We often focus on the fasting and Tarawih prayers during Ramadan. However, the blessed month is also a time when generosity is greatly emphasized. One should try to be exceedingly generous during this month. In this section (pp. 305-310) Ibn Rajab examines the generosity of the Prophet . This examination is an encouragement for the believers to be excessively generous during the blessed month of Ramadan.
It is related in the two sound books (al-Bukhari and Muslim) on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father:
The Messenger of Allah was the most generous of people. He was especially generous in Ramadan when the Angel Gabriel would come and review the Qur’an with him. Gabriel would to review the Qur’an with him every night during the month of Ramadan. Verily, when Gabriel would come and review the Qur’an with him in Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah was more generous than the free-blowing wind. 1
Imam Ahmad records this hadith with the additional words at its end, “He was not asked for anything except that he gave it.”
Generosity is expansive and abundant giving. Allah is described as generous. [We read] in the compilation of Imam al-Tirmidhi, from the transmissions of Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, that the Prophet said, “Allah is generous, He loves generosity; He is noble, He loves nobility.” 2 His compilation also mentions, on the authority of Abu Dharr, on the authority of the Prophet narrating directly from his Lord:
O my servants! If the first of you, the last of you; the living of you, the dead of you; the intact of you, the decomposed of you; were to gather in a vast plain, and every individual were to ask of me his wildest dream, and I were to grant everyone what he asked, that would not decrease my dominion as much as [the water taken from] an ocean one of you were to pass by and dip a needle into it and then extract it. That is because I am generous, extant, and glorious. I do what I please. My giving is a word and my punishment is a word. My command to something when I desire it is but to say, “Be, and it is!” 3
In a well-known narration, Fudail bin ‘Iyyad mentioned, “Every night Allah proclaims, ‘I am generous, I love generosity; I am noble, I love nobility.'” Allah is the most generous of all. His generosity is amplified during certain special times such as the month of Ramadan. [It is in the context of discussing Ramadan] that he has revealed, When my servants ask about Me, verily I am close by. I respond to the call of the supplicant when he invokes me. (Qur’an 2:186)
In a hadith mentioned by Imam al-Tirmidhi and others, the Prophet mentioned, “During it (Ramadan) a caller cries out, ‘Those desiring good come forward, and those desiring evil stay away.’ Allah has those He liberates from Hell, and that occurs every night [during Ramadan].” 4
In that Allah has predisposed His Prophet upon the most perfect and noblest character traits, as is related in a hadith from Abu Hurayra, from the Prophet that he said, “I have only been sent to perfect the noblest of character.” Imam Malik mentions this in the Muwatta. 5 The Prophet was indeed the most generous of all people.
Ibn ‘Adi mentions a hadith that has some weakness in it [that the Prophet said]:
Should I not inform you of the most generous of all? Allah is the most generous of all, and I am the most generous of humanity. After me the most generous person is a man who learns something beneficial and disseminates it. He will be resurrected on the Day of Ressurection as an individual nation. Likewise, is a man who gives his life in the way of Allah. 6
This hadith indicates that the Prophet is absolutely the most generous of humans, just as he is the best of them, the most knowledgeable, the bravest, and the most perfect in every praiseworthy respect. His generosity was demonstrated in all of the ways possible to manifest generosity: Disseminating knowledge; sharing wealth; exerting himself for the sake of Allah, Exalted is He, to uplift His religion, guide His servants, and to secure every possible benefit for them -be that feeding their hungry, admonishing their ignorant, meeting their daily needs, or bearing their burdens.
The Prophet possessed these praiseworthy qualities even before Islam. Owing to this, Khadija said to him, when he initially received revelation, “I swear by Allah, He will never disgrace you! You uphold the sanctity of blood relations, you honor the guest, you bear the burdens of others, you spend on the deprived, and you assist people in the face of calamities.” 7 After revelation these qualities were greatly amplified in him .
