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The Sahabah [r], the Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad [s], were the best of all believers. They had achieved such a high standard of piety and virtue that it would be almost impossible for us to emulate in our time. In fact, we would be very fortunate if we could resemble them, even in a very small way. They had many admirable qualities, but of all these, self-sacrifice was the greatest.

Once, a man came to the beloved Prophet Muhammad [s] and complained of hunger and thirst. “O Prophet of Allah, I have not eaten for many days. Please do give me something to satisfy my hunger and thirst!”

It just so happened that on that very day the Prophet [s] had nothing in his home to feed the man. Now, it was the noble habit of the blessed Prophet [s] never to disappoint any one who came to him with a request and so he turned to his faithful Sahabah [r] and asked, “Would anybody entertain him as a guest tonight on my behalf?” One of the Companions [r] replied eagerly, “O, Prophet of Allah, I will be honoured to do just that.”

The man was delighted and the two set out towards the Sahabi’s [r] home. When they reached the house, the Sahabi [r] called his wife to one side and said, “We are indeed blessed today to have a guest in our house. This man is a friend of the Holy Prophet [s]. We will entertain him as best we can, and we will not spare anything in doing so.”

The wife seemed very worried indeed as she replied, “By Allah! I have no food in the house my dear husband, except a little that I kept aside which may be just enough for the children.”

Without hesitating the Sahabi [r] instructed, “You lull the children to sleep without feeding them, while I sit with the guest over the small meal. When we start eating, put out the lamp pretending to set it right, so that the guest may not become aware of my not sharing the meal with him.”

And so the Sahabi [r] sat his guest down for the meal. His wife brought in a small plate of food and placed it infront of them. It was steaming hot and smelt delicious. Then, just as they had planned, the Sahabi’s [r] wife put out the lamp as she pretended to set it right. “O dear! How clumsy of me,” she said. “Well, I guess you will have to continue without the lamp. Enjoy your meal!” and with that she left the room.

The plan worked out nicely, and the whole family, including the children, stayed hungry only to allow for the guest to eat to his fill. Such was their concern and regard for their guests. It was over this very incident that Allah revealed the following verse,

“They (ie. the true believers) prefer others over themselves, even though they may be suffering great poverty.”

And so, to this very day, Muslims all over the world recite these verses of the Holy Qur’an praising the noble family who showed such great honour for their guest. Truly in the example of the Prophet Muhammad [s] and his Companions we have the best example to follow.