In the Surah Ad-Duha (a Chapter in the Qur’an), there is a verse meaning: “…Nor chide and drive away the petitioner.” Did the Prophet reprimand beggars and despise them? Why was that verse sent down?
“As for the beggar who asks for help out of need and poverty, do not reprimand and rebuke him. On the contrary, offer him (what he asks) or refuse him kindly.”
Qatada says: “Decline the destitute kindly…”
The warning here is not made because Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, despised the poor. Those verses address all the community of believers in the person of the Prophet. In other words, the Prophet is informed that it is not permitted to scorn and scold the destitute who ask for help. There are lessons that the community of believers should take from that verse.
It is narrated that in spite of his straitened circumstances, the Prophet (PBUH) did not turn down any destitute and even took on their debts.
The Religion of Islam does not approve of begging, nor does it sanction turning down the destitute who are left no choice but beg out of need, empty-handed. In this respect, it is fitting that a Muslim community should find and help the poor and the needy who do not reconcile begging with their human and religious honor and morals. It is also fitting that they should welcome with warmth and kindness the destitute who, out of need, are bound to ask for help, and not turn them down empty-handed; they should give them something as much as their circumstances allow.
As a matter of fact, the Prophet said:
“Do not turn down the destitute empty-handed, even if it is by giving half a date (of a palm tree).” (1)
“Return a beggar (by giving something) even if with a burnt animal nail.” (2)
Of course, those commands and recommendations are not approval of nor encouragement for begging, but a reminder of the reward and benefit in helping and taking care of those who are left no choice but beg.
Ibrahim b. Adham, a renowned spiritual figure, says:
“Beggars are good friends of us who take our livelihood and carry it to the Hereafter.”
Ibrahim an-Nahai says:
“The beggar is a postman for the Hereafter. He comes to the door of one of us and asks ‘Do you have anything to send to your relatives and friends?’”
As for a beggar’s imploring insistently; in the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) such behavior is criticized and never approved. This is because in beseeching and imploring, there is a meaning and sign of making oneself excessively pitiful, taking begging as an occupation, and making Muslims uneasy.
While mentioning the needy, God Almighty says:
“That (which you spend) is for the poor who, having dedicated themselves to God’s cause, are in distressed circumstances. They are unable to move about the earth (to render service in God’s cause and earn their livelihood). Those who are unaware (of their circumstances) suppose them wealthy because of their abstinence and dignified bearing, but you will know them by their countenance – they do not beg of people importunately…” (3)
Thus, Islam advises one to please the needy who are left no choice but beg by giving them more or less, and if one does not have anything to give, Islam advises one to refuse them kindly; thus, the bridge and balance between the poor and the wealthy is maintained.
In addition, there are those who come and ask in order to learn knowledge, morals, education and manners, and profession and craft; it is wajib (obligatory) to show interest and care toward them. As is said by Imam Abu Hanifa; “It is much better to deck the threshold beneath their feet with gold.”
It is forbidden to look down on someone who comes with that motive and asks something; nor is it appropriate to meet him with a sullen face and speak harshly towards him. If the knowledgeable person who is addressed the question does not possess the information to answer the question at that time, he should not abstain from explaining the situation kindly, and should refer him to a person who knows more about the topic. If he knows about what is asked, he should, without delay, give the appropriate answer to the person who asked the question. The Prophet (PBUH) shed light on that topic and addressed his community as follows:
“Whoever is asked about a topic, a science, and he (though knowing about it) hides his knowledge and does not reveal it, (in the Hereafter) he is bitted with a bridle made of fire.” (4)
1. Tirmidhi, Zuhd: 37.
2. Nasai, Zakat: 70-76; Abu Davud, Zakat: 3; Tirmidhi, Zakat: 29; Ahmad: 4/70, 5/381, 6/381, 6/382, 383, 424, 438.
3. The Qur’an, Bakarah, 2/273.
4. Abu Davud, ‘Ilm: 9; Tirmidhi, ‘Ilm: 3; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima: 24; Ahmad: 2/263, 305, 344, 353, 495.
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