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 43: Elucidating that the Giver is Superior to the Taker, and Its Elaboration at Length
Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani says, “The giver is superior to the taker, even though the giver by giving is fulfilling an obligation on him.” This problem involves three elucidations.
One of them is that the giver is fulfilling an obligation, while the taker is capable of earning except that he is in need. In this case, the giver is superior to the taker by scholarly consensus, for in giving he is discharging an obligation, whereas the taker in taking is only doing a voluntary act, for he may opt not to take but earn instead. The rank of discharging an obligation is higher than the rank of volunteering, as is the case with all other religious observances, for the reward in discharging the mandatory is greater than the reward in discharging the supererogatory.
The proof of this is that the one obliged is working for himself, while the one volunteering is working for other than himself, whereas a person’s work for himself is superior, for the Prophet says, “”Begin with yourself” [Narrated by Muslim, al-Nasa’i, and al-Bayhaqi].
This means that by the very act of discharging of an obligation for himself, a person is discharging a duty to himself (and thereby relieving his self’s conscience), and so he is working for himself by doing so; whereas the taker is not benefitting himself by merely taking, but rather by partaking after having taken, but he does not know whether he will endure until he partakes or not endure. For this reason, there is no largess of the rich on the poor in the taking of charity by the poor; for what the rich attain by giving it is more than what the poor attains (by taking it), such that the poor carries for the rich what he (the poor) does not need at the moment that he may reach for it when he is in need of it, while the rich are in need of giving that he may attain to his objective at the very moment of giving, which is to discharge his duty of charity.
If all the poor were to concord on forgoing the taking (of charity), they would not be sinning in doing so, but rather, they would be commended for doing so; in contrast to (the case) if all the rich were to converge on desisting from discharging the obligatory (alms). Hence we know that the largess is of the poor on the rich.
The second elucidation is that the giver and the taker are each doing a voluntary act, such that the giver is volunteering, while the taker is capable of earning. In this case, the giver is also superior, for by giving what he gives, he is detached from his wealth and is assimilated into poverty, while the taker by taking is assimilated into affluence; and we have explained that the rank of the poor is higher than the rank of the rich, and therefore whoso is assimilated into poverty by his work is higher in rank.
Moreover, the religious observances are ordained by way of trial, for Allah says, “To test which of you is best in conduct” [Al-Quran, surah Hud, verse 7]. The meaning of trial by giving is more manifest than by taking, for the trial is in a deed to which the self is not inclined, whereas in the self of every person there is motivation to take instead of to give; hence the Prophet says, “Truly the Muslim, by his charity of a dirham, is in need of breaking the desires of seventy devils” [Narrated by Ahmad and al-Tabarani].
When the meaning of trial is more apparent in giving, then it is superior, especially in the light if what was narrated that the Prophet was asked about the best of works, whereupon he said, “The most biting,” that is the most difficult on the body. And he was asked about the best charity, he said, “The exertion of a person of small means” [Narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i].
Moreover, the one taking produces for his self that by which he attains to the satisfaction of his desires, while the giver releases from his ownership that by which he satisfies his desires; and the highest of ranks is denying the self from the satisfaction of desires.
The third elucidation is (the case) when the giver is volunteering, while the taker is obliged, such that he is incapable of earning and is in need of that by which to keep body and soul together; in which case according to the scholars of jurisprudence the giver is superior also.
However, the scholars of hadith, among them Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ishaq ibn Rahuyah say, “The taker is superior here, for by taking he is discharging an obligation on himself, whereas the giver is only supererogating.” We have explained that discharging the obligatory is higher in rank than performing the supererogatory. Moreover, the taker, if he was to decline to take, in this case, he would be sinning; while the giver, if he was to decline to give he would not be sinning when there is someone else to whom he can give what is obligatory on him (to give).
A reward is commensurate with a penalty. Do you not see that Allah has threatened the wives of the Messenger of Allah with double of that with which He threatened women other than them, and thus He says, “O wives of the Prophet, if any of you were openly indecent, her penalty should be doubled; and that is easy for Allah” [Al-Quran, surah al-Ahzab, verse 30]. Then He gave them as a reward for obedience double of what was due to women other than them, for He Most High, says, “But any of you who is humble to Allah and Allah’s messenger, and acts with integrity, her We will give her reward doubly; and We have prepared a generous provision for her” [Al-Quran, surah al-Ahzab, verse 31]. Hence, since the sinning in this regard applies to the taker rather than the giver, then correspondingly, the reward applies more to the taker than to the giver.
