Generosity and Selflessness

Generosity is to give something one has to another who is deprived of that thing. The peak of generosity is isar or selflessness or self-sacrifice. The best definition of isar is to be found in the following verse from the Qur’an:

‘They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives: ‘We feed you only out of desire for the sake of Allah. We do not want any repayment from you or any thanks. Truly We fear from our Lord a glowering, calamitous Day.’ So Allah has safeguarded them from the evil of that Day and has made them meet with radiance and pure joy’(Al-Insan, 76:8-11).

Generosity is a product of compassion that arises from faith. And compassion is to run to the aid of others in order to make up for their deprivation.

However generosity is not to squander one’s wealth and give it out haphazardly. Allah bestows upon His slaves with care and knowing the worth of the bounty. On this matter, Almighty Allah has placed the following measure:

Do not keep your hand chained to your neck but do not extend it either to its full extent so that you sit there blamed and destitute’ (Al-Isra 17:29).

Generosity is one of the attributes of Allah. One of His Names is ‘Al-Kareem’, which means ‘the One who is extremely giving and full of favour, and infinitely generous”[1] Other Names of Allah such as Rahman, Rahim, Wahhab, Lateef, Tawwab, Gaffar, Afuww, Rauf and Hadi also express the generosity of Allah from different aspects.

It is said in a hadith:

“Allah Most High is Al-Jawwad, that is He is a possessor of generosity and bounty and this is why He loves generosity. He loves good character and is not pleased with bad character” (Suyuti, I, 60).

“Allah is undoubtedly Tayyib, that is, He loves goodness and what is beautiful. He is Tahir, He loves cleanliness; He is Kareem, He loves nobility. He is Jawwad, He loves generosity”(Tirmidhi, Adab, 41/2799).

Taking his share from the generosity of Allah, a believer should be like moonlight on a dark night, deep, sensitive, gentle, thinking of others, compassionate, a possessor of mercy, full of enthusiasm to give out, and with a wealthy heart. Allah says in a verse from the Qur’an:

‘You who have faith! Give away some of what We have provided for you before a Day arrives on which there is no trading, no close friendship and no intercession. It is those who deny the bounty which has been given to them, who are the oppressors.’(Al-Baqara, 2:254)

‘…But anything you expend will be replaced by Him’ (Al-Saba, 34:39)

Ali (r.a) has the following to say:

“People are asleep and when they die they wake up”…(Ajluni, Kashfu al-Hafa, II, 312/2795).If we do not want to wake up empty-handed in the eternal realm and we do not want to be in a state of deprivation, then we must prepare our provision for our afterlife by taking on the character of generosity and selflessness in this world. Rumi explains it beautifully:

“The life of this world is but a dream. To be a possessor of fortune in this world is like finding a treasure in your dream. The wealth of this world gets transmitted from generation to generation and remains in this world”.

“The Angel of Death awakens the ignorant sleeper in order to take his soul. That person then laments about all of the struggle that he went through in order to possess the property in this world that is not his true possession. He becomes extremely sorry. However it is too late and it is all over…”

Such is the life of this world, and such is the life of the hereafter…

It is said in a verse from the Qur’an:

‘Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, ‘My Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give charity and be one of the righteous!’ Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of what you do’ (Al-Munafiqun, 63:10-11)

Almighty Allah praises those of His slaves who are generous and whose hearts are awake as follows:

‘…they would prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy’(Al-Hashr, 59:9)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who never denied the request of anyone,[2] has said as a declaration of the virtue of those who possess the trait of generosity:

“Generosity is like a tree whose branches extend from Paradise to this world. Whoever holds onto one of the branches it will take him to Paradise. Miserliness on the other hand, is like a tree whose branches extend from this world down to Hellfire. Whoever holds onto one of its branches will be led into the fire…”(Bayhaqi, Shuabu’l Iman, VII, 435).

“The state of the generous one versus the miserly one is like the state of two people who wear armour from their breast to their collarbone. As the generous one gives out, his armour expands and lengthens to cover his toes and wipes away his footprints. When the miser wants to give something away, his armour contracts and restricts him; however much he tries to expand it, it is of no avail” (Bukhari, Jihad 89, Zakat 28; Muslim, Zakat 76-77).

