On the generosity of Imam Reza

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SHAFAQNA - Eleisha ibn Hamza says: “I was once talking to Imam Reza (as), when a large crowd of people assembled to ask him about what is permissible in Islam and what is not. A man as tall as Adam came to him and said:

“As-Salamu Alaykum, O Son of the Messenger of Allah! I am a man who loves you, your fathers and grandfathers, and I have just been on my way to perform the pilgrimage (Ziyarah) when I discovered that I had lost everything with me and now I do not have anything enough even for a leg of the trip. If you will, please help me with the expense of going back home, and I am a recipient of God’s blessing (i.e., well to do). As soon as I reach there, I will give to the poor as much as you will give me, for I do not qualify to be a recipient of alms.”

Imam Reza (as) said to him: “Sit, may God be merciful to you,” then he kept talking to people till they dispersed except that man, Sulaiman al-Ja’fari, Khuthai’ama and myself. Then Imam Reza (as) said: ‘Do you permit me to enter (the room)?’ Sulaiman said to him: ‘May God advance your endeavour.’ So he entered the room and stayed for about an hour after which he came out and closed the door behind him, stretched his hand above the door and said: ‘Where is the man from Khorasan?’

The man answered: ‘Here I am!’ Imam Reza (as) said: ‘Take these two hundred dinars, use them for your preparations for the trip; may God bring you blessings thereby, and do not spend an equal amount to it on my behalf, and leave the room in a way that I do not see you and you do not see me,’ then he left. Sulaiman then said: ‘May my life be sacrificed for yours! You have made quite a generous offer, but why did you hide your face?’ Imam Reza (as) answered: ‘I did so for fear of seeing the humiliation on the face of the man due to my assistance for him.’

Have you not heard the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah, in which he said: ‘The one who hides a good deeds receives rewards equal to performing the pilgrimage (Hajj) seventy times; one who announces his sin is humiliated, while one who hides it is forgiven’?

Have you heard the saying of the example of the first case: Whenever I approach him, with a plea, I return home and my dignity is still with me.

Then he hides himself from the person who appeals to him when he gives him something so that he does not see the humiliation on his face, and so that the pleading person retains his dignity when he does not see the face of the benevolent one who is giving him?

Imam Reza (as) asks him to leave without seeing him in order to safeguard himself against feeling as having the upper hand over the pleading person, and in order to relieve the pleading person from having to show his gratitude to him.

While in Khorasan, Imam Reza (as) once distributed his entire wealth to the poor on the day of Arafat, so Al-Fadl ibn Sahl, the Prime Minister during Mamoon Rashid’s reign said to him: “Now you are bankrupt!” Imam Reza (as) said: “On the contrary! I am now wealthier than ever. Do not consider trading my wealth for God’s rewards and pleasure as bankruptcy.”

Imam Reza (as) does not give others in order to buy their affection or friendship; rather, he considers giving with generosity as a good trait whereby man gets nearer to his Maker, Allah by including His servants in the wealth with which He blessed him. This is the difference between his method of giving and the method of others.

Ya’qub ibn Ishaq al-Nawbakhti is quoted saying:

“A man passed by Imam Reza (as) and begged him to give him according to the extent of his kindness. Imam Reza (as) said: ‘I cannot afford that.’ So he said: ‘Then give me according to mine,’ whereupon he ordered his servant to give the man two hundred dinars.”

The reason why Imam Reza (as) abstained from giving the man according to the extent of his own kindness, as the man asked him the first time, is probably due to the fact that he simply did not have as much money as he liked to give. As regarding his own affection towards the poor and the indigent, and his way of looking after them.

Mu’ammar ibn Khallad narrates this anecdote:

“Whenever Imam Reza (as) was about to eat his meal, he would bring a large platter and select the choicest food on the table and put on it, then he would order it to be given away to the poor. After that he would recite the following verse: ‘But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.’ After that he would say: ‘God, the Exalted and the Sublime, knows that not everyone has the ability to free a slave, nevertheless He found means for them to achieve Paradise (by feeding others).'”

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