However, all this consideration becomes ambiguous (less than clear-cut and straightforward) with the case of returning salutation of peace, for salutation of peace is legally recommended but returning salutation of peace is obligatory; and yet in spite of this (being the case), to initiate salutation of peace is superior to returning it, in line with what the Prophet has said, “For the initiator of salutation of peace twenty merits, and for the returner ten merits” [Hadith of this meaning are documented by al-Haythami as narrated by al-Bazzaar and al-Tabarani].
And perhaps they may say, “The taker strives to revive the self, whereas the giver strives to protect the self or to augment wealth, and reviving the self is higher in rank than augmenting wealth.”
Our argument in this regard is what was narrated from the Prophet that he said, “The upper hand is better than the lower hand, ” [Abu Ghuddah] without differentiating between supererogatory giving and discharging an obligatory giving.
If it is said, “What is meant by the upper hand is the hand of the needy, as it stands for the hand of the Law. Indeed, the charity-giver renders his wealth for Allah in sincerity, by realizing it from his ownership and then giving it away to the needy, that it may be a security for him from (the penalty of ) Allah; while the needy stands for the Law in taking (the charity) from the rich.
The explanation for this is in the statement of Allah, “Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance from servants and takes contributions, and Allah is relenting, most merciful?” [Al-Quran, surah al-Tawbah, verse 104]. And the Prophet says, “Truly charity falls into the hand of the Merciful, and He nurtures it like one of you nurtures his colt (filw) until it (the charity) becomes like (the mountain of) Uhud” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim]. By this, it is manifest that the upper hand is the hand of the needy in meaning.
We say that this interpretation is a long shot, for Abu Hurayrah has narrated that the Prophet said, “Hands are three: the hand of Allah Most High, then the giving hand, then the taking hand, and it is the lowest until the day of resurrection” [Abu Ghuddah]. And in a narration, “Then the giving hand, then the taking hand, and it is the lowest until the day of resurrection.”
Therefore, by this, it is manifest that the meaning of the higher hand is the giver’s hand, for the giver is purified from squalor by giving, while the taker is tarnished.
The explanation of this is that Allah says, “Take contributions from their wealth, to purify them and justify them thereby” [Al-Quran, surah al-Tawbah, verse 103]. And so we know that in giving the charitable contributions there is the meaning of purification and justification, and in receiving (the meaning of) blemish. The Messenger of Allah has called charitable contribution the refuse of people [documented by al-Suyuti]; and he named it the wash water, thus he said, “O children (or clan) of Hashim, Allah Most High has disapproved for you the wash water of the hands of people” [Narrated by al-Tabarani], meaning charitable contribution.
This is borne out by the fact that the Messenger of Allah, himself used to give, but receiving charity for himself was forbidden for him, as he has said, “Charity is neither permissible for Muhammad nor for the family of Muhammad” [Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and al-Nasa’i].
The people (i.e., scholars) then discuss this issue with regard to the case of all other prophets, on whom be blessing and peace, and so some of them say, “Receiving charity was also not permissible for all other prophets but it was permitted for their relatives; and then Allah honored our Prophet by forbidding charity for his relatives, to manifest his eminence, such that their rank in this ruling is like the rank of the prophets.”
It is said (by some scholars), “But rather, charity is permissible to all other prophets, and this (ruling of impermissibility) is specifically for our Prophet.” Whatever the case may be, it is (still) feasible to say that in the prohibition of charity there is the raising of ranks in the meaning of bestowing honor and exclusivity on him (our Prophet). If taking was in any way, superior to giving then there would not be (any) meaning of exclusivity and honoring for him in the prohibition of taking.
The proof of this is that the Law recommends that everyone give to charity, and recommends everyone to be on guard against asking. The Prophet said to Thawban, “Do not ask anything of people, whether they give you or deny you” [Narrated by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and al-Tabarani]. And the Prophet said to Hakim ibn Hizam, “Beware, beware, that you should ask anything of anyone, whether he gives you or denies you (what you have asked of him)” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim].
After this statement, he (Hakim) used not to ask anything of anyone, nor take anything from anyone, even when Umar ibn al-Khattab presented to him his share of what was given, he did not take it. He said, “I do not take anything from anyone after the Messenger of Allah said to me what he said.” And Umar testified with regard to him, saying, “O people, I verily testify to you about him that I offered to him his right, but he declined.”
With this, it is clear that giving is superior to taking. Allah says, “The ignorant think they have no needs, because of their modesty. You will know them by their mark” [Al-Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 283], that is by their modesty of not asking and taking. The Prophet says, “Whoever strives to be modest, Allah will cause him to be modest; and whoever strives to be independent, Allah will cause him to be independent. But whoever opens up on himself a door to asking, Allah will open up on him seventy doors of neediness” [Narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Tirmidhi].
Now, when modesty lies in abstention from taking, then resorting to taking is prima facie tantamount to forsaking modesty; hence the giver is superior to the taker, but in each there is good.
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