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Aspects Of Islamic Faith — 93: Gifts From Rulers - Following The Prophet s.a.w.

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Umar reports: "God's messenger used to give me money and I would say to him: ‘Give it to someone who is poorer than me.' He told me: ‘Take what comes to you of money when you have neither looked up to receiving it nor asked for it. Otherwise, do not wish for it.'" (Related by Al-Bukhari).

The Hadith apparently speaks of a repeated action by the Prophet giving gifts to Umar, but other versions, which are equally authentic, suggest that it was once only. It is well known that Umar was not poor. Prior to Islam, he worked in business, joining the annual commercial trip the people of Makkah used to undertake to Syria. He managed to have some good capital. Hence, what the Prophet gave him was not meant to alleviate poverty, as he was not poor. Umar apparently did not like that. Hence, he suggested to the Prophet that it was better given to one who is not as well off as he was. What we need to explain here is that the Prophet's gift to Umar was not part of zakat or charity. The Prophet was well aware that Umar was not in need of that. It was then part of the public funds that a Muslim ruler may give to people. Scholars are of the view that Umar was aware of this, but he felt that poorer people could make a better use of it. The Prophet's answer makes clear that it is better to take a gift given by the ruler of a Muslim state, provided that two conditions are met. These are: 1) that the recipient should not be looking for it, making a hint or suggesting that he could do with such a gift, and 2) that the recipient does not ask to be given such a gift. Both conditions are specified in the Prophet's reply. The Prophet also made clear to Umar that he should not even entertain thoughts hoping to receive such a gift.

Scholars have different views concerning gifts given by a ruler. Most early scholars who argue against accepting it feel that it is more consistent with piety and God-fearing to reject such gifts. Some scholars say that if one is certain that the gift comes from legitimate sources, it should not be rejected, even if the ruler is a despot. On the other hand, if we know that the gift comes from an illegitimate source, then it is forbidden to take. Some scholars go even further, saying that such a gift should be taken regardless of the character of the ruler or the source of the gift, because the recipient may put it to good and beneficial use, or may give it to charity, helping some needy people.

Umar followed the Prophet's practice, who used to give gifts to some rich people. When he became the Caliph, ruling over the Islamic state, he used to give gifts, particularly to those whom he knew would use it for benevolent purposes. He allocated, for example, 2000 dirhams to each one of the Prophet's wives, but gave Ayesha 10,000. Some people questioned his action. Therefore, he sent someone to watch what Ayesha did with her money. The person came back with the news that when she opened the sack, she took out small and large amounts, sending them to needy people, relatives and neighbours. By the evening, nothing was left. Her maid reproached her saying: "You should have left us a dirham or two to buy some dinner, when we both are fasting." Ayesha said to her: "I forgot. Had you reminded me, I would have done so." Such gifts by rulers should be made to those who use them to benefit their community. This is totally different from what rulers nowadays do, when they allow their henchmen to do away with large portions of the state funds. In so doing, they encourage corruption, while what the Prophet taught his companions was to use such gifts to help those in need.

 

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