Generosity is such an important virtue in the religion of Islam that the holy Quran says with regard to it: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend of anything, Allah indeed knows it” (3:92).
As perfect exemplars of this great ethical virtue, the holy prophet (PBUH&HP) and infallible Imams (AS) always recommended their followers to be unconditionally kind and bountiful with people. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) stated: “A generous person is closer to Allah, to the people and heaven” 
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“As for him who gives and is Godwary, and confirms the best promise, We will surely ease him toward facility” (92:5-7)
Generosity is one of the qualities of the soul which Allah bestows upon His beloved ones, who are not concerned about material wealth and willingly give to others to make the world a better place and reach God’s satisfaction.
In return, The Bountiful Allah has promised to provide the generous with ease and facility both in this world and the hereafter. Under God’s promise to generous people in the verse above, scientific studies also confirm the ease and happiness generosity would bring about. “A huge review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness was published in the journal BMC Public Health. The results? Volunteering not only improves well-being and life satisfaction, but it is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early” .
One of the most eminent characteristics of the holy infallible Imams was their generosity. It has been narrated that Imam Hassan (AS) granted his whole wealth twice in his lifetime to win Allah’s satisfaction and improve the life of his fellow human beings. He also divided his property with the poor three times, granting half his wealth to the poor altogether, including his own shoes . Money was only a means for him to help the needy. “Once, he was asked: ‘We do not see you disappoint a beggar. Why?’
He replied: ‘I am asking Allah for His favors, and I love to be near Him. I am ashamed, as I am myself in need of Allah, to repulse a beggar. Allah got me used to a habit; to shower me with His bounties, and I get Him used to me showering His bounties on the people. I fear that should I stop my habit, He may stop His habit.’” 
This implies the verse of the holy Quran that says:
“Be good [to others] just as Allah has been good to you” (28:77)
It is noteworthy, however, that the infallible Imams never sought excessive asceticism. Neither did they ordain absolute abstinence from worldly delights [i]. Although they were sometimes rich, they willingly wanted to lead the life of the poorest people in the society. So that they could sympathize with them, and show the nothingness of the perishable earthly wealth compared with other eternal values.
But does it mean that Muslims have to give all their wealth away generously like their leaders? In fact, this kind of behavior mostly suits the leaders of a community. What Islam expects from the rest of the people is moderation in generosity.
Along with the social and individual benefits of the generosity in Islam for the giver proven by the researchers, ranging from a better outlook on life to having a lower risk of early death, the Quranic verses also name some more spiritual effects of this act of benevolence:
Generosity and charity make us receive the unlimited, immeasurable blessings and mercy of God:
“Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:262)
God has guaranteed multiplied reward as the replacement of donation and generosity in this world and the hereafter:
“… and He will repay whatever you may spend, and He is the best of providers’” (34:39)
“The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances several fold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing” (2:261)
God showers his endless blessings upon generous people. He makes it easy for them to follow the path of obedience and charity until they are granted a life free from any fears or difficulties:
“Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:274)
“Indeed, those who recite the Book of Allah and maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, expect a commerce that will never go bankrupt” (35:29)
“Those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s pleasure, maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, and repel evil [conduct] with good. For such will be the reward of the [ultimate] abode” (13:22)
In the next part of this article, we will introduce 6 Etiquettes of Generosity and Almsgiving.
[i] Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “there is no monasticism in Islam” .
Human beings by nature are social creatures, in need of companions and friends. Most of our lives depend on interactions with others, and man is therefore compelled to live in society and with other individuals. Friendship in Islam is considered one of the Divine blessings through which one overcomes loneliness and solitude.
Islam has placed tremendous importance on sociability and friendship. In the Quran [i], great emphasis has been placed on the concept of friendship because maintaining good company plays a pivotal role in shaping the life of the individual and it influences the path that will be chosen in life. Likewise, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his Ahl al-Bayt (AS) on different occasions had clearly stated its importance, criteria for choosing a friend, characteristics of a good friend and the rights of a friend .
Friends are an integral and important part of our social life as they contribute greatly to the development of one’s personality and they affect many aspects of our lives. Islam, in complete harmony with man’s nature, deals extensively both in the Quran and the narrations (Hadiths) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) with the issue of friendship in Islam.
In the Quran, Allah says:
“On that day, friends will be one another’s enemies, except for the Godwary.” (43:67)
The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) while explaining the impact of friends says:
“Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you befriend.”
