Click to Donate to UWT’s Emergency Somalia appeal.This is a summary translation of a Friday sermon delivered by Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad al-Haqil on 5/Aug/2011 in Riyadh, KSA. Some of the topics covered include selfishness, coarse hearts, the self-denial of the Prophets out of sentiment for the affliction of the poor, and the impact Islamic nurturing had on the early generations of Muslims in consoling and providing comfort to those in need. The article also includes examples of the tragedy afflicting the starving populace of Somalia, drawing on the month of Ramadan to inspire us to offer help and provide their relief, and that the longevity of blessings that is maintained through gratefulness and charitable efforts.
All praise is due to Allah, the Rich and Generous, the One whose mercy is all-embracing, who gives in abundance and whose gifts are immeasurable. Allah says, ‘Whatever is with you, will deplete, and whatever is with Allah (of good deeds) will remain.’
Allah legislated fasting for the purpose of actualising taqwa (God consciousness), remembering the hungry, and consoling the poor and needy. He addressed the son of Adam saying, ‘Spend, I will spend on you.’ Our Prophet, who is most learned of our Lord said concerning Him, ‘Allah’s Hand is full, and (its fullness) is not affected by the continuous spending of night and day.’ He also said, ‘Do you see what He has spent since He created the Heavens and the Earth? Nevertheless, what is in His Hand has not decreased.’
I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger and slave. Anas Ibn Malik who served him said, ‘Allah’s messenger was the best of people, the most generous of people and the most courageous of people.’
Fear Allah and obey Him. Reap enough provisions from Ramadan as an investment to await you, since it is only a few limited days. Contemplate on the Qur’an, resurrect the night in prayer, refrain your tongues from frivolous speech and protect your hearing and sight from unlawful matters. Maintain your ties of kinship; feed the poor and outperform one another in good deeds and benevolent actions. ‘And whatever good You do, (be sure) Allah knows it; and take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is taqwa. So fear Me, O men of understanding!’
O people, when selfishness and self-centredness become widespread the hearts become hard and coarse, they fail to feel pain from having sympathy with the affliction of others. It is only their own wellbeing that concerns them even if everyone else around them falls apart. To counter this tendency, divine scripture instructs us in the equality of rights and obligations between people; and in the provision of comfort to those who are afflicted with hunger and severe trials.
The Prophets, may Allah be pleased with them, lived the lives of poor people to feel their plight; richness would not therefore dominate them causing them to forget the feelings and experiences of others. Neither would complete fulfilment occur causing them to remain oblivious to the hunger of others. Some exegetes of the Qur’an mention that when the Prophet Joseph took the position of treasurer of Egypt, he would distribute provision amongst the citizens yet make sure he himself would never be satiated. It was said to him, ‘Do you go hungry when you are the treasurer? He replied, ‘I fear that if I be satisfied I would forget the hungry person!’
Our Prophet Muhammad, may Allah praise and send peace and blessings upon him, put forth for us the most striking example of such behaviour; he positioned himself amongst the poor and needy in the matter of satiation and hunger. He would distribute enormous amounts of wealth and property between people and none of it would remain, not even a small amount for his food. He would never eat good food alone and instead invite others to dine with him in contrast to the norm of a person who is hungry and prefers not to share the wholesome food in his possession. Anas relates, ‘A lunch or dinner meal comprised of bread and meat would never be presented before him unless upon dafaf.’ It is said that dafaf means he would not eat alone but with people.
A more acute occurrence is that he would experience such hunger that he would bind his stomach. This would not be the result of seeking hunger as some monks and Sufis would do, but it was not his custom to store any food and when he would be hungry he would not ask others for food but instead exercise patience over his hunger and desperation. If the Prophet had wanted he would have set aside enormous wealth and the choicest types of food. If he had so desired he would have asked of his Companions and they in turn would have outdone each other in filling his house with all that is delicious and gratifying. Amongst them were business men such as Abu Bakr, ‘Uthman, Ibn ‘Awf and others. He, however, would not disclose his affair to his Companions unless one of them would become aware of a ligature around his stomach. This happened to Anas, and upon witnessing it he raced to his stepfather Abu Talhah to inform him as related in the hadith recorded by Muslim.
During the digging of the trench, the Muslims remained for three days without food and Jabir saw that the Prophet’s stomach was bound with a ligature because of extreme hunger as reported in al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Both events show Abu Talhah and Jabir preparing food which they wanted to offer to the Prophet exclusively. However his compassion for others was far greater than for his own self; his preference for his companions was indeed far greater than their preference for him.
Anas wanted to present the food specifically to the Prophet but he summoned everyone who was with him and he divided and distributed the food with his own honourable hand. They would enter in groups until they all took their fill, thereafter he, may Allah praise and send peace and blessings upon him, ate. He did the same in the incident with Jabir; he invited everyone who was digging the trench and he would himself give them food whilst his stomach was pressed down with a rock until they took their fill and then he ate.
The most gruelling matter the Prophet experienced would be to see those in dire poverty, need and hunger not being assisted by anyone. This occurred when some of the tribe of Mudar came, the Messenger’s face changed complexion at seeing their state. The Prophet addressed the community encouraging them to give in charity, ‘…Spend (in Allah’s way) before you are prevented from spending. Let a man spend of his dinars, dirhams, clothes, measure of wheat, barley or dates.’ Until he said, ‘Do not belittle any amount of charity. Safeguard yourselves from the Fire, even with half a date.’ The community responded until they amassed a good amount of wealth that met the need and the Prophet’s face radiated with joy. His initial anger and vexation was not because of the presence of hunger, as this was merely a trial that had afflicted them, but it was a result of the lack of compassion shown to their own brothers and the evident negligence shown to their dire need.
This is an instruction and nurturing to sense the needs of those who are in want, to awaken the value of brotherhood between believers, and to make believers accustomed to providing relief and comfort in times of famine.
This practical nurturing towered and extended to his own household, he would train and discipline them to prefer others above themselves and to exercise patience over their own needs. One example of this is when ‘Ali and Fatimah had need of a servant to help with the difficulties of daily chores. They approached the Messenger and ‘Ali said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, by Allah, I draw water (from a well) to the extent that I suffer chest pains’ and Fatimah said, ‘I use a hand grill to grind until my hands form blisters and Allah has brought about for you captives and wealth (to distribute) so provide a servant for us.’ The Prophet replied, ‘By Allah, I cannot grant you and ignore the Ahl al-Suffah (poor people who lived off charity) with folded stomachs not having anything to spend on them. However, I will sell them and spend the proceeds on them.’
This education produced a devout and heartfelt generation, putting forward others first, preferring them with their own food and sensing their responsibility towards others. During the time of the Caliph ‘Umar, when cooking butter became expensive, he sufficed with oil and his stomach would rumble because of it. ‘Umar would remark, ‘Rumble as much as you want! By Allah, you will not taste cooking butter until the people do.’
Ibn ‘Umar fell ill and he desired grapes, so it was bought for him. He heard a beggar making a request so chose to give him the grapes. When evening would set Uways al-Qarni would donate any surplus food and clothing he had and supplicate, ‘O Allah, whoever dies from hunger, do not hold me to account because of that, and whoever dies lacking clothing, do not hold me to account because of that.’ When some would eat they would supplicate, ‘O Allah, do not hold me to account by the right of those in hunger!’
On a particularly wintery night Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdus al-Maliki gave in charity the entire yield of his land, which amounted to one hundred gold dinars. He expressed, ‘I could not sleep this night out of grief of the poor of the ummah of Muhammad, may Allah praise and send peace and blessings upon him.’
Where are these living hearts? Where are these overflowing emotions towards others in our present time, especially in the month of Ramadan? We experience hunger during the day in order to become full at night with all manner of delicious and satisfying food. Thousands of Muslims in Somalia are dying of hunger. Famine is also on the march in Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan. Where are your efforts to comfort and provide relief to your brothers and sisters in the month of solace? By Allah, He indeed legislated fasting during the day to enable us to develop such feelings for them and to console them in their affliction. Allah the Most High has no need for our hunger and He has said,
‘O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.’ He will say: ‘O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that My servant so-and-so asked you for food and you did not feed him? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found the reward for doing so with Me?’
