What are the manners of giving and receiving gifts according to the Holy Prophet (S)?

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SHAFAQNA- Among the normative conducts of the Messenger of the Holy Prophet (S) is giving and receiving gifts. However, based on the narrations reported from him, exchanging gifts should not be coupled with difficulties and unnecessary efforts for the person himself or others because the purpose of this practice is to create further attachment, love and familiarity. In case, one does not pay attention to the manners of giving gifts, the intended results would not be achieved.

Detailed Answer
Among the recommendations existing in religious doctrines and on which emphasis has been laid is the practice of exchanging gifts. It has to be noted that the practice of giving gifts has a much broader meaning in religious context. Hence, it includes both material and spiritual gifts.  Numerous narrations and accounts have been transmitted from the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, some of which we shall quote as under:
1. “It is noble and kind of a man to accept his Muslim brother’s  gift and give him a gift from what he has and that he does not go to troubles for his sake.” Then he said, “I do not like those who subject themselves to efforts in this regard.”[1]
As per this saying of the Prophet (S), giving gift and receiving gifts are considered to be part of man’s noble and dignified character. The delicate point to which reference has been made is that giving or receiving gift should not be accompanied with effort and difficulty. Hence, when it comes to choosing a gift for someone, it is necessary to take one’s financial means and ability into consideration; otherwise it will be a kind of “effort” which is opposed to the purpose behind exchanging gifts.
2. Imam Baqir (AS) said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) received gift but he would not take sadaqa (charity) and would say, ‘exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another and wiping out lingering enmity’.”[2]
3. Imam Reza (AS) quotes his grandfather that he said: “The Messenger of Allah (S) loved gifts. He liked to receive them and asked for them and made compensation in return.”[3]
4. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his descendants, said: “There are three kinds of gifts: one that is in exchange for another gift, another which is for reconciliation and a third is for God’s pleasure.”[4]
5. The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “If I am invited for “head and hoof soup” which is either of a cow or sheep, I will accept and if they gift me hooves of a cow or sheep, I will accept them.”[5]
The Prophet (S) used ‘cow or sheep hoof’ as an example and he meant that if anyone gifted him something of very little value, he would accept it.
6. The Messenger of Allah said: “Make haste in returning the pot in which you have received gifted meal because (it will cause them not to regret over gifting and) bring you gift once again.”[6]
7. Imam Reza (AS) report from his grandfathers from the Messenger of Allah (S) that he said: “Exchanging gift is good because it is the key to (fulfillment of) wishes.”[7]
It is inferred from the narrations mentioned above that although exchanging gifts is important and the Messenger of Allah (S) recommended it, it is necessary to abide by the manners and conditions which have been mentioned for it, because the purpose for this practice is to create further attachment, love and familiarity.

[1] Tabarsi, Ali bin Hasan, Mishkatul Anwar, p. 219, Haideriyah Library, Najaf, 1385 AH.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, al-Kafi, vol.5, p.141, hadith 1, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1365 (1986).
[5] Saduq, Muhammad bin Ali, Man La Yahzuruhu al-Faqih, vol.3, p. 299, Jame’ah Mudarresin Publications, Qom, 1413 AH.
[6] Ibid, p. 300
[7] Saduq, Muhammad Ali, Uyoon Akhbar al-Reza (AS), vol.2, p. 74, hadith 342, Jahan Publications, 1378 AH.

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