Similarly, the commander of the faithful; Imam Ali (AS) says:
“Try to have as many as possible true friends, for they are the supplies in joy and the shelters in misfortunes” 
Islam attaches great emphasis on the choice of a friend to be selected in life. For this purpose, it is expected that one should employ his/her judgment in a manner free from emotion and try to set aside the criterion for assessing his/her real worth. “One must know his/her inadequacies and weak points, his/her ideas, feelings, dislikes and infirmities. Ultimately, one must discover the human merits and desirable qualities that he/she carries in the depth of his/her spirit so that one may benefit from his/her outstanding virtues.”
Therefore, for the great good or bad influences friends can have on the characters and personality of each other, it is important for every man of reason to choose friends that are characterized by good mannerism and behavior.
Meanwhile, in accordance with the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his Ahl al-Bayt (AS), a Muslim must avoid certain sets of people as friends: transgressor, hypocrites, foolish, liar, sinful, stingy, and disregardful to his/her relatives. Similarly, non-Muslims should not be taken as intimate friends or allies .
However, there is no hindrance for a boy having a girl as a friend or vice versa, so far as the Islamic regulations (such as the Islamic Hijab, avoidance of indiscriminate touching, etc.) are observed and they avoid any sinful act.
In Islam, the followings are some of the characteristics to be looked forward to in a friend:
Uprightness and well mannerism
Following some narrations (Hadiths) , friendship entails certain trusts and duties. The one who observes them is a true friend while one who breach them is unworthy of friendship in Islam. Here are some of the rights of friends:
Respecting them and their personality 
Rendering material supports in the time of need 
Advising them when they need your advice 
Forgiving their shortcomings 
Concealing their lapses and faults from others 
Visiting them when they are sick 
Participating in their funeral when they die
Concisely, friends are integral parts of our social life, and it is important to be selective in the choice of companions and friends. The righteous ones who lead one to righteousness in this world and prosperity in the Hereafter should be considered as friends.
In contrast, hypocrites and ill-mannered individuals who are sources of plights in this world and in the Hereafter should not be taken as friends. Similarly, Islam teaches the Muslims to observe certain matters in friendly relations. This is because immoderation in this regard may lead to deplorable consequences and bring regret and pain.
[i] (9: 71), (25: 27-29), etc.
- Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-Hikam, P. 177; Mustadrak Wasa’il, Vol. 5, chapter 42
- Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 74, P. 192.
- Mahdi as-Sadr, The Ahlul-Bayt; Ethical role models, P. 290.
- Mujtaba Musavi Lari, Ethics and Spiritual growth, P. 211.
- (3: 28); (4: 144); (5: 51); (9: 23) etc.
- Imam Ali Zayn al-Abideen, Treatise on Rights, Right 33 (The right of the companion)
- Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, P. 198, Hadith No: 8.
- Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-Hikam, P. 775
- Ibid, P. 707
- Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 16, P. 233, Hadith 35
- Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 3, P. 173.
If your right were taken away unfairly, what would be your reaction? Of course, you would stand up for your right and try to take it back or maybe fight for it. What if this reaction would make everything worse? What if you realize that your compromise, leads into the greater good of yourself or even the society? Fighting against injustice, sometimes, includes sacrifices, which goes beyond egotistic and individual desires. Depending on the situation, one might be made to compromise and sacrifice his/her right for the sake of his/her higher purpose, while having the power to take his/her right back. And this can only be done by a spiritually and mentally powerful person, such as Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (AS), the first grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
In what follows, we will review the life of this exceptional figure in the history of Islam.
Hasan ibn Ali (AS), known as Hasan al-Mujtaba (AS), was born on 15th of Ramadan, 1st of March, 625 A.D. in Medina. He was the first son of Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (AS), and the first grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). His name, "Hasan," which means good or beautiful, and was chosen by his grandfather, the Prophet (PBUH&HP), for him, having no precedent in this name in the pre-Islamic history.
Imam Hasan (AS) was only seven years old when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) passed away. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) dearly loved him, and as it is narrated, he used to put Imam Hasan (AS) on his shoulders and said, "O' Allah! I love him, therefore, You love him, too."  In some instances, while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was performing the congregational prayer in the mosque, Imam Hasan (AS), then a little boy, would go on Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) back while he was prostrating. In response, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) would kindly and patiently prolong his prostration, so that he would come down himself. Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) manner of treating his grandsons was, in fact, a model to his followers to treat their children respectfully and compassionately.
His love and respect toward Imam Hasan (AS) are evident through the many narrations left by him about his grandson: "Surely, Hasan and Hussain are my two fragrant flowers from this world; he who loves me, should love them, too" , "Hasan is my son and dear to my heart, whoever hurt him, is like he's hurting me" , "Hasan and Hussain are the masters of the youth in paradise" . It has also been narrated that Imam Hasan (AS) very much looked like Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in both appearance and personality . Despite his young age, Imam Hasan (AS) was present in many significant incidents in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) time.
