Ulama: Models of Sacrifice and Charity
By: Ahmed Ali al-Kuwaity
The scholars of our nation are stars. They are models for each aspect of life. Some people think that scholars are only involved in studying and learning the religion of Islam and concerned with Fiqh, the sciences and philosophy. People don’t think that our scholars are concerned with good morals and ethics, and to uplift the society.
Sacrifice and charity are the basis of Islam that our scholars must take the lead in being good examples, even if they become exhausted in helping the oppressed and helping the needy and orphans. Let us relate to you the way our scholars have taken the lead in charity and sacrifice.
He did not have money for himself!
Sheikh Kaasim Muhyideen, who died in the year of 1376 A.H., was one of the noble scholars of the city of Najaf. This scholar used to go to the rich merchants and businessmen in Najaf to pledge money for the poor and needy. Although they used to refuse him in the morning, he used to go to them in the afternoon and once again ask them again. In this way he used to collect a lot of money to distribute to the needy.
It is known that he didn’t use this wealth personally and used to have a simple diet of bread and milk due to his own poverty. It is also known that when he became ill, and doctors advised him to go abroad for medical treatment, he had to sell his library in order to get money for the treatment. (Mausooatul Atabaat Al Muqadassa Page 314-317)
He bought stale vegetables!
Sayyid Ali Al Qadhi (died in the year 1355 A.H.) is one of the great scholars of Islam who used to teach lessons of ethics in the city of Najaf. One of his students relates that he once saw the Sayyid go into a green grocer’s shop. The Sayyid then started choosing some vegetables and contrary to the common behavior of most customers who always look for fresh vegetables, the Sayyid chose some stale vegetables, paid the owner and went out of the shop.
The student decided to follow him and ask the reason for this. The Sayyid when asked replied, that he knew that the owner was a poor man and the Sayyid was in the habit of helping the poor owner, but because it was not good to help someone without a reason, since it would be a cause of embarrassment, encourage laziness and the habit of begging, the Sayyid just made an excuse of buying some vegetables so that he would get a chance of helping the poor man.
“As for us it doesn’t make a difference what type of vegetables we eat, particularly so when I know that nobody will buy the stale vegetables from the owner and he will incur a greater loss,” the Sayyid replied. (Seema Al Saliheen Page 294)
Whoever loves his beard …!
Sheikh Jaafer Kashiful Gitaa, a great scholar and mujtahid used to collect money in order to help the poor. One day as he had distributed money amongst the poor, a poor man from the progeny of the Prophet (S) asked him for something to fulfil his needs.
The Sheikh was apologetic that he didn’t have anything to help the poor man when the latter pulled at the beard of the Sheikh and demanded to be helped. The Sheikh announced that who ever loved his beard i.e. respected him, should help the poor man; and so it happened that the people filled the beard of the Sheikh with gold and silver in respect of him.
In this way the Sheikh diverted the love the people had for him in the service of the poor masses around him. (Maadhi An Najaf Wa Haadhiruha 122-123, Qasas Al Ulama 201, 207)
What will Allah ask us on the Day of Judgment?
Sheikh Abdul Karim Al Hairi was a great scholar and founder of the great Islamic College or Hauza in the city of Qum. One of his assistants called Sheikh Ali relates that one night as he was sleeping, he heard a knock on the door.
As he went to open the door, he saw a poor woman who asked for help. She said that her husband was sick, and in addition they didn’t have any food, and her family was cold as they didn’t have any fuel to get warmth.
The assistant informed her that his master could not help her as his own condition was not good in those days. The woman left with great disappointment.
Sheikh Abdul Karim Al-Hairi had heard somebody at the door and so he asked his assistant what was going on. The assistant informed him about the whole incident. Sheikh Abdul Karim said, “What will Allah ask us on the day of judgment?”
Then he asked his assistant whether he knew the house of the lady. Although it was difficult to reach the lady’s house as the roads were covered with snow, yet the Sheikh Hairi was determined to reach the lady and help her. Thus they found themselves on the way to the lady.
