Generosity of the Poor

Created: Wednesday, 09 March 2011 Written by Lubna Saira

I wondered why the poor share the last morsel they have with anyone around and the rich don't?
I wondered why the hungry will show dignity and will not take more than what they need but the rich will eat anything free as if they have not eaten for days?

While this thought was in my mind, I happened to come across the answer while listening to a talk on generosity by Hamza Yusuf. He explained, in Arabic, that the word GENEROSITY takes root from the word COURAGE. What keeps us from being generous is our FEAR of losing what we have. It takes courage to overcome that fear and become generous.

I see that the poor doesn't FEAR any loss because there is nothing to lose so she has put her trust in Allah for the next meal that she will get. Her having nothing has given her courage to be generous with the last morsel she has. She believes that where this came from, she will get more. It reminds me of the Ayah in the Quran where Allah asks us to reflect on the birds, how they leave home in the morning to seek His 'Barakah' (blessings, it is also described as "the greater good" derived from any act), return home with sustenance for that day and trust Allah for the next day's assistance.

A hadith (saying of prophet Mohammad peace and blessings be upon him) says how can you ask from Allah 'Barakah'(blessings) for the next day when He does not ask you for 'Amal' (act) for the next day. The beauty of all ahadith is the comprehensive message each gives. Besides numerous different lessons one can learn from this, it also tells us that we must work for achieving the most in the time we have at hand, the present day, devoid of fear for what is to follow, which in turn will increase your Eimaan (faith) in Allah, relieve any anxiety and fear of loss, making you a courageous and generous human being that has tawakkal Allah (reliance on Allah).

I recall, having the privilege of being in the company of one such generous woman in Northern parts of Pakistan who had lost her family members in the earthquake and was bedridden because of an amputated leg.

She had visitors one afternoon. They were her mother and father in law, who had travelled on foot and on bus for several hours from hilly areas to come visit their daughter in law in the hospital. I was astonished to see that in their age and apparent difficulty in walking , they took such pains to come all the way. They had a small thermos in hand. You could tell that is all they could afford but then if I saw someone took such pains for me for whatever they could offer, wouldn't that be more valuable than them offering me a palace?
While I was introduced to them, I saw them pouring tea into the cup, they said something to each other in their language as the elderly did not speak in Urdu. The next thing I know is I am offered that large mug full of tea. I am told it is very special as it is made from goats milk and since she loves it so much they had got that for her. 'No, no you drink it, they got it for you especially and you need it more' I insisted....I saw in their faces something that said perhaps I think it low and will not think of drinking it. I agreed to take half a cup, they still wouldn't hear of it and so I took it. I found out later since I did not see her drinking much but a couple of sips because they had given me most of what was in the small thermos. I told them it was very tasty, infact it was tastier than anything I will ever taste in this life. But how can one enjoy it when the giver is giving so much from the little she has and when you have not showed them anything close to such generosity.

Allah had bestowed great beauty on this woman besides the beauty of her heart, patience, perseverance and her generosity. You see she could not see how rich she was. She wore a lovely necklace made of emerald green and purple glass beads. Upon inquiring, she informed me that she had made this herself for her wedding as this is what they wear as jewelry since gold and silver are unaffordable. I tell you it looked more gorgeous than a diamond necklace because SHE wore it. When I was bidding her farewell, her hands went up to take that necklace off to give me as a going away gift. I was so moved, the words could not be uttered so I just shook my head declining to take it. When I got up to leave quickly as she stretched her hand out and would not take no for an answer, her daughter of 7 years ran after me with the necklace insisting 'Khaala tum lai loo' 'yeh tumharai liyai hai! 'Aunt you take it, it is for you' Such generosity was like a rare gem, quite uncommon. Someone who wore used clothes donated to her, food that was donated, lying in a refugee hospital tent with one leg, and nothing material but this wedding necklace and she is giving it to someone she had met only 4 days ago! Ofcourse I could not take it, but she has given it to me because that was her intent. Her intent and generosity of heart is enough to last me the rest of my life. I shall not forget it and wanted to share it with you.

I think I know now why the poor shower you more with their smiles, with their generosity regardless of what their situation is and how little material wealth they have. Whenever I am amongst the poor, I feel Allah's abundance and Mercy more than when I am amongst the rich. I believe it is so because they try to share whatever they have and it is definetly not 'little' as they put it. They don't see how rich they are and what is the value of what they share. That in turns tells me that their unawareness is due to their Ikhlaas (purity of intent and purity of heart). When you become aware of your generosity, it takes away from that Ikhlaas.

A saying of Prophet Mohammad says, being Sakhi (generous) is the best quality. Subhaan Allah! they have the best quality in abundance. Help these oppressed people of Ikhlaas(purity of heart and intent) so they may say a Dua in our favor and it may be accepted by Allah.