“The generous person is close to Allah, Paradise and people; and is distant from Hellfire. The miser however, is distant from Allah, Paradise and people, and is close to Hellfire. The ignorant generous one is more pleasing to Allah than the worshipping miser”(Tirmidhi, Birr, 40/1961)

“Pardon the generous one, for Allah holds him by the hand whenever he stumbles” (Haysami, VI, 282)

Asma (r.ha), the daughter of Abu Bakr (r.a) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to her:

“Do not tighten the strings of the money-bag, for Allah may constrict what He has hither forth given to you” (Bukhari, Zakat, 21)

“Give out, and do not keep count or Allah will count what He has given you and withhold it from you. Do not hide your money in the pot otherwise Allah will hide it from you”(Muslim, Zakat, 88).

Thinking of others over oneself, generosity, sincerity and genuineness -in their perfect sense- are all a result of the maturation of the spirit. It is only possible to remain distant from worldly and carnal distractions that spoil the peace and spirituality of the heart, by being generous and thinking of others.

Rumi has expressed very nicely the virtue of generosity and the obsession with miserliness as follows:

“Generosity is a branch of a tree of Paradise. Woe to the one who lets go of this branch. The one who plants the seed must first empty his grain house, but then his harvest is great. But the one who keeps his seeds in the grain house will have it end up as food for the mice”

“Just as beautiful people seek clear and pure mirrors, so too does generosity seek out poor and weak people. The beauty of beautiful people becomes manifest with a mirror, just as the beauty of offering and bestowal becomes manifest with the poor and forlorn”

“Those hearts which are suffocating in neediness and poverty are like a house full of smoke. As you listen to their worries, open up a window to their house so that the smoke can exit and your heart can soften and your spirit become light”.

Today too we need people who – according to their means – embark on a serious campaign of generosity and giving out. Let us not forget that we could have been in the place of needy and disadvantaged people. This is why it is a debt of gratitude to our Lord to be generous and selflessness to the sick, forlorn, lonely, needy and hungry.

Let us share the bounties we have been given with the needy in order that those hearts that we please and make happy will increase our spirituality in this world, be our aid in the hereafter and our happiness in the next world.

Scenes of Virtue

Anas (r.a) narrates:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would always give out whatever was asked of him for the sake of Islam. One time, he gave a man who came to him, a large herd of sheep. When the man returned to his tribe, he said to them:

“O people. Run to be Muslim. Because Muhammad is giving out great wealth without fear of poverty or need”.

In fact some people became Muslim merely to obtain worldly wealth. However it was not long before Islam became more valuable to them then the world and everything in it. (Muslim, Fadail, 57-58)

***

Even though Safwan ibn Umayya, one of the leading men of the pagans of Quraysh, was not yet Muslim, he fought side by side with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in the battles of Hunayn and Taif.

While walking amongst the booty that was gathered in Jirana, Safwan eyed a portion of it in great admiration. Seeing him, the Prophet said:

“Does it please you?”

“Yes” Safwan answered.

“Take it. It is all yours

Safwan was beside himself and said:

“No heart but the heart of a Prophet could be so generous”. He then pronounced the declaration of faith and became Muslim. (Wakidi, II, 854-55)

The Prophet (pbuh) was at the peak of all virtue. He would make much offerings to people in the aim of reforming their weaknesses and would work to guide them.

***

Abdullah ibn Abbas (r.a) narrates:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was the most generous of people. The times when his generosity was overflowing was at the time when he would meet with Gabriel during Ramadan. Gabriel would meet with the Prophet every night during Ramadan and they would recite the Qur’an to each other. This is why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was more generous than the wind that blew without hindrance” (Bukhari, Bad’u al-Wahy 5, 6, Sawm 7; Muslim, Fadail 48, 50).

***

One time a man came to the Prophet and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! I am hungry”.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent word to one of his wives to send something to eat. However this mother of the believers said:

“I swear by the One who sent you as a Prophet that we have nothing but water at home”

When the Prophet learned the situation was the same with his other wives he turned to his Companions and asked:

Would any of you like to have this man as your guest tonight?”

