The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “I wonder at the position of a believer, because it all ends up well for him. If he meets with adversity, he is patient and that is good for him; and if he meets with good fortune, he is thankful to God and that is good for him. This is only true for a believer.”
Prophets (peace be upon them) generally cared little for money. Jesus in particular is often mentioned as the one who cared least for worldly possessions of any sort. This may be so, as he sought to change a prevalent social perception that attached great importance to wealth and material things. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) also stressed on the fact that this world is transitory and that nothing of it is worth caring much about. Whatever one misses or gains does not affect one’s position with God, except in the way the person concerned uses such a miss or gain. Any situation can be turned to loss or advantage. The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “I wonder at the position of a believer, because it all ends up well for him. If he meets with adversity, he is patient and that is good for him; and if he meets with good fortune, he is thankful to God and that is good for him. This is only true for a believer.”
When we speak about the Prophet’s teachings, we must realise that he was always the first to apply what he recommends and the first to refrain from what he points out as undesirable. Needless to say, he was always exemplary in doing what is obligatory and refraining from what is forbidden. So, when he speaks of worldly gains and pleasures as transitory, we would expect that he disregarded these. We should make clear, however, that the Prophet did not encourage an attitude of despising material comforts or gains. He realised that such an attitude is unnatural. He only taught that these should not be given overdue importance. No principle should be ever sacrificed in order to achieve a material gain. The reverse should be the case: the material gain should be abandoned in order to preserve one’s principles.
The Prophet (Pbuh) recognised the importance of money and that people loved to have plenty of it. He did not discourage that, but he told them that money should be used for what is good, and that they should be charitable with it whenever the occasion arises. He himself was the most generous of all people. His companions describe him in these words: “The Prophet was most generous, and his generosity was most evident in Ramadan”.
“When Ramadan came, his right hand was more generous with what is good than unrestrained wind.” This is a very expressive image of giving to all, without looking to hold anything in reserve. This picture is confirmed by many of the Prophet’s companions.
His generosity knew no limit. Hazrat Bilal, who was, in modern day usage, the Prophet’s financial administrator, said that when a clearly poor person came to the Prophet, Bilal would take him, on the Prophet’s instructions, and buy him clothes and food. As the Prophet had no money of his own or for the state, Bilal would borrow money for the purpose.
Someone who was an idolater encouraged Bilal not to borrow from anyone other than him, as he would like to help and he had sufficient funds. When Bilal had borrowed a few times from him, he gave Bilal notice to repay him by the end of the month, i.e. within four days, or else he would take him back into slavery and force him to work as a sheep tender. Bilal mentioned this to the Prophet at night, but before the dawn prayer was due, i.e. less than 9 hours later, the Prophet sent someone to call him, and Bilal found by the door of the mosque four mounts fully laden with clothes and food. The Prophet told him to sell everything, including the mounts, and repay his debtors. When Bilal did this and repaid everyone, he reported to the Prophet that he had two dinars left, the Prophet told him: “Well, make sure to rid me of them, because I am not going to see anyone of my family until you have done so.” Bilal could not find any poor person to whom he could give the money that night. The Prophet spent the night and most of the following day in the mosque, until the money was finally spent on two poor persons.
The timely arrival of those four mounts, loaded with clothes and food, ensured that the Prophet repaid all his creditors. As is clear in this Hadith, all the money borrowed was to feed and clothe very poor people, who almost went naked as they had nothing to put on. People were ready to lend the Prophet for two reasons: the first is that they loved him and would do anything for him, and the other because they knew they would be repaid. However, that unbeliever tried to play a trick giving money and then all of a sudden demanding immediate repayment and threatening to enslave Bilal if he did not pay up. When Bilal was worried, knowing that the Prophet had nothing to repay the man with, a way out is opened with the arrival of the four mounts, a gift sent to the Prophet by the chief of Fadak, a town in northern Arabia.
We note how the Prophet used the gift. He first ensured that all creditors were paid. Nothing was owed to anyone. When he realised that a couple of dinars were left, he wanted to give them away. It was his way of expressing gratitude to God for removing this difficulty that neither he nor anyone in his household should receive a direct gain by it. It was all spent for a good cause.
The Prophet could have told Bilal to keep the money for future needs, as these were always happening, with the Prophet’s companions mostly poor. Still, he did not want that. In fact he wanted to make sure that it was given to charity without delay. He feared that his death might occur and the money was still with him.
He did not ever suggest that money was not good. Nor did he ever encourage people to remain poor. When he visited Saad during his illness, he told him: “To leave your children well off is better than to leave them in poverty, looking up to other people for help.” In this case, however, God’s gift was meant to repay his charity to others, and repay his debts. Therefore, what was left of it should be spent straight away.