Kitab Al-Kasb Series (Part 42): Obligation of Asking in an Exigency if One is not Capable of Earning.

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 42: Obligation of Asking in an Exigency if One is not Capable of Earning
As for when a person is incapable of earning, but he is able to go out and do the round of doors and ask, then it is incumbent on him to do so; for if he does not do that until he is destroyed, then he is sinful according to the scholars of jurisprudence.

Some of the ascetics say, “Asking is permissible for him by way of dispensation, hence if he forsakes it until he dies, he is not sinful, for he is adhering to stringency.” This view approaches what was transmitted from al-Hasan ibn Ziyad, that a person who is on a journey in the company of a companion who has water, while he does not have its price, he is not obliged to ask his companion for water. If he does dry ablution and performs the prayer without asking for the water, his prayer is permissible according to him (al-Hasan), whereas it is not permissible according to us.

The reasoning of their view is that in asking (or begging) there is a disgrace, and it is incumbent on the believer to safeguard himself from disgrace; and the elucidation of this is in what was transmitted from ‘Ali (which means):

Surely to haul rocks from high mountains’ peaks
Is more endearing to me than the favors of men;
People say to me, “in eaning there is dishonor,”
But I say, “dishonor lies in the sordidness of asking.”

For what attaches to him of dishonor from asking is most certain, while what reaches him of its benefit is only imaginary, as he may be given what he asks, or he may not be given; and asking is a dispensation for him without it being something incumbent on him, while the imaginary does not thwart is certain.

However, our argument in this matter is that asking brings him to that by which his self can stand upright, and by which he becomes strong to render obedience, hence asking is incumbent on him, precisely like earning in respect of one who is capable of earning; and hence the meaning of dishonor in asking does not apply in this situation.

Do you not see that Allah tells about Musa (Moses) and his teacher (Prophet Khidr), on both be blessing and peace, that they asked when in need? Allah says about them, “They asked the people of the town for food.” [Al-Quran, surah al-Khaf, verse 77].  And “istit’am” means to ask for food, and they were not asking by way of paying (al-ujrah, for what they asked). Do you not see that He says, “If you wished, you could have gotten paid for that” [Al-Quran, surah al-Khaf, verse 77]. Thus we know that it was by way of doing good in the manner of gifting or charity, notwithstanding the scholars’ disagreement about whether accepting charity is permissible for the prophets apart from our Prophet, on him and on them be blessing and peace, as we shall elucidate.

Likewise, the Messenger of Allah had asked when in need, as when he said to one of his Companions, “Is there anything you have which we eat?” [Narrated by Muslim and al-Nasa’i]. The prophet said to a people, “Do you have water kept overnight in waterskins? If not, then we sip some from the stream” [Narrated by al-Bukhari]. He asked a man for a lamb shank (or shoulder), saying, “Hand me a shank,” as recorded in a long hadith [which narrated by al-Tirmidhi].

If there were a disgrace in asking when in need, the Prophets would not have done so, for surely they were the most removed of people from earning what causes disgrace. Moreover, what keeps his body and soul together is a right which is due to him in the wealth of people, and thus there is no meaning of disgrace with regard to seeking a right which is due to him, hence it is incumbent on him to ask.

But as for when he is capable of earning, then that is not a right which is due to him, but rather his right is in his earning, hence he is obliged to earn and not ask anyone of the people; however, it is for him to ask his Lord, as Musa (Moses) did by saying, “My Lord, I am in need of anything good you send me” [Al-Quran, surah al-Qasas, verse 24]. We have also been commanded to do likewise, for Allah says, “And ask Allah of His bounty!” [Al-Quran, surah al-Nisa’, verse 32]. The Prophet says, “Ask Allah for your needs, even salt for your cooking pots and thongs for your sandals” [Narrated by al-Bazzar and ibn Hibban].


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