The joke of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the real worth of the believer

The joke of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the real worth of the believer

Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“There was a man among the people of the desert — his name was Zahir — and he used to bring the Prophet (peace be upon him) a present from the desert, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) would equip him with what he needs when he wished to go back to his home . “The Prophet said (peace be upon him): ‘Zahir is our desert, and we are his town’. He (peace be upon him) used to love him, though he was an unattractive man, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to him one day while he was selling his wares in the market, and embraced him from behind so that he couldn’t see who it was. So he said: ‘Who is this? Let go of me!’ Then he turned around and recognised the Prophet (peace be upon him). Once he recognised the Prophet (peace be upon him), he kept his back pressed to the Prophet’s chest, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) proceeded to say: ‘Who will buy this slave?’ The man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, in that case, by Allah, you will find me an unsalable commodity!’ The Prophet said (peace be upon him): ‘But you are not an unsaleable commodity in the view of Allah),’ or he said: ‘You are precious to Allah!’”. [Shamail at-Tirmidhi]

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رضي الله تعالى عنه، أَنَّ رَجُلا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْبَادِيَةِ كَانَ اسْمُهُ زَاهِرًا، وَكَانَ يُهْدِي إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، هَدِيَّةً مِنَ الْبَادِيَةِ، فَيُجَهِّزُهُ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، إِذَا أَرَادَ أَنْ يَخْرُجَ، فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ إِنَّ زَاهِرًا بَادِيَتُنَا وَنَحْنُ حَاضِرُوهُ. وَكَانَ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُحِبُّهُ وَكَانَ رَجُلا دَمِيمًا، فَأَتَاهُ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، يَوْمًا وَهُوَ يَبِيعُ مَتَاعَهُ وَاحْتَضَنَهُ مِنْ خَلْفِهِ وَهُوَ لا يُبْصِرُهُ، فَقَالَ‏:‏ مَنْ هَذَا‏؟‏ أَرْسِلْنِي فَالْتَفَتَ فَعَرَفَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَجَعَلَ لا يَأْلُو مَا أَلْصَقَ ظَهْرَهُ بِصَدْرِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم حِينَ عَرَفَهُ، فَجَعَلَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، يَقُولُ‏:‏ مَنْ يَشْتَرِي هَذَا الْعَبْدَ، فَقَالَ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، إِذًا وَاللَّهِ تَجِدُنِي كَاسِدًا، فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ لَكِنْ عِنْدَ اللهِ لَسْتَ بِكَاسِدٍ أَوْ قَالَ‏:‏ أَنتَ عِنْدَ اللهِ غَالٍ‏.‏‏

رواه الترمذي في الشمائل

The man who loved giving gifts

In this beautiful narration, we have a sweet exchange involving a man used to come from the desert to give gifts to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was called Zahir.

Exchanging gifts

We notice on the importance of giving gifts as a way of expressing love. Zahir would brings medicines and fruits from the desert that they did not find in the city, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) would find beneficial.

As narrated in another hadith, exchanging gifts fosters love between companions, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Exchange gifts; you will love one another.” (Darimi)

It does not mean that a gift has to be expensive, it can even be symbolic.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew that he was not wealthy in return the Prophet (peace be upon him) would equip Zahir for his return journey with whatever he needed on his way back. He would give him what he needed and even beyond his needs.

The generosity of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

We note the generosity of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who would always reward anyone who gave him a gift with something in return. This exchange of gifts was a common thing between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions.

The hug as an expression of love

Next we notice the Prophet’s humility (peace be upon him) and his warmth, love and compassion towards his companions. Though Zahir was not very attractive, the Prophet (peace be upon him) loved him. When he noticed that Zahir was in the market one day selling his wares, the Prophet (peace be upon him) crept up behind him and hugged him, according to some narrations he put his blessed hands over Zahir’s eyes and said guess ‘Who I am?’ Zahir initially resisted being grabbed, then when he realised who had grabbed him, kept his body pressed against the Prophet’s chest (peace be upon him), wanting to get the blessings of this proximity to him.

Some narrations say that Zahir guessed who it was when he touched his hands because his hands were softer than silk. We envy Zahir who was hugged by the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is a translation of his love into a hug. Sometimes we love others but do not know how to express our love for them to them.

The jokes of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

In his biography they say Zahir used to love playing jokes and here the Prophet (peace be upon him) here was playing a joke back on him. He called out asking who would buy this slave, though he was a freeman. Zahir commented that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would find him unsaleable because of his unattractive looks. However when the Prophet (peace be upon him) realised what he meant, he replied that Zahir was not at all an unsellable commodity, rather he was very precious.

Although the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a messenger, he entertained his companions and they entertained him, and he would accept jokes as long as they did not harm anyone or cross the boundaries. Here he was joking with Zahir when he offered him for sale. He loved Zahir, and his companions, and they loved him, so he was not distant from them, unreachable in an ivory tower or barricaded by bodyguards – he was close to them – even skin to skin.

The real worth of the believer

When Zahir said he was ugly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) shifted his attention away from physical beauty to inner beauty – true beauty is the beauty of the heart and soul. This is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted us to recognise. Do not care about people’s opinions. Care about Allah’s opinion. What can you do with all your likes and followers on social media if you are not liked by Allah. It is a ticket to Jahannam. However if no one likes you among people, but Allah loves you it is your ticket to Jannah. Zahir held the common view – that no one would be interested in someone who looks ugly. This is why people use filters to make them look beautiful. What about inner beauty? Do you look after your inner beauty or do you only focus on external looks? If you deliver what Allah wants from you, you are loved by Allah.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace  be upon him) said,

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَنْظُرُ إِلَى صُوَرِكُمْ وَأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ وَأَعْمَالِكُمْ

“Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions.” (Sahih Muslim)

People’s opinions vs Allah’s opinion

What is people’s love and admiration worth if Allah does not love you. Your imaan is what makes you beloved to Allah. Zahir’s attention was people’s opinions, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) shifted it to Allah’s opinion. What matters is the soundness of your heart. Let us focus on our inner beauty. This is what we are accountable for. We are Zahir in many ways. Sometimes we feel down that no one appreciated us or is looking after us. And we need this hug of love which comes from being connected to Allah. It makes you appreciate that what really matters is Allah and the rest is details. Your worth is your inner beauty. We ask to be among those whom Allah loves.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim 25th August 2023


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.