After Imam Ali's (AS) tragic martyrdom in 661 A.D, many people in Iraq and the neighboring lands pledged allegiance to Imam Hasan (AS), as the most suitable person to be their Caliph succeeded by Imam Ali (AS). Nevertheless, soon after this pledge of allegiance, Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan [i] refused to respect people's choice and offended Imam Hasan's (AS) caliphate. He tried to incite people of Iraq by sending two spies who were captured and punished by Imam Hasan (AS) . Finally, Mu'awiya provoked a rebellion in Syria against Imam Hasan (AS) and built an army to go into war with Imam (AS) in Iraq. It is reported that 60,000 soldiers or more accompanied Mu'awiya .
In this situation, Imam Hasan (AS) gathered an army of Kufa people to fight against them and defend the people. Some minor battles occurred between the two troops. Later, Imam Hasan (AS) joined the army of Kufa and gave a sermon to them, inviting them to unity and reconciliation rather than hatred and enmity. After this speech, people thought that Imam (AS) was after making peace with Mu'awiya and accused him of disbelief, attacked his tent, and left his side. Also, some of the heads of Imam Hasan's (AS) army, including "Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas", the commander in chief of Imam Hasan's (AS) army, joined Mu'awiya's army with two-third of his army. Before that, Mu'awiya had sent them letters and promised them high positions in his government and a considerable amount of money. This was followed by the letters of the chiefs of Iraqi tribes to Mu'awiya, expressing him their support.
All these incidents resulted in the significant physical weakening of Imam Hasan's (AS) army and losing their spirit, despite Imam Hasan's (AS) efforts to give them heart through his influential and alarming speeches. Yet the covert activities of Mu'awiya in Kufa, sending his forces undercover among people and spreading false accusations concerning Imam Hasan (AS), gradually broken Imam Hasan's (AS) army. Some even assassinated Imam Hasan (AS) and wounded him severely.
Finally, pressing hard under the conspiracies of Mu'awiya and the weakness of people in fighting against injustice, which had disturbed the military balance between the two armies, Imam Hasan (AS) was made to accept a peace treaty and leave the caliphate to Mu'awiya . Thus, the period of Imam Hasan's (AS) caliphate lasted between six to eight months.
According to historical accounts, "Mu'awiya sent a blank contract with his seal at the bottom for Imam al-Hasan (a) to write anything that he wished and thus he wrote, "In this peace treaty, al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a) establishes peace with Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and leaves the government of the Muslims to him with the following conditions:
1. He observes the Book of God, the conduct of the Prophet (s), and the conduct of the righteous caliphs.
2. He appoints no one as the Caliph after himself; and after him, the Caliph should be elected by a council of Muslims.
3. Lives, property, and children of people should be safe everywhere.
4. Mu'awiya should not implicitly or explicitly plot against al-Hasan b. 'Ali or threaten any of his companions." 
Under these conditions, Imam Hasan (AS) signed the peace treaty in 661 A.D. However, all of these conditions were later denied by Mu'awiya in his sermons and manners. "After the peace treaty, Imam (AS) gave a sermon and pointed to this issue that Mu'awiya challenged him over his rights and explained the reasons for his peace, which was to protect the lives of people and avoid bloodshed. After the treaty, Mu'awiya, too, gave a sermon at his first presence in Kufa. He broke his promises, saying that Imam (AS) had asked for peace and cursed Imam Ali (AS). Then, Imam Hasan (AS) explained about the peace treaty in a sermon and the proposal of Mu'awiya for it and answered to Mu'awiya's disrespect to his father." 
After this incident, Imam Hasan (AS) went back to Medina. While he was not a caliph anymore, he felt the responsibility to guide people in religion, science, and social and political issues. The signing of the peace treaty had made the situation very difficult for him. Some people criticized him, some of his old companions left his side, and severe political measures were taken against him.
Imam Hasan's (AS) patience in the face of hardship becomes evident by having a glance at his life, which was full of challenges. Losing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he was only a child, losing his mother, lady Fatima (AS), bearing the difficulties at the time of his father's caliphate, following by his martyrdom most brutally, electing as a caliph by the people and then being abandoned by the same ones provoked by Mu'awiya, being forced to accept a peace treaty and giving up caliphate unfairly, was only some of these hardships. No doubt, without a strong personality resulted from a deep belief in Allah, Imam Hasan (AS) would not be able to bear these sufferings and challenges.
