Assalamualaikum, what is the status of the story of Tha’labah who refuses to pay the zakat?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Recently, we heard numerous famous stories that some of the stories heard degrade or shame the name of individuals who are the companions of the Prophet PBUH. Among them is the story of Tha’labah and this story is said to be the cause of revelation (sabab al-nuzul) for one verse of surah al-Tawbah.
Before we analyze this matter further, there are numerous companions of the Prophet PBUH who are named Tha’labah. Thus, which Tha’labah is meant in the story? Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar list the names of the Companions named Tha’labah in his book:
- Tha’labah bin Aus
- Tha’labah bin Abi Balta’ah
- Tha’labah bin Thabit
- Tha’labah bin al-Harith
- Tha’labah bin Hatib bin al-Aus al-Ansari (died a martyr in the battle of Uhud)
- Tha’labah bin Harram
- Tha’labah bin al-Hakam
- Tha’labah bin Khaddam al-Ansari
- Tha’labah bin Sa’idah (died in the battle of Uhud)
- Tha’labah bin Salam
- Tha’labah bin Suwaid al-Ansari
- Tha’labah bin Abd al-Rahman al-Ansari
- Tha’labah bin Qais
Thus, are the companions of the Prophet PBUH named Tha’labah, however, the Tha’labah meant in this story is Tha’labah bin Hatib al-Ansari. He was together with the Prophet PBUH in the battles of Badar and Uhud. Furthermore, he died during the rule of Umar and it is also stated that he dies during the time of the rule of Uthman. He was stated to have refused to pay the zakat when it was commanded by the Prophet PBUH as narrated by Sa’id bin Jubair and Abi Qatadah when commenting verse 75 of surah al-Taubah. See al-Isti’ab fi Ma’rifah al-Sahabah (1/20)
The Summary of the Story of Tha’labah
Tha’labah bin Hatib al-Ansari went to the Prophet PBUH, he said: O Messenger of Allah PBUH, pray so that Allah SWT would bless me with wealth, then the Prophet PBUH answered: “Curse on you O Tha’labah, the little lead to gratitude to Allah is better than a lot of which you are incapable of.” After some time, he came back to the Prophet PBUH and put out the same request, the Prophet PBUH then supplicate to Allah SWT to grant him wealth. Afterwards, the following verse of the Quran was revealed:
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ إِنَّ صَلَاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase, and invoke [ Allah 's blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.”
Surah al-Taubah (103)
Then, the Prophet PBUH instructed a man from the Ansasr and another from Bani Sulaim and the Prophet PBUH gave them a note regarding zakat to them both. Furthermore, the Prophet PBUH asked both of them to ask from Tha’labah some of his property to be donated. Both men promptly went to fulfil the commandment of the prophet PBUH and when they met Tha’labah they read the note written by the Prophet PBUH. After hearing the note, Tha’labah refuses to hand over some of his wealth for zakat and said that it is jizyah. Both men went back to the Prophet PBUH and told the Prophet PBUH the incident. Allah SWT then revealed the verse:
وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ عَاهَدَ اللَّـهَ لَئِنْ آتَانَا مِن فَضْلِهِ لَنَصَّدَّقَنَّ وَلَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
And among them are those who made a covenant with Allah, [saying], "If He should give us from His bounty, we will surely spend in charity, and we will surely be among the righteous."
Surah al-Taubah (75)
When the verse was revealed, one of the men went to meet Tha’labah and told him: Allah SWt has revealed a verse regarding your refusal to pay zakat and curse you for it Tha’labah. When hearing this, Tha’labah went to meet the Prophet PBUH to pay his zakat but the Prophet PBUH refuse to accept it for Allah SWT has prevented me from accepting anything from you. After the Prophet PBUH passed away, Tha’labah went to Abu Bakar who was the caliph at the time and Abu Bakar refuses him. Afterwards, during the rule of Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab RA, Umar Ra too refused any wealth from Tha’labah and the same happened during the rule of Uthman RA. Tha’labah ultimately died during the time of the rule of Uthman bin Affan RA in the state where he has yet to pay his zakat despite him trying several times. See Tafsir al-Thabari (no. 16987) al-Mu’jam al-Kabir Thabarani, (no. 7873) and Asbab al-Nuzul by al-Wahidi pg. 252.
Scholars Opinions Regarding this Story
This story is unauthentic according to what have been stated by scholars, among them are:
- Imam al-Qurthubi said: “Tha’labah is one of the persons who were in the battle of Badar and he is also a person whose faith has been acknowledged as stated in hadith. Thus, what is narrated here is unauthentic.”
- Imam Ibn Hazim said: “Tha’labah is one of the people who fought in the battle of Badar and this is generally known, hence this narration is bathil.”
- Imam al-Iraqi said: “Thabarani takhrij this hadith by using a weak sanad.”
- Imam al-Qurthubi said: “What has been narrated related to Tha’labah is untrue.”
- Imam al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: “I don’t think this story is true.”
After considering the opinions presented by scholars regarding this narration or story, we choose to state that this story is not true (unauthentic) and should not be spread in society except when explaining that it is an unauthentic (not true) story. This is in line with the opinions of renowned scholars. Among the reasons we state that this story is not true are:
- Tha’labah is one of the companions of the Prophet PBUH. We as a Muslim should hold unto the belief that the Companions are ‘adalah (fair), which means they would not lie or do anything which contradict the pillars of Islam such as refusing to pay zakat.
- Tha’labah is one of the people who fight in the battle of Badar. As we know, those who participate in the battle of Badar have their own advantages. Among them is Allah SWT has acknowledged their faith and forgives their past and future sins. This is in accordance with the hadith of the Prophet PBUH:
اعْمَلُوا مَا شِئْتُمْ فَقَدْ وَجَبَتْ لَكُمُ الْجَنَّةُ
"Do whatever you like. The Garden is guaranteed for you."
Sahih al-Bukhari (3684) in the Book of Battle, Chapter the Prioritization of Those Who Participate in the Battle of Badar.
- After considering the reason the verse is revealed, we found that the rajih (strong) opinion states the reason is it is revealed to the hypocrites who are misery and ungiving when it comes to handing over some of their wealth as stated by al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Tahzib al-Tahzib.
Let us all fulfil one of the pillars of Islam which is paying the zakat. The reason is our wealth is not ours in absolution, but in truth are Allah SWT’s and a part of it are actually the rights of our less fortunate brothers. Lastly, may Allah SWT make us from among those who always purify their wealth and property by paying our zakat and may Allah SWT accept our good deeds. Amin.