By Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi
The word khasasah means poverty and the word ithar means to prefer the wish, need and desire of others above those of oneself. The Ansar used to prefer the needs of others (Muhajirin) to their own needs. That is, the former used to fulfill the needs of the latter first and then would fulfill their own needs, even though they themselves were poor and needy. For the interpretation of Quranic verses there is no need to recount incidents. Because they develop in human beings the highest degree of human qualities and bring about a reform in their lives, I have recounted these events in detail especially Qurtubi. Below are few of them from his commentary.
It is recorded in Trimidi on the authority of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah that one night a guest came to an Ansari’s house. The latter had only as much food as he and his children could eat. He said to his wife: “Put the children off to sleep somehow, and put out the lamp. Then place the food in front of the guest, and sit next to him so that he may be under the impression that we too are eating, but we will not eat so that the guest may be able to eat comfortably.”
Trimidi records another narration on the authority of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah (RA) that a person came to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and said: “I am hungry and distressed.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) sent a message to one of his blessed wives, but she replied: “We do not have anything except water.” Then he sent a message to his another wife, and she made the same reply. Then to a third one and then to a fourth one until the message went to all the mothers of the faithful, and they all replied that they had nothing besides water. Then he addressed the congregation and asked if any of them would be willing to entertain the guest, in response to which a venerable Ansari said: “O Messenger of Allah, I will entertain him.” So he took him with and asked his wife whether there was anything to eat. She replied: “Only as much as our children could eat.” He asked his wife to put the children to sleep and then said: “Place the food in front of the guest, sit and then get up and put out the lamp. The guest should not feel that we are not eating.” The guest ate the food. In the morning, the companion went to the Holy Prophet (SAW) who informed him that Allah was very pleased with the way he handled the situation the previous night.
Qushairi cites a story on the authority of Sayyidna Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA) who reports that a person sent the head of a goat as a gift to a venerable personality from among the blessed companions. He thought that about a Muslim brother that he and his family are more in need of this, so he sent the head to him. When the second venerable companion received it, he sent it to a third person who in turn sent it to a fourth person. In this way it circulated in seven houses and eventually it returned to the first venerable personality.
It is recorded in Mu’atta of Imam Malik (RA) on the authority of Sayyidah A’ishah (RA) that a poor person wanted something to eat. She only had one bread and she was fasting that day. She asked her maid to give him the bread. The maid said that if it was given away, there would be nothing left for her to break her fast in the evening.
Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (RA) insisted and gave the bread to the poor person. The maid says: “It so happened after this that a person, who was not accustomed to send any gift, sent a whole roasted goat which was completely covered with butter on the outside, which is thought to be the best Arab dish.” Sayyidah 'A’ishah (RA) called the maid and said: “Come, eat this. This is better than that bread of yours.”
Sayyidna Ibn Mubarak reports on the authority of his chain of transmitters that once Sayyidna Umar (RA) sent four thousand dinars in a money bag to Sayyidna Abu Ubaidah (RA) with his servant, with the message that the money was being sent as a gift. He should use it as he deemed fit. The servant was instructed to remain for a while in the house to see what he would do with the money. The servant, accordingly, gave the moneybag to him and waited for a while. Sayyidna Abu Ubaidah (RA) took the bag full of money and supplicated for Sayyidna Umar (RA) that Allah may reward him and shower his mercy upon him. Instantly, he called his slave-girl and instructed her to give seven dinars to so-and-so, five dinars to so-and-so until all four thousand dinars were distributed then and there. The servant came back and narrated the story.
Sayyidna Umar (RA) filled another moneybag with four thousand dinars and sent it with the servant to Sayyidna Mu'adh Ibn Jabal (RA), with the same message to him and with the same instruction to the servant. The servant followed the instruction. Sayyidna Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (RA) took the bag of money and supplicated to Allah for Sayyidna 'Umar (RA). Then he too immediately sat down to distribute the money. He divided the money into many portions and sent them to different houses. His wife was watching all that was happening. She could not hold herself and eventually spoke out: “By Allah! We too are poor and we should also receive something.” At that time only two dinars had remained in the bag, and he gave them to her. The servant saw all this, returned to Sayyidna Umar (RA) and reported to him all that he saw. He said: “They are all brothers, and they all have the same disposition.”