On reaching the lady’s house, they found the family in a dire state. The Sheikh asked his assistant to call a doctor who diagnosed the husband and prescribed the medicines. Again the Sheikh asked his assistant to go and buy the medicine from the chemist on credit and that he would pay for it, as well as getting some firewood and food to give warmth to the family.
When the sick husband took the medicine he felt better and they had food and warmth restored in the house. Then only did the Sheikh find it suitable to leave and return. In addition, the Sheikh asked his assistant to divide the portion of firewood which was supplied to their house daily and give it to the poor family. Such were these great scholars who served Islam by example.
Why didn’t you give out all your wealth?
In Nahjul Balagha, the believers have been described as people in whose heart Allah has become so magnified that the world has become microscopic for them and of little significance. One of the people who fit this description is Mullah Sabzwari who died in 1289 A.H.
He owned land and wealth on which he took out the Zakaat (charity) and distributed it amongst the poor personally. Every Thursday he had an appointment with the needy and distressed, so that he would fulfill their wishes.
On the last three days of the month of Saffar he commemorated Majlis for Imam Husayn (a.s.) in which he called the poor. A man would be chosen amongst them who would recite the majlis, a poor man not known in the society, but the Mullah would give such people a chance to recite, after which food and money was distributed to each and every poor man.
It is said that in his youth he inherited a lot of properties, yet he sold shops and houses and distributed the wealth to the poor. He repeated the same procedure in his old age and were it not that the Qur’an asks people to adopt a medium way between miserliness and to be over charitable such that if a man dies his orphans do not have to beg and curse their father, he would have given all his wealth to Allah.
People asked him why he didn’t give all his wealth away and sit as a monk. It is interesting to hear his answer in which he said that he would love to do so but his children did not favour the same type of life, and what wealth remained with him was for only his children. (Qasas wal Ibar lil Imam Al Shirazi Page 89)
One of the scholars in the U.S.A. was conversing with the representative of Imam Mohammed Shirazi, may Allah have mercy on him. The scholar stated that he thought that the Imam was one of the richest Marja of the world.
The representative of the Imam queried the scholar as to why he made this statement. The scholar replied that it was because of so many organizations and centres in so many countries of the world from America to Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. The representative of Imam Shirazi replied that on the contrary the Marja had a great debt and faced many problems.
The scholar was puzzled and said that how then was it possible for so many mosques and organizations to exist if the Marja was not so rich. It is here that the representative gave the scholar the Marja’s secret.
The great Marja always inspired his friends and believers a love of starting a project such as a mosque, a printing press, a library, publishing a book, etc. just so as to renew the spirit of a Muslim to contribute and sacrifice for his/her religion. The great Marja’s philosophy was to awaken the nation and exploit the potentials of each and every individual however small the potentials may be as expressed in his book (The Awakening of the Nation).
The scholar was amazed and remarked that it seems that the Marja had a spirit of sacrifice and of that of encouraging and inspiring others. It must be noted that due to his encouragement, management, planning and foresight more than hundred mosques, organizations, publication of magazines and books in addition to charitable trusts and humanitarian institutes have been established all over the world.
Start the work and Allah will help!
One great scholar related to the representative of Imam Muhammad Shirazi, that he once decided to build a Madrassah although he didn’t have any money. The Islamic tradition states that man should make the first move, and Allah will shower the blessings on him. One should always start the work first and Allah will help to find the necessary funds for it, and not wait for the funds to start the work.
Thus he decided to ask some laborers to start the work making a clear agreement that they would be paid when the money was available. The agency that supplied them with the building materials did so under the same agreement.
Sometimes the laborers would work till evening while the funds were not available, yet in the evening by Allah’s blessings they would be paid. Shortly after, the walls of the Madrassah reached up to a meter in height.
One day it so happened, that a man knocked the door of the scholar and said that he had been passing by and was impressed with the determination of the scholar to build the Madrassah. He handed over an envelope to the scholar saying that it was a meagre donation. Expecting that it was a small amount, the scholar was excited to see a huge sum of money when he opened it.
Soon the project reached its peak with the handsome donation, and the donor contributed a second amount of money to complete the project.
Help the debtors!
