What was the prophets charity giving behaviors?
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) gave his companions the best training about charity, as he did in disciplining them in every aspect of life, and so they became the most generous people in the world. One of those blessed people (may Allah be pleased with them all) came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to ask him the best and most rewarding way of giving charity:
“O Messenger of Allah, which charity is the best? Upon this the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“That you should give charity in a state when you are healthy and close-fisted, one haunted by the fear of poverty, hoping to become rich charity in such a state of health and mind is the best. And you must not defer charity to such a length that you are about to die and then say: This is for so and so, and this is for so and so. It has already come into the possession of your so and so inheritors.” (Muslim, Zakāt, 92) Thus, he stated that charity given during the times of hardship is more valuable than the charity given during the times of comfort and free from the concerns.
Our Prophet (pbuh) advised his companions to be generous and to give without feeling worry. In addition, he said:
“Spend according to your means; Do not withhold your money by counting it (i.e. hoarding it), for if you did so, Allah would also withhold His blessings from you.” (Bukharī, Kitāb al-Zakat, 21; Muslim, Kitab al-Zakat, 88) Thus, he expressed that stingy people would only harm themselves by their own acts.
According to the terms of the treaty signed in Hudaibiyah with the polytheists of Quraish, a year had passed and it was time for umrah. In the month of Dhu al-Qa’dah from the seventh year of hijrah, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) commanded to all those who had attended the expedition of Hudaibiyah to get ready for a minor pilgrimage. People were also informed to get ready by announcements. Arabs who came from the vicinity and who were in Medina at the time said:
“By Allah! O Messenger of Allah (pbuh)! We neither have food nor anybody who can give us food.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked the residents of Medina to give them charity and to help them. He also told them that if they did not help, they would be perished.” Upon this the Medinans said:
“O Messenger of Allah (pbuh)! What can we give as charity? We cannot find anything.” The Prophet (pbuh):
“Whatever you have, even if it is half a date…” (Waqidī, II, 732)
This shows that generosity does not mean giving much, but the real generosity is to give in the extent of one’s means and to make charity a habit.
Companions who took the Prophet (pbuh) as their example in generosity manifested wonderful scenes of charity and almsgiving. On the day that the Prophet (pbuh) invited Muslims to help the Muslim army, which was going to the expedition of Tabuk, Ulbah b. Zayd (r.a.), who was a poor companion of the Prophet (pbuh), woke up in the middle of the night, performed prayer, and begged:
“O Allah! You ordered and encouraged us to go to battles. But you did not give me a ride to go to the battle with Your Messenger. You did not give a ride to Your Messenger to supply me with. I have always given my charity from my property, body, and possessions. O Allah! I am giving these things that you have bestowed upon me as charity.”
In the morning he went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
“O Messenger of Allah! I have nothing to give as charity except this. I also forgive those who hurt my feelings, say bad things about me, or tease me because of this. Upon these loving, forgiving, and merciful words Our Prophet (pbuh) said:
“May Allah accept your charity.” And he could not say anything else. The next day a teller announced:
“Where is the person who gave you his charity yesterday?” Nobody appeared. The Prophet (pbuh) asked:
“Where is that person who gave in charity yesterday?” Nobody stood up. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) repeated:
“Whoever is that person let him stand up?” Ulbah (r.a.) stood up. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told him:
“I accepted your charity. By Allah, in whose power is Muhammad’s being, you are written into the registers of those whose charities have been accepted.” (Ibn Ḥajar, Al-Iṣābah, II, 500; Ibn Kathīr, Al-Sirah, IV, 9; Waqidī, III, 994)
In order to follow the orders of the Prophet (pbuh) and adorn themselves with the beautiful attribute of generosity, companions presented the merit of giving everything they possessed as charity. Virtues presented by those who had very few possessions are much more exemplary for us.
An Ansari, Abu Aqil (r.a.), brought a measure of dates to the army which was on its way to Tabuk, although he needed the dates more than anybody else. He said:
“O Messenger of Allah! I carried water on my back for the entire night and earned two measures of date. I kept one of them for my family and brought the other one to you to gain my Lord’s contentment.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:
“May Allah bless both what you brought and what you kept at home” and ordered the dates to be put into the rest of donations. (Tabarī, Tafsīr, X, 251)
Allah’s Apostle said, “If one gives in charity what equals one date-fruit from the honestly-earned money and Allah accepts only the honestly earned money –Allah takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person who has given it so much as that it becomes as big as a mountain” (Bukhari, Zakāt, 8) Therefore, charities are guaranteed investments for our eternal life in the Hereafter. These donations will be enlarged by Allah the Almighty based on sincerity, and they will mediate for the donors for all kinds of severities of Judgment Day.
In the Age of Happiness, companions of the Suffa did not have time to earn their livelihood, for they devoted their entire time for Islam and for worshipping Allah. This is why other believers would bring date-fruit to them. On one occasion some people brought spoilt dates to them. Because the companions of Suffa were very hungry, they had to eat them. Upon this incident the following verse was revealed:
“O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned, and of that which We bring forth from the earth for you, and seek not the bad (with intent) to spend thereof (in charity) when you would not take it for yourselves save with disdain; and know that Allah is Absolute, Owner of Praise.” (al-Baqara 2; 267) (Wahidī, p. 90)
In fact, a person’s intention and mood are very important while spending for the sake of Allah. Those who consume the best quality of the things abundantly for their own needs and desires while they give reluctantly from the worst and cheapest parts as charity should know that they are showing their own value in the presence of Allah the Almighty.
Ibn ‘Arabī (q.s.) narrates:
“A poor sufi asked from a man to give him charity for the sake of Allah. The man took out of a purse which was filled with various sizes of silver coins. Then he began to look for a small change. The poor sufi was watching him. Then he turned to me and asked:
“Do you know what this man is looking for?” I said:
“No, I do not.” He then said:
“He is looking for his state in the presence of Allah the Almighty, because he will give for the sake of Allah. And whenever he finds a large coin, he is changing his mind. In a way with his body language he is saying that “he does not have such value in the presence of Allah.” He will continue his search until he finds a small coin.
When the man found a small coin and gave it to the poor sufi, the poor sufi told him that:
“Your value in the presence of Allah is as much as this money.” (Nihat Keklik, p. 172)
Those who internalize Islam and apply it to their lives have known the significance and benefits of charity in Islam and have tried to manifest it in their lives. Among them were both those who had very little property and those who benefited from all kinds of blessings of the world. One of them was the twenty seventh sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mahmud I, who was personally inscribing seals and selling them. He was giving his earnings to the poor as charity. Thus, he was sincerely giving the purest and most lawful part of his earnings as charity. (Zeki Kuşoğlu, p. 26)
Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş, Erkam Publications