Miserliness and greed are two evil qualities that bring a person disgrace in this world and in the next. Below are some incidents of ‘master misers’ who made every effort to avoid sharing with others:

The Misers of Marw

It is mentioned that people from the land of Marw were renowned for their stinginess. Such was their stinginess that it was their habit, when traveling in a group, that each traveller would purchase his own piece of meat. Each traveller would then tie a piece of string around his piece of meat, after which all the pieces of meat would be placed in the pot to be cooked together.

However, while the meat was cooking, each traveller would sit around the pot, holding onto his string. Thereafter, when the meat had cooked and was ready to eat, each traveller would use the string to pull out his piece of meat. Each person would then eat his own piece of meat, and only the gravy would be shared among them. (Al-Mustatraf vol. 1, pg. 278)

The Guest Offering to Feed the Host

Haitham bin ‘Adiyy mentions: Once, a poet from the land of Yamaamah came to Abu Hafsah as a guest. Abu Hafsah thus vacated the home for the guest, but then fled and disappeared out of the fear that he would be obliged to provide the guest with food that night. Realizing what had happened, the guest came out of the home and purchased whatever food he required. Thereafter, he returned to the home and wrote a note to his host, Abu Hafsah, containing the following couplets:

O person who has come out of his home, and fled out of extreme fear

Your guest has brought his own food, so come back and become the guest of your own guest!

(Al-Mustatraf vol. 1, pg. 279)

Unable to Share a Meal with His Own Friends

Another renowned miser was Muhammad bin Jahm. It is mentioned that once his friends addressed him saying, “We fear sitting with you for longer than you desire (so as not to inconvenience you). Therefore, you should select something to be a sign through which we will know that you are tired of sitting with us.” Muhammad bin Jahm responded, “The sign that I wish for you to leave is that I call out, ‘O slave! Bring the lunch!’” (Al-Mustatraf vol. 1, pg. 282)

On reading these incidents, we condemn the actions of these misers and think to ourselves, “How could they be so miserly?” However, the point we need to understand is that the wealth a person owns is his own wealth, and it is his prerogative whether he wants to share it with others or not. If he does not share it in situations where it is merely commendable to share, he will not be sinful, however he will be not treading on the path of good character and showing the beauty of Islam in being generous, kind and compassionate to the creation.

However, if we feel that the miserliness of the abovementioned misers is deplorable, then far worse than their miserliness is the miserliness of the person who deprives others of their own wealth (e.g. the debtor not paying the creditor), or he deprives people of the rights which Allah Ta‘ala had granted them (e.g. he does not give the heirs their full share of the inheritance), or he does not spend upon those whom Allah Ta‘ala has given a right in his wealth (e.g. his wife and children, or his poor, old parents). Such a person, apart from being a miser, is also an oppressor.

How beautiful are the words of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) when he mentioned, “The generous person is close to Allah Ta‘ala, close to Jannah, close to people and distant from the fire of Jahannam, while the miserly person is distant from Allah Ta‘ala, distant from Jannah, distant from the people and close to Jahannam.” (Sunan Tirmizi #1961)

May Allah Ta‘ala save us all from this evil, aameen.