Excellence of Simple Living and Being Content with Little
By Imaam Aboo Zakariya Yahyaa Ibn Sharaf An-Nawawi
Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, the Exalted, says:
“Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salaat (the prayers) [i.e., made their Salaat (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times] and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell. Except those who repent and believe (in the Oneness of Allaah and His Messenger Muhammad Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam), and work righteousness. Such will enter Jannah and they will not be wronged in aught.” (19:59-60)
“So he went forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of the world, said: ‘Ah, would that we had the like of what Qarun (Korah) has been given! Verily, he is the owner of a great fortune.’ But those who had been given (religious) knowledge said: ‘Woe to you! The reward of Allaah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds’.” (28:79-80)
“Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delights (you indulged in, in this world)!” (102:
“Whoever desires the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell; he will burn therein disgraced and rejected (far away from Allaah’s Mercy).” (17:18)
491. ‘Aishah radhiallaahu` anha reported: The family of Muhammad Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam never ate to the fill the bread of barley for two successive days until he died. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim].
Another narration is: ‘Aishah radhiallaahu` anha said: Never did the family of Muhammad Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam eat to the fill, since their arrival to Al-Madeenah, the bread of wheat for three successive nights until his death.
Commentary: This Hadeeth tells us about the extreme piety, contentment and simplicity of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. This mode of his life continued to his last days when he had started storing provision for one year for the maintenance of his wives. But he would always distribute it among the needy, so much so that nothing was left with him. Thus, the statement of the wives of the Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam that the family of Muhammad Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam had never taken bellyful of food for two days is absolutely true. If they had it on one day they did not have it on the next day. This is how they lived their whole life in the companionship of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam.
492. ‘Urwah from ‘Aishah radhiallaahu` anhu reported that she used to say to Urwah radhiallaahu` anhu: “O son of my sister, by Allaah, I used to see the new moon, then the new moon, then the new moon, i.e., three moons in two months, and a fire was not kindled in the house of Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. “I (‘Urwah) said, “O my aunt, what were your means of sustenance?” She said; “Dates and water. But it (so happened) that Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam had some Ansar neighbours who had milch animals. They used to send Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam some milk of their (animals) and he gave that to us to drink.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim].
Commentary: ‘Aishah radhiallaahu` anha did not say this by way of complaint but as warning and exhortation to the Muslims, especially women, so that they would also live a simple life. The latter should prepare their family budget keeping in view the lawful earnings of their husbands and do not place so much burden on them that they are compelled to look for unfair means of earning.
493. Aboo Sa‘id Maqburi reported: Aboo Hurayrah radhiallaahu` anhu said that he happened to pass by some people who had a roast lamb before them. They invited him, but he declined, saying: “The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam left the world without having eaten his fill with barley bread.” [Al-Bukhaari] .
1. This Hadeeth shows how much care the Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam exercised in following him. They would even emulate him in matters in which it was not obligatory under the Sharee‘ah to follow him. It was in fact the result of that extreme love that they had for the Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam. They were not like the present-day lovers of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam whose love does not go beyond lip-service. They were his true lovers and they followed him faithfully.
2. One should refuse to participate in feasts where extravagance is displayed, as is in common practice today, so that the evil tendency of extravagance and wastage is discouraged. One who avoids such parties, does not refuse invitations but respects the principles and values of Sharee‘ah which is a highly meritorious act.
494. Anas radhiallaahu` anhu reported: The Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam neither ate on a dining cloth, nor ate soft bread throughout his life. [Al-Bukhaari] .
One narration adds: He Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam never even saw a Samit lamb.
Samit is an animal prepared for food by removing its hair by boiling water, and then roasted without being skinned. This type of food is preferred by wealthy people. (Editor’s Note)
Commentary: It means that the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam has not adopted the ways of the rich but embraced a simple way of life which is the mode of Fuqara’ - poor people. Thus, he remained contented with simple food and had no relish for extravagant feasts.
495. An-Nu‘man bin Bashir radhiallaahu` anhu reported: I have seen your Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam when he did not find enough of even the inferior quality of dates to eat and fill his belly. [Muslim].
496. Sahl bin Sa‘d radhiallaahu` anhu reported: The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam had never seen bread made out of fine flour throughout his life, since Allaah Almighty commissioned him until his death. He was asked, “Did you not have sieves at the time of the Messenger of Allaah?” He replied, “the Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam never saw a sieve.” He was asked, “How did you manage to eat barley bread made of unsieved flour?” He said, “We used to ground it and then blew away the husk, and what remained we kneaded into dough.” [Al-Bukhaari] .
