Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|A gift for nothing|
|08/24/01 at 01:39:00|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]A gift for nothing
By Adil Salahi[/center]
People exchange gifts for a variety of reasons. One may give a present to someone in a privileged or high position in order to win favor with him. Or he may give a gift in order to open the way for the achievement of a particular purpose he has in mind. Or he may give someone a present in order to remove the effects or the ill feelings created by an earlier mistake or a wrong action. People may exchange gifts on social occasions or religious holidays. A person who is celebrating a particularly happy occasion may receive gifts from friends and relatives as well as from mere acquaintances. In many societies and communities, it has become traditional that a gift is returned either shortly after it is made, or when an occasion arises which is similar to that which the original gift was given. If someone accepts a gift and does not return it when a return is expected, he allows himself to be subject to criticism.
Because a gift implies love and good wishes on the part of the giver, Islam encourages its followers to accept it. Needless to say, when a gift is given for a wrong purpose, it should be refused. A clear example is that of a present given to a person in a position of influence in order to persuade him to turn a blind eye to an offense or to a misdeed on the part of the giver or to win an unfair advantage over other people. In such cases, the gift turns into a bribe and it must be refused.
A judge should always refuse gifts given to him by people who are not well known to him and of whose intentions he is not absolutely certain. Although the gift may appear to be innocuous at first sight, he can never tell that the giver may wish to enter his name in the judge's good books just in case he may have to stand before him in a case of litigation in which he is the offender. He hopes that by making the gift so early, he can influence the judge into making a judgment favorable to him. In normal circumstances, when there is no fear of a gift earning the giver an unfair advantage, people should accept gifts and return them when they can.
The Prophet used to accept gifts when they were presented to him. It is well known that references to the mission of the Prophet were included in the revelations of earlier Prophets. The scholars of those communities always pointed out the qualities by which the last of God's messengers would be known. In pre-Islamic days, the Jews in Madinah used to tell the warring Arab tribes that a prophet would soon appear and they threatened them by following him and gaining mastery over them and the rest of Arabia. One characteristic by which the new prophet would be known, as told by Jewish rabbis, was that he would not eat food that is given in charity, but he would eat food given as a gift.
Salman was a Persian who emigrated from his home country and became a Christian in Syria before he landed in Madinah. He was told of the impending appearance of the last prophet and his distinctive qualities. When Prophet Muhammad arrived in Madinah, Salman wanted to make sure that he was the true prophet. He brought him some food and said that he wanted to give it to Muhammad and his companions as a charity. The Prophet thanked him and invited his companions to eat, but he touched nothing of it. The following day Salman brought some more food and told the Prophet that it was a gift to him and his companions. The Prophet partook of that.
[color=Red]Indeed, acceptance of presents and gifts is recommended to us by the Prophet because it increases love and strengthens social ties.[/color] Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet as saying: "Give presents to one another so that you love one another." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad). The Prophet did not refuse a gift given to him, however small, unless there was a valid reason for non-acceptance. Once a man called Sahb ibn Juthamah gave him something he had hunted. But the Prophet was in the state of consecration, i.e. ihraam, when the meat of hunted animals is not permissible for him to eat. He could not accept the gift and told the man the reason for his inability to accept it.
People may give presents to a generous person hoping to have a return gift which is more precious and valuable than the one they have given him. If the return gift does not match the expectations of the first person, he may be upset. If he entertains such feelings, then he wastes much of the reward he would have received from God for his first gift, had his purpose been only to strengthen the ties of brotherhood between him and the recipient of the gift. Anyway, no blame may attach to the other person for having made a return gift that may be more valuable than the one he received.
The Prophet was the most generous of all people. Indeed, his generosity knew no limits. In the month of Ramadan, in particular, he excelled himself in generosity. His hand is described as "more generous with what is good than unrestrained wind." He might buy something from a person and give him the price and then give him the goods he bought from him as a present. He did that with Jabir ibn Abdullah, from whom he bought a camel, as they were on their way back to Madinah. The sale was agreed on condition that Jabir would give him the camel when they arrived back in Madinah. Jabir did that and brought the camel to the Prophet leaving it outside the mosque. When the Prophet came out and saw the camel, he gave it back to Jabir after giving him the agreed price. Whenever the Prophet was given a gift, he made sure of giving something better in return. People realized this and although many of his companions were keen to bring him gifts, just to please him, some people kept an eye on the expected gift they would receive in return.
Once a man from the tribe of Fazarah gave a she-camel to the Prophet as a gift. The Prophet gave him six camels in return. The man was not very pleased because he expected to receive a much bigger gift, having heard that the Prophet always made much more valuable gifts in return. The Prophet was upset. He was on the pulpit when he said to his companions: "One of you may give me a present and I give him a return gift, within what I may have. He nevertheless is unhappy with it. By God, I shall not accept after this year a gift from Arabs, except from the people of the Quraysh, the Ansar, Thqeef or the Daws." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, at-Tirmithi, Abu Dawood, an-Nassaie, Ahmad and others).
Here we have a good example of someone who makes his gifts a means to make an easy gain. When he is compensated for it six times its value, he is unhappy because others have received greater return gifts. His attitude is that of one who wants to dictate what he gets in return. This is a wrong attitude, especially if one is dealing with none other than the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, (peace be on him). It should be sufficient for reward that the Prophet was pleased with one's gift. That would bring a rich reward from God.
When the Prophet said those words on the pulpit, he was actually praising the people of those four or five tribes he named, Quraysh, the Ansar who belonged to the two tribes of the Aws and the Khazraj, Thaqeef and Daws. When any person of those tribes gave a gift, he expected nothing in return. They were very generous and content with what they had. If they received nothing or a small gift in return, they would realize that the Prophet did not have a better one to give. They simply prayed God to bless them with what they had, realizing that such a blessing would be much more valuable than any material gain they might have expected.
The Prophet must have been upset to say what he said, because he did not like to refuse a gift. But he decided not to accept any from the Bedouin Arabs in general with the exception of those five major tribes. He did not wish to upset anyone. But if the gift was given to him merely for the purpose of receiving a much bigger one, then it was simply a burden with which he might sometimes be bothered, if he did not have the means to give back what was expected.
We should learn from this Hadith that we are recommended to exchange gifts, but we should not expect back something over and above what we have given. Let us look forward to the reward we stand to gain from God for making a gift with the pure intention of pleasing our brethren in faith.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 22 December 2000[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Haniff (with 2 f's)
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