A man from the Ansar said:

“I will host him, o Messenger of Allah” He then took the needy man home. When he arrived he said to his wife:

“Do we have anything to eat?” His wife replied:

“No, there is only enough for our children”.

The Companion then said:

“In that case distract the children with something. If they ask for something to eat, put them to bed. When our guest comes inside, turn off the light and we will act as if we are eating together with him”.

They sat down to eat. The guest filled his stomach and they went to bed hungry.

That morning this same Companion went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Seeing him, the Prophet said to him:

“Allah Most High was most pleased with your conduct to your guest last night”(Bukhari, Manakibu’l Ansar, 10; Tafsir, 59/6; Muslim, Ashribe, 172).

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once sacrificed a lamb. After giving much of it out to many people the Prophet asked Aisha what was left. When Aisha (r.ha) answered:

“Just the shoulder blade”, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

You mean to say that we have the reward of everything but the shoulder blade”. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 33)

That is, our true fortune is what we have given out…

***

One day a needy person came to the Messenger of Allah and asked him for something. The Messenger of Allah said:

“I have nothing with me to give you but go and buy what you need in my name, and I will pay for it when it arrives”.

Umar (r.a) who could not stand to see the Prophet enter into debt said:

“O Messenger of Allah! If you have something with you, you would give it, but Allah has not burdened you with what is beyond your power”

That the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was not pleased with these words of Umar became obvious from his blessed face. Upon this a man from the Ansar said:

“May my mother and father be sacrificed for you o Messenger of Allah. Give out! Do not be afraid that Allah will lessen it”

These words of this Companion pleased the Prophet very much and he smiled and said:

This is what I have been commanded to do” (Haysami, X, 242).

What an exemplary heart… it is a source of much peace for a believer to comfort his fellow Muslim.

***

One of the leaders of the Tabi’een Abdullah al-Harawi, knew of the generous nature of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). However he wished to learn more. One day while he was in Aleppo, he encountered Bilal Habeshi (r.a), the caller to prayer of the Prophet. Having found the opportunity he asked about the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“O Bilal! Tell me about how the Messenger of Allah used to give out”

Bilal (r.a) explained:

“From the day that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was sent as a Prophet by Allah, until the day he died, I looked after many of his affairs. For instance, whenever a Muslim would come to him and he saw that he was poor, he would command me to go and get a loan and buy some food and clothes for that man. One day a pagan appeared before me and said:

“O Bilal. I am a rich man and I have much opportunity. From now on, do not go to others for a loan, but come to me”. And that is what I did. One day I had taken my ablution and was about to read the call to prayer when I saw that pagan approaching with a group of merchants. When he saw me, he called out:

“Hey Bilal”

“What is it?” I answered. The man soured his face at me, looked at me very sternly and began to speak certain harsh words:

“How much time until the beginning of the month?” he asked.

I said:

“Not long now”.

He said:

“There are only four nights. When that day comes I am going to get what you owe me. I did not give that money neither for your sake nor for the sake of that man. I gave it to you so you could be my slave. You can take my sheep to pasture just as you used to do”.

When I heard these words I was very distressed. I went to read the call to prayer. After praying the late evening prayer, Allah’s Messenger returned to his family. I asked permission to speak with him. He allowed me to enter and I said:

“O Messenger of Allah! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you. Do you know that pagan that I took a loan from? He said such and such. Neither you nor I have the means to pay him back. He will disgrace me. Allow me to take refuge with one of those tribes who have just become Muslim. Allow me to stay with them until Allah Most High provides for the Messenger of Allah to pay back my debts”.

Upon receiving permission from the Messenger of Allah I left and arrived home. I put my sword, my bayonet, my lance and shoes under my head, turned my face towards the horizon and lay down to sleep. I was ill at ease and kept awaking. Just as I was about to depart I heard somebody outside call out to me:

“O Bilal. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is calling you”

I walked to the door of the house of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and what did I see but four camels laden with their loads. I asked for permission to enter and went inside. The Prophet (pbuh) said to me:

Good news o Bilal. Allah Most High has sent me these to pay back your loan”. I praised Allah. The Prophet said to me:

Did you not see the four camels in front of the door?”