It is related in the compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim, from Anas, “The Messenger of Allah was the nicest, bravest, and most generous of all people.” 8 Anas also relates, “After Islam, the Messenger of Allah was never asked for anything except he gave it. A man came to him and asked him for a valley filled with livestock and he gave it to him. He returned to his people and said. ‘O People! Become Muslim, for Muhammad gives like a man who does not fear poverty.”‘ 9
Anas further mentions, “If it were the case that a man became Muslim, not desiring anything other than worldly gain, he would not reach the evening except Islam was more beloved to him than the world and everything on the face of the earth.” Imam Muslim also relates, from Safwan bin Umayya, “The Messenger of Allah started giving me gifts while he was the most hated of people to me. He continued to give to me until he became the most beloved of people to me.” 10 Ibn Shihab (al-Zuhri) mentions that in the aftermath of the Battle of Hunayn he gave Safwan one hundred sheep and goats, then another hundred, then yet another. In al-Maghazi, al-Waqidi mentions, “On that day the Prophet gave Safwan bin Umayya a valley filled with camels, sheep and goats. Safwan said, ‘This level of generosity could only be pleasing to a prophet.'” 11
In the compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim, it is related by Jubayr bin Mut’im that in the aftermath of the Battle of Hunayn the desert Arabs were tugging at the Prophet asking him to divide up some of the war booty amongst them. He said to them, “If I had sheep and goats equal to the number of these thorny desert shrubs [scattered around us] I would divide them amongst you. You would find me to be neither a miser, nor a liar, nor a coward.” 12
Imam al-Bukhari relates a hadith from Sahl bin Sa’d that a cloak was given to the Messenger of Allah. He wore it and he really needed it. A man asked him for it and he gave it to him. The Companions rebuked him saying, “He needed it and you know that he never refuses a request.” He said, “I only asked for it so it could be my burial shroud.” And it turned out to be his burial shroud. 13
All of his generosity was for Allah, be he Mighty and Majestic, and seeking His pleasure. Either he would spend for the poor, or the needy, or in the way of Allah, or to win over to Islam those whose faith would be strengthened by his generosity.
His character was an embodiment of this book (the Qur’an) in that he was pleased with what it describes as pleasurable, angered by what it describes as evoking anger. He hastened to implement what it encourages and to avoid what it forbids. For this reason his generosity and goodness was increased during this month (Ramadan), because of the presence of Gabriel and his reviewing with him the Qur’an, which encourages nobility and generosity, with him. There can be no doubt that association [with a noble, generous person] breeds assimilation.
One of the poets praised a generous king. The king presented him with an expensive monetary prize. He went out and dispensed it all among the common folk. He then recited:
My hand touched his hand seeking wealth.
I did not know that the generosity of his hand was contagious!
News of this incident reached the king and he gave him an even more expensive gift.
One of the poets praised the generosity of one of the noblemen in words that are only fitting for the Messenger of Allah :
He became so accustomed to opening his hands in charity to such and extent…
that were he to order his fingers to close, clinging to something, they would not obey him.
You see his face lit up when you come to him asking…
as if you are giving to him what you are asking of him.
He is an ocean [of giving] from any direction you approach him…
his depth is goodness and generosity is his shore.
If he had nothing in his hand other than his very soul…
he would give that away so let one asking of him be mindful of Allah.
Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work.
Source: New Islamic Directions
- Al-Bukhari, 1902; Muslim, 2308
- Al-Tirmidhi, 2800
- Al-Tirmidhi, 2497
- Al-Tirmidhi, 682
- Imam Malik, al-Muwatta, 2:904
- Ibn ‘Adi, al-Kamil, 1:350
- Al-Bukhari, 1:22-27
- Al-Bukhari, 2857; Muslim, 2307
- Muslim, 2312
- Muslim, 2313
- Al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, 2:854-855
- Al-Bukhari 2821 Ibn Rajab mentions that this hadith is also related in Sahih Muslim. However, that is not the case.
- Al-Bukhari, 1277