Allah is indeed asking you now for food in Somalia, so feed your brothers, and you will find the reward with your Lord, praised be He the Most High.
May Allah pardon us and remove the famine from our brothers, may He provide for them in ways they could never imagine. O Allah, do not leave them to their own charge for them to become powerless; do not leave them to our charge for us to be too weak to rise to the challenge and do not leave them to the charge of others for them to prefer themselves over the needy.
O Muslims, know that Somalia is experiencing severe starvation and dismal fatalities because of drought and hunger. The extent of famine is such that a third of their children are threatened with sure death. Half a million children are at the threshold of a grave. Television screens transmit the migration of columns of people traversing hundreds of miles on feet fleeing hunger towards an unknown end. The media show us the land that has been cracked open on account of drought and famine; there are pictures of children who have died from hunger and illness and others who are mere skeletons fighting death; their voices are weakened from hunger and they have no strength to cry or move. Their faces reveal to us their condition as they are unable to speak of their inner being. Pictures show the demise of their livestock and cattle from hunger.
The famine is such that a father flees from his family because he is certain of their death but is unable to remain and watch them die in front of him. Similarly, the ever-merciful mother during the migration abandons some of her children on the side of the road to lighten her load and move at a quicker pace to avoid the death of all of her children. Only Allah knows the grief in the heart of this mother for the ones she leaves behind and those she keeps with her who are crying of hunger before her.
How hard are human hearts as they see such still and moving images? The tales and tragedies are related and the hearts fail to move! How can we take the comfort of sleep? How can we take the pleasure of food? Only as a result of the demise of feelings and the hardening of hearts.
We hear a woman proclaim, ‘We are dying of hunger, where is the Muslim world? I plead you to help us’. One visitor mentions that the sick are left out in the open to await their death without any medical attention. Sixty children died in one of the camps in a single day because of hunger, bad nutrition and the spread of disease.
Servants of Allah, we are in the month of giving, feeding and doing good deeds. Our Messenger was the most generous in Ramadan than in any other time; he would be more generous than a swift wind (bringing rain). So take his example in being generous and multiply your charitable and generous endeavours in Ramadan, especially as we are witness to a severe famine this year and Allah has made specific mention of feeding during a famine as a means to deliver oneself from punishment, ‘but He has made no effort to pass on the Path that is steep and what will make You know the Path that is steep? (it is) freeing a neck (slave, etc.) or giving food during a Day of hunger (famine)…’
We know that a woman entered the Fire on account of a cat she imprisoned that she did not feed nor did she let roam to feed itself, so what about a human being, and even more so a Muslim who commands sanctity, allegiance, brotherhood and protection?
Consider the humiliating and servile fate of a tyrant of our times after causing the hunger of the people of Gaza with an underground wall of iron such that their children died of hunger – what did Allah do to him within the blink of an eye? And He is mighty in strength and severe in punishment.
So fear Allah that He may remove your blessings and take away your security if you fail to feed your brothers and to bring them relief with surplus of your wealth. Seek reward from Allah the Most High in this generous month and be of those whom He has described,
‘they (are those who) fulfil (their) vows, and they fear a Day whose evil will be wide-spreading and they give food, in spite of their love for it to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, (saying), “We feed You seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you. Verily, we fear from Our Lord a day, hard and distressful, that will make faces look horrible (from extreme dislike of it)”.’
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Abu Rumaysah Refi Shafi was born and brought up in High Wycombe. He currently studies with Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad and, previously, Shaykh Abu AbdiRahman Al-Libee. He graduated from Imperial College from the faculty of Electronic Engineering. He currently works as a Software Engineer and is the chairman of WISE (Wycombe Islamic Society). He is very active in his local community, especially with his Masjid and working with youth. He has translated a number of books such as 'The Criterion between the Friends of Allah and the Friends of Shaytan,' and 'Relief from Distress (the Dua of Yunus 'alayhī al-Salām),' both by Ibn Taymiyyah as well as many others. He has also written an explanation of Surah al-Fatihah called ‘The Spiritual Cure.’ He currently gives weekly circles in High Wycombe on a variety of topics covering aqidah, fiqh, hadith, tafsir and Arabic Language. He is also a Lecturer for MRDF.