Muan ibn Zaida was a very wealthy man during the period of the Ummayads. He was also very well-known for his generosity. When the Abbasids took over from the Ummayads, he was forced to go into hiding. The following incident happened, while he was in hiding.
He was on his way out of Baghdad in disguise, when he realised that a man was following him. That man pursued him and caught up with him in a deserted area outside the city. He took hold of the camel’s reins and forced himself on its back. Once he was on the camel, he grabbed Muan with a knife in his hand.
Muan pleaded: “Why have you grabbed me? What do you want?” The man replied: “You are Muan! Ameer ul-Mumineen Mansoor is looking for you.”
Muan pretended to be surprised: “Me? Muan? You must be mistaken. I am an ordinary man.” The man snapped: “Don’t try to be smart. I know you very well, and you can’t run away. See my knife?” Muan begged him to let him go, but to no avail. Finally, he took out an expensive necklace from one of his concealed pockets and said: “What will Mansoor give you when you take me to him? This necklace is much more valuable than any prize he will give you. Take this and let me go.”
The man took the necklace and examined it. Then, he declared: “It does seem that this necklace is very expensive. However, I will not take it.” Muan asked: “Why?” He shook his head and said: “Let me ask you a few questions. If you answer correctly, I will let you go.” Muan agreed: “Ok, what do you want to know?”
The man asked: “You are known to be very generous. Have you ever given your entire wealth in charity?” Muan replied: “No, that has never happened.” The man asked: “Have you ever given half of your wealth in charity?” Muan answered: “No.” The man queried: “How about one-third?” Muan said: “No.” The man kept on decreasing the amount till it came to one-tenth. At that point, Muan was so frustrated that to shut him up, he said yes, he has given one-tenth of his wealth in charity. However, he was also feeling extremely ashamed of himself: he was known to be extremely generous but had not even given half of his wealth in charity.
The man continued: “This is nothing to be proud of. Listen, I am an ordinary man. I don’t own horses; I do not have piles of Dinars and Dirhams. I get twenty Dirhams from Caliph Mansoor on a monthly basis. Without doubt, the necklace you have given me is worth around twenty thousand Dirhams.” Saying this, he returned the necklace. “I spare your life and your necklace. I will not hand you over to Caliph Mansoor. This is only because you are known to be generous. Remember: never be proud of the fact that you are charitable. This is because there are people who are more benevolent than you. Consider your charity to be ordinary, regardless of the amount you give. Also, never abandon your generosity.” With that, he got off the camel and started to walk away.
Muan called him back: “You have drowned me in a sea of embarrassment. It would have been easier to get killed, rather than listen to what you have just said. Take this necklace.” The man laughed: “Do you want me to go back on my word? By Allah, I will not take this necklace. I will not seek the reward for my good deed in this world.” Taking huge steps, he went away.
Muan later admitted: “I always remembered that man and his wisdom. When Caliph Mansoor pardoned me and I recovered my wealth, I searched for him to repay him in kind. However, I was unable to locate him. In any case, I remembered his Ihsan to me that day, especially his Naseehah that I should remember that there are people who are more generous than me.”
Adapted (with permission) from Sunehray Huroof published by Darussalam. Translated and compiled for hiba by Umm Ibrahim.