By Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan
Generosity is defined as giving freely without expecting anything in return. The best of human beings Muhammad ﷺ was an exemplar of this. Unlike those who give charity with a reward in mind, whether it be respect, love, admiration or loyalty, RasulAllah (prophet of Allah) ﷺ expected none of these things. His manner was such that when one would take something from him, he or she would feel that they were doing the Prophet ﷺ a favor, and not the other way around.
In the words of one poet:
You see him, when you go to him,
with a cheerful expression on his face.
Making it seem that you are the one
giving him that which you ask for.
His Generosity before Revelation
RasulAllah ﷺ was known for his generosity even before Prophethood. When he received his first revelation, he rushed home shaken by the experience. Khadijah radi Allahu ‘anha, may Allah be pleased with her, reminded him, “Allah would never humiliate you, for you are good to your relatives, you are true to your word, you help those who are in need, you support the weak, you are generous to the guest and you answer the call of those who are in distress.”
Generosity to His Enemies
Even his enemies expected nothing but generosity from him. He did not only reciprocate kindness and generosity, he extended it even to those who were unkind, rude and abusive to him.
Nothing depicts this better than when he was cast out of the city of Taif with blood flowing from wounds after being stoned in the streets. The Angel Jibraeel appeared and said, “O Muhammad, your Lord has seen how your people have responded to you, your Lord has seen what they have said to you, so he has sent me with the angel of the mountains to place at your disposal. ’O Muhammad, if you want, command me and I will cause the two mountains of Taif to collapse upon them.”
The Prophet ﷺ, still bleeding, his shoes wet with blood, said, “No! Rather, I pray that Allah blesses their children to be Muslims and worship Him alone. Even if they have rejected Islam, I pray that Allah blesses their progeny to be Muslim.”
Similarly, after the Conquest of Makkah RasulAllah ﷺ asked the people of Quraysh what they expected in their treatment from him. The Quraysh knew they had confiscated the wealth of the Muslims, expelled them, and then begun a series of wars – actions that would demand strict retribution. The Quraysh knew only one thing would spare their lives – the generosity of RasulAllah ﷺ. They immediately replied that they expected nothing but goodness and generosity from him, and that he would deal with them kindly because he was, “a generous brother, son of a generous brother”
The Prophet ﷺ smilingly said, “I speak to you in the same words of Prophet Yusuf, peace be with him, who spoke to his brothers,” and he recited a passage from the Qur’an relating to the story of Yusuf: “No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.” [12:92] Then he announced, “Go wherever you want today you are free!”
The Quality of His Generosity
When giving, RasulAllah ﷺ felt more joy than those who received the gift. He never turned anyone away empty-handed from his house and always gave preference to others over himself. He would give even when he himself was in need. The following story is an excellent illustration.
One day a poor immigrant Arab came to the Prophet ﷺ. He asked him to provide him with something. However, that day the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had neither food nor money. He said, “I have nothing to give to you right now. Go and buy what you need in my name and I will pay the debt.” The individual was overjoyed and left.
The Companions near the Prophet were upset because he was overextending himself. One of them stood up and said, “O apostle of Allah! This person has come two or three times before; he asks something from you and you always give it to him. Now you have nothing to give. Allah does not lay a burden on you that you cannot cope with!”
The Prophet did not like what had been said. Another Companion stood up and said, “O Apostle of Allah! Give as much as you wish! Do not fear that Allah, Who is the owner of the throne, will make you poor!”
A smile spread across his face and he said, “That is what I have been commanded to do.”
On another occasion after the Battle of Hunayn, a Bedouin pulled so violently at the collar of the Prophet’s robe that he left a mark on the Prophet’s ﷺ neck. The Bedouin then said, “Give me from what you have in terms of Allah’s wealth, from the wealth that is neither your father’s, nor your mother’s.” The Prophet ﷺ turned to him, laughed good-naturedly, and gave him a generous share of the wealth.
His Generosity towards the Hypocrites
The Munafiqun, (hypocrites), were the most dangerous group and posed the greatest threat to RasulAllah ﷺ and the community of Muslims. They professed Islam yet did everything possible to ridicule and mock at the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions.
Allah describes them in numerous places in the Qur’an. One verse states, “And when it is said to them, “Come, the Messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you,” they turn their heads aside and you see them evading while they are arrogant.” [63:5]
In another verse, Allah says, “The hypocrite men and hypocrite women are of one another. They enjoin what is wrong and forbid what is right and close their hands. They have forgotten Allah, so He has forgotten them [accordingly]. Indeed, the hypocrites – it is they who are the defiantly disobedient.” [Quran: 9:67]
The leader of the hypocrites was Abdullah Bin Ubay bin Salool who concealed his hatred for Islam and schemed to harm the Muslim community. He would avail every opportunity to harm them until the last day of his life. Despite this, RasulAllah ﷺ was lenient and kind toward him and exercised the greatest forbearance hoping that he may soften and accept Islam.