Sayyid Nematullahi Al Jazairi says that I looked for a teacher who would teach me and I heard about Allamah Muhammad Baqer Al Majlisi who is the author of the book Bihaarul Anwaar in Isfahaan. I went to him and he taught me and took great care of me as if I was one of his children.
We in the course of our stay with each other had promised that whoever out of us died first would come in the dream of the other and relate about the world Hereafter.
Sayyid Jazairi says that he stayed with Allamah Majlisi for a long time until the Allamah fell sick and died. The funeral procession was an event which showed how respected he was.
Shortly after his death, Sayyid Jazairi went to the graveyard and sat and recited verses of the Holy Qur’an for him and cried in his remembrance of him and as a result fell asleep. In his dream, he saw Allamah Majlisi richly dressed and apparently in good condition.
Sayyid Jazairi remembered that Allamah had died and so asked him what happened to him when he was put in the grave. The Allamah replied that as soon as he was buried he was addressed by a voice which asked him what he had brought of good deeds in the world hereafter. The Allamah mentioned various deeds that he had performed but the voice was not satisfied and asked repeatedly.
The Allamah was terrified, and as he pondered he remembered an act of charity. He related that once as he was walking in the streets of Isfahan, he saw a poor old man being harassed by many pedestrians. The Allamah felt pity on the poor man and decided to gather courage to confront the crowd.
When he asked the crowd of people about the reason for their harassment, they replied that the poor man owed them all some amounts of money. The Allamah asked them to stop the harassment and to follow him to his house so that he would pay them the amount which the poor man owed them.
When the Allamah had related this event, a door to heaven was opened for him and so many blessings were showered for him. (Jamiul Qasas Lil Redha Kadhimi Page 99)
Use of Turban!
It is related that Muqaddas Ardabili who was a very great scholar in the tenth A.H., was a man of great piety and good morals. Ardabili used to donate so much food to the needy during famines that he often was left with very little food for himself.
People often used to gift him with expensive shawls with which turbans were worn. When he wore these expensive turbans and came across poor people, he would remove his turban and cut a meter or two of the expensive shawl like cloth and give it to the poor. In this way he repeated this act several times and when he would come home he would often be left with a mere piece of cloth. It has been said that it was for this reason that he wore very big turbans. (Mustadrak Al Wasail Page 392-393, Aqaid Al Shia Page 298)
It has been related that a great scholar called Allama Shaheed Sayyid Abdu Sahib Al-Hakim, once received a big sum of money as charity, the amount totalling up to twenty thousand dinars. The Allamah at once set to put various sums of money into envelopes and wrote the names of numerous people on the envelope. He would put hundred dinars in some and two hundred in others, until he completed dividing the money.
The man who relates this incident says that the Allamah then told him to accompany him and as they came up to the house of a person the narrator was told to knock the door, while the Allamah stood a distance away. As soon as the door was opened the narrator threw the envelope and they hurried away with the Allamah.
In this way all the money was distributed in one night while the Allamah didn’t keep anything for himself. (Kitaab Al Najafiat Page 175)
I will not consume the Kababs!
Sheikh Fadhil Al Muwahhidi, relates that he had the opportunity of accompanying the great Marja of Islam, called Sayyid Al Burujardi who died in the year 1370 A.H., to the hot springs situated in the city of Mahallat, which are known to be the cure of bones and muscles, as the great Marja was complaining of pain in the legs.
Sheikh Fadhil says that they remained in that city for a short time, and when the people came to know that their Marja was residing in their city as a guest, they warmly welcomed him and it became obvious that most of the people were very poor.
The Marja on appraising the situation asked Sheikh Fadhil to buy cattle and have them slaughtered so as to distribute the meat to the poor. Sheikh Fadhil carried out the order and as the meat was distributed, a bit of the meat was set aside and delicious Kabaabs or broiled meat were cooked and put in front of the Marja.
The Marja only drank some milk with bread and cucumbers, and ignored the kabaabs completely. When he was asked the reason for his action he said that how could he consume the kabaabs when the poor people were not offered the same. As a result all the kabaabs were distributed amongst the poor. (Mardare Ilm Dar Miaane Ali, Page 212)
Charity even in the state of grief!
