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].

References:

22 The Book of Earning-700x700


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Solves the Problem of Begging

The religion of Islam is designed to guarantee the establishment of a noble as well as a virtuous society where the rich and the poor, the well-off and the needy, and the powerful and the powerless can safely coexist. Members of this Islamic society are remarkably characterized by lofty feelings be them rich or poverty-stricken…..

The religion of Islam is designed to guarantee the establishment of a noble as well as a virtuous society where the rich and the poor, the well-off and the needy, and the powerful and the powerless can safely coexist. Members of this Islamic society are remarkably characterized by lofty feelings be them rich or poverty-stricken.

Let us take a closer look at one of the amazing hadiths of Prophet Muhammad from which many lessons can be learned. The hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah reads:

Allah’s Messenger said: “The poor person is not the one who goes around the people and ask them for a mouthful or two (of meals) or a date or two but the poor is that who has not enough (money) to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others, that others may give him something in charity, and who does not beg of people.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim].

Based on the above hadith, a poor person in the Islamic conception is one “who has not enough (money) to satisfy his needs and whose condition is not known to others, that others may give him something in charity, and who does not beg of people.” Whereas, a well-off person is the one who has genuine feelings for the restraint poor people to the extent that makes him look for them and try to satisfy their needs without doing anything contrary to their dignity.

It is amazing how Prophet Muhammad was willing to as well as capable of revisiting old Arabic terms and conferring upon them new meanings and denotations in a way that might change his Companions’ way of thinking or their weltanschauung (the world view of an individual or group), which stands for the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. Hence the Prophet reaffirms, in the above hadith, the concept of a poor person and explains that he is not “the one who goes around the people and ask them for a mouthful or two (of meals) or a date or two.” Rather, he is the one who is suffering so much from poverty and at the same time he restrains himself from begging or asking people for help.

This self-restraint or chastity that characterizes this poor person stems only from one’s contentment and satisfaction with what Allah has bestowed upon one be it much or little. A satisfied and contented person is the one who is pleased with what Allah has given him and who is certain that what Allah has chosen for him must be nothing but the best. In the same vein, there is an English proverb that matches the meaning of the above and it reads, “Contentment is an exhaustible treasure”.

The Ever-Glorious Qur’an refers to this outstanding category of people as saying what means,

[Charity is] for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of Allah, unable to move about in the land. An ignorant [person] would think them self-sufficient because of their restraint, but you will know them by their [characteristic] sign. They do not ask people persistently [or at all]. And whatever you spend of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it. [Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 273].

However, some poor persons may exaggerate concealing their destitute condition in order to preserve and maintain their own dignity. In so doing, they try not to let their dignity violated or hurt even if they were given something in a subtle and courteous way.

In fact, this is in direct contradiction to the Prophetic guidance that can be learned from the following hadith. Salim ibn ‘Abdullah reported on the authority of his father that:

“The Messenger of Allah gave to ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab some gift. ‘Umar said to him: ‘Messenger of Allah! Give it to one who needs it more than I.’ Upon this the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Take it; either keep it with you or give it as a charity, and whatever comes to you in the form of this type of wealth, without your being avaricious or begging for it, accept it, but in other circumstances do not let your heart hanker after it.’ And it was on account of this that Ibn ‘Umar never begged anything from anyone, nor refused anything given to him.” [Narrated by Muslim]

The scene is that the Prophet would give ‘Umar something and `Umar would ask him to give it to someone who is poorer than himself. However, the Prophet teaches ‘Umar and instructs him that if someone is given something without asking for it or having greed for it, one should take it; and if one is not given anything, he should not run for it.

Thereupon, the above hadith shows that it is permissible for a needy person to accept what is given to him without begging or without being avaricious.

Disapproval of begging from people
The Prophet in another hadith refers to an issue which may have adverse effects and catastrophic impact on the individual in this present life as well as in the hereafter. This issue is begging from people which is widespread in many of the Islamic societies and communities of today. It is when one begs from others without being in a real need. Hamzah ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar heard his father say that the Messenger of Allah had said:

“The person would continue begging from people till he would come on the Day of Resurrection and there would be no flesh on his face.” [Narrated by Muslim].

In another hadith that is narrated by Abu Hurairah, Allah’s Messenger said:

“He who begs the riches of others to increase his own is asking only for live coals, so let him ask a little or much.” [Narrated by Muslim].

He is “asking only for live coals,” means, that he would be punished in Hell-Fire for this derogatory act of his; namely, asking people for some of their wealth or a portion of their earnings without being deserving or entitled to receive any of it.

One for whom begging is permissible
All the above does not in any way rule out the permissibility of begging in certain circumstances. One should not understand that begging is totally prohibited and forbidden under all conditions. The Prophet declared that begging or asking people for financial help is permissible in specific situations and nothing more.

Qabisah ibn Mukhariq al-Hilali said: “I was under debt and I came to the Messenger of Allah and begged from him regarding it. He said: ‘Wait till we receive sadaqah so that we order that to be given to you.’ He again said: ‘Qabisah, begging is not permissible but for one of the three (classes) of persons:

One who has incurred debt, for him begging is permissible till he pays that off, after which he must stop it;

A man whose property has been destroyed by a calamity which has smitten him, for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support life, or will provide him reasonable subsistence;

And a person who has been smitten by poverty the genuineness of which is confirmed by three intelligent members of his people for him begging is permissible till he gets what will support him, or will provide him subsistence.

