Throughout his life, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) emphasized the importance of equality, fairness, and of helping those in need. Regardless of an individual’s background or situation, the Holy Prophet (sa) always made sure to take every measure to relieve the suffering of others (1). In regards to this matter, the Holy Qur’an says:
“So give to the kinsman his due, and to the needy, and to the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek the favor of Allah, and it is they who will prosper. Whatever you pay as interest that it may increase the wealth of the people, it does not increase in the sight of Allah; but whatever you give in Zakat seeking the favor of Allah, it is these who will increase their wealth manifold” (2).
The Holy Prophet (sa) encouraged the practice of helping those in need, the poor and the weak in society through the giving of alms, charity work, and through fervent prayers throughout his lifetime. He taught that these actions to help those in need are pleasurable in the eyes of Allah, the Almighty, and a necessity for us as humans to fulfill the rights of others. It is through the helping of others that one can realize a stronger love for God. The Holy Prophet (sa) taught that one could love his Creator by first loving one’s fellow beings, and is reported to have said:
“If any Muslim clothes a Muslim when he is naked, Allah will clothe him with some green garments of Paradise; if any Muslim feeds a Muslim when he is hungry, Allah will feed him with some of the fruits of Paradise; and if any Muslim gives a Muslim drink when he is thirsty, Allah will give him some of the pure wine which is sealed to drink” (3).
There are numerous examples throughout the life of the Holy Prophet (sa) supporting the practice of helping and fulfilling the needs of others through forgiveness and giving.
On one occasion, there was a starving man named Abbad bin Shurahbil who entered an orchard to feed himself with the fruits. Later he was stripped of his clothes and beaten by the orchard owner for entering the orchard with the intent to eat the fruit. It is reported that Abbad bin Shurahbil said:
“I suffered from hunger during a drought, so I went to one of the farms in Al-Madinah, I rubbed an ear (of grain) and ate from it, and carried some in my garment. The owner of the farm came and hit me and took my garment. I came to the Messenger of Allah and told him. He said to him (owner): ‘You did not teach him while he was ignorant, nor did you feed him while he was hungry,’ He ordered him to return my garment, and give me a Wasq (4) or half a Wasq of food” (5).
Even though the Holy Prophet (sa) could have been an incredibly wealthy man as the leader of the Islamic nation, he instead donated almost all of his money to charity and towards efforts that would help the needy and afflicted. Through compassion and the action of giving, he constantly reaped the blessings of Allah the Almighty and taught others to do so as well. Although he encouraged people to earn a living honestly and with hard work, he also urged people to sympathize with those less fortunate and give what they could, so that they may love God by loving their brother or sister in need. The Holy Prophet (sa) said that after acquiring one’s earnings lawfully, a portion should go to the poor. In this way, one is not losing anything but instead gaining the blessings of God Almighty.
Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (sa) taught us that helping the poor can also be done by fulfilling the rights of every human being and treating people with fairness and equality. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said:
“O God, grant me life as a poor man, cause me to die as a poor man and resurrect me in the company of the poor.” His wife asked him why he said that, and he replied: “Because (the poor) will enter Paradise (before) the rich. Do not turn away a poor man, even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you, God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection” (6).
During his lifetime, those who were non-Arab were subject to micro-aggression from the local Arabs. The Holy Prophet (sa) made clear that any form of intolerance, injustice, or inequality towards people is not permissible in Islam. Instead, one should attempt to create bonds between all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background. In this way, the Holy Prophet (sa) was able to help the afflicted who suffered from discrimination and micro-aggression from non-believers. There were many companions of the Holy Prophet (sa) who were non-Arab, including Hazrat Bilal (ra) and Hazrat Salman Farsi (ra). The importance of these relationships is that the Holy Prophet (sa) treated all individuals equally despite race or ethnicity. The Holy Prophet (sa) loved all people and respected every person as a creation of God. Hazrat Bilal (ra) was made Mu’azzin (the person who calls Azan) by the Holy Prophet (sa) even though his pronunciation of the Shahada was imperfect compared to the Arabs who could speak Arabic perfectly. The Holy Prophet (sa) loved Hazrat Bilal (ra) dearly and treated him equally as he would anyone else. Hazrat Salman Farsi (ra) was an individual of Persian descent and was a stranger in the Arab land. The Holy Prophet (sa), on one occasion, put his cloak over him and said: “Salman is one from my household” (7). The Holy Prophet (sa), in his last sermon, strengthened the importance of diversity and equality in Islam. He said:
“Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one” (8).
In this way, the Holy Prophet (sa) established the principle of equality and justice among all people. It is essential to understand that helping the needy and afflicted starts with good intentions and the right mindset. One cannot discriminate against any individual based on race, culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc., and still expect to gain the blessings of Allah, the Almighty. With a good heart and the willingness and belief that all people are God’s creation, charitable actions are accepted by God Almighty.
In conclusion, we can analyze that through numerous examples of the Holy Prophet (sa), we see clearly how we should make an effort to help the poor and afflicted. Charity, Zakat, Sadaqah (giving alms), and prayers are just a few but essential ways to ensure that we are helping our fellow brothers and sisters. It is necessary to understand that we should make attempts to be more like the Holy Prophet (sa) to please Allah, the Almighty, and ease the suffering of others. Regardless of how minimal our actions may seem, or how insignificant of an impact we think they may have, we should forge ahead, determined to do even better. The strides we take are all accounted for, and we should care for every person as we do for ourselves and those we love.
- The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) by Maulana M. A. Cheema, https://www.alislam.org/holyprophet/the_holy_prophet_muhammad.pdf [Accessed: February 14, 2022]
- The Holy Qur’an (30:39-40)
- Sunan Abi Da’ud, 1682
- Lit: Load, freight, cargo. Tech: A measure of weight; 1 Wasq is equal to 60sa‘. According to Hanafi Fiqh, it is equivalent to 195.69 kg or 201.72 liters, while other jurists consider it equivalent to 130.32kg or 164.88 liters.
- Abu Da’ud, The Book Of Jihad, Hadith No: 2620 [An-Nasā’i, No. 5409 and Abu Daud, ‘Awnul-Ma’bood, No. 2617]
- Tirmidhi #1376
- Abu Da’ud, Kitabul Mahdi, Bab I
Bukhari, Vol:1, Hadith:69,1670,1672,1673, vol:3, Hadith:1723