It has been related by Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Al Husayni Al Milaani, that Sayyid Abdullah Al Shiraazi once told him that a young scholar in the city of Najaf once came to the great Marja Sayyid Abil Hassan Al Isfahani, and asked him to give him some money as a help to get married.
The great Marja promised to help him the next day. Now it so happened that within that day the great Marja’s son was assassinated while praying behind his father in the congregational prayer. This incident is famous and well known in Najaf.
The following day during the burial ceremony, the great Marja was seen to be looking around as if searching for someone. His followers thought that he was mentally disturbed since it was an odd behaviour potrayed by the Marja as it was a time of poignant sadness for the Sayyid at the sad demise of his son.
As he kept looking around they saw him calling somebody, and found a young man approaching the Marja and they then saw the Marja give a bag of gold coins to the young man as he had promised to do so, and did not forget this even though he was surrounded with grief. (Qasas Wal Khawatir Page 157)
The Expensive Cloak!
One of the followers of Sheikh Murtaza Ansaari gifted him an expensive winter cloak whose color quality and material was indeed extra ordinary. The Sheikh wore the cloak on the first day to the mosque, but it was observed by the man who had given him the cloak that the next day the Sheikh wore his old ordinary cloak.
When the disciple asked him the reason for not wearing the cloak which he had gifted to the Sheikh, the Sheikh replied that he didn’t feel comfortable wearing the cloak, while so many people around him were poor, so he had sold the cloak and bought about twelve ordinary winter cloaks and given them to the poor people. (Al Mubaligh Al Risaali Page 32)
He sold his own house to publish a book!
Sheikh Jawaad Al Balaghi An-Najafi was an author of great prowess, who discussed and debated with people of various faiths: the Jews, Christians, Marxists and even atheists who believed that the world has come about through coincidence.
A man of such great talents used to live in great poverty, in a poor house, his bed made of palm leaves. It is related that the extent of his poverty was so great that when he wanted to publish his writings, he had no money, and thus had to sell his own house.
This shows how our scholars sacrificed their basic necessities just so as to spread the religion of Allah. (Aalame Barzakh Page 210)
Closeness to Prophet (S)
Mullah Muhammad Taqi Al Barghani who is commonly known as the ‘Third Martyr’ related that his father saw in his dream the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) surrounded by so many Scholars of Islam.
However, he saw the son of the scholar called Fahad Al Hilli sitting very close to the Prophet (S). Mullah Barghani says that he was surprised to see this when there were other scholars who were greater in calibre, knowledge and their service to Islam who were not sitting so close to the Holy Prophet (S).
Mullah Barghani’s father asked the Prophet (S) the reason for this, and the Prophet replied that it was because all the scholars surrounding him used to give charity when they possessed something, but if they didn’t have any property they didn’t give anything to the person who was begging or in need. However the son of Fahad Al Hilli used to give in charity despite not possessing anything extra, and used to sacrifice his personal belongings in order to fulfil other people’s needs. This gave him a higher degree of proximity to the Prophet. (Mardaane Ilm Dar Amal Page 228)
Under the Mattress!
Al-Hajj Muhammad Hassan Shaukat who lived in Isfahan relates that he heard from one of the relatives of Sheikh Baid Abaadi that the former used to be a servant of Sheikh Baid Abaadi.
He used to be sent on a daily basis to a friend of the Sheikh who used to sell perfumes and was called Al Haj Sayyid Musa to get some money, some few Riyals. Sheikh Abaadi used to distribute this money amongst the needy. The Sheikh used to keep the money under a mattress under his feet, and when ever he was approached by the poor and destitute, he would extend his hand under the mattress and come out with a few coins.
The nephew of the Sheikh relates that he used to often visit his uncle when in need and he found out that what the Sheikh gave him was less than what he gave to others. When he enquired his uncle, he was told by his uncle that the latter didn’t decide what to give to various people, rather he only extended his hand under the mattress and gave out what came in his fist.
Many people kept the coins given to them, since it was believed that the coins were blessed. (Qasas Al Ajeeba Li Dastghib Page 405)