Qabisah, besides these three (every other reason) for begging, is forbidden, and one who engages in such consumes that what is forbidden.’” [Narrated by Muslim].

Islam encourages labor
Finally, Islam encourages every Muslim to be a productive member of society and not to ask people for their properties or money. Islam likes that every Muslim should maintain his dignity and not to do anything that might hurt it or let others look down on him while they answer his plea or act of begging.

Therefore, the Prophet encourages the needy to strive and to exert themselves to earn their livelihood with dignity and honor as can be seen in the following hadith that is narrated by Az-Zubair ibn Al-‘Awwam:

The Prophet said, “It is better for anyone of you to take a rope (and cut) and bring a bundle of wood (from the forest) over his back and sell it and Allah will save his face (from the Hell-Fire) because of that, rather than to ask the people who may give him or not.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari]

Indeed, it is far better for one to bring a load of firewood on one’s back and sell it to others and out of one’s own earnings one should satisfy one’s own needs and then give the rest as charity. In so doing, one becomes independent and becomes one’s, own master. Yes, indeed, this is better than begging from others, whether they give one anything or refuse to help him in a way that would hurt his feelings and violate his dignity.

“… Verily the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” [Narrated by Muslim].

To conclude, the following lessons can be highlighted as were clearly understood from the above:

  • The Muslim community should be heedful of those self-sufficient or restraint poor persons,
  • One should not give out charity in a way that may hurt the dignity of the poor,
  • Training one’s self on restraint and contentedness,
  • Preventing one’s self from exaggerated restraint,
  • Avoiding begging without a legal or shari’ah-based necessity, and
  • Finding all possible means to become a productive member of society.

Striving to Avoid from Begging Others.

Indeed, Islam highly encourages its adherents to work and strive in earning a livelihood. On the contrary, Islam prohibits Muslims from being lazy and only asks from others. This prohibition is often mentioned in al-Qur’an and a hadith, which forbids us from disgracing our honor by remaining lazy and only hoping for the sympathy and courtesy of others…..

Indeed, Islam highly encourages its adherents to work and strive in earning a livelihood. On the contrary, Islam prohibits Muslims from being lazy and only begs from others. This prohibition is often mentioned in al-Qur’an and a hadith, which forbids us from disgracing our honor by remaining lazy and only hoping for the sympathy and courtesy of others. The Prophet  had reminded such matter in the hadith of Hakim bin Hizam, where he said:

“The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from begging others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from begging others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].

Moreover, a person that is too lazy to earn a living and only begs from the courtesy of others will be resurrected in the Hereafter has no flesh on his face. This was firmly mentioned in the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, where the Prophet said:

“A man keeps on begging others for something till he comes on the Day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].

Verily, Islam encourages us to strive and seek livelihood (nafaqah) through various means for as long as it does not violate the shara‘. We are also required to embrace the attitude of ta’affuf (safeguarding oneself from begging others), as Allah mentions in verse 273 of Surah al-Baqarah, which means:

“[Charity is] for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of Allah, unable to move about in the land. An ignorant [person] would think them self-sufficient because of their restraint, but you will know them by their [characteristic] sign. They do not beg people persistently [or at all]. And whatever you spend of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, verse 273].

This verse was revealed to explain to us regarding the nobility of some of the Prophet’s Companions who were from amongst the poor, but they did not hope for the aid of others even though they were in dire need. Such that those who do not know of the actual circumstances of these Companions would think that they are well off, for protecting their dignity by not begging others.

Verily, Allah has promised a tremendous reward for every person that earnestly strive and work in providing sustenance to his family. This was mentioned in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, where the Prophet said:

“Of the dinar you spend as a contribution in Allah’s path, or to set free a slave, or as a sadaqah given to a needy, or to support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spent on your family.” [Narrated by Muslim].

Man begging on his kneesFor the person that likes to beg from others while he is physically able, then it is wajib (obligatory) upon him to try his level best in seeking work. Utilize all of the skills and strength possessed, as well as all opportunities available, so as to earn income in sustaining oneself and his dependents. Remember! Allah will not change the condition of His slave until he strives to change his condition himself.

Indeed, the results yielding from the work of any skills possessed, that is much better and dignified from just being lazy and begging others. This is based on the hadith:

“It is better for anyone of you to take a rope (and cut) and bring a bundle of wood (from the forest) over his back and sell it and Allah will save his face (from the Hell-Fire) because of that, rather than to beg the people who may give him or not.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari].

Regarding those that are lazy and purposely choose not to work, it is upon the society to provide them advice and guidance so that they will not remain lazy and only hoping for the sympathy of others.

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab once advised and rebuked a group of people for having the misunderstanding upon the concept of tawakkal and purely relying upon Allah without putting in the means. He said, “Who are you, people?” They replied, “We are the people of tawakkul.” Sayyidina ‘Umar firmly stated, “You are lying! The real people of tawakkul are those that would plant the seeds and then place reliance upon Allah. Do not be lazy from seeking sustenance and only supplicate, “O Allah, grant me provision” while knowing that the sky will not bring down the rain of dinar and dirham.”

And Allah knows best!