How should the phrase "Allah wondered and laughed" mentioned in the hadith be understood?

Details of the Question

How should the phrase "Allah wondered and laughed" mentioned in the hadith be understood?

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(editor) on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 11:13

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hz. Abu Hurayra narrates:

"A man came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said,

"I am starving to death." The Prophet sent the man to one of his wives and asked some food. She said,

"I swear by Allah Almighty, who sent you with the truth, that I have nothing except water." Then the Prophet sent him to another woman. She said the same thing. Thereupon, the Prophet said,

"Allah will show mercy to the person who entertains this hungry man and feeds him." An Ansari called Abu Talha stood up and said,

"O Messenger of Allah! I will entertain him." Then, he took the man to his house and said to his wife,

"Do you have anything to eat?" She said,

"I have got nothing except the meal of children." Thereupon, he said to his wife,

"Keep the children busy with something and put them to sleep. When the guest comes in, let us pretend as if we eat. When he reaches his hand to the food, get up to straighten the lamp and put it off." The woman did what her husband said. They sat together. The guest ate but the man and the woman went to bed hungry.
In the morning, they went to the Prophet (pbuh). He said to Abu Talha,

"Allah wondered and laughed due to your treatment to your guest." The following verse was sent down:

"... but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)." (al-Hashr, 59/9). (Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar 10, Tafsir, Hashr 6; Muslim, Ashriba 172)

EXPLANATION:

1. This incident might have taken place during the first years of Islam, when conquests had not started yet. For, poverty was widespread in the first years of Islam. We know that many Companions, primarily the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), had difficulty in finding food and clothes, and that they even tied stones on their stomachs.

2. Hadith scholars have different views about the identity of Abu Talha mentioned in the hadith. Some scholars claim that he is Thabit Ibn Qays Ibn Shammas because his name is mentioned in a similar incident. However, Ibn Hajar interprets it as the occurrence of the incident more than once.  

Some scholars say he is Abu Talha Zayd Ibn Sahl. Khatibul-Baghdadi says that he is famous therefore, it is not reasonable to use the phrase "An Ansari called Abu Talha" and that Zayd Ibn Sahl are among the wealthiest Companions; therefore, he decrees that Abu Talha mentioned in the hadith cannot be Zayd Ibn Sahl. However, Ibn Hajar regards this explanation weak. Ibn Bashkawal says he is Ibn Abdullah Ibn Rawaha without showing any evidence. Some scholars say he is Abu Hurayra, who narrated this hadith. Ibn Hajar does not state clearly who Abu Talha mentioned in the hadith is but he implies that he is Zayd Ibn Sahl.

3. The phrase "Allah wondered and laughed" mentioned in the hadith is metaphorical. What is meant by attributing those two deeds peculiar to human beings to Allah is to indicate that Allah became pleased with what they did.

4. In general, the incident mentioned above is accepted as the reason for the verse to be sent down but Ibn Marduya mentions another incident. According to what Ibn Umar narrates,   

"A man was given a sheep’s head as a present. He sent it to another person as a gift thinking that he needed it more. That man gave it to another person with the same thought. Thus, the sheep’s head returned to the same man after it was circulated among seven people."

Thereupon, the verse mentioned above was sent down. Ibn Hajar states that the verse might have been sent down for all of those reasons. 

5. As for Abu Talha, he is Zayd Ibn Sahl Ibnil-Aswad Ibn Haram al-Ansari al-Khazraji. He took part in Aqaba Pledge and Battle of Badr. He is a chief. His mother is Ubada Bint Malik. She is known as Umm Sulaym. Abu Talha is the second husband of Umm Sulaym, the mother of Anas.

After the Migration, the Messenger of Allah made Abu Talha and Abu Ubayda Ibnul-Jarrah brothers. Abu Talha took part in all expeditions and battles with the Messenger of Allah; he fought heroically to protect the Messenger of Allah in the Battle of Uhud: He stood in front of the Messenger of Allah and used his body as a shield to protect him from all kinds of blows. He is famous for archery and braveness among the Companions. It is narrated that he killed twenty polytheists and took their possessions in the Battle of Hunayn. As he shot arrows in front of the Messenger of Allah in the Battle of Uhud, the Messenger of Allah would look whether he hit the target or not. He said, "Abu Ubayda's voice in the army is equal to one hundred people."

When Abu Talha asked Umm Sulaym’s hand for marriage before he became a Muslim, he received the following answer from her:  

"O Abu Talha! It is not reasonable to reject the offer of a person like you but you are an unbeliever and I am a Muslim. Be a Muslim. I will accept it as your mahr and I do not ask anything else as mahr." He accepted her request and became a Muslim.

It was Abu talha who dug the grave of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and buried him.

Abu Talha could not perform fasting because he was always in expeditions and battles with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) when he was alive. After the death of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), he performed fasting for forty years on end; he broke his fast only on eid days.

He died in 51 H when he was seventy years old. Some other years are also mentioned. According to a narration, he started to read the chapter of at-Tawba and when he read the verse انفِرُوا خفَافً وَثَقَاً  (Go ye forth, (whether equipped) lightly or heavily), he said, "I see that my Lord calls me to make jihad when I am young and old." He said to his children, "Prepare my war equipment!" His children said, "You fought together with the Messenger of Allah until he died. Then, you fought together with Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar. We will fight instead of you. (You relax and worship.)" Abu Talha insisted and made preparations. He embarked a ship to go to jihad. He died during the sea expedition. They could not find any land to bury him for a week. They buried him seven days later. They saw that his body had not undergone any change; it had not rotted either. It is also said that he died in Madinah.

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