His Contentment          


How was the satisfaction of the prophet muhammad?

Contentment or Qana’ah means to be content with what one owns. Being satisfied with less, sufficing with a minimum amount of material means, not coveting to what others possess, and being saved from the greed to earn more are the manifestations of contentment in human beings.

Allah the Almighty, the Creator of human beings, also guarantees their sustenance. By stating in the Qur’an “There is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance depends on Allah …” (Hud 11; 6) Allah refers that His servants need not to worry in this regard. However, He has distributed His blessings differently among His servants and has given some more and some others less based on various Divine reasons. Those who have been given less in their share need to be content with it. They should not become greedy and turn to unlawful ways of earning livelihood. The rich, on the other hand, must be generous, stay away from greed and use their wealth to help those in need.

Contentment is not a characteristic particular to the poor. The affluent may sometimes need it more than the needy. Because the more one’s wealth increases the more his/her greed strengthens. Even if people earn enough wealth to provide for all of their relatives, they would not be satisfied with it and would try to earn and hoard more. Their greed makes them see their wealth as only a little and cause them not to benefit properly from it. Yunus Emre states this attitude in his following lines:

Kem tamahlık eyleme – Do not get greedy

Aklın sana yar ise – If reason is your companion

Those who are not content, whether they are poor or affluent, will be seized by the lures of this world. They will forget to prepare for the Hereafter and become losers in both worlds. Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) gives the following advice to such people:

“If you pour the sea of blessings into a pitcher, how much will it hold? Only one day’s blessings, one day’s water… The pitcher, the eye of the covetous, never becomes full: the oyster-shell is not filled with pearls until it is contented.” (Mathnawi, I, verses: 20-21)

The one who is not aware of the overflow and greedily tries to fill more water in his/her pitcher not only forgets the reason of his/her creation but also destroys himself/herself. Allah the Almighty points out the wrongfulness of such behavior in the verses below:

“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. No Sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me. For Allah is He Who gives (all) Sustenance, Lord of Power, Steadfast (forever).” (al-Zariyat 51; 56-58) This is why Allah’s Messenger praised and advised contentment, one of the most important principles of Islam. He pointed out that wealth does not mean having a great amount of property, but the real wealth is self-contentment. (Bukhari, Riqaq, 15) He also states that those who are confident about their inner selves and healthy and possess their daily sustenance have been given all the goodness of the world. (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 34) In another tradition, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“He is successful who has accepted Islam, who has been provided with sufficient for his want and been made contented by Allah with what He has given him.” (Muslim, Zakat, 125)

Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) considered contentment as the highest degree of thankfulness and expressed that the content were the most thanking people. (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24)

In another prophetic saying the characteristics of the thankful and patient believers are stated as follows:

“To look at and follow those who are above you in piety, and to look at those who are below you in worldly possessions and be thankful for what you have. Allah records such people as the thanking and the patient. Whoever looks at those below them in piety, while looking at those who are above them in wealth and get sad because of their poverty, Allah will not record them as the thanking and the patient.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 58)

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that people will be questioned for their possessions. Allah the Almighty will ask His servants where and how they spent the wealth, which He had bestowed upon them. Hence the bigger the wealth is, the greater the responsibility it comes with. In this regard we observe the best measure in the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

Abu Umama reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying:

“O son of Adam, it is better for you if you spend your surplus wealth, but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is, however, no reproach for you if you withhold means necessary for a living. And begin charity with your dependants; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” (Muslim, Zakat, 97)

People may think that taking is better than giving; whereas, giving is much better and more superior to receiving. Giving emanates from being content. Those who do not know what contentment is would not be satisfied even if they owned the whole world. They would not like to give even the smallest things to others. In his following lines, Rumi (q.s.) elegantly expresses that contentment does not harm anyone and Allah the Almighty’s blessings are enough for all of the creations which will pour upon the servants:

“No one was ever deprived of life by being content; no one was ever made a king by covetousness. Allah does not withhold the daily bread not even from pigs and dogs: this rain and these clouds are not earned by Man. Just as you are pitiably enamored of the daily bread, so the daily bread is enamored of its consumer… Even if you do not run after it, your daily bread comes running to you because it is (so) fond of you. But if you run after it, it will become a trouble for you and brings you sorrow.” (Mathnawi, V, verses: 2398-2401)