“I saw them” I said.

“They are yours together with what is loaded on them. The chieftain of Fedek sent them. Take them and go and pay back your loan”.

I did as the Prophet said. I unloaded the camels, gave them something to eat and went to call the dawn prayer. After the Prophet led the prayer I went to the Graveyard of Baqi, raised my hands to my ears and yelled out:

“Whoever is owed something by the Messenger of Allah, let him come now and be paid back”.

By selling some of the load and turning it into cash I was able to pay back all of the debts of the Messenger of Allah, to such a degree that there was nobody left on the face of the earth to whom the Prophet owed anything. In fact there was even some money left over. When the evening came I went to the Mosque. I saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sitting there in the mosque all by himself. I greeted him and he asked me:

What happened? What did you do?”

“Allah Most High paid back all of the debts of the Messenger of Allah, and you have no debt left”

“Was anything left over?” he asked.

“Yes, two dinars” I replied.

“In that case, save me from those two dinars and give them out too. I am not going to go back to my family until you release me from those two dinars and put me at ease”.

But because nobody came to whom I could give the dinars, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) waited for a long time at the mosque. Eventually towards the evening, two horsemen arrived. I took them to the market and bought food and clothes for them with the two dinars. After the Prophet had led the evening prayer he called me and asked:

What happened to that which was with you?”

“Allah has put you at ease” I said.

Upon hearing my answer, the Messenger of Allah pronounced the takbir “Allah is the greatest”.

Having been freed of the fear of dying with the responsibility of those two dinars upon him, he praised Allah. Then he rose and I followed him. He stopped by to see each member of his family and greeted them. After that he retired to his room.

And so o Abdullah. This is the answer to your question” (Abu Dawud, Haraj, 33-35/3055; Ibn Hibban, Sahih, XIV, 262-264).

The Prophet was so generous that he would go into debt in order to give to others. How much have we as his community resembled him in his generosity?

***

A poet has expressed the peak of the generosity and selflessness of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as follows:

“If he had nothing but his mere life and soul in his hands he would give that to whoever asked for it. That is why the one who asks from Him should fear Allah and be fair in their request”

Another poet has said:

“If one day somebody likens your generosity to the clouds then he would be mistaken in his praise. Because the clouds give out whilst weeping but you give out whilst smiling”.

Thus this was the degree of the generosity of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He willingly gave everything he ever had in the path of Allah. Khalid-i Baghdadi has made the following comparison about the peak of generosity of the Prophet:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was such a great model of generosity that the oceans produce pearls for the sake of His existence, rubies emerge from hard rock, and roses bloom amongst thorns. If His beautiful character was mentioned in a garden, there would not be a rose bud that did not smile, that is, that did not open up and bloom” [3]

***

The selflessness of Aisha (r.ha), the Prophet’s wife, was amazing. Whilst Umar (r.a) was awaiting his death, after having been stabbed, he called his son Abdullah and said to him:

“…Go to Aisha, the mother of the believers and tell her that Umar sends his greetings of peace to her. Do not dare say ‘The Commander of the Believers’ sends his peace. For today I am no longer the Commander of the Believers. Say to her: “Umar ibn Khattab asks your permission to be buried besides his two friends”.

Abdullah (r.a) continues:

“I asked permission to enter and greeted Aisha . She was crying. I said to her:

“Umar sends you his greetings of peace. He asks to be allowed to be buried beside his two friends”.

Aisha (r.ha) replied:

“I had reserved the only place left beside the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) for myself. However today I prefer Umar over myself”. (Allah’s Messenger and Abu Bakr were both buried in Aisha’s cell. Aisha thus wished to buried in the only place left herself, next to the Prophet and her father)

When I returned it was said to Umar:

“Here is Abdullah. He has returned”. Umar  tried to rise in excitement and curiosity:

“Lift me up” he said. He held onto another person for support and asked me:

“What news have you brought?”

“Your wish has been fulfilled. Aisha has granted you permission”.

