One cold winter night years ago, I was walking with two friends in downtown Cairo. The weather was extremely cold, and most streets were empty. When we approached Tal’at Harb square (one of the famous squares in Cairo), we saw a homeless old woman sleeping on the side walk, covering herself with a blanket, and trembling from the cold. We decided to buy her some food, so we walked over to the nearest open restaurant, bought her some warm sandwiches, and returned. To our surprise, she was awake, and sitting at the same place. Her face was extremely red, as if she was working out, and her body wasn’t shaking anymore. When we offered her the food we’ve bought, she said, “No, thank you boys, I have already eaten my dinner, but do you see that building over there?” she said pointing towards a building across the street, so we said, “Yes.” She said, “You will find a woman and her daughter sleeping over there; I know they haven’t eaten any dinner yet. Go give this food to them, they deserve it more than I do.”
This woman literally had nothing in the materialistic sense of the word. What she had abundantly was morals, and humanity. She could have taken the food, and keep it for breakfast… but no, her humanity made her suffice with what’s minimal, and point towards someone else who hadn’t eaten yet. This is exactly what Prophet Muhammad’s teachings were all about.
Lady ‘Āʾishah reported that Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. told her: “O ‘Āʾishah, never turn away a needy beggar from your door empty-handed, even if you had nothing but half a dried date. O ‘Āʾishah, love the poor, bring them near to you, and Allah shall bring you near to Him on the Day of Resurrection.” [Recorded by Albany in Al-Targhib wal-Tarhib].
The prophet’s words were clear, although you have nothing but what’s minimal: half a dried date, not even a complete date, do not hold it back from a person in need.
Bilal, the companion, reported that the prophet said: “Spend in charity, and don’t fear diminution from Him who is high above the heavens.” [Recorded by Abu-Yu’la]
The prophet’s attitude in giving, and preferring the other over himself was overwhelming to the farthest extent. In different occasions he was reported to give what he had, and starve himself; dress others, and patch his clothes; he spent months without eating even one warm meal. Nothing of the lofty things in this world ever attracted him, or even caught his attention.
At-Tirmidhī narrated that: “Once a man came asking the prophet for alms, the prophet answered: ‘I have nothing remaining, but go and buy whatever you need on my account, and when anything (money or something to trade with) comes to me, I shall pay for what you buy.’ On hearing this another companion said out of pity, ‘But Allah didn’t over burden you with what you can’t bear O prophet.’ The prophet seemed to have hated what that companion said, so a man from among the people of Madinah said, ‘O prophet, spend (in charity) and don’t fear diminution from Him who is high above the heavens.’ The prophet smiled, glad tidings were seen on his face, and he said: ‘That is what I was ordered to do.’ ”
Lady ‘Āʾishah described their hard life to her nephew saying: “Over two months used to elapse, during which we saw three crescents, and yet no fire was kindled in the house of the Prophet (i.e. they did not cook any food).” Her nephew named ‘Urwah asked her: “O Aunt, what did you eat for sustenance?” Lady ‘Āʾishah said: “The two blacks: ripen dry dates and water.” [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]
‘Abdullah Ibn Mas‘ud reported that: “I once entered on the prophet, and found him lying down on a rough straw mat which left marks on his skin, so I said ‘O prophet, if you permit us, we will spread a softer sheet for you.’ The prophet P.B.U.H. said: ‘Where am I from this worldly life, the example of me and this worldly life is like that of a rider traveling on a hot summer day, he took shelter in the shadow of a tree for an hour, then he left, and went on his way.’ ” [Recorded by Tirmidhī].
Sahl Ibn Sa‘d, the companion reported that: “A woman brought a garment to the Prophet, she said: ‘O prophet, I have brought you this garment as a gift to wear it.’ The Prophet was actually in need for a new garment, so he accepted the gift, and put it on immediately. A man among the attendants then said: ‘O prophet, will you give it to me.’ The Prophet said: ‘Yes,’ he took it off, and gave it to him. Later on, after the prophet left, that man was blamed by the attending companions who said, ‘It wasn’t nice on your part to ask the Prophet for the garment when you saw that he needed it, and you knew that he never turns down anyone’s request.’ The man then said: ‘I just wanted to have its blessings after the Prophet had put it on; I hoped to be shrouded in it when I die.’ ” [Recorded by Bukhari].
Our Sheikhs used to say, “This life is like a river holding water for all mankind, every one of us is sipping from it. One takes what’s minimal, and another drinks more than he can bear to hold in his loins. Suffice with what’s minimal, live righteously, be at the aid of the other, and you shall earn the pleasure of enjoying the Creator’s blessings, peace of mind, and tranquility of soul in this life, and His companionship in the hereafter.”
Written by: Ehab Shawky
In response to: Minimal