Excellence of hunger, a simple live style, and confining oneself to little in food, drink, clothing and other things which are the portion of the self, and abandoning appetites

Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous)

by Imam Nawawi

56. Chapter: On the excellence of hunger, a simple live style, and confining oneself to little in food, drink, clothing and other things which are the portion of the self, and abandoning appetites

Allah Almighty says, "An evil generation succeeded them who neglected the prayer and followed their appetites. They will plunge into the Valley of Evil ­ except for those who turn in repentance and believe and act righteously. They will enter the Garden and they will not be wronged in any way." (19:59-60)

The Almighty says, "He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of this world said, 'Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses.' But those who had been given knowledge said, 'Woe to you! Allah's reward is better for those who believe and act rightly." (28:79-80)

The Almighty says, "Then you will be asked that Day about the pleasures you enjoyed," (102:8)

and the Almighty says, "As for anyone who desires this fleeting existence, We hasten for him in it whatever We will to whoever We want. Then We will consign him to Hell where he will roast, reviled and driven out." (17:18)

491. 'A'isha said, "The family of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, never had their fill of barley bread for two consecutive days until he died." [Agreed upon]

In one variant, "From the time he came to Madina, the family of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, never had their fill of wheat bread for three consecutive nights until he died."

492. 'Urwa reported that 'A'isha used to say, "By Allah, nephew, we used to see three crescent moons in two months without a fire being lit in the houses of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace." I said. "Aunt, what did you live off?" She said, "The two black ones: dates and water. However, the Messenger of Allah had some neighbours among the Ansar, and they have milk camels, and they would send us some of their milk and we would drink it." [Agreed upon]

493. Abu Sa'id al-Maqburi said that Abu Hurayra passed by some people who had a roast sheep in front of them and they invited him to eat, but he refused to eat, saying, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, left this world without having his fill of barley bread." [al-Bukhari]

494. Anas said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not eat off a table up until the time he died, and he did not eat fine bread up until the time he died." [al-Bukhari]

In one variant of his, "He never ever saw a whole roast sheep."

495. An-Nu'man ibn Bashir said, "I saw your Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he did not have enough poor quality dates to fill his belly." [Muslim]

496. Sahl ibn Sa'd said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not see fine bread from the time that Allah Almighty sent him until the time He took him." He was asked, "Did you not have sieves in the time of the Messenger of Allah?" He replied, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, never saw a sieve from the time that Allah Almighty sent him until the time He took him." He was asked, "How did you eat unsieved barley?" He said, "We used to rind it and blow on it and what blew away would blow away and we would knead what remained." [al-Bukhari]

497. Abu Hurayra said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went out one day or night and came upon Abu Bakr and 'Umar and said, 'What has brought you out of your houses at this hour?' They said, 'Hunger, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Me too. By the One in whose hand my soul is, what brought you out brought me out, so get up.' They got up with him and went to visit a man of the Ansar, but he was not at home. When his wife saw him, she said, 'Welcome! Welcome!' The Messenger of Allah said to her, 'Where is so-and-so?' She said, 'He has gone to get water for us.' Then the Ansari came and saw the Messenger of Allah and his two companions and said, 'Praise be to Allah. Today no one has more honoured guests than I!' He went and brought them a branch with unripe and ripe fresh dates on it and said, 'Eat.' He took a knife and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to him, 'Don't slaughter one which yields milk.' So he slaughtered for them and they ate from the sheep and from that branch and drank. When they were full and their thirst quenched, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to Abu Bakr and 'Umar, 'By the One who has my soul in His hand, you will be asked about this blessing on the Day of Rising. Hunger brought you out of your houses and you did not return until you had received this blessing.'" [Muslim]

The Ansari who they visited was Abu'l-Haytham ibn at-Tayyihan. This is clearly stated in the variant of at-Tirmidhi and others.

498. Khalid ibn 'Umayr al-'Adawi said, "'Utba ibn Ghazwan addressed us when he was governor of Basra. He praised and glorified Allah and then said, 'This world has announced that it is vanishing, retreating swiftly and only a trace of it will be left like the small amount left in a vessel after its owner has drunk it. You are moving from it to an abode which will not vanish. So move to it with the best you have. It has been mentioned to us that a stone thrown from the brink of Hellfire will fall in it for forty years without reaching its bottom. By Allah, it will be filled! Does that surprise you? It has been mentioned to us that between the two halves of the Garden is the distance of forty years, but a day will come when it will be blocked by the crowd of people there. I remember myself as one of seven who were with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the only food we had was some leaves of a tree which cut the corners of our mouths. I got a cloak and divided it between myself and Sa'd ibn Malik. I used half of it as a wrapper and Sa'd used half as a wrapper. Today there is not one of us who is not an amir over some city. I seek refuge with Allah from being great with myself and small with Allah." [Muslim]

499. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari said, "'A'isha brought out for us a garment and thick wrapper and said, 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died wearing these two.'" [Agreed upon]

500. Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas said, "I was the first of the Arabs to shoot an arrow in the way of Allah. We used to raid with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and we had no food except acacia leaves so that when one of us went to relieve himself it was like sheep droppings." [Agreed upon]

501. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "O Allah, make the provision of the family of Muhammad adequate!" [Agreed upon]

502. Abu Hurayra said, "By Allah, there is no god but He. I used to lie with my stomach on the ground out of hunger and I used to tie a stone on my belly because of hunger. One day I sat on the path by which they used to go out and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by me. He smiled when he saw me and recognised what was in my face and in myself. Then he said, 'Abu Hirr!' I said, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah!' He said, 'Come along' and went and followed him. He went inside and I asked permission to enter. He gave me permission and I went inside. He found some milk in a cup and asked, 'Where is this milk from?' They said, 'So-and-so gave it to you.' He said, 'Abu Hirr.' I said, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Go along to the people of the Suffa and invite them here to me.'" He said, "The people of the Suffa were the guests of Islam. They did not have recourse to family, property or anyone. When sadaqa came to him, he used to send it to them and not take any of it himself. When a gift came to him, he sent for them and had some of it himself and let them share in it. His saying that annoyed me and I said to myself, 'What good will this milk be among the people of the Suffa? I have more need of drinking it to give me strength. When they come, he will tell me to give it to them.' It was not likely that I would get any of the milk, but there was no escape from obeying Allah and obeying His Messenger so I went and invited them and they accepted and asked for permission to come in and he gave them permission. They took their seats in the house. He said, 'Abu Hirr!' I said, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Take it and give it to them.'" He said, "I took the cup and gave it to a man and he drank until his thirst was quenched. Then he returned the cup to me and I gave it to another man who drank until his thirst was quenched and he returned the cup to me. [Another] drank until his thirst was quenched and he returned the cup to me until I reached the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when all the people had had enough. He took the cup and placed it in his hand and looked at me and smiled. He said, 'Abu Hirr.' I said, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah' He said, 'I and you remain.' I said, 'You have spoken the truth, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Sit and drink.' I sat and drank. He said, 'Drink.' So I drank. He kept saying, 'Drink' until I said, 'By the One who sent you with the truth, I cannot find any more room for it.' He said, 'Give it to me,' so I gave him the cup and he praised Allah Almighty, said the name of Allah, and drank the rest.". [al-Bukhari]

503. Muhammad ibn Sirin reported that Abu Hurayra said, "I used to fall down in a faint between the minbar of the Messenger of Allah , may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the room of 'A'isha. A passer-by would come and put his foot on my neck and think that I was mad. I was not mad. I was only hungry." [al-Bukhari]

504. 'A'isha said, "When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died his armour was in pawn to a Jew for thirty sa's of barley." [Agreed upon]

505. Anas said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, pawned his armour for some barley. I took some barley bread and dissolved fat to the Prophet and I heard him say, 'The family of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has never had more than a sa' in the morning nor the evening,' and they were nine households." [al-Bukhari]

506. Abu Hurayra said, "I saw seventy of the people of the Suffa and none of them was wearing a cloak, but only either a waist-wrapper or a shirt which they tied round their necks so that it only reached half way down their thighs or to their ankles. They would gather it together with their hands not wanting their nakedness to be seen." [al-Bukhari]

507. 'A'isha said, "The bed of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as made of hide stuffed with palm-fibre." [al-Bukhari]

508. Ibn 'Umar said, "We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when a man of the Ansar came and greeted him. Then the Ansari turned away and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'O brother of the Ansar, how is Sa'd ibn 'Ubada!' He said, 'Well.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Who among you wants to visit him?' He got up and about ten of us got up with him without sandals or leather socks or head coverings or shirts. We walked through those salt marshes until we reached him. His family moved back from around him so that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and His Companions who were with him could get near." [Muslim]]

