Chapter XX (b)
Liberality (جود) and Generrosity (سخا)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
السخي قريب من الله قريب من الجنة بعيد من النار والبخيل قريب من النار و بعيد من الجنة
“The generous is close to Allah and Paradise and away from Hell. The avarice is in the proximity of Hell and away from Paradise.”
The theologians opine that liberality (جود) and generosity (سخا), when regarded as human attributes, are synonymous. But Allah may be called liberal (جواد) but not generous (سخي) because He has called Himself by the former name and not by the later, and generous (سخي) has also not been used in any of the Hadith (traditions). All orthodox Muslims are agreed that it is not allowable to apply any name to Allah that is not proclaimed in Quran and the Sunnah, e.g. He may be called Alim عالم (knowing) but not Aqil عاقل (intelligent) or Faqih فقيه (wise), although three terms bear the same signification. We call Him Alim عالم (knowing) because He has used this word for Himself and we refrain from using other two words as He has not used them for Himself. Similarly we call Him Jawad جواد (Liberal) and not Sakhi سخي (generous).
Some people differentiate between liberality (جود) and generosity (سخا), for they are of the view that generous discriminates in his liberality and his actions are connected with selfish motives and causes. This is an elementary stage in liberality. The Jawad جواد (liberal man) does not discriminate and his actions are devoid of selfish motives and any secondary cause. These two qualities were exhibited by two Prophets, viz., Abraham, the Friend of Allah (may blessings of Allah be on him), and Muhammad (peace be upon him), the beloved of Allah.
It is said that Abraham (may blessings of Allah be on him) was accustomed not to eat anything until a guest came to him. Once, three days passed and no guest turned to him. Ultimately a fire worshipper appeared at his door. When the visitor disclosed his identity, Abraham denied his hospitality to him and the visitor left without any entertainment from him. Allah reproached Abraham on this account and said that he could not give a loaf of bread to one whom He had nourished for seventy years?” But Muhammad (peace be upon him), when the son of Hatim visited him, spread his own sheet on the ground for him and said,
اذا اتاكم كريم قوم فاكر موه
“honor the generous person of a tribe when he comes to you.”
The one who discriminated in generosity abstained from giving a loaf of bread but who did not, he laid mantle of his Prophethood for an infidel. Abraham’s position was generosity, but Muhammad (peace be upon him) was placed at maqam (station) of liberality (جود). The best rule in this matter is set forth in the maxim that liberality consists in following one's first thought, and that it is a sign of avarice when the second thought prevails over the first. The desirous prefer the first thought, for it is unquestionably from Allah.
There was a merchant at Nishapur who used to regularly visit Sheikh Abu Said. One day Sheikh asked him charity for some dervish. The merchant narrated that at that time he had one dinar and a small silver coin and in the first instance he thought to give dinar but then second thought prevailed to give silver coin and he gave that to the dervish. When the Sheikh got free the merchant asked him whether it was right for anyone to contend with Allah. The Sheikh answered, “You contended with Allah: He bade you to give the dinar, but you gave the silver coin.”
Once Sheikh Abu Abdullah Rudbari came to the house of a disciple in his absence, and ordered that all the belongings in the house should be sold out. When the disciple returned he felt happy and for the delight of Sheikh did not utter a single word. In the meantime his wife also came and when she saw all that went inside the house and removed her dress. She gave the dress to her husband and said that it also belonged to the house hold effects and should be treated in the same manner. The husband warned her that she by her own will was doing more than what was commanded. The woman replied that what the Sheikh did was a result of his liberality and we too must exert ourselves to display our liberality. The husband although agreed with her said that since they had surrendered themselves to Sheikh, so whatever the Sheikh had done was their liberality (جود).
The liberality is figured in one’s attributes. A disciple always ought to sacrifice his property and self in obedience to the command of Allah. Hence Sahl b. Abdullah said,
الصوفي دمه هدر و ملكه مباح
“the Sufi blood may be shed with impunity, and his property maybe seized.”
Sheikh Abu Muslim Farisi narrated that:
Once I set out with a group of people for Hijaz. In the suburbs of Hulwan we were attacked by Kurds, who stripped us off our patched frocks. We instead of fighting started consoling them. One man among us became greatly excited, whereupon a Kurd drew his sword and tried to kill him. We intervened and pleaded the Kurd to spare his life. The Kurd said that sparing such a liar was not at all lawful and he must be killed. When I asked him the reason he said that the man was not a genuine Sufi, a pretender among the Sufis and it was better that such person might not exist. On my further inquiry he replied:
“The lowest degree of a Sufi is to act liberality (جود). This fellow was so desperately attached to these rags that he quarreled with his friends, how could he be a Sufi? We are your friends. Since long time we have been performing your task, and plundering you and liberating you from the worldly encumbrances.”
Once, Abdullah b. Jafar (may Allah be pleased with him) was passing through a spring of a grazing field. He observed a black slave watching over a herd of goats. A dog came and sat near him. The slave threw a loaf of bread before him which he ate, then he threw the second bread and after some time he threw the third bread before the dog. Abdullah came to him and asked about his daily ration. The slave told him that it was three breads. On Abdullah’s quest that why he had given his whole ration to the dog, the slave said, “The dogs are not inhabited here. I don’t know that from how far has he come in search of bread and I did not like that his effort is wasted” Abdullah liked his gesture and after buying him along with herd, handed over all to him and also freed him from the chains of slavery. The slave prayed for him and after giving every thing in charity left that place.
A man came to the house of Hasan b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and said that he owed four hundred dirham. Hasan gave him four hundred dirham and went into the house, weeping. They asked him why he wept. He answered, “had I not neglected that much, he might have been saved from humiliation of begging.”
Abu Sahl Saluki never put alms into the hands of a beggar, but always used to lay alms on the ground so that needy might pick it up. He used to say, “worldly goods are too worthless to be placed in the hand of a Muslim, so that my hand should be the upper and his lower.”
Once king of Abyssinia sent huge measure of musk to Prophet (peace be upon him). He dissolved the complete quantity in the water and rubbed it on himself and companions.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) related that once a person came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he gifted him a valley filled with herds of goats. When the man reached back to his tribe, he pleaded them to become Muslims, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was so generous that at the time of giving he was not debarred by any thought of hunger or poverty.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) related that once Prophet (peace be upon him) received eighty thousands dirham. He laid them on the sheet and did not leave that place until he had distributed the whole money.
Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said that once he saw Prophet (peace be upon him) who had tied stones on his stomach because of hunger.
I once met a dervish to whom a Sultan had sent gold pieces of worth three hundred dirham. He along with the gold went to a bath house and distributed it to the people present there.
I have already discussed the subject of liberality in the chapter on preference while disseminating the doctrine of the Nuris.