The Upper Hand is Better then the Lower Hand and Imaam Sufyaan ath-Thawree on the Filth of the People
The Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu alayhi wasallam) said,
“The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient.”
[Saheeh al Bukhaaree, Narrated Hakim bin Hizam 1346 ]
Abu Huraira is reported to have heard the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) as saying:
It is better for one among you to bring a load of firewood on his back and give charity out of it (and satisfy his own need) and be independent of people, than that he should beg from people, whether they give him anything or refuse him. Verily the upper hand is better than the lower hand, and begin (charity) with your dependants.
[Saheeh Muslim 2267]
Sufyaan ath-Thawree said to ‘Alee ibn al-Hasan, while advising him, O my brother! You must take to acquiring that which is pure, and that which you yourself have earned, and beware of eating and dressing from the filth of the people [i.e. living from their charity and hand-outs]. Indeed the one who eats from the filth of the people is like a man who owns the upper story of a building, but not the lower story, so he is always afraid that the lower story will fall down causing his upper story to be demolished.
And the one who eats from the filth of the people speaks from whims and desires, agreeing with the people, out of fear of being shunned by them.
O my brother! If you were to receive anything from the people, you would hinder and prevent your tongue [i.e. from speaking the truth to them], and you would honor some people and treat others with contempt, despite the punishment that will befall you on the Day of Resurrection. For indeed the one who gives you something from his wealth, has indeed given you his filth.
And the explanation of why this is his filth is that the wealth he gives purifies his actions from sins [i.e. and hence becomes filthy for us, just like water becomes dirty in the process of cleaning a garment].
And if you were to accept anything from the people, then if they were to call you to do evil, you would accede to their wishes. Indeed the one who eats from the filth of the people is like the man who has some partners, and he feels that he is bound to them, by an oath. My brother! Hunger and starvation, and engaging in few acts of worship, is better than eating ones fill via the filth of the people, and [hence being able to do] many acts of worship.
And it has reached us that Allaahs Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, If one of you had taken some rope and then gathered some firewood [to sell it to the people], until his back became sore, then that would be better for you than being dependent upon his brother by asking for something or anticipating something. [Related by al-Bukhaaree.]
And it has reached us that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (radiyallaahu ta’aalaa anhu) said, Whoever among you works, then we commend him and whoever does not work, then we have doubts about him. And he said, O Reciters! Raise your heads! [i.e. Don’t go about with heads bent as if out of humility, for humility is of the heart.] Do not add humility to what is in the heart, while competing with one another for good deeds, and do not be dependent upon the people, for that way has become clear.
And Alee ibn Abee Taalib (radiyallaahu ta’aalaa anhu) said, Indeed the one who lives completely from the hands of the people, is like the one who plants a tree upon someone elses land.
So fear Allaah, my brother, being conscious of Him! For no one has acquired something from the people, except that he becomes despised and contemptible with the people, and the Believers are Allaahs witnesses on the earth.
Be careful not to earn through evil ways and then spend that wealth in obeying Allaah, for indeed avoidance of it has been made an obligation and a duty by Allaah, and indeed He is Pure (Tayyib) and accepts only that which is pure (tayyib).
Do you not see that a man who had a robe upon which some urine dropped, so he wanted to clean it but he washed it with some more urine?! Do you think that he has actually cleaned it? Of course not! Indeed dirt and filth cannot be purified except with that which is pure, and likewise the sin can only be wiped out with a good deed. And indeed Allaah is Pure and accepts only that which is pure, and indeed the Haraam is not accepted in any of the actions. Or can it be that someone commits a sin and then eradicates it with [another] sin?!
[Related by Aboo Nu’aym in al-Hilyah (8/71-72).]
Taken from Words of Advice From the Salaf, published by Salafipublications