Seeking the Best Action for Reward
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri reports that a Bedouin asked the Prophet about immigrating. The Prophet told him: “It is too hard.” He then asked him: “Do you have camels and you pay zakat for them?” The man answered in the affirmative. The Prophet said: “Then do your work, even overseas, for God will not diminish your reward in any way.”
(Related by Al-Bukhari).
When Madinah opened up for Islam, where it found broad acceptance among its people, the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed his companions in Makkah to immigrate to Madinah. He had been preaching the message of Islam in Makkah for 13 years, gaining about 300 followers. The leading Arabian tribe in Makkah, the Quraysh, largely rejected Islam, and was able to impose a state of siege against its followers.
To counter this state of siege, the Prophet addressed different Arabian tribes when they came over to Makkah for pilgrimage. Year after year he did this, until he found the right response from the pilgrims who came from Yathrib, which was later to be renamed as Madinah. Within two years, Islam spread well among the people of Madinah so as to make the city ready to receive the Muslims of Makkah as brethren in faith. At the time, the Prophet made it clear that this immigration for the sake of their faith was their best action by means of which they hoped to be worthy of heaven. Some Muslims from other areas wanted to join this to serve their faith.
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri reports that a Bedouin asked the Prophet about immigrating. The Prophet told him: “It is too hard.” He then asked him: “Do you have camels and you pay zakat for them?” The man answered in the affirmative. The Prophet said: “Then do your work, even overseas, for God will not diminish your reward in any way.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
The Bedouin expressed his desire to join the Prophet and the Muslim community in Madinah, because he learned that the reward granted for it is great indeed. We are, at first sight, surprised that the Prophet did not encourage him to do so. Instead, he said to him that it was too hard. The difference in this case is that the immigration to Madinah was limited to urban people, such as the people of Makkah. Bedouins would have found it too hard. They are used to the nomadic life of the desert, moving constantly from place to place. Hence, it was not required of them.
Most Suited for the Situation
The man must have felt upset as he appeared to be eager to serve the cause of Islam. Yet it was not the sort of life he could tolerate for long, particularly because the Muslims of Madinah were called upon to mobilize and raise armies time after time, as other tribes and communities wanted to crush Islam. The Prophet did not want the man to go away feeling depressed. Therefore, he asked him whether he raised camels and paid the zakat due on them. He answered in the affirmative. The Prophet told him to continue this work, which was most suited for his situation. It did not matter where he lived, even overseas. Far from Madinah and the Muslim community as he might be, God would not diminish his reward in anyway. The only condition is that he should pay zakat on his earning, be they in the form of livestock or any other form.
Engaged in Earning a Living
The Hadith tells us that zakat is due on all earnings, including raising livestock, farming or salaried employment. Each type of earning has its own rates, but zakat is payable by Muslims to the eight categories of beneficiaries defined by God. The Hadith also highlights the importance of working for living. The Bedouin raised camels, but whoever is engaged in earning their living receive their reward for doing so, if they ensure that their means of earning are legitimate, and they pay their zakat and charity. We also understand from this Hadith that such work, coupled with the payment of its dues, is equivalent to the immigration to Madinah. This is particularly important because that immigration ended in year 8 of the Islamic calendar, when Makkah fell to Islam.