After I said this, he said:

Alhamdulillah (All praise be to Allah). There was nothing more important to me than this matter. When my spirit is taken back from me, take me there. When you arrive, again give my greeting of peace to Aisha and say “Umar asks permission”. If she allows you, take me inside, if not take me and bury me amongst the graveyard of the Muslims”.

When he passed away, they took him and walking they went to the cell of Aisha. Abdullah greeted her and said:

“Umar asks for permission”. The honourable Aisha replied:

“Allow him in”. He was immediately brought inside and buried beside his two respected friends. (Bukhari, Ashabu al-Nabi 8, Janaiz 96, Jihad 174, Tafsir 59/5, Ahkam 43).

The great selflessness of Aisha  and the delicacy, manners and courtesy of Umar  are of such an elevated nature that words cannot express them.

***

Zaynab ibnt-i Jahsh (r.ha), another of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) was a woman who was very skilled in handicrafts. She would earn money doing so and would spend her gain in the way of Allah. The Prophet had said to his wives:

“She of the longest reach will be the soonest to join me”

Aisha (r.ha) says:

“Out of our desire and longing to be with the Messenger of Allah, we set about measuring our arms in order to know which of us it would be who would be reunited with the Prophet first. It was only after that we realised that by ‘the longest reach’ the Prophet had indicated Zaynab. Because it was she who would make things with her hands and was extremely generous in giving out to others” (Muslim, Fadail as Sahaba, 101).

***

After the emigration to Madina, each family of Madina (the Ansar[4]) took in a family from the newly arrived Muslims from Mecca (The Muhajirah[5]). In this way there would be realised a pact of brotherhood between the two and they would work together and share what they earned. The Ansar had pledged much of their lands to the Prophet and he then distributed these amongst the Muhajirah. The Ansar or Helpers went further and made the following generous offering:

“O Messenger of Allah! Take our date palms and share them amongst the Muhajirûn”.

When the Prophet did not accept this offer the Helpers turned to the Emigrants and said:

“In that case, take on the task of watering and looking after the palms so that we can share in the harvest”. When the Prophet approved both sides said:

“We have heard and we have obeyed”. (Bukhari, Hars 5).

How much need we are in of such lofty character in today’s world in which there are so many needy people…”

***

When the Prophet arrived in Madina the Emigrants said to him:

“O Messenger of Allah! We have never seen people so generous and charitable as this tribe to which we have migrated. The one with much wealth gives out exceedingly, the one with little wealth also sacrifices what he can and helps out. They have removed all our worries of livelihood and they have made us partners in their wealth. We are afraid that they will get all the reward and there will be nothing left for us”.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“No indeed. As long as you pray to Allah for them and keep praising them for what they have done for you, you too will get your reward”(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 44/2487).

***

Jabir (r.a) explains the generosity of the Helpers towards the Emigrants as followers:

“Whenever the Helpers would gather their harvest of dates they would divide it into two piles. They would then put many dates in one pile, and less dates in the other. Then they would place palm leaves in the smaller pile to make it look bigger than it really was. They would then say to the Emigrants: “Take whichever pile you prefer”. Thinking that the bigger pile should go to the Helpers, the Emigrants would take the smaller looking pile. In this way the Emigrants would receive more dates. The Helpers too would then have ensured that they were left with the smaller pile…” (Haysami, X, 40).

***

One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had distributed the booty taken from the Bani Nadir amongst the Emigrants. He had not given anything to any of the Helpers, save three people who were in need. Later he turned to the Helpers and said:

“If you wish, let what you have previously given to the Emigrants be theirs and you can take your share of this booty. If you so wish, you take back what you have given and leave the entirety of this booty for them”.

Upon this, the Helpers gave the following response as an indication of their great selflessness and preference for the Muslim brother over themselves:

“O Messenger of Allah! We will give our Emigrant brothers a share of our wealth and houses and we will leave them all of the booty too”.

Upon this the following verse was revealed which gave good tidings of the salvation of those servants who made such a sincere sacrifice:

‘Those who were already settled in the abode, and in faith, before they came, love those who emigrated to them and do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful’. (Al-Hashr, 59:9) (Al-Razi, XXIX, 250; Qurtubi, XVII, 25).