When RasulAllah ﷺ returned from the Battle of Tabuk, Abdullaah ibn Ubayy died. RasulAllah ﷺ not only offered his funeral prayer, he shrouded him in one of his own shirts despite the great harm he had continuously inflicted upon the Prophet of Allah and the Believers.
Testimony of the Companions on His Generosity
Ibn Abbaas, radi Allahu ‘anhu, may Allah be pleased with him, described the Prophet ﷺ as the most generous of all people. He said, “Allah’s Apostle was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an. Allah’s Apostle was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds).”
Abu Dharr, radi Allahu ‘anhu, reported that one evening he was walking with Allah’s Messenger and he said, “Abu Dharr, if the mountain of Uhud were turned into gold for me, I would not like three nights to pass and one diner still be left with me, excepting what I would leave for paying my debts.”
Anas bin Malik, radi Allahu ‘anhu, narrated, “The Messenger of Allah was never asked for a thing by one who may be about to accept Islam, except that he would give it. A man came to the Prophet, who gave him a herd of sheep filling an area between two mountains. When that man returned to his people, he said to them: ‘O my people! Embrace Islam. Muhammad gives, like one who has no fear of poverty.’”
Anas, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said the person initially embraced Islam for the sake of the world, but later Islam became dearer to him than the world and what it contains. (Muslim)
His Discomfort with Having Wealth
Umm Salma radi Allahu ‘anha, reports that one day Allah’s Messenger ﷺ came home looking disturbed. Umm Salma asked him what the matter was. He replied that the seven dinars he had received the day before had remained on the bed until evening and had not been distributed. He did not rest until they were given away.
Once a large sum of wealth was received in tribute from Bahrain. RasulAllah ﷺ ordered the money to be spread in the compound of the mosque. After the prayer, he started to distribute it, giving some to every person who came to him. He gave so much to Abbas, radi Allahu ‘anhu, that he was unable to get up from the weight. When nothing was left, he shook off his cloak and got up.
Returning More than He Owed
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah, “I went to the Prophet ﷺ in the mosque. He ordered me to pray two rakah of prayer, and then repaid the money he owed me, giving more than what was due.
Narrated Abu Huraira, “The Prophet ﷺ owed a camel of a certain age to a man who came to request it back. The Prophet ordered his companions to give him. They searched for a camel of the same age but found none except a camel who one year older (which was better). The Prophet told them to give it to him. The man said, “You have paid me in full, and may Allah pay you in full.” The Prophet said, “The best amongst you is he who pays his debts in the most handsome manner.”
Generosity in Other Manners
Anas bin Malik, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said that whenever the Prophet did not see any one of his companions for a span of more than three days, he would inquire about that individual and would pray for him. If he happened to be ill, the Prophet would visit him.
Jarir bin Abdullah, radi Allahu ‘anhu, reported that one time the Prophet entered a house and it quickly filled with people. When Jarir went in, he found no vacant spot and therefore sat outside. The Prophet, observing Jarir, rolled up a piece of cloth and threw it toward him, indicating that he should spread it underneath him.
His Appeal for Generosity
Ibn `Abbas, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said that he heard the Messenger say, “The believer is not the one who eats when his neighbor is hungry.”
Abu Hurairah, radi Allahu ‘anhu, reported that Allah’s Messenger said, “The believer is simple and generous, and the wicked person is deceitful and ignoble.”
RasulAllah ﷺ is also known to have said the following:
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be generous to his guest”.
“Every person will be under the shade of his own charity on the Day of Resurrection until judgement is rendered among people.”
“Charity never causes one’s level of wealth to decrease.”
These narrations are just a few of the many stories that offer a glimpse into the exemplary character of RasulAllah ﷺ. He was the finest embodiment of modesty and generosity. His materials possessions were simple and his heart was richer than that of any human being.
Everyone around the Prophet ﷺ benefited from generosity. He treated the traveler as a guest, provided the hungry with food, honored his relatives with good treatment, visited the sick, and gave to the needy without fear of poverty. Whether rich or poor, friend or enemy, he treated all well. If we are able to emulate but a shadow of his generosity, we will illuminate the world and make it a better place for all.
Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan is a graduate of The Islamic University Madinah, faculty of Shari’ah. He is also a graduate of The University of Guyana in English and holds a Diploma of Education. He is actively involved in the fields of religious dialogue (dawah) and spiritual development (tarbiyah). Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan is the Chairman of ICNA Shari’ah Council and an executive member of the Fiqh Council of North America.