Once, Tha’labah Ibn Haatib Ansaari approached the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) and beseeched:
“O’ Prophet of God! Pray to God that He grants me wealth and riches.”
“Little wealth for which you are able to offer thanksgiving, is better than immense riches for which you are unable to offer thanksgiving,” the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) advised him.
Tha’labah went away but approached the Holy Prophet for the second time, repeating his request.
The Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) said, “You shall not obey me. By God! If I wished that the mountains would turn into gold for me, they would do so.”
For the second time, Tha’labah went away, but returned a third time and again placed his request before the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) and implored, “Do pray for me. I avow that if God grants me wealth, whoever possesses a right in it, I shall give it to him.”
The Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) prayed for him and God answered his prayers. Tha’labah initially purchased some sheep, which slowly grew in number till they became plentiful.
Earlier, he used to offer all his prayers behind the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) but after his wealth and riches began to increase, he would only be present for the Dhuhr and the A’sr prayers, and spent the rest of his time looking after his sheep.
As time passed, his work increased to such an extent that he could only manage to come to Madinah for the Friday prayers and eventually even this became a thing of the past. He would only come up to the road leading towards Madinah and seek news of the city from the passers-by.
One day, the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) inquired about him, whereupon he was informed that Tha’labah’s sheep had increased manifold and he had settled outside Madinah. Hearing this, the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) cried out three times: “Woe be unto Tha’labah!”
After a period of time, the verse pertaining to zakaat was revealed. The Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) selected two people, one from Bani Sulaim and the other from Juhniyah, and gave them written authority, empowering them to collect the zakaat.
Approaching Tha’labah, they read out the order for the collection of zakaat. After some thought, Tha’labah said:
“This is Jizyah(poll-tax)or something akin to it. Go and collect it from others and come back to me later.”
They proceeded to a person from the tribe of Bani Sulaim and read out the Holy Prophet’s (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) orders at which he handed over the best of his camels to them as his zakaat. The collectors explained to him that they had not asked him to give the best of his camels, but he insisted by saying that he was giving the camel through his own choice.
The collectors collected the zakaat from the others and on the way back, again approached Tha’labah and sought his zakaat.
He said, “Let me have a look at that decree.”
After reading it, he once again repeated, “This appears to be Jizyah or something similar to it. Go away and let me ponder over it.”
The collectors returned to the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم), but before they could speak he exclaimed: “Woe unto Tha’labah!” and then prayed for the generous person from Bani Sulaim. The collectors explicitly narrated to him their encounter with Tha’labah whereupon the following verses were revealed:
And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He gives us out of His grace, we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the righteous ones. But when He gave them out of His grace, they became niggardly of it and they turned back and they withdrew. So in consequence He effected hypocrisy e into their hearts till the day when they shall meet Him because they failed to fulfil towards Allah what they had promised with Him and because they told lies.
One of Tha’labah’s relatives, who had been present during the revelation of the above verses, informed him of the incident. On hearing about it, he hastened to the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) and entreated him to accept his zakaat, but he refused saying:
“God has ordered me not to accept your zakaat.”
Tha’labah was devastated to hear this.
“This is a consequence of your own deeds. I had ordered you but you refused to comply with my orders,” the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم) said.
After the demise of the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم), Tha’labah approached Abu Bakr, who refused to accept his zakaat. During U’mar’s caliphate, Thalabah approached him, but he too refused and U’thman too followed suit, till death finally overtook Tha’labah.