It was a magnificent mansion. Ahmed, my school pal was about to move into a huge house his family had built. We went to check it out with his father. Just as we entered the beautiful hall a draft of air hit us with a foul smell of sweat. We both exchanged looks and twitched our nose: “Ugh! That smells of onions!”
Right behind the door stood an old labourer in worn out clothes sweating from his final coat of paint job. I whispered to Ahmed: “That was him. Mr. Onion…” Ahmed returned a nervous look glancing over his father and motioned me to be quiet. Good that his father hadn’t heard me.
Ahmed’s father courteously shook hands with the labourer and he too smiled awkwardly. Then we excitedly moved on to explore the marvelous structure.
On our way back while driving, Ahmed’s father who loved to narrate historical stories to us shared another incident. Ahmed and I excitedly smiled. “You know today I will share a very unique story with you boys.… A story of our beloved Prophet’s (sa) special friend. He was a villager and his name was Zahir bin Haram. He was a poor Bedouin who use to travel to Madinah for some needs. Whenever he came to the city he always brought gifts like butter or cottage cheese for the Prophet (sa). In return the Prophet (sa) also made it a point to give Zahir dates or something else as a token of friendship.
One day, when Zahir visited the Prophet (sa), he couldn’t find him so he headed to the market to sell his merchandise that he had brought from the village. Muhammad (sa) upon finding out about his visit went to the market searching for Zahir and spotted him from far away. There he was with sweat pouring down from his face wearing foul smelling Bedouin clothes.
The Prophet (sa) quietly sneaked behind him and hugged him tightly while Zahir was unaware and could not see him.
Frightened, Zahir demanded: ‘Let me go! Who is this?’ But the Prophet (sa) remained silent. Zahir tried to release himself from his grip and looked right and left. When he finally recognized who it was he relaxed himself and placed his head against the Prophet’s (sa) chest.
Prophet (sa) began to joke with him and announced to the public: ‘Who will buy this slave? Who will buy this slave?’
Upon hearing this Zahir looked at himself and thought of his extreme poverty, for neither was he rich nor good looking.
He said: ‘No one will want to buy me Oh Rasool Allah (sa)’
The Prophet (sa) replied kindly to Zahir: ‘But Allah (swt) would want to buy you. You are very precious to Allah (swt).’”
I knew instantly that Ahmed’s father had overheard me making fun of the labourer earlier. I could feel my face going red and hung my head low in shame while Ahmed just stared at me.
Ahmed’s father continued:
“As rich people we do give food and charity to the poor but what we fail to give them is respect, our love and kindness. This rude behaviour on our part makes us poorer in the sight of Allah (swt). Imagine if we treat them respectfully or just smile at them wouldn’t it make them happy and maybe surprised? They may just pray for us and Allah (swt) then grants us His blessings in the world and even after we die.”
I agreed with uncle. I didn’t ever remember smiling to any poor I had come across. In fact I never ever even thought about them as if they were a disease I would catch. But to Allah (swt) obviously the weak and poor were very dear. And also those rich people who cared for the rejected and poor people.
I made a silent vow to myself that Insha’Allah I would also try to treat the poor with kindness. And never call them names. But even today whenever I eat onions it reminds me of this incident and I quietly ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness.