The Thirty Third Narration
Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:
أن رجلا أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فبعث إلى نسائه فقلن ما معنا إلا الماء فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من يضم أو يضيف هذا فقال رجل من الأنصار أنا فانطلق به إلى امرأته فقال أكرمي ضيف رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالت ما عندنا إلا قوت صبياني فقال هيئي طعامك وأصبحي سراجك ونومي صبيانك إذا أرادوا عشاء فهيأت طعامها وأصبحت سراجها ونومت صبيانها ثم قامت كأنها تصلح سراجها فأطفأته فجعلا يريانه أنهما يأكلان فباتا طاويين فلما أصبح غدا إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال ضحك الله الليلة أو عجب من فعالكما فأنزل الله ويؤثرون على أنفسهم ولو كان بهم خصاصة ومن يوق شح نفسه فأولئك هم المفلحون
A man came to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent a messenger to his wives (to bring something for that man to eat) but they said that they had nothing except water. Then Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Who will take this (person) or entertain him as a guest?”
An Ansari man said, “I.” So he took him to his wife and said to her, “Entertain generously the guest of Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam”
She said, “We have nothing except the meals of my children.”
He said, “Prepare your meal, light your lamp, and let your children sleep if they ask for supper.”
So she prepared her meal, lit her lamp, and made her children sleep, and then stood up pretending to mend her lamp, but she put it off. Then both of them pretended to be eating, but they really went to bed hungry.
In the morning the Ansari went to Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who said, “Tonight Allah was pleased with your action.”
Then Allah revealed: “But give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.”
This narration has been recorded in al Adab of al Bukhari. He has recorded the same in his Sahih as well. Imam Muslim has recorded it and has specified the man to be Abu Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Commentary and Lessons Learnt from this Narration:
1. The virtue of Abu Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his wife due to the following:
a. Revelation of Qur’an regarding them.
b. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala heaped praises upon them for giving others preference over themselves and as being successful.
c. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala being pleased with their act.
d. Hosting the guest of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despite being in dire straits.
e. Supplication for mercy on their behalf.
2. The lives of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, his family, and Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were sparse to say the least.
3. The love the Ansar had for the Muhajirin and the preference they gave to them can be understood from this narration. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala praised them in the Qur’an thus:
وَالَّذِيْنَ تَبَوَّءُوا الدَّارَ وَالْإِيْمَانَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ يُحِبُّوْنَ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَا يَجِدُوْنَ فِيْ صُدُوْرِهِمْ حَاجَةً مِّمَّا أُوْتُوْا وَيُؤْثِرُوْنَ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ وَمَنْ يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُوْنَ
And [also for] those who were settled in al Madinah and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.
4. Giving preference to others forms part of the characteristics of a believer.
5. Preparing meals and taking care of one’s guest is nobility in its purest form.
6. This refutes the belief of the Batiniyyah Shia who claim that the Ansar secretly hated Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. How could any sane man honour the guest of the one he hates? This narration is found in their books too! This Ansari did only honour the guest of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he and his family slept hungry preferring to feed the guest of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Now… any person of even a mediocre intellect will attest that this is love and can never be hatred.
7. Question: If we say the verse revealed was specifically regarding Abu Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, then why is the plural form used?
Answer: This could referring to Abu Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his wife thus utilizing the plural or due to other similar incidents of preferring others to themselves. Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates the following:
أراد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أن يقطع من البحرين فقالت الأنصار حتى تقطع لإخواننا من المهاجرين مثل الذي تقطع لنا قال سترون بعدي أثرة فاصبروا حتى تلقوني
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam decided to grant a portion of (the uncultivated land of) Bahrain to the Ansar. The Ansar said, “(We will not accept it) till you give a similar portion to our Muhajir brothers (from Quraysh).”
He said, “(O Ansar!) You will soon see people giving preference to others, so remain patient till you meet me (on the Day of Resurrection).”
8. Question: The general way of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala is to recompense actions with the like thereof. The Ansar are famous for giving preference to others over themselves yet Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is telling them to remain patient as others will be given preference over them. Does this not go against the established?
Answer: Ibn al Qayyim writes:
فتأمل سر التقدير حيث قدر الحكيم الخبير، سبحانه، استئثار الناس على الأنصار بالدنيا -وهم أهل الإيثار- ليجازيهم على إيثارهم إخوانهم في الدنيا على نفوسهم بالمنازل العالية في جنات عدن على الناس. فتظهر حينئذ فضيلة إيثارهم ودرجته ويغبطهم من استأثر عليهم بالدنيا أعظم غبطة. وذلك فضل الله يؤتيه من يشاء والله ذو الفضل العظيم
فإذا رأيت الناس يستأثرون عليك -مع كونك من أهل الإيثار- فاعلم أنه لخير يراد بك. والله سبحانه وتعالى أعلم
Ponder over the hidden treasures of pre-destination. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala—the most Wise, the all Knowing—gave others preference over the Ansar in this world, though they would give others preference over themselves, so that he may raise them to highest stages in the Gardens of Paradise. Those that were given preference over them in this world will envy the preference afforded to them by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in paradise. This is an honour which Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala gives to whomsoever he pleases.
If you, see others been given preference over you, even though you give preference to others, then know great goodness is coming your way. And Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala knows best.
9. The most noble form of giving preference to others is when the one giving is himself in need.
10. If one gives up something for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala will replace him with something much better.
11. The verse in the narration emancipates the hearts of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum from miserliness; a most detestable trait.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 3587.
 Surah al Hashr: 9.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 2248.
 Madarij al Salikin, vol. 2 pg. 217.