What is the manners of exchanging gifts? How was the prophets gift circumcision?
“Give your property and win a heart. Win it so that it can enlighten you in the grave and at that pitch black night.” Jalal al-Din Rumi,
Exchanging gifts is a nice thing which strengthens the brotherhood ties amongst believers. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) encouraged his followers to exchange gifts with each other. Aisha (r. anha) narrated:
“Allah’s Apostles used to accept gifts and used to give something in return. (Bukhari, Hiba, 11).
According to Anas b. Malik’s report, the Byzantium ruler sent a nice and expensive coat to the Prophet (pbuh). When he wore the coat, people asked him:
“O Messenger of Allah! Have this been sent to you from heavens?” The Prophet (pbuh) said that:
“Have you liked it much? By Allah in whose hand my life is, Sa’d b. Muadh’s towel in Paradise is much better than this.” And then he took off the coat and gave it to Ja’far. When Ja’far put the coat on, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told him:
“I did not send it to you to wear?” Ja’far (r.a.) asked:
“What should I do with it?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“Send it to your brother Najashi.” (Ibn Hanbal, III, 229; Ibn Athir, Usdu’l Ghabah, I, 324)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would accept all invitations and gifts, be it little or big. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “I shall accept the invitation even if I were invited to a meal of a sheep’s trotter, and I shall accept the gift even if it were an arm or a trotter of a sheep.” (Bukhari, Hiba, 2)
“Exchange gifts so that your love to each other will strengthen.” (Muwatta, Husnu’l Khulq, 16; Munawi, III, 271) He also explained how exchanging gifts helps to increase love amongst people as follows:
“Exchange gifts, because gifts will cleanse the grudge and anger in the heart. No women should belittle her gift to the neighboring woman even if it is a piece of lamb trotter.” (Tirmidhi, Wala, 6)
Those who give and receive gifts should not look at the amount and the value of the gift. If feelings like bragging, showing off, and self-interest intervene, the expected result cannot be achieved.
Exchanging gifts should be within the limits of financial means and should not constrain one’s budget.
According to Islamic manners one should not expect a gift in return for a gift. If this cannot be done, then at least a more valuable gift should not be expected. In this respect, the following incident which occurred between a bedouin and the Messenger of Allah is an exemplary one:
It was narrated by Abu Huraira (r.a.):
A bedouin presented a young camel as a gift. Allah’s Messenger gave him six young camels in return. The bedouin did not like his gift. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) heard about it. After praising Allah the Almighty, the Prophet (pbuh) said that:
“So and so gave me a camel. I gave him six camels in return. Still he did not become happy. By Allah, I have decided not to get any benefit from people other than Muhajirun, Ansar, people of Quraish, people of Saqif, or from people of Daws.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 73; Abu Dawud, Buyu’ 82)
When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw such rude actions from the people around him, he would treat them gently and forgivingly. There are many examples of this in the life of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). However, the rudeness of the previous incident mentioned above made Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) change his principles about accepting gifts from just anyone.
Giving gifts just to receive bigger gifts in return is not an appropriate behavior. The people who were exempted in the above mentioned hadith are the people known by their generosity, contentedness, and for not expecting anything in return. Receiving gifts from such people gives a person peace and tranquility.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would not refuse a gift unless it was absolutely necessary. However, if it was a situation against Islam, he would put Islam before everything else. Sa’b bin Jaththama (r.a.) narrated:
“An onager was presented to Allah’s Apostle at the place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, but Allah’s Apostle rejected it. When the Prophet noticed the signs of sorrow on the giver’s face he said,
“We could not accept your gift, for we are in the state of Ihram.” (Bukhari, Hiba, 6)
Sa’d b. Jaththama did not know at that time that hunting was prohibited to those who were in a state of Ihram. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) recognized his companion’s sadness, he made an explanation and consoled his friend. One should strongly avoid the things which may cause misunderstandings.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would not also accept the gifts of polytheists and non-believers only under exceptional circumstances. He said it was something forbidden.
Iyad ibn Himar (r.a.) reported:
“I presented a she-camel to the Prophet (pbuh). He asked:
“Have you embraced Islam?” I replied:
“No.” The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“I have been prohibited to accept the presents of polytheists.” (Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 35)
However, the state of foreign relations is exceptional. Ali (r.a.) said that “Kisra sent some gifts to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and he accepted them. Other rulers also sent gifts to the Prophet (pbuh), which he accepted. (Tirmidhi, Siyar, 23) Because accepting gifts from the head of the states is in the interest of the Muslim society.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also informed us when one should not accept gifts. According to the narration of Abu Umamah (r.a.), the Prophet (pbuh) said that:
“If someone helps another, and the latter gives a gift to the former. If he accepts the gift, he would enter from a big door of usury.” (Abu Dawud, Buyu’, 82) Accepting a gift in return for an act of goodness removes the spiritual rewards of that goodness. Ubada b. Samit said that:
“I taught writing and the Qur’an to some of the companions of Suffa. One of them gave me a bow in return. I thought:
“This is not something big and I will use it for the sake of Allah; but still I will go and ask the Messenger of Allah.” I came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! One of the people, which I taught writing and Qur’an, gave me a bow as a gift. This is not a very valuable item for me. I will also use it for the sake of Allah.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) responded:
“If you would like to wear an ornament from fire, then accept it.” (Abu Dawud, Buyu’, 37)
In later generations scholars permitted to accept a fee for teaching Qur’an out of necessities. However, it was not permitted in the age of happiness.
Another important manner in exchanging gifts is not to change one’s mind and return the gift. Asking for the gift back is even something worse. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) makes the following warnings in this context:
“It is unlawful for someone to give a gift and return from it. However a father may return from the gift to his child. He who takes back his present is like a dog that eats, fills itself, and then vomits. After that it swallows back its vomit.” (Abu Dawud, Buyu’, 81)
Employing a metaphor which contains such a disgusting context is to show the severity of the action. It is similar to the metaphor used for backbiting. In backbiting, the action of the one who backbites likens to eating the flesh of the person who is talked about.
Islam has ruled principles which cover every aspect of our lives and has not left any openings. These principles, which present happiness and peace to humanity, were taught to us in the actions and sayings of our excellent exemplar, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). His and his companion’s teachings present us one of the greatest civilizations of human history.