companions that their attitude towards life, family and property was largely determined by his own example, and they, on the whole, became the living symbols of his precepts. Of them, those who were nearer to him, naturally, bore a deeper imprint of his personality. The deeds of piety, compassion and self-denial that were habitually performed by them in their daily lives are worthy of being written in letters of gold in the annals of religion and ethics. No community in the world can boast of such a marvelous legacy of virtue and moral excellence.
It is a well known fact about Caliph Abu Bakr that he returned the money his wife had carefully saved to purchase the ingredients to make halwa to Bait-al-Hal. He further instructed the amount she had saved to be deducted them for already meagre allowance.
The sacrificial spirit of Hazrat Omar and the life of rugged simplicity and asceticism he led have become proverbial. It will suffice here to relate the incident of his journey to Jabia (in Syria) as the Caliph of Muslims and the Head of the Islamic State. In the words of a renowned historian, Hazrat Omar “was riding on a camel (and) his head was shining in the sun. There was neither a cap on it nor an Amama (a headpiece commonly worn by the Arabs). His legs were dangling on the two sides of the saddle and under him was only an ordinary woollen cushion which served for his bed when he halted and for the pack-saddle when he rode. He also carried a bag which was stuffed with cotton-wool. He used it as a pouch while he travelled and as a pillow while he rested. His shirt was made of a coarse cloth. It was old and was also torn on one side.”
Hazrat Uthman was the wealthiest man among his friends. Of him Shurhabeel tells that he entertained others on a lavish scale but ate only bread and oil himself. Hazrat Ali is included among the most self-restraint and austerity has been described in the following words by Darar bin Damora.
“He shunned the world and its allurements and liked the darkness and solitude of the night. He had a reflective nature and would often appear to be lost in thought. In that state he would make movements with his hands which showed that his attention was turned inwards. His dress was simple and his food was abstemious. By God! He looked to be one of us (the common people). If we asked anything from him he would answer promptly and when we went to see him he would start the conversation himself. When he invited him, he would readily accept our invitation.”
The ennobling influence of the Prophet’s character was felt in the lives of the people of his household, the illustrious Caliphs and the Holy Companions in proportion to the closeness of their association with him. The place occupied by Hazrat Ayesha (his most beloved wife) in dountness, self-abnegations and magnanimity is very high. It has, for instance, been put on record by chroniclers that once she distributed a lakh of dirhams as charity despite the fact that her own clothes were worn-out and she was fasting. After it was over, her maid said to her it would have been better if she had saved a few dirhams for Iftar (the fast-breaking meal). Hazrat Ayesha replied: “I would have, had ou reminded me of it at that time.” She had given a lakh of dirhams and forgotten her own hunger.