When a person has love, respect, affection, regard or good-will toward another, then naturally gifts will be exchanged in order to strengthen that bond. It is a commendable act and something that the Prophet (SAW) encouraged his followers to participate in. It is a catalyst for friendship and unity, where both parties benefit.
In Islam a gift is called a Hadiya, this is where an offering is given to another, in an expression of love and admiration, and through it the pleasure of Allah sought. This is classed as a gift. If, however, something is given to anyone for the sake of Allah, with the intention of earning the reward of the Hereafter, considering the receiver as poor and destitute, it will be charity classed as (Sadaqa). Both are commendable and will earn the person reward in the Next life.
The Beloved wife of the Prophet (SAW), Aisha (RA) has narrated that he said “Exchange presents with one another. Presents remove ill-will from the hearts.” (Tirmidhi) This is obvious, if you want to forge a relationship with someone, or you wish to apologise for a mistake then gifts will work most of the time. Of course it depends on the magnitude of the mistake, sometimes giving a present does not work as well as a sincere apology. It should be noted from this narration that presents should definitely be exchanged in the reconciliation process, between two friends or family members. This will help mend the relationship which suffered due to a person’s error.
Another Hadith has been narrated by Aisha (RA) in regards to gifts. She informs us that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Give presents to one another. Presents remove malice from the hearts, and a female neighbor should not regard the gift of a trotter (hoof) of a goat to another female neighbor as of no value.” (Tirmidhi) The hoof of a goat was a dish cooked by women in the time of the Prophet (SAW), it is still enjoyed by many cultures around the world. This shows that gifts do not have to be expensive, rather it is the heart that gives, not the price tag which is attached to it that is important. This should only be done when there is no chance that the recipient will regard the gift as an insult, it is a sad state of affairs that many people do in fact look at the price tag and not at the sentiment.
It was the blessed conduct of the Prophet (SAW) to accept gifts and to reciprocate them. Aisha (RA) narrates, “The practice of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was that he accepted a gift and offered (one) himself in return for it” (Bukhari) This shows the Prophet’s (SAW) outstanding social conduct, he would not receive a favour but that he would return it. If he did not return the favour at that time then he would at a later date.
This is in conformity to the Verse: “Could the reward for goodness be anything but goodness?” (55:60) If we are gifted something we should firstly make supplication for that individual, but we should try our utmost to return the favour.
It is narrated by Jabir (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said; “If a present is made to anyone, and he has something to give in return, he should offer it, and if he has nothing to give (in return), he should praise him (by way of gratitude), and say a good word on his behalf. Whoever did it, fulfilled the claim of gratitude, and whoever did not, and concealed a favour (done to him), was guilty of ingratitude, and whoever flaunts a virtue that has not been granted to him is like a man who wears a double cloak of deception.” (Tirmidhi) (Abu Dawud) This narration informs us that if a person receives a present then he should try to offer something in return. If he is unable to do so, he should utter a word of goodness for him and speak of his kindness to others. This too will be counted as an act of gratitude. Contrary to this, a person will be deemed ungrateful if he receives a gift and does not even say ‘Jazaak Allah’, and hides it from others.
Showing gratefulness is a natural response when a gift it presented to a person. It not only shows that the receiver appreciates the gift, but it serves as an impetus to the benefactor to carry on giving. That is why the Prophet (SAW) has counselled his nation to thank the person who does some favour on them, “Whoever failed to give thanks to anyone who did a favour to him failed to give thanks to Allah.” (Ahmad) (Tirmidhi) This is an obligation of the one who has received a gift. He should humble himself and thank the person, not become arrogant and turn his face away.
When receiving a gift, if you cannot immediately give something in return then you should recite ‘Jazaak Allahu Khairan’ (May Allah reward you [with] goodness). This has also been mentioned by the beloved Prophet (SAW); “Whoever did a favour to anyone and then recited for his benefactor, ‘Jazaak Allahu Khairan’, he also, praised him fully (through it).” (Tirmidhi) This prayer not only asks Allah to reward the giver, but it is an acknowledgment of his inability to repay his debt of gratitude. It is therefore a prayer as well as a recognition of the benefactors’s generosity and humanity.
As mentioned before the price of the gift does not matter, rather it is the emotion and love behind the gift. The Prophet (SAW) who was the best of creation, he was the one who was the perfect human being, he did not reject gifts because of their worth. He would accept them because he wanted to make the giver feel a sense of joy. The Prophet (SAW) has stated; “Whoever is offered a sweet-smelling flower should accept it, and not reject it because it is a very ordinary thing. Its fragrance is a thing of joy.” (Muslim) This is a clear indication that the price or scarcity of the item is unimportant. A Muslim is not so shallow, well he is not supposed to be.
The Prophet (SAW) has specified three items which should never be refused if they are given: “There are three things which, particularly should not be refused; a pillow, oil (used for applying to hair etc) and milk” (Tirmidhi) Again these three things cost relatively little and should be accepted, in order to make the benefactor feel appreciated.
To give gifts is a very emphasised act in religion, however the person who takes a gift back after giving it to a person is deemed to be very lowly. The Prophet (SAW) has informed us, “It is not proper for anyone of you to offer something to a person as a gift and then take it back. Of course, if a father gives anything to his children he is exempted from it. (He can take it back) for a father has every kind of claim on his children. [explaining the wretchedness of the act], whoever claims back a gift after giving it is like the dog who ate something and when his stomach was filled to capacity, vomited it, and ate up the vomit.” (Abu Dawud) (Tirmidhi) (Nasai) (Ibn Majah) This should serve as a severe warning for one who wants to do this, it is the practice of certain twisted individuals to gift something only to claim it back as a means to hurt a person’s heart. This is completely wrong, these people have been likened to dogs, even if they claim that they only did it as a ‘joke’ or ‘prank’, this is not the Prophetic way.
May Allah give us true understanding of His Religion. May he give us the gift of Jannah. May he forgive our sins and allow us to follow His Prophet (SAW) in every aspect. Ameen.