Moreover, he presented forbearance even when he was directly insulted and never responded with anger. In an instance, "a Syrian man saw Imam Hasan (AS) and started cursing him. When he finished his insults, the Imam (AS) smiled, greeted him, and said, "It looks like you are a stranger in this city … If you need anything, we will fulfill your needs." The man was deeply impressed by the Imam's (AS) noble reaction; he started crying and recited the following verse: "God knows best with whom to place His message" (Quran 6:124), indicating that the Imam (AS) deserved to be a descendant of the Prophet (PBUH&HP)" .
Imam Hasan's (AS) life was full of instances, which revealed his immense generosity and selflessness. It is narrated that he had given away all his properties and wealth as a charity twice in his lifetime . According to an account, a man in need came to Imam Hasan (AS). Imam (AS) asked him to write what he needed and give him the note. When Imam (AS) read his letter, he gave him twice more than what he had asked. One of the people who were present there said, "What a bounteous letter he wrote, O' son of the Prophet (PBUH&HP)!" Imam (AS) replied, "The letter had more bounty and blessing for us than him since it had made us among the generous ones. Don't you know that "generosity" is to give something to someone without being asked for, and what is given away after being asked, is paltry in return to that person's honor. Perhaps the one who asked for something had spent a night full of stress and fear, not knowing if you reject him or make him happy with accepting to fulfill his request. Now he has come to you, his heart beating fearfully. If you, then, give him no more than what he had asked, you don't give away anything worthier than his honor, which he had broken for this request." 
Imam Hasan's (AS) generosity was not limited to human beings, but all of Allah's creatures. In one account, a man saw Imam Hasan (AS) eating, giving a morsel of his food to a dog, and eating a morsel himself. The man who was surprised by this scene went closer to Imam Hasan (AS) and said, "Would you permit me to hit this dog with a stone and take him away from your food?" Imam (AS) replied, "Leave it alone! Since I feel ashamed of Allah al-Mighty if an alive animal looks into my face while I'm eating and I won't give it part of my food." 
Imam Hasan (AS) found generosity and doing charity, not as a mere religious burden; instead, he gave away willingly and saw it as a chance bestowed to him by Allah to please Him.
The grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), following the footsteps of his grandfather, was highly observant of his manner toward the ones in need, being careful not to break their hearts or belittling them while helping them. It is reported in an account, "One day, he passed by a group of poor people who were eating pieces of bread. When they saw him, they invited him to eat with them. The Imam (AS) accepted their invitation and sat and ate with them and then invited all of them to his house and offered them food and clothes." 
Imam Hasan (AS) never felt superior to other people and treated everyone, regardless of their age or position, with the same respect and modesty.
All the above characteristics of Imam Hasan (AS) and many more is a reflection of his deep devotion and love toward Allah, the One and Only Creator. Imam Hasan (AS) was the perfect example of a true believer both in manner and words. He was famous for his sincere worship, long prayers, and his enthusiasm to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca on foot. He would say, "I would be embarrassed to meet my Lord without having walked toward His house." 
His abiding faith had made him a strong and exemplary personality from whom any human being with a free soul can learn the lesson of humanity and love.
According to some historical sources, After disregarding the conditions in the peace treaty, Mu'awiya conspired the assassination of Imam Hasan (AS) to secure the position of his son, Yazid, as his successor. To further his plan, he sent for Imam Hasan's (AS) wife and enticed her to poison her husband in return for money and marrying Yazid. Finally, she accepted his offer and fatally poisoned Imam Hasan (AS) . He was martyred in the 15th of Ramadan of 50 (670 A.D.) and was buried in al-Baqi' cemetery in Medina.
[i] The first Umayyad caliph who ruled in Damascus after the Peace Treaty of Imam Hasan (AS).
- Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik al-Hindi, Kanz al-Ummal, Vol.16, p.262.
- Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Vol.5, p.615.
- Qadi Nur Allah Shushtari, Ihqaq al-haqq, Vol.11, p.63.
- Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, Vol.3, p. 394.
- Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.43, p.338.
- Al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, Translated by I.K.A Howard, Published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an. p.350.
- Al-Sharif al-Qarashi, Baqir, The life of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), translated by Jasim al-Rasheed, Qom, Ansariyan Publications. p.334-335.
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, Vol.5, p.324.
- Al-Baladhuri, Ahmad ibn Yahya. Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 3, p. 41-42.
- Imam Hasan Mujtaba
- Baha' al-Din 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Irbili, Kashf al-ghumma fi ma'rifat al-a'imma, Vol.1, p.561.
- Ahmad b. Abi Ya'qub, Tarikh al-Ya'qubi, Vol.2, p.226.
- Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi, Al-Mahasin, p.55.
- Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.43, p.352.
- ibid, p.319.
- Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, Vol.4, p. 7.
- Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd ibn Umar al-Zamakhsharī, Rabi al-Abrar wa nusus al-Akhbar, Vol.5, p.155-156.