509. 'Imran ibn al-Husayn reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The best of you are my generation and then those who follow them and then those who follow them." 'Imran said, "I do not know whether the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said it twice or three times." "Then after them will come a people who testify when they are not asked to testify, and who betray and are not trustworthy, who make a vow and do not fulfil it. Fleshiness will appear among them." [Agreed upon]

510. Abu Umama reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "O son of Adam, it is better for you to spend what is in excess of your needs and worse for you to keep it. You will not be blamed for (keeping) enough to cover your needs. Begin with your immediate dependants." [at-Tirmidhi]

511. 'Ubaydullah ibn Muhsan al-Ansari al-Khatmi said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Any of you who wakes up in the morning safe in himself, healthy in his body, with food for the day, it is as if he had the entire world.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

512. 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The successful one is he who becomes Muslim, has adequate provision and whom Allah makes satisfied with what He gives him." [Muslim]

513. Abu Muhammad Fadala ibn 'Ubayd al-Ansari reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "O the delight of the one who is guided to Islam, has adequate livelihood, and is contented." [at-Tirmidhi]

514. Ibn 'Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to go hungry for nights in a row at the time when his people could find no support. Most of their bread was barley bread." [at-Tirmidhi]

515. Fadala ibn 'Ubayd reported that when the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to lead the people in prayer, some men who were there would fall over during the prayer owing to extreme hunger. They were the People of the Suffa. This reached such a point that the desert Arabs said, 'Those people are mad.' When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had prayed, he went to them and said, 'If you only knew what you have with Allah Almighty, you would wish to be increased in poverty and need.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

516. Abu Karima al-Miqdam ibn Ma'dikarib said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, 'A human being fills up no vessel worse than his belly. Enough for a son of Adam are some morsels which will kept his back straight. If it cannot be avoided, then a third is for his food, a third for his drink, and a third for himself." [at-Tirmidhi]

517. Abu Umama Iyas ibn Tha'laba al-Ansari al-Harithi said, "One day the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, mentioned this world, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Do you not hear? Do you not hear? Raggedness is part of belief. Raggedness is part of belief,' meaning doing without luxury." [Abu Dawud]

518. Abu 'Abdullah Jabir ibn 'Abdullah said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent us on an expedition and he put Abu 'Ubadya in command over us. We were to meet the caravan of Quraysh and we were provisioned with bags of dates which we was all that we could find. Abu 'Ubadya would give each of us a date. It was asked, 'What did you do with it?' He said, 'We would suck on it as a child sucks and then we would drink from water poured on it. It was enough for us for the day until night. We used to knock leaves off branches and then moisten them with water and eat them.'"

He said, "We proceeded along the coast and something on the sea coast looking like an immense heap became visible to us. We reached it and it was the creature called the sperm whale. Abu 'Ubayda said, 'Carrion.' Then he said, 'No, rather we are the messengers of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and we are travelling in the way of Allah and have been forced by need, so eat.'. We lived on it for a month - and there were three hundred of us - eating until we were full. I remember us scooping out oil from its eye-socket with jugs, and from it we cut saddle-cloths the size of an ox - or similar to the size of an ox. Abu 'Ubayda took thirteen of us and had us sit in its eye-socket, and he took one of its ribs and stood it upright and then the largest camel we had with us went under it. We took provision from its meat and strips of dried meat. When we reached Madina, we went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and mentioned that to him. He said, 'It was provision with which Allah provided you. Do you have any of its meat with you so that you can feed us?' So we sent some of it to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he ate it." [Muslim]

519. Asma' bint Yazid said, "The sleeve of the shirt of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, reached his wrist." [at-Tirmidhi]

520. Jabir said, "On the Day of the Ditch, we were digging and a hard bit of rock became exposed. They went to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, "'There is a hard bit of rock exposed in the Ditch.' He said, 'I am coming down.' He got up and there was a stone tied to his belly. We had been three days without eating at all. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took a pick and struck it and it became like soft sand. I said, 'Messenger of Allah, give me permission to go to my house.' I said to my wife, 'I see that the Prophet is in a condition I cannot bear. Do you have anything?' She said, 'I have some barley and a lamb.' So I sacrificed the lamb and she ground the barley and we put the meat in a cooking-pot. Then I went to the Messenger of Allah when the bread was kneaded and the pot was on the cooking stones and nearly cooked and said, 'I have a little food, so, Messenger of Allah, come with one or two men.' He asked, 'How much is it?' I told him and he said, 'Many is good. Tell her not to remove the pot nor take the bread from the oven until I come.' He said, 'Get up,' and the Muhajirun and Ansar got up. I went to her and said, 'Poor you! The Prophet, the Muhajirun, the Ansar and those with them have all come!' She said, 'Did he ask you?' I said. 'Yes.' He said, 'Enter, but do not crowd round.' He began to break up the bread and put meat on it, covering the pot and oven after he took something from them. He gave it to his Companions who then withdrew. He continued to breaking up bread and ladling until they were full and there was still some left. He said, 'Eat this and give some away, for hunger has afflicted the people.'" [Agreed upon]

In one variant, Jabir said, "When the ditch was dug, I saw that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was hungry, so I went back to my wife and said, 'Do you have anything? I see that the Messenger of Allah is very hungry.' She brought out a bag which contained a sa' of barley. We had a lamb we had kept at home, so I slaughtered it and she ground the barley. I finished and cut it up in her cooking-pot. Then I turned to go back to the Messenger of Allah. She said, 'Do not disgrace me before the Messenger of Allah and those with him.' I went to him and spoke confidentially to him, 'Messenger of Allah, we have slaughtered a small lamb of ours and ground a sa' of barley, so let you and a few people come.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, shouted, 'People of the Ditch! Jabir has prepared some food, so come along!' The Prophet said, 'Do not remove your pot nor bake your bread until I come.' I came and the Prophet came leading the people. I went to my wife and she said, 'It is all your fault!' I said, 'I did what you said.' She brought out the dough and he spat in it and blessed it. Then he went to our pot and spat and blessed it. Then he said, 'Call the woman who bakes and let her bake with you, and ladle from your pot and do not remove it.' There were a thousand of them. I swear by Allah, they ate until they left the food and went away. Our pot was boiling as before and out dough was baking as before."

521. Anas said, "Abu Talha said to Umm Sulaym, 'I heard the voice of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and it was weak and I recognised hunger in it. Do you have anything?' She said, 'Yes,' and produced some barley loaves. She took a scarf of hers and wrapped up the bread in part of it and then she put it under my garment and tied the other end of it round me. Then she sent me to the Messenger of Allah and I took it with me. I found the Messenger of Allah sitting in the mosque with some people. I stood over them and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked, 'Did Abu Talha send you?' I answered, 'Yes.' He said, 'For a meal?' I replied, 'Yes.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered, 'Get up.' Then he set off and I went on ahead of them until I came to Abu Talha and informed him. Abu Talha said, 'Umm Sulaym! The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has come with some people, and we do not have anything to feed them.' She said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' Abu Talha went to meet the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the Messenger of Allah went forward with him until they both entered and the Messenger of Allah said, 'Bring what you have, Umm Sulaym.' So she brought that bread and the Messenger of Allah commanded it to be broken up and then Umm Sulayman squeezed some ghee on it to flavour it.' Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said what Allah willed over it and then he said, 'Admit ten,' and he admitted them. They ate until they were full and then went out. Then he said, 'Admit ten' and he admitted them. They ate until they were full and then went out. Then he said, 'Admit ten' and he admitted them and so on until all the people had eaten and were full, and there were seventy or eighty men." [Agreed upon]

In one variant, "Ten continued to enter and ten leave until everyone of them had entered and eaten until he was full up, and then they gathered it up and there was the same amount as when they had begun to eat from it."

In one variant, "They ate ten by ten until eighty men had done that. Then the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ate after that and the people of the house, and there was still some left over."

In one variant, "Then they still had enough left over to send to their neighbours."

In one variant Anas said, "I came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, one day and I found him sitting with his Companions and he had tied a band around his stomach. I asked some of his Companions, 'Why has the Messenger of Allah bound up his stomach.' They said, 'Out of hunger.' So I went to Abu Talha, who was the husband of Umm Sulaym bint Milhan, and said, 'O father, I have seen the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, with his stomach tied with a band and I asked some of his Companions and they said, "It is from hunger." Abu Talha went in to my mother and asked, 'Do you have anything?' She replied, 'Yes, I have some pieces of barley and some dates. If the Messenger of Allah comes to us alone, we can give him his fill. If someone else comes with him, it will be little for them,'" and he mentioned the whole hadith.