Every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.
Part 41: The Obligation to Feed the Needy and the Mention of Its Elucidation.
Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani says, “It is obligatory for people to feed the needy at the time when he is incapable of going out and seeking (a living).” This question involves several clarifications.
One, when the needy is incapable of going out to seek a living, the one who knows about his situation is obliged to feed him the amount by which he can be fortified to go out and observe the religious acts of devotion-if he is able to do so-for the Prophet has said, “He does not believe who retires satiated while his neighbour by his side is starving,” [refer Abu Ghuddah p. 186 n.2) so much so that if he died and nobody who knew about his state fed him, then they all share in the sinning together; for the Prophet has said, “If any person dies forsaken in the midst of an affluent people, then the protection of Allah and the protection of His Messenger shall surely be cut loose from them” [Abu Ghuddah says he has not come across this hadith].
Likewise, if there is nothing for someone who knows about his situation to give him, but he is able to go out to people to inform them about his situation that they may assist him, then it is obligatory for him to do so; for it is incumbent on him to ward off from himself what has befallen him as far as possible, and to render obedience as much as he can. If they refrain from helping him until he dies, then they share in sinning; but if some of them do so then the obligation to help is absolved from the rest.
This is analogous to the act of ransoming the prisoner of war. If someone among the believers falls into the hand of the people of war as a prisoner, and they intend his execution, then it is obligatory on every Muslim who knows about his situation to ransom him with his wealth if he is capable of doing so, and if he is not capable, then he is to inform others who are capable of doing so. When some of them observe that obligation then it is absolved from the rest because the objective is attained; and there is no difference between the two meaning, for the hunger that is stirred up is in its nature an enemy whose destructiveness is feared, just like the enemy from among the polytheists.
And as for the case when the needy person is able to go out but unable to earn his living, then it is incumbent on him to go out so that his situation is known to others. And as for whoever who knows about his situation, if he has anything incumbent on him to give out in charity of the obligatory alms, then he should give it to him, for he has found for what is due on him a place to pay and a person who is deserving (of the payment). Hence he should definitely release himself from the obligation by paying him, for he (the deserving) is closer to him than others whom he may not know directly or personally.
And he is recommended to be generous to him if he has already given him what was due on him of the obligatory alms, for Allah has said, “And do good, for Allah loves those who do good” [Al-Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 195]. And Allah says, “Who will advance a good loan to Allah?” [Al-Quran, surah al-Hadid, verse 11]. When the Messenger of Allah was asked about the best works, he said, “Disseminating greetings of peace, provisioning of food, and prayer at night while people are sleeping” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Bukhari].
If the person is needy but such that he is able to earn, then it is incumbent on him to earn, and it is not permissible for him to ask, due to what was narrated from the Prophet that he said, “Whoever asks people while he is not in need of what he is asking, his request will come on the day of resurrection as a laceration, or a scar, or a scratch mark on his face” [Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa’i and ibn Majah].
And it is narrated that the Prophet was dividing the alms when two men came to him asking for it, whereupon he raised his sight to them to be two sturdy men; he said, “Verily, you have no right to it, but if you wish, I shall give it to you” [Narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i]. This means that they had no right in asking.
The Prophet says, “Alms are not permissible for the affluent, nor for one sturdy and well built” [Narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi], meaning it is not permissible for the strong who is capable of earning. And the Prophet says, “Asking is the last (means of) earning of the servant” [refers Abu Ghuddah p. 138-139].
However, if a person asks and he is given, it is permissible for him to partake of it, for the Prophet said, “If you wish, I shall give to you” [refers Abu Ghuddah p. 188]. If it was not permissible to partake of it, the Prophet would not have said that to the two of them. Allah said, “Charities )zakat) are only for the poor and needy, and the workers who administer them, and those who hearts have been reconciled, and those in bondage, and those in debt, and on the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer, as an ordinance of Allah; and Allah is omniscient most wise” [Al-Quran, surah al-Tawbah, verse 60]. And the one who is able to earn is poor (as he has no wealth but only capacity to work).