WE’VE all heard stories from the lives of the early Muslims with regard to their patience in poverty, their Zuhd (abstinence) and their general disdain for the trappings of this worldly life.
Yet in this age of plenty, our problem is dealing with excess, not figuring out how to make do with less, and this is why most of us fail to identify with the stories of want and deprivation. An alternative way to relate to the lives of early Muslims and inculcate some of the values they lived by, is to examine the lives of the rich among them.
• Khadijah Bint Khuwailid: Humility and service
She was the Mother of the Believers upon whom Allah Himself sent salutations through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel), who told the Prophet ﷺ: “Khadijah is coming to you with a dish (of seasoned food or drink). When she comes to you, offer her greetings from her Lord, the Exalted and Glorious, and on my behalf, and give her glad tidings of a palace of jewels in Paradise wherein there is no noise and no toil.” (Sahih Muslim)
Khadijah رضي الله عنها was among the wealthiest women of her time, who spent her considerable fortune in providing succor and support to the emerging community of Muslims. During the three years of boycott suffered by the Muslims in Shi’b Abi Talib (a ravine near Makkah where the Muslims were isolated), she almost single-handedly got her agents to procure food and other essentials.
Certainly, she must not have lacked for household help or servants, yet the fact that she carried the Prophet’s meal to him herself, speaks volumes about her humility and the esteem and love she had for her husband, the Prophet ﷺ.
• Uthman Bin Affan: Transactions with Allah
He was the Companion about whom the Prophet ﷺ said: “From this day on, nothing will harm Uthman (regardless of what he does).” What prompted the Prophet ﷺ was that Uthman رضي الله عنه outfitted a woefully under-equipped army (called the Jaysh Al-Usrah, Army of Hardship) that was setting out to confront the Romans who were amassing near Tabuk in the year 9 AH, with around 300 camels, a hundred horses and weapons (besides contributing thousands of dinars in money and gold).
In another instance, Uthman رضي الله عنه came to the rescue of the community when there was a severe shortage of water in Madinah and the Muslims were obliged to purchase water at very high prices. He purchased a well of sweet water, called Ar-Rumah, and placed it at the disposal of the Muslims.
Later, during the caliphate of Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه a severe famine struck Madinah, and the city’s merchants gathered at his house when he received a large caravan from Damascus, laden with food and goods.
He asked them what was the best price they would offer, and when they stopped after offering him four or five times the cost of the goods, he answered that he would sell his goods to the highest bidder: Who had promised to redeem his goods at ten times the price. Saying this, he made them witness that he had given away the entire caravan to the people of Madinah for the sake of Allah.
The most outstanding trait of Uthman رضي الله عنه is his complete trust in the promise of Allah the Exalted, which stemmed from his strong Iman (belief). Unlike most of us, he was sure that what is with Allah the Almighty is undoubtedly better, and this faith was reflected in his unparalleled generosity and eagerness to please Allah by serving the Muslims.
• Abdur Rahman Bin Awf: Between Fear and Hope
When he migrated to Madinah, he was penniless, prompting Sa’d bin Rab’i Al-Ansari (with whom he had established a bond of brotherhood) to offer him half of his property and one of his two wives. However, Abdur Rahman Bin Awf had graciously declined his offer owing to his strong sense of self-respect, and instead asked him to show him the way to the marketplace. Within a short while he was so blessed in his business, that he said, “I feel if I merely pick up a stone, I would find gold or silver underneath it.”
After the demise of the Prophet ﷺ, he took care of the Mothers of the Believers in such a superlative manner, that Ayesha رضي الله عنها supplicated for him, saying, “May Allah grant him the water of Salsabil (a spring in Paradise).”
He was among one of the 10 Companions who were promised paradise. Once Ayesha رضي الله عنها recounted the Prophet’s saying that Abdur Rahman would “enter Paradise crawling”.
When he heard of this, he went up to Ayesha رضي الله عنها to confirm this narration. When she confirmed that she did indeed hear the Prophet ﷺ say this, he gave away the proceeds of a caravan he had received from Syria, in gratitude for the glad tidings of Paradise and in the hope of receiving a greater reward.
And once, when he sat down to a meal upon breaking his fast, he wept upon seeing the riches he enjoyed, remembering those of his Companions who had passed away in penury.
No doubt, he was among those who remembered the verse of the Qur’an :
“So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows.” (Qur’an, 6:44)
Explaining this verse, Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Whoever is given provision by Allah and he thinks that Allah is not testing him, has no wisdom. Whoever has little provision and thinks that Allah will not look at (provide for) him, has no wisdom.”
Truly, in these words and in the lives of these Companions are signs for the people who understand.