What is the criterion in exchanging presents?

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What is the criterion in exchanging presents?
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Dear Brother / Sister,

There is not a certain criterion in exchanging presents. The presents do not have to have the same value. A person can give another person a present based on his financial situation. It is not appropriate for a poor person to buy an expensive present by putting himself into financial difficulty.

It is necessary not be extravagant when buying presents; it is better to buy one that will not cost a person more than he can afford and one that will be used. The intention in receiving and giving presents should be to fulfill the order of the Messenger of Allah, ”give and receive presents…”; it should not be to show off.

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) showed us by his exemplary deeds how the attitude of a Muslim should be regarding the issue of exchanging presents as he did in every other issue.

Our Prophet returned even the simplest favor. He always returned favors and he advised his ummah to do so. In a hadith, he said, “Return the favors. If you cannot find anything to give to a person, pray for him so that it will be known that you have returned his favor." (Abu Dawud Zakah 8).

The Messenger of Allah, who returned even the simplest favor, would definitely give a present to someone who gave him a present. He advised his friends and relatives to do so, too. Hazrat Aisha said, “The Messenger of Allah received presents and gave presents in return."

If the person who gives the present is someone that expects something in return, he needs to be given something. For instance, when the slave gives his master a present or when a poor person gives a rich person a present. Imam Malik and Imam Shafii hold this view.

If the person who gives the present does not expect a return or if he does not lay a condition like that, it is not necessary to give him something according to Abu Hanifa and Imam Shafii. However, Imam Malik holds the view that it is wajib to give something in return for a present based on the following verse: "Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct)." (al-Ahzab, 33/21)

We learn the attitude of the Prophet regarding the issue from a hadith reported by Hazrat Aisha.

A Bedouin gave the Prophet a present and the Prophet gave him a present in return. It is narrated by Ibn Abbas. Those who draw a conclusion from this hadith believe that it is wajib to give a present in return for a present that you receive. Thy show this thought and the Sunnah as evidence.

In another hadith, the Prophet says, "exchange presents so that your love toward each other will increase."

Our Prophet is the greatest example for all Muslims. There are many lessons that Muslims need to take from him. The Messenger of Allah always gave something in return for a present. That is what a Muslim needs to do.

The reason why something is given in return for a present is not because it is obligatory but because it will increase love and respect among people. (see Şâmil İslam Ans., Hediye item)

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