October 09, 2005

On Open Hearts and Empty Stomachs

As part of my ongoing laziness in writing new stuff, plus the fact that I'm busy with Ramadan, I've pulled out an old article I wrote. Originally published in the July 2005 issue of Muslim Link.

During the lifetime of Rasulullah SAW, generousity and self-sacrifice were common qualities. Numerous volumes have been written about the kindness of the companions of the Prophet SAW, and many scholars have spoken about their distinctive qualities. Today, however, we have reduced these inspiring episodes to mere stories that do not apply in modern life. But if one looks at these incidents in depth, one can appreciate their lessons more thoroughly, and recognize how far we have lagged behind.

One such incident was that of a Sahabi who volunteered to entertain a guest of Rasulullah SAW. The guest came to Rasulullah SAW complaining of hunger and distress, but the Prophet had no food available at the time. A man from among the Ansar of Madinah offered to take the guest, and brought him to his home. He informed his wife about his promise to feed the guest, though his wife informed him that there was only enough food in the house to feed the children.

The Sahabi had promised Rasulullah SAW that he would entertain the guest, and so he instructed his wife to put their children to sleep without food. With the children asleep, he sat the guest down and put out the lamp in a feigned effort to adjust it appropriately. With the lights out, he pretended to eat along, while feeding the guest with all the little that they had. The whole family went hungry so that the guest could enjoy the meal.

There are several lessons to take from this incident. First of all, it should be noted that the Sahabi did not know the guest. Today, we will often be ready to help our family and friends in need, but are unwilling to help a stranger, even though he may be Muslim and in greater need.

Another noteworthy point from this story was that the Sahabi did not even know whether he even had enough food for the guest, yet he was still not reluctant to offer his help. Nowadays, before we are willing to open our hearts, we check our wallets and our bank accounts, and then consult our calendars to see if we have time. We are willing to help out only when doing so will not inconvenience ourselves.

Things are changing, however. A number of local initiatives have done wonders to improve the condition of people around the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Poverty and hunger continue to be among the most significant afflictions in the Muslim world, but devoted members of the community are doing their part to assist those in need. The past year has seen local Muslims going hungry to raise money for food banks, fundraisers for disaster-stricken regions, and numerous campaigns to fight poverty.

The onus then lies on ourselves to stop waiting for the perfect opportunity when the conditions are favourable for helping, but rather give ourselves to the will of Allah SWT in any condition. Even if one can do little, no contribution is insignificant when done with the right intention. If we claim to be following the footsteps of our Prophet and his companions, we must recognize that those footsteps pushed forward even when the tides were pushing against them.


  1. Assalaamu alaikum Faraz

    Hey, you edited my article - small world :) Where can I get a copy of The Muslim Link? I'm pretty sure it comes to Toronto...

    By the way, your Calvin and Hobbes cartoons are amazing.

  2. Wa'alaykum assalam,

    They are distributed in Toronto, but we were a bit late on the publishing this month. We normally aim for the first Friday of the month, but I don't think they were ready until today. I'm not sure when they'll make their way into Toronto.

  3. Assalaamu'alaykum wa rahmatu Allah

    Hmm..I can't remember the phrase exactly.. but the idea behind it is that we benefit when we give of that which we love. Subhan'Allah, it's so true how we calculate our losses before giving. It's a practice which is only indicative of our lack of sincerity and weak imaan. May Allah help us all, ameen. There is way more baraka without mindless calculations. Really, nothing is ours as it's a trust from Allah; dare we deny our fellow humans that which Allah has favoured us with? I guess we do :(.

    Dr. Jeffery Lang mentioned that when he read through the Qur'an he noticed Allah's attributes and realized then that as humans we need to adopt the same attributes that are possible for humans, i.e. al kareem, so we should be generous. (On an aside, it's a husband's uhm, duty to be kareem to his family...and by Allah's grace, the husband benefits from his own kindness/generosity.)

    One more thing, in case you're not aware (as I wasn't until I heard this). Sidi Omar Mahmoud once mentioned in a dars that when we send salawat on the Prophet (peace be upon him) we have to say/write it out in full. He said "pbuh" doesn't cut it nor does "saw." He said, ---I'm rusty with the details of this part, but if I recall correctly-- the page that has abbreviations or no salawaat after the name of the Prophet, peace be upon him, will either complain or curse the person who wrote his name (sal Allahu 'alayhi wa salam) without the salaams until the person rectify's the error and writes/says the salawat. If anyone has the details of this lesson, please clear up my sad attempt to convey the message.

  4. I think the qualities that we as humans need to develop have all been illustrated by Allah through the Prophet, peace be upon him. Some of them are shared by Allah (of course, at a divine level), but that's why some of the "asmaaul-husna" are the same as titles we have given to the Prophet - like the one you've mentioned, Kareem.

    Hmmm... the acronym thing on "Peace be upon him" is an interesting point. I'll try to remember to expand the acronym every time, insha-Allah.

  5. Assalaamu'alaykum

    No salaam?

    Right *ahem* acronym, not abbreviation.