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LAWS & RULES PERTAINING TO GIFTS

Shaikh Saud al Shuraim

Allah, the All Wise, the Omniscient, blesses what is few and little turning it into a spacious sea or a flowing river. With His endless power, He may eliminate what is enormous reducing it to scattered ashes that are blown away by the wind. Allah says which translates as:

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures needs, All-Knower (Al-Baqarah:261)

Whenever one thinks of the memories of past glory and eminence, one never doubts the fact that the spirit of Muslims have witnessed a definite decline and that feelings of amity and friendliness are at a low ebb. Thereupon, the heart becomes saddened and any selfishness in the heart goes away. Past egotistical notions of oneself recede. An egotist cannot feel empathy for his brothers in Islam; his egotism constricts him to a narrow area wherein he can only see himself. As a result, he augments his own importance and belittles others, blinded by arrogance, greed, and the love of himself. Hence, he becomes one of the worst people in the eyes of Allah, of whom no good is to be expected and whose evil is difficult to guard against.

Therefore, Muslims desperately need to reunite and remain united so that people would grow more amicable. After seeking Allah help, a gift best accomplishes this goal, it encourages amity in people, appeases whoever is outraged, conciliates kings, wins over loved ones and avoids what is hateful. A gift dispels rancor from the heart. A gift is like magic, captivating hearts and planting in them feelings of love and amicability. Apart from that, it is a sign of veneration and reverence. To put it briefly, it wins hearts, without any deception. One should not really be surprised, for the Arabic word for gift is Hadiyah which is derived from Huda, meaning guidance. So it is, as if a gift guides ones heart to amiability and friendliness.

The concept of gift giving involves giving an item to another in exchange for nothing. If the gift is given to a poor with the intention of helping him in need only to seek the reward of Allah, it becomes a charity. If not, it is a gift and it is lawful to exchange gifts among Muslims in accordance with the Prophets words (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam):

Exchange gifts so that you may love one. (Mufrad and Al-Baihaqi)

It is reported that the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), said:

Exchange gifts, for a gift dispels rancor from the heart (At-Tirmizi)

The exchange of gifts between the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), and his Sahaabah (Companions) is well known and established in the authentic Prophetic Tradition (Sunnah). Besides, the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) encouraged Muslims to accept gifts. He hated to reject a gift for no legitimate reason, no matter how little or trivial it was. He said:

I shall accept the gift even if it were an arm or a trotter of a sheep (Bukhari)

It is also reported that Hadhrat Um Hakim Al Khuzaeyah asked:

Would you hate to turn down a hoof, Allahs Messenger?

He answered:

How insignificant is a hoof (trotter) I would never slight a present, even if I were presented with trotters. I would accept them. (At-Tabarani)

It is also reported that Allahs messenger (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), said: O Muslim women! None of you should look down upon the gift sent by her neighbor even if it were the trotters of the sheep (fleshless part of legs). (Al-Bukhari)

Hence, the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) urges Muslims to accept gifts, even if they were small, as this causes people to grow more friendly and amicable. They are to accept gifts even if they are little, as abundance may not necessarily be always available. Besides, the huge ocean is made out of tiny drops of water. Moreover, a gift from an amicable person is never regarded as small as it brings about amity and disperses affection.

The Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) further explains that a present is not to be rejected, if it is one of three things. He said:

Three gifts are not to be turned down: cushions, perfume and milk. (At-Tirmizi)

The lesson to be drawn here, is that a prudent person should offer his close kindred and neighbors the gifts he can afford so as to seek their love. If what he can afford is but a small thing he is not to hold it back, as this teaches one miserliness. One then becomes no longer able to distinguish between abundance and shortage. Besides, people by nature love benevolence and hate harm. They are inclined to befriend whoever is generous to them and to hold whoever harms them as the enemy.

Many a time has man been enslaved by generosity, especially as a reply to an offence, be it backbiting or gossiping. Al-Hafiz Ibn Habbaan Al-Basti mentioned that when Imam Abu Hanifah grew famous, one of the people who envied him said:

We used to be constricted by far less limits and restrictions before we were afflicted with supporters of this deducer of logic (i.e. Abu Hanifah).

When Imam Abu Hanifah learned of that, he sent him a gift.

A gift can indeed dispel enmity and wipe out insults. Hence, we have discussed the advantages, the legal status, and the effects of the gift. However, scholars divided gifts into lawful and unlawful gifts. Therefore, if seems expedient at this point to briefly refer to some of the mistakes that a community may make, on the social and professional levels, as well as concerning everyday aspects of life, as regards prohibited gifts, which many may not be aware of and which idiots may deliberately ignore. Among the prohibited gifts is that which Shaikh Ibne Taimiyah mentioned, namely that if a Muslim intercedes with people in authority on behalf of someone, he is not to accept a gift from him in return for his intercession, according to the righteous predecessors and great scholars of Islam. This is supported by the Prophets  (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) saying:

Whoever intercedes on behalf of his brother then accepts a present from him in return has committed an act of usury. (Abu Dawood)

This is because intercession is recommended and accepting a gift in return for it renders it in vain. Besides, usury eliminates lawful money. However, it is not unlawful to hire someone to do a certain job in return for some money. This is a form of hiring that is permitted when conducted according to lawful conditions.

Therefore, a judge is forbidden to accept a present offered to him on account of being a judge. The Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said:

May Allahs curse be on the one who offers the bribe and the judge who accepts it. (Ahmad & At-Tirmizi)

However, if the one offering the gift is in the habit of giving the judge gifts even before his assuming his post, the latter is permitted to accept it in that case, unless the former has a lawsuit being considered by the judge.

Moreover, among the prohibited gifts in that offered by parents to some of their children to the exclusion of others, as this is a glaring case of discrimination and disparity. Some parents are biased in favor of one of their children because of his or her having better manners or showing kindness to parents and so they choose to reward him or her with a gift, while   neglecting the other children. However, Allah, exalted be He, says which translates:

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-Acquainted with what you do. (Al-Maaidah:8)

Hadhrat Numan bin Bashir related that his father took him to Allahs Messenger (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) and said:

I have given this son of mine a slave.

The Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) asked:

Have you given all your sons the like?

He replied in the negative. The Prophet said:

Take back your gift then. (Al-Bukhari)

It is also reported:

Do not ask me to bear witness for I do not hear witness to an unjust act. (Muslim)

And at another place it is narrated that the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) is reported to have said:

Would it not please you to have them all be equally kind to you?. (Ahmad)

However, as an exception to the rule, a parent may give a present to only one of his children for a legitimate reason, such as if one of them is afflicted with poverty, disease or any such calamity.

Among the prohibited gifts are those given to witnesses in courts of law in return for their testimony. When one is summoned to testify, he then claims to be unable to recall what he is asked about. However, his memory is instantly refreshed upon seeing the present. What a splendid reminder! Such unscrupulous people did not know that testifying in courts in an obligation as Allah, exalted is He says which translates as:

And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called on) for evidence). (Al-Baqarah:282)

Allah says:

and if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, then let there be a pledge taken (mortgaging); then if one of you entrust the other, let the one who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully), and let him be afraid of Allah, his Lord And conceal not the evidence for he, who hides it, surely his heart is sinful. And Allah is All-knower of what you do. (Al- Baqarah:283)

Another type of prohibited gifts are those offered in return for relinquishing one of Allahs rights or for accepting what is unlawful. Allah has mentioned a similar case in the story of the Queen of Sheba when she offered Solomon a present:

..... I am going send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors. (An-Naml:35)

Hadhrat Qataadah comments:

How prudent she was both before and after she embraced Islam. She was aware that present would have an unmistakable effect on people.

She said: If he accepts the gift, he is a king, so fight him. Yet, if he does not, he is a prophet, so follow him:

So when (the messengers with the present) same to Solomon, he said: Will you help me in wealth? What Allah has given me is better than that which He has given you! Nay, you rejoice in your gift!

(An-Naml:36) Solomon said denouncingly:

Are you bribing me with money to let you linger in disbelief?

Among the prohibited gifts are those offered to a man hired by the authorities to meet peoples needs. He is not allowed to accept gifts which people are offered him to get closer to him. Had he stayed home, people would never have offered him any. Such gifts are therefore prohibited.

It is equally forbidden to offer prohibited items for gifts such as musical instruments and things of that sort, prohibited statues and pictures, or things that would bring about evil and stand in the way of good, such as satellite dishes and such devices, which are a true calamity that has befallen the Muslim communities eliminating whatever good traits they have left in them.

Similarly, presenting gifts on occasions celebrated by the disbelievers such as, the mothers day etc. Such habits are of the disbelievers and are sugarcoated with false claims of love, conciliation, benevolence, maintaining family bonds and so on. This is all prohibited, as it is a form of imitating the disbelievers. The Prophet, (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), said:

Whoever imitates a nation becomes one of them. (Ahmad and Abu Dawood)

Likewise, there is an old saying that goes:

Birds of a feather flock together.

Among the prohibited gifts is that curse that has befallen many communities, namely, the bribe, to which has been given various names names that dupe the naive and please the unscrupulous. Unfortunately, it has managed to spread the way fire spreads in a forest. It has ruined many consciences and turned employees against their employers. They now offer a service only to those who pay well. Those who do not, never stand a chance. People nowadays have to deal with greedy monsters who never seem to get enough, however, such jobs were originally built on maintaining justice among people so that security would spread. Any employee who asks for or accepts a bribe violates security and upsets the regime. The one who offers and the one who accepts bribe are criminals; the former pays the price of impairing justice, whereas the latter is paid for violating security. The money that he takes is certainly ill-gotten, as it eliminates the Shariah on which justice among people stands, it is only natural therefore for the Prophet, (peace can blessings be upon him), to curse them saying:

May Allahs curse be on the one who pays and the one who accepts a bribe. (Ibne Maajah)

May Allahs peace and blessings be on Prophet Muhammad.
 

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