The heart of every believer should then feel peace as they give out, just like the Helpers, and not fear that their wealth will be lessened.

***

One day, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was about to distribute the land of Bahrain when he made an offering to the Helpers. The Helpers displayed such sacrifice and abandoning that has no parallel:

“O Messenger of Allah! Do not give us anything until you have given our Emigrant brothers double this”

The Prophet then said:

“O Ansar! Since you have preferred your Muslim brothers over your own selves and you do not wish for anything, then have patience with the trials of this world, until you reach me at the fountain of Kawthar[6]. Because after me there will come a time when others will be preferred over you” (Bukhari, Manakibu’l Ansar 8).

***

One day whilst Aisha (r.ha) the wife of the Prophet (pbuh), was fasting, a poor person came and asked her for something. Aisha (r.ha) had nothing but a loaf of bread at home. She said to her servant:

“Give the bread to him”

The servant said:

“There is nothing but this loaf of bread with which to break the fast”

Aisha (r.ha) said again:

“Give the bread to him”

The servant continues the story:

Upon the order given by Aisha, I gave the bread to that poor person. When it was night time somebody sent us a portion of cooked lamb. Aisha (r.ha) called me and said:

“Here you are, this is tastier than your loaf of bread”. (Muwatta, Sadaqa 5).

It is said in a verse from the Qur’an that “Allah acknowledges their charity” (Al-Tawba, 9:104). Almighty Allah bestows upon His slaves according to the degree of their heart.

***

One time a gift of a head of lamb was made to one of the Companions. He said to the giver of the gift: “My brother, such and such family is more needy of this than we are” and he then took it to the family. That family gave it to another… and so on and so on until it passed through seven houses until it eventually arrived back at the original Companion’s house. (Hakim, II, 526).

***

The following event told by Huzayfa al-Adawi (r.a) is noteworthy in reflecting the generosity and selflessness of the Companions even at their last breath.

“We were at the Battle of Yarmuk. The fierceness of the fighting had passed and the Muslims who had been injured with sword and arrow wounds had one by one begun falling on the hot sand and eventually passing away. Meanwhile I tried very hard to gather my strength in order to search for the son of my uncle. After roaming amongst the wounded I finally managed to find what I was looking for. But alas, my uncle’s son was lying in a pool of blood and could barely manage to speak even with his eyes. I pointed to the water canteen I had brought with me and asked him:

“Would you like some water?”.

It was obvious that he did because his lips were parched from the heat. However he did not have the strength to answer. His eyes indicated his pained state.

I opened up the water canteen and had just handed it to him when we heard an ‘aagh’ from amongst the wounded.

As soon as he heard this cry of pain, my uncle’s son abandoned his own self, and, with his eyes, he indicated that I take the water to the other wounded.

Running over the scorching hot sand amongst the martyred I reached him. I saw that it was Hisham ibn As. I asked him:

“Would you like some water?” With his eyes he indicated ‘yes’. Just as he was about to drink we heard another sound of ‘aagh, aagh’. Hisham indicated that I should take the water to him.

When I got to him he had passed away. I immediately went back to Hisham, however when I handed the canteen to him, alas he too had become martyred.

I may as well reach my uncle’s son, I thought to myself and I ran to him. But it was not to be and I found him passed away on the scorching hot sand… the full canteen of water was left in my hands amongst three martyrs.[7]

Huzayfa later speaks of his state of mind at that moment:

“I have had many experiences in my life. But none of them moved me as much as this one. Though there was no blood bond amongst these three Companions, their state of sacrifice and compassion and giving priority to the other left a deep imprint in my memory. This was such courage of faith that I could only watch with the greatest of awe. These people were able to farewell life displaying the same virtue at their last breath as they did throughout their lives and, awareness of the following verse: ‘Do not die except as Muslims’[8] alive in their minds.