Sayyidna Hudhayfah 'Adawi (RA) narrates: “During the battle of Yarmuk, I went out in search of my paternal uncle's son (cousin) among the martyrs, and took with me some water just in case there was the last breath of life left in him, so I would give him a sip of water. When I reached him, there was the last spark of life left in him. I asked him whether he would like to have a sip of water, and he nodded yes. Just as I was going to pour the water into his mouth, another martyr next to him heaved a sigh. My cousin indicated to give him the water. When I reached him and was about to give him the water, I heard the voice of a third martyr. The second martyr indicated to give the water to the third one. This series of events continued up to seven martyrs. When I reached the seventh martyr to give water, he had already breathed his last. From there I went back to my cousin, he had also met his end.
Qurtubi cites a narration on the authority of Sayyidna Anas Ibn Malik (RA) that when the Muhajirin arrived in Madinah from Makkah, they were absolutely empty handed. The Ansar, on the other hand, had properties and lands, and they shared half-and-half of all their holdings with the Muhajirin. The former gave half of their fruits to the latter annually. Umm Sulaim (RA), the mother of Sayyidna Anas (RA), gave a few of her palm trees to the Holy Prophet (SAW) which he granted to Usamah Ibn Zaid's mother, Umm 'Aiman (RA).
Maulana Mawludu says about this verse that it is in praise of the Ansar, the Muslims of Al- Madinah. When the emigrants came from Makkah and other places to their city, they offered their gardens and oases to the Prophet (S.A.W) with the request that he distribute them among their emigrant brethren-in faith. The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “These people do not know gardening: they have come from a region where there are no gardens. Could it not be that you (the Ansar) continue to work in the gardens and oasis and make the emigrants partners in the produce? The Ansar submitted: We have heard and obeyed.” Thereupon the emigrants said: “We have never seen any people so self-sacrificing as the Ansar, for they would work and labour and make us partners in the produce. We think they would thus be entitled to all spiritual rewards. The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “Nay, as long as you would praise them and pray for their well-being, you also would get your rewards.”
The same self-sacrificing spirit was shown by the Ansar when the territory of Bahrain was annexed to the Islamic State. The Prophet (S.A.W) wished that the conquered lands of that territory be given to the Ansar, but they submitted: “We would not take any share from it unless a similar share was given to our emigrant brothers. (Yahya bin Adam). Allah has praised the Ansar for this very spirit of self-sacrifice.”
Islam lays much emphasis on social service, feeding the poor, consoling the sick and healing the injured. The book, Sahih Muslim contains the following Hadis-i Qudsi: “On the Day of Judgement God will address a particular individual: ‘O Son of Adam! I fell ill but you did not attend on me.’ Bewildered, this individual will say: ‘How is that possible? Thou art the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds.’ God will reply: ‘Doesn’t thou know that such and such a creature of mine living near thee fell ill, but you did not turn to him in sympathy? If you had but gone near him you would have found Me by his side.’ In like manner, God would address another individual: ‘O Son of Adam! I had asked of you a piece of bread but you did not give it to me!’ The individual would submit: ‘How could this happen? Thou doesn’t stand in need of anything’. And God will reply: ‘Do not you remember that so and so among the hungry creatures of Mine had asked you for food and did you not refuse to give it to him? If you had fed him, you would have found Me by his side.” The Sunnan-i-Abu Da’ud reports that the Prophet (S.A.W) used to pray at night: “Oh God! I bear witness that all Thy creatures are brothers”.
Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi is Former Director of Shah-i-Hamadan, Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir.