Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet, peace be upon him, as saying: âA miserly person and the one who spends his money may be compared to two men with two robes made of iron, covering them from their breasts to their shoulders. Every time the charitable gives something, his robe extends and covers his skin, until it covers up his forefingers and wipes away his trace when he walks. As the miserly person wants to spend something, his robe sticks to the position it is in. He tries to extend it, but it does not.â (Related by Al-Bukhari)
The first thing to note about this Hadith is the unusual comparison it makes. A miserly person should normally be compared to a generous one, but the Prophet draws the comparison with âone who spends his moneyâ. He thus implies that spending oneâs money on what is required or recommended by Islam contrasts with miserliness. It is not necessary, then, that one should be over generous in order not to be counted as miserly.
A robe is normally worn from the top end, with the person putting his head through its opening. Therefore, it is first gathered at the top, then it stretches downward. These two persons are about to wear their iron robes. The robes are described as being made of iron, so as to indicate their additional use as shields protecting the wearers. Their initial status covers only the top part of oneâs chest. As the generous person spends his money, whether on his dependents or helping strangers who are poor, the robe unfolds and covers a larger area of the wearerâs body. The more he gives away, the greater it extends, until it has covered him perfectly, including his forefingers. Moreover, it stretches to the ground, so that when he walks, it wipes away his trace so that he could not be pursued.
By contrast, the one who is stingy is reluctant to spend his money, even on necessary matters for himself or his own family. Hence, whenever he has to spend something, his robe sticks in place. It covers nothing of his body, other than his top part. This is not the purpose for which robes are worn.
The Hadith stresses the fact that charity, or sadaqah, provides protection from evil. It pleases God and wipes away oneâs sins. It thus provides protection against hell in the hereafter. The Prophet says: âShield yourselves from the fire, even though it may be by half a date.â Indeed the Prophet stressed these meanings in different ways. He is quoted to have said to Asmaâ: âDo not tie your purse tight; otherwise, God will tie things hard for you.â (Related by Al-Bukhari) ¬