Since Allah the Almighty asks His servants to be content people, He does not like His servants not being satisfied with His blessings and asking for things from other people. Those who present their needs to others instead of Allah will experience an increase in poverty. However, those who behave modestly and beg to their Creator will find the real source of wealth. In fact, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) says:

“And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give to him and save him from asking from others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” (Bukhari, Zakat, 18) Hakim b. Hizam (r.a.) narrates:

“Once I asked from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to give me some of the war booty, and he gave it to me. I asked again, and he gave me more. I asked again, and he gave me once more. Then he told me:

“O Hakim! This wealth is green and sweet (i.e. as tempting as fruits), and whoever takes it without greed, it will be blessed for him. Whoever takes it covetously, it will not have any blessings. These are like people who eat but cannot satisfy their hunger. The upper (i.e. giving) hand is better than the lower (i.e. taking) hand.” Hakim added,

“I said, O Allah’s Apostle! By Him who has sent you with the Truth I will never demand anything from anybody after you till I die.”

Afterwards, Abu Bakr had called Hakim to give him something but he refused to accept anything from him. Then, Umar called him to give him something but he refused. Then Umar said,

“O Muslims! Be witnesses that I offered to Hakim his share which Allah has ordained for him from this booty and he refuses to take it.” Thus Hakim did not ask anybody for anything after the Prophet till he died (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him).” (Bukhari, Wasaya, 9)

Those who are content will be loved. Contentment gives its owner such an honor that no love for worldly possessions can enter his/her heart. While greedy people will give their lives in order to get the smallest benefits from possessions, a content poor person would not even be tempted to take the possession even if he/she finds a treasure full of gold. Those wealthy people who would greedily like to possess everything, whether it is lawful or not, are called beggars. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) advised us the following prescription so that we may be content and protected from begging:

“If anyone of you looked at a person who was made superior to him in property and in good appearance, then he should also look at the one who is inferior to him, and to whom he has been made superior.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 30) Such a behavior is the most effective solution to not belittle Allah’s blessings upon us and fall into despair; because, the lack of contentment is one of the reasons of sorrow and unhappiness.

Just like in every other aspect of life, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is the most excellent paradigm for us about the matter of contentment. He distributed all the worldly possessions he received and he never kept with him more than he needed. This is why he frequently prayed saying: “O Allah, make the provision of Muhammad’s family sufficient just to sustain their lives.” (Muslim, Zakat, 126)

The Prophet (pbuh) sometimes asked his companions to promise him that they would not ask for anything from anybody. Thawban (r.a.) says that:

“Once Allah’s messenger (pbuh) said:

“Whoever promises me not to beg for anything from people, I will guarantee for him/her the Heaven.” Upon this I said:

“I promise, O Messenger of Allah!”

The narrator of this hadith expressed that after this incident Thawban (r.a.) never asked for anything from anybody in his entire life. (Abu Dawud, Zakat, 27)

Contentment is a matter of the heart. Being content means neither staying away from foods and drinks nor stopping daily activities. Contentment does not prevent a believer from taking what he rightfully owns, either. In this matter, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) established the best measure for the believers. Umar (r.a.) narrates:

“From time to time Allah’s Messenger gave me veteran-gratuity. And I told him:

“Would it not be better if you give this to someone poorer than I am?” The Prophet (pbuh) advised me:

“Take this. You can take something about which you are not greedy. Add it to your possessions. If you would like, give it in charity. However do not run after worldly property.” (Bukhari, Zakat, 51)

The following tradition is also worth mentioning for it presents to us two different approaches about the same matter:

“…Abraham came after Ishmael’s marriage in order to see how Ishmael was whom he had left before, but he did not find Ishmael at home. When he asked his daughter-in-law about his son, she replied,

“He has gone to hunt for our livelihood.” Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied,

“We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,” complaining to him. He said,

“When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate of his house.” When Ishmael came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife,

“Has anyone visited you?” She replied,

“Yes, an old man of so-and-so description came and asked me about you and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty.” Then Ishmael asked,

“Did he advise you anything?” She replied,

“Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.” Ishmael said,

“It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family.” So, Ishmael divorced her and married another woman from amongst the tribe of Jurhum.

Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ishmael. So he came to Ishmael’s wife and asked her about Ishmael. She said,

“He has gone in search of our livelihood.” Abraham asked her,

“How are you getting on?” asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied,

“We are prosperous and we have everything in abundance.” Then she thanked Allah. Abraham said,

“What kind of food do you eat?” She said: “Meat” He said,

“What do you drink?” She said, “Water” He said,

“O Allah! Bless their meat and water.”

Then Abraham said to Ishmael’s wife,

“When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.” When Ishmael came back, he asked his wife,

“Did anyone call on you?” She replied,

“Yes, a good-looking old man came to me,” so she praised him and added.

“He asked about you, and I informed him, and he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in a good condition.” Ishmael asked her,

“Did he give you any piece of advice?” She said,

“Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate.” On that Ishmael said,

“It was my father, and you are the threshold of the gate. He has ordered me to keep you with me.” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 9)

Abraham (pbuh) decided about Ishmael’s (pbuh) first wife that she was not content. He pointed out that family members should have good morals; especially, for the happiness, continuation, and safety of his son’s family. All thoughts and behavior which would harm this must be avoided. How nicely Rumi (q.s.) says:

“Anyone who is far from the feast of the Merciful Allah has the eye of a beggar, even if he be a sultan. As long as you are not content with what Allah bestowed upon you, a calamity or a trouble will come to meet you, it does not matter where you run for comfort and safety.” (Mathnawi, II, verses: 588-590)

Contentment protects a believer from all kinds of troubles and calamities which are caused by worldly possessions. It strengthens a believer’s faith and spirituality and increases his/her resolution. Contentment makes it easier for the believer to continue on the straight path by protecting him/her from making errors. It has the believer gain the maturity to love Allah and His servants. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) liked and praised a young believer who had such attributes. A summary of this incident is as follows:

When delegates from Banu Tujib, who had come to visit the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), wanted to go back to their town, Allah’s Messenger gave them money more than he had given to others and asked:

“Is there anybody left amongst you who had not been given money?” They said:

“Yes, we had left our youngest one with our rides to take care of them.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told them:

“Send him to me.” When they went back to their rides, they told the young man:

“Go to the Messenger of Allah and get your gift. We have already gotten ours and left after thanking the Prophet.” When the young man came to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), he said:

“O Messenger of Allah! I am from the sons of Abza. I am a member of the group, which was here shortly before and you just fulfilled their requests. Would you please fulfill my request, too?” Our Prophet (pbuh) asked:

“What is your request?” The young man said:

“O Messenger of Allah! My wish is not like my friends’ requests. They came here longing for Islam and they brought their alms with them. Please pray for me to Allah to bestow upon me His mercy, to treat me with His mercy, and to give spiritual wealth to my heart.” Upon this, the Prophet (pbuh) prayed for him saying:

“O Allah! Forgive him and treat him with Your mercy. Bestow wealth to his heart.” Then he (pbuh) ordered that the young man is to be given his money like others.

The delegates of Banu Tujib went back to their town. The following year some of them met with the Prophet (pbuh) at Mina. They said: “We are from the sons of Abza.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked:

“What is the young man doing, who was with you last year?” They replied:

“O Messenger of Allah! We have not seen anybody more content than him, who has the blessings of Allah. If people divided the world among themselves, he would not turn and look at them.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) became so pleased with what he heard. He thanked Allah and prayed for the young man.

This young man became an example of merits amongst his tribe. He continued his life without holding worldly possessions too dear and as a content servant with the blessings of Allah. After the Prophet’s death, when people of Yemen were converting out of Islam, he reminded them of Allah and the message of Islam. Thanks to him not a single person from his tribe converted out of Islam. Later Abu Bakr (r.a.) asked about this young man, checked his conditions, and sent a letter and advised his governor of that region to treat the young man nicely. (May Allah be pleased with them all) (Ibn Qayyim, III, 54-55; Ibn Sa’d, I, 323)

Contentment is the manifestation of strong faith and endless trust in Allah. This is why it has been an attribute loved and praised by our Lord Almighty.

Contentment is to be satisfied with what you have and not to be greedy about what other people have. Because people who get too greedy are not aware of that they are losing what they already have. The following maxim from Majalla nicely summarizes this matter:

“Any person who hastens the accomplishment of a thing before its due time is punished by being deprived thereof.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality