One aspect of hayba is istighna, or independence. Refusing to put your hand out in front of others even when times are tough is a sign of Islamic masculinity. While this aspect of masculinity is still present in most Muslim circles, it is withering away. In the larger society, is already a rare phenomenon.
A man from the Ansar once came to the Prophet ﷺ asking him for money. The Prophet ﷺ was the most generous of mankind but instead of giving the man money, he asked him a question.
أَمَا فِي بَيْتِكَ شَيْءٌ
“Is there nothing in your house?”
The man replied that he had very little in his house. A piece of cloth he wore as a garment that doubled as a tablecloth. And a wooden bowel. And nothing more. The Prophet ﷺ looked at him and said
Bring them both to me.
So the man went home and brought the cloth and the bowl to the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ turned to the other sahabah and auctioned off the bowl and cloth for two dirhams. Then he ﷺ took the two coins and gave them to the man, telling him
اشْتَرِ بِأَحَدِهِمَا طَعَامًا فَانْبِذْهُ إِلَى أَهْلِكَ وَاشْتَرِ بِالْآخَرِ قَدُومًا فَأْتِنِي بِهِ
“Take one of these coins and buy food for your family. Take the other coin and buy an axe blade. Bring the blade to me.”
When the man came back with an axe blade, the Prophet ﷺ himself tied the blade to a handle to make a functioning axe. He handed the man the axe and said
اذْهَبْ فَاحْتَطِبْ وَبِعْ وَلَا أَرَيَنَّكَ خَمْسَةَ عَشَرَ يَوْمًا
“Go! Gather firewood and then sell it. Do not let me see you for 15 days [i.e. be so busy chopping wood that I don’t see you].”
When the man came back to the Prophet ﷺ, he had sold the firewood he collected for 10 dirhams and used the money to buy more clothes and more food. The Prophet ﷺ said to him
هَذَا خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْ أَنْ تَجِيءَ الْمَسْأَلَةُ نُكْتَةً فِي وَجْهِكَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّ الْمَسْأَلَةَ لَا تَصْلُحُ إِلَّا لِثَلَاثَةٍ لِذِي فَقْرٍ مُدْقِعٍ أَوْ لِذِي غُرْمٍ مُفْظِعٍ أَوْ لِذِي دَمٍ مُوجِعٍ
“This is better for you than your act of begging coming as a disgrace on the Day of Judgment. Begging is right only for three people: for one who is in grinding poverty, or for one who is in severe debt, or for a painful compensation for killing.” (Abu Dawud)
Haybah is not a quality found in men who are always begging others. This is a circular phenomenon. The more a man begs, the less haybah he has. The less haybah he has, the more comfortable and more likely he is to beg.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Acts of begging are lacerations with which a man disfigures his face. So let he who wishes preserve his self-respect, and let he who wishes abandon it. But this does not apply to one who begs from a ruler, or in a situation which makes it absolutely necessary. (Abu Dawud)
In our times, begging has become more sophisticated. Whereas previously, begging involved physically going in front of someone and stretching out your hand, now you can beg virtually. Websites like GoFundMe encourage people to ask others for donations, decreasing the stigma and shame of begging by creating physical distance between the person begging and the person giving them money.
Of course, if you’re involved in a project that needs fundraising, crowdfunding is a reasonable option. In that case, you’re not asking for money for yourself but for a cause that you’re working on. But if you’re making an account on GoFundMe or Launchgood to ask people to fund you, make no mistake, you are definitely begging. It doesn’t matter if the thing you’re begging for is Islamic, it’s still begging. If you can’t afford to go to a fancy Islamic intensive that requires you to fork over thousands of dollars, you have two options. Either forego the extravagant program and find an alternative that’s within your budget, or go out and work a part-time job until you save enough money to pay for it yourself. If a program encourages you to go out and beg from others in order to pay them their fee, you have to ask yourself: what benefit will I gain from this program? An Islamic institution should not just transmit knowledge but character. Encouraging students to go out and beg shows that passing on Prophetic character and morals is not their priority.
Refraining from begging doesn’t just apply to those who have money. In fact, this quality is most admirable in those who do need the money.
Ibn al-Jawzi mentions in his famous book Talbis Iblis, that some of the salaf who were homeless would conspicuously carry house keys so that others would not give them charity.
And Allah ﷻ will bless those who refrain from begging.
The Prophet ﷺ stated in a hadith narrated in Sahih Bukhari
وَمَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْ يُعِفَّهُ اللَّهُ، وَمَنْ يَسْتَغْنِ يُغْنِهِ اللَّهُ
“Whoever abstains from asking others for financial help, Allah will save him from asking others. Whoever seeks to be self-sufficient, Allah will make him self-sufficient.”
Once, the Prophet ﷺ was giving advice to the sahabah and mentioned the importance of giving in charity. One of the people listening to him asked, “What if someone has no money to give in charity?” The Prophet ﷺ response was remarkable. He didn’t say, “Then you quality to receive charity.” He didn’t say, “Then do good deeds since you don’t have the money.” He didn’t even say, “Tell others to give in charity and you’ll get some of their reward.” Instead, he said,
يَعْمَلُ بِيَدِهِ فَيَنْفَعُ نَفْسَهُ وَيَتَصَدَّقُ
“He should work with his hands and benefit himself and then give in charity from what he has earned.”
In reference to giving in charity, the Prophet ﷺ still emphasized to the sahabah to work for themselves and then give that money away. The Prophet ﷺ did not build men who would be forever asking from others. He didn’t even build men who would simply advise others. No, he built men who would be in a position to give to others.
One sentence from the Prophet summarizes this entire article. If there’s one thing you take away, let it be this phrase:
الْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الْيَدِ السُّفْلَى
The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). (Bukhari)
May Allah ﷻ make us men who refrain from begging and who earn enough halal rizq to benefit those around us.