Preferring Others to Ourselves

Preferring Others to Ourselves

One day, a poor man came to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and asked for some food because he was very hungry and had nothing to eat. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) wanted to help this man, so he sent a message to his respected wives, asking them whether they had any food at home which they could send for this man to eat. However, they all gave the same answer – they said, “We do not have anything besides water.”

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) then turned to the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) and asked them, “Who will take this man home as his guest?” On hearing this, Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), immediately stood up and said, “I will take him home as my guest!”

Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then took the man home as his guest. When he arrived at home, Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) told his wife, Hazrat Ummu Sulaim (radhiyallahu ‘anha), that they should honour and feed the man he had brought home, as this man was sent to them as a guest by Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). However, Hazrat Ummu Sulaim (radhiyallahu ‘anha) replied that the food was very little, and was only enough for the children to eat. Since the children were not hungry at that time, Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) said to her, “Prepare the food for the guest, and put the children to sleep.”

Hazrat Ummu Sulaim (radhiyallahu ‘anha) did as her husband told her. She prepared the food and put the children to sleep. However, there was one problem. The food was only enough for the guest to eat. If the guest saw that the food was so little, and that Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was not eating, then he would feel shy to eat all the food and would not want to eat.

Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) did not want this to happen. He wanted his guest to be comfortable and eat nicely. So, as the guest started to eat, they pretended to adjust the light, but actually put it off. In this way, they were in darkness.

Because it was dark, the guest did not know that Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) did not have any food and was not eating. Rather, he thought that Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was also eating, and so he felt comfortable and he ate until he was satisfied. As for Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and his wife, Hazrat Ummu Sulaim (radhiyallahu ‘anha), then they did not eat anything that night, and spent the night in hunger. However, they were happy, because they had honoured the guest which was sent to them by Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

The next morning, Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) went to meet Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) met him, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) knew what had happened the previous night. Allah Ta‘ala had told Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) how Hazrat Abu Talhah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and his wife had stayed hungry and given all their food to the guest to eat. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was very happy with them, and told them that Allah Ta‘ala was also happy at how they had fed the guest and given the guest preference over themselves.

In fact, Allah Ta‘ala was so happy with them, that Allah Ta‘ala revealed verses in the Qur’aan Majeed, praising them for their beautiful behaviour. Allah Ta‘ala said:

وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ

And they give preference (to other people) over themselves, even if they are hungry.


  1. A Muslim should always be kind to people. A Muslim should not only worry about himself and his own comfort. Rather, he should worry about people as well. The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) were so kind that even if they had little food, they shared it with others, because they knew that this will please Allah Ta‘ala and will earn them tremendous reward in the Hereafter.
  2. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) taught us that we should always honour our guests. If we have a guest at our home, then we must look after him, honour him and make sure that he is comfortable. The more we look after our guests, the more Allah Ta‘ala will bless us with barakah in our homes.

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