Tay: “Have you come across anyone more generous and estimable than yourself?” He replied: “The frugal old man I met in the desert was more estimable, elevated, and generous than me.”1
Out of His perfect generosity, Almighty God makes a poor man understand the pleasure of His bounty the same as a rich man, and a beggar the same as a king. Indeed, the pleasure a poor man obtains from a dry piece of black bread because of hunger and being frugal is greater than the pleasure a king or a rich man obtains from the choicest pastries consumed with the weariness and lack of appetite resulting from excess.
It is surprising but some dissolute, extravagant people accuse the frugal and economical of being mean and stingy. God forbid! Frugality is dignity and generosity. Stinginess and meanness are the inner face of the apparently noble qualities of the wasteful and extravagant. There is an event corroborating this which occurred in my room in Isparta the year this treatise was written. It was as follows:
One of my students insisted on my accepting – contrary to my rule and life-long principle – a present of nearly two and a half okkas2 of honey. However much I reiterated my rule, he was not to be persuaded. So I told the three brothers who were with me to take it, saying that by being economical they would eat the honey for thirty to forty days in the months of Sha‘ban and Ramadan, and not lack something sweet to eat, and the one who brought it would earn the reward. I myself had an okka of honey as well. Although my three friends were moderate and appreciated frugality, because they offered the honey to each other, and flattered each others’ souls, and each preferred the others to himself, which in one respect is a good quality, they forgot about being economical. They finished the two and a half okkas of honey in three nights. Laughing, I said: “I would have given you the taste of that honey for thirty to forty days, but you have reduced the thirty days to three. I hope you enjoyed it!” I consumed my one okka of honey frugally. For the whole of Sha’ban and Ramadan both I ate it, and, Praise be to God, every evening while breaking the fast I gave each of those brothers a spoonful,3 and it became the means of signficant reward. Perhaps anyone who saw my doing this thought it was stinginess and what my brothers did for three nights was generosity. But in point of
See, Bukhari, Musaqat, 13; Zakat, 50; Buyu’, 15; Ibn Maja, Zakat, 25; Musnad, i, 167.
One okka equalled 2.8 lbs. (Tr.)
That is, a fairly large teaspoon.