497. Aboo Hurayrah radhiallaahu` anhu reported: The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam went out (of his house) one day, or one night, and there he met Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar radhiallaahu` anhum also. He Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, “What made you leave your houses at this hour?” They said, “It is hunger, O Messenger of Allaah.” He Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, what made you leave, made me also leave, so come along!” And he went along with them to a man from the Ansar, but they did not find him in his house. When the wife of that man saw the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, she said, “You are most welcome.” The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said to her, “Where is so-and-so?” She said, “He went to fetch some fresh water for us.” In the meantime, the Ansari came back, saw Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam and his two companions and said: “Praise be to Allaah, today no one has more honourable guests than I.” He then went out and brought them a bunch of date fruit, having dates, some still green, some ripe, and some fully ripe, and requested them to eat from it. He then took his knife (to slaughter a sheep). The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said to him, “Do not kill a milch (a domestic animal yielding milk; kept or suitable for milk production) sheep.” So he slaughtered a sheep for them. After they had eaten and drunk to their fill, Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said to Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar radhiallaahu` anhum, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, you will certainly be questioned about this treat on the Day of Resurrection. Hunger brought you out of your homes, and you do not return to your homes till you have been blessed with this treat.” [Muslim].
1. This Hadeeth refers to the period of great hardship through which the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam and his Companions had passed after Hijrah (emigration) .
2. It is permissible for one to seek help from such friends about whom one is confident that they will be happy to help.
3. The Hadeeth enjoins us to respect our guests and to thank Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala on their visit.
498. Khaleed bin ‘Umar Al-‘Adawi reported: ‘Utbah bin Ghazwan, the governor of Basrah, delivered a Khutbah. He praised Allaah, glorified Him, then said: “Amma b‘adu, verily, the world has been given the news of its end and is running to meet its end swiftly. Nothing is left out of it but a very little amount. Similar to the remainder in a dish whose owner is collecting it to drink; and you are going to move to an abode which knows no end, and you should proceed there with the good before you, for we have been informed (by the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam) that a stone would be thrown at one side of the Hell and it would travel down for seventy years but would not reach its bottom. By Allaah, it will be filled (with men and jinn). Do you find it strange? We have been informed (i.e., by the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam) that the distance between two shutters of the gate of Jannah is forty years (distance). And a day would come when it would be fully packed; I was the seventh amongst the seven who had been with Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, and we had nothing to eat but the leaves of the tree until the sides of our mouth were injured. We found a sheet which we tore into two and divided between myself and Sa‘d bin Malik. I made the lower garment with half of it and so did Sa‘d. Today, there is none amongst us who has not become the governor of a city, and I seek refuge with Allaah that I should consider myself great while I am insignificant to Allaah.” [Muslim].
Commentary: This Hadeeth brings the following points into prominence:
1. Remembrance of Al-akhirah (the Hereafter) and the torment of Hell.
2. Description of the fast decline of the world and its trend towards destruction.
3. Description of the vastness of Jannah and Hell.
4. Reference to the affluence of the Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam which they had at a subsequent stage. It was in fact fulfillment of the Promise of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala that He will bestow upon them power and majesty in this world.
5. The description of the graceful conduct of the Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. In spite of having power and authority, they had neither arrogance nor pride. Goodwill and humility were special traits of their character and they always sought refuge with Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala against vanity and pride.
6. The Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam had sought to gain the pleasure of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala rather than that of the people.
7. Humbleness of the Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, as well as their good conduct and uprightness despite being in a position of authority.
499. Aboo Moosa Al-Ash‘ari radhiallaahu` anhu reported: ‘Aishah radhiallaahu` anha showed us a sheet and a thick lower garment and said to us that the Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam was wearing them when he died. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim].
Commentary: The incident reported in this Hadeeth abundantly proves that the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam was not only austere in the matter of food but also in clothes and other worldly goods. He was contented with a minimum of necessities of life.
500. Sa‘d bin Aboo Waqqas radhiallaahu` anhu reported: By Allaah, I am the first Arab who shot an arrow in the Cause of Allaah. We fought along with Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam when our food was only the leaves of Hublah and Samur trees (wild trees) until one of us would defecate like the droppings of sheep. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim].
1. This Hadeeth offers justification for enumerating the Blessings of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and the hardships which one may have suffered in one’s past life, provided one does not mention the latter by way of complaint.
2. Lack of provision does not mean that the Companions of the Prophet Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam did not make any arrangement for food when they used to go for Jihaad, but that their provision would finish during their campaigns.
What it actually means is the scarcity of food. They did not have foodstuff which could last till the end of the war, nor had they any system for its supply according to the requirements, with the result that they sometimes had to live on the tree-leaves.