, by DR. WAQUAR ANWAR
The economy of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) and his household may be studied in two distinct periods: one before the declaration of his prophet-hood at the age of 40 and the other after that. Further, in the period after the declaration of his prophet-hood, we may differentiate between his stay of about 13 years in Makkah and the rest 10 years in Madinah in view of the vastly different conditions between these two periods.
ECONOMY PRIOR TO PROPHET-HOOD
Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) was born as an orphan as his father Abdullah died before his birth. His grandfather Abdul Muttalib was the most prominent leader of the tribes in Makkah. His mother, Amina, died when he was of six years and his grandfather died when he was of eight years. His uncle Abu Talib, who was a poor person, became his guardian. As a result of the not so good economic condition of his uncle, the guardian, the Prophet shared the finance of the household by doing the job of grazing cattle on remuneration basis. Besides, this was a usual engagement for young men in Makkah those days. The Prophet further participated in the trading activities of his uncle. He had also inherited small amount of property from his father.
When the Prophet was 25 years old, a rich business lady named Khadeeja offered him to take her business consignments to Syria and do the trading on profit sharing basis. Khadeeja used to send her commodities for trading with different persons and when she heard about the good persona of Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) she made this offer that was accepted. The venture was successful and both the partners earned good and neat profit.
Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) later married Khadeeja (may Allah be pleased with her) and thereafter her business interest was supervised by him. This continued till he was declared Prophet by Allah, the Almighty, and he had no spare time to pursue his trading and other business activities and all that was available with this reverent family was used up in their mission to propagate Islam. The condition continued till migration to Madinah in the 13th year of prophet-hood. Khdeeja meanwhile had died.
Some of the Prophet’s companions in Makkah were rich persons while most of them were poor. These rich companions, including Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), helped the poor companions in many ways and traditions describe such instances. However, no popular tradition is recorded about any financial assistance provided for the household of the Prophet in this Makkan period. On the contrary, it is reported that the camel that Abu Bakr had arranged for the migration, the one that the Prophet used, was purchased by him on credit from Abu Bakr under insistence.
PROPHET IN MADINAH
Before we dwell upon the sources of income of the Prophet’s household and the manner it was utilised, it is better to discuss the relationship between him and Banu Najjar tribe of Madinah so that an element of familial and personal touch between him and the men who mainly took care of him and his household in Madinah may be understood. There is no doubt that all the followers of the prophet in Madinah did their best to provide as much provisions as they could do, the personal element of this particular tribe may be taken as an additional factor. Perhaps this was the reason that the Prophet – under divine guidance, of course – stayed in their area. It was not a case of a guest coming to a host. Rather it was the case of a family person settling down among his people.
The great grandmother of Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) belonged to Banu Najjar tribe of Madinah. Hashim, his great grandfather, while going to Yemen on a business tour stayed in Madinah and married Salma bint Amr and proceeded, after staying for a few days after his marriage, to his destination and died en route in the Gaza town of Palestine! Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet was born out of this wedlock. The relationship between Banu Najjar tribe and the family of the Prophet was always maintained. The Prophet during his childhood had also visited Madinah along with his mother and stayed with his people there. He had once described the place where he had played with other children of his age.
The financial responsibility that the Prophet took was maintenance of, besides his family members, the poor companions known as Ashaab-e- Suffa, who had migrated from Makkah and other places to devote their full time to learning the religion. They were in the nature of more or less permanent guests who stayed on a raised platform in the mosque. They had no source of income of their own and all their needs were fulfilled by the Prophet. Further, there were inflows of guests who came to learn about Islam, stayed for a few days, and went back to different places. The inflows of such guests increased with the passage of time and at one stage there were hoards of them. The Prophet took care of these individuals and groups severally in person.
In the initial days of his Makkan period, the Ansars (the hosts in Madinah) marked at least one date tree respectively in their orchards for the Prophet’s family and their produce were sent accordingly. Asad bin Zurarah used to send one big cup full of cooked food daily to the Prophet’s household. The practice was adopted by another companion Saad bi Ubada (may Allah be pleased with these pious persons).
The Prophet had purchased some camels, goats and sheep for milk and he had also received some cattle as gifts. These milk giving cattle were kept in specified grazing grounds and the milk therefrom was received daily for the family members of the Prophet. He had earmarked specific camels for his different wives, ummulmomineen (mothers of Muslims).
In the matter of receiving gifts, the Prophet did not accept for his personal or familial use things provided as religious obligations of the provider like zakat and sadquat. Such things were distributed between poor and other needy persons. Other gifts were accepted and utilised. However, he was particular to give back gifts and reciprocate the kindness.
One Jew named Mukhairiq participated in the battle of Uhud with Muslims and was killed. It is not confirmed whether he had reverted to Islam or not. However, he had given seven orchards to the Prophet in his will. The produce of these orchards eased out the financial condition of the Prophet’s household.
Some of the wives of the Prophet – mothers of Muslims – belonged to well to do families and they inherited properties from their fathers and ex-husbands. For example, Umme Salma (may Allah be pleased with her) owned gardens in Taif and income therefrom was received in Madinah.
The Qur'an has specified that the Prophet would get one fifth of ghaneemat (war booties). These war booties comprised both movable and immovable properties. Food items left by the fleeing enemy were not distributed as such and the same were taken and consumed by whoever wanted. Other items were properly valued and shared according to a fixed ratio. The Prophet used to divide that one fifth of the ghaneemat received equally, keeping one share for his household for his family, giving another share to his relatives and the balance was distributed among the poor.
It is another story that the food and other items coming at the Prophet’s household were also used for filling the belies of the above mentioned permanent sort of guests, the Ashaab-e-Suffa and other occasional guests and poor persons, leaving the residual for the household which were nought at times!
The stories that we hear about the poverty of the Prophet’s household are true. But the reason behind that stretched conditions was not that the household had not sufficient source of income. The actual reason was the generosity of the Prophet and his wives, mothers of Muslims. They distributed more than what they received! At times, the Prophet took loans from others and served the needy. The climax of the Prophet’s approach to life of dedication and service to mankind was that he had said that Prophets do not leave anything in inheritance. So he left nothing in inheritance for his household.
Thus we find that the source of income of the Prophet’s household was varied including inheritance, business income, presentations, income from properties held both movable like milk bearing cattle and immovable like date-orchards, share of war booties, etcetera. The utilisation of these incomes was done for self consumption, familial purposes, societal obligations, charity, etcetera. Hence all these activities are desirable and have divine sanction!