***

The famous opponent of the Sufis, Gulam Khalil, had a hostile attitude to all Sufis. He had a group of Sufis, amongst whom was Abu al-Hussain an Nuri, arrested and sent to the Caliphate. As a result of the decree imposed by the Abbasi Caliph at the time, they were sentenced to death. Just as the executioner was about to behead one of the darwishes, Abu al-Hussain Al-Nuri, stepped forward willingly and joyfully. The people were amazed at this act. The executioner said:

“O hero. You have put yourself forward but this blade is not something to be vied for. Your turn has not yet come, why are you in such a hurry?”. Abu al-Hussain answered:

“My way is a way of selflessness. The most precious and valuable commodity is life itself. I want to sacrifice this last moment of my life so that my brothers can live a little longer. For us, time to take even one more breath is more pleasing and precious to us than a thousand years in the hereafter. Because this is the land of service, there however is the place of closeness to Allah. And closeness to Allah is obtained through service. Despite this I want to sacrifice my last breaths for my friends”.[9]

***

Upon the death of Uthman Ghazi, Aladdin Bey, who was supported by the leaders amongst the chiefs and who was destined to take the throne according to tradition, preferred his brother Orhan Bey over himself and said:

“My brother! You have the prayer and protection of our forefather. Whilst he was alive he gave the command of the army to you. As a result you deserve to be ruler”.

Alaaddin Bey, who displayed such selflessness and sacrifice, became his brother’s greatest supporter and became his vizier.[10]

***

On the 8th of October, 2005 Pakistan was shaken with a large earthquake, and more than 70000 people died. Those left living faced hunger and poverty. A young child from Turkey sent the following letter to them on the 24th of November. In it he pledged half of his wealth to his Muslim brothers thus displaying the peak of selflessness:

“I am the son of a poor household. I have no father and my mother is ill. We have two lira to buy bread, but I am sending you one of these liras, because today I found another loaf of bread in the rubbish. We are going to break our fast with that. Please buy bread for the children that suffered in the earthquake with this one lira. This money is lawful and pure. I could not send all of the money because I need the rest to buy a stamp. I am sorry”[11]

What amazing generosity, selflessness and virtue… a gentle breeze blowing in from the Era of Bliss…

***

In short, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was at the peak of generosity in times of both wealth and poverty. He would advise his Companions to be generous and give out whether they were rich or poor. In a hadith, he explained how generosity would not decrease one’s wealth or property:

“Every day that the sun rises two angels call out: “O people come to the mercy of your Lord. A small amount of provision which is sufficient for you is better than much wealth that will spoil you”. All creatures except humans and jinn hear this call.

Every day that the sun goes down two other angels take their place and call out: “O Allah, give the one who gives out a successor, and the one who does not, give him ruin”. This call too is heard by all creatures that dwell on earth except for humans and jinn” (Ahmad, V, 197).

In that case, the real achievement is to be able to fill the heart with feelings of generosity and selflessness to make it an ocean and to transform the bounties and trade of this world that Allah has bestowed into wealth of the hereafter. From this aspect then the best of wealth is that which is sent to Paradise ahead of its owner; and the best of souls is that which is used in gaining the pleasure of Allah.

[1].     See Infitar verse 6

[2].     See Bukhari, Adab 39; Muslim, Fadail, 56)

[3].     Khalid-i Baghdadi, Divan, trans Sadreddin Yuksel, Istanbul 1977, p 65-66

[4].     The Ansar was the title given to the Muslims of Madina and means the ‘Helpers’

[5].     The Muhajirah was the title given to the first group of Muslims who left their homes and migrated to Madina along with the Prophet and means the Emigrants. (Translator’s note)

[6].     Kawthar is a fountain or river from Paradise, the source of all rivers of Paradise (Translator’s note).

[7].     See Qurtubi, XVII, 28; Zaylai, Nasbu ar-Raye, II, 318; Hakim, III, 270/5058

[8].     See Al’I Imran, 3:102

[9].     Hujwiri, “Kashfu’l Mahjub,” trans. Sulayman Uludag, Istanbul 1996 p 302

[10].   Ziya Nur Aksun, Ottoman History, Istanbul 1994, I, 36

[11].   Seehttp://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/NewsEventImagePopUp.aspx?ImageID=129 (28/12/2005)