What is the true meaning of ‘giving’? Has a millionaire who gives £1 ‘given’ in the same sense as a struggling old lady who gives the same amount from her state pension? Without a doubt, the action of giving anything to someone more needy is inherently good. But at the same time, it’s obvious that the old lady in the example has understood the true meaning of ‘giving’ far better than the millionaire.
Would you give someone water if they needed it?
How about if you were travelling through a desert and needed it yourself?
How about if the person who needed it was your sworn enemy, whose only reason for being near you was because they had come to block your route and redirect you towards your certain death?
Hussain was in this very situation. He had left his hometown to travel towards the town of Kufa, where the people had written to him and asked him to come and free them from the tyranny of that town’s tyrannical governor. On the way, he and his small band of companions and family members were stopped by the army of a man called Hurr. Hurr’s orders were clear, and both he and Hussain knew them. He was to block Hussain’s route and redirect him deep into the desert, so he could be forced to give in or be killed.
Shortly after they met, Hurr’s army ran short of water. When Hussain heard the news, without a thought, he ordered that they share their own limited supply of water with the enemy camp. He did not even stop to think about the implications of helping his enemy, or even to extract some compromise in exchange for the water. No, he gave because giving was the right thing to do, because he had something, and there was someone who needed it.
This wasn’t a one-off. There is a famous story narrated from Hussain’s childhood, where he and his family had all made a vow to fast. When the time came to break their fast, there was a knock on the door, and a beggar asked them for some food. Without thinking, the entire family gave the food they had, and broke their fast with water. The next day, a needy orphan knocked on the door, and they again gave all they had, and broke their fast with only water. On the third day, again, a needy person came to their door, and they again gave all they had and again, broke their fast with just water.
Hussain epitomized the ideal of giving whatever you can, whenever you can, to whoever needs it, whether they can offer something in return or not, be they good or bad, and even if they’re your enemy. Famously, he once said:
‘The most generous of people is he who gives to those from whom he has no hope of return’