Narrated Abu Huraira (radiallaahu `anhu):
The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, “The poor person is not the one who asks a morsel or two (of meals) from the others, but the poor is the one who has nothing and is ashamed to beg from others.”
The Arabic word for which “poor” has been used here is miskeen, which means “needy”.
This is to be understood by the giver, in my opinion. The real needy person who deserves to be given is the one who’s ashamed to ask. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give to those who ask of you. Just that those who don’t ask should be paid attention to as well. Also, those who don’t ask are hard to find. It takes effort to identify such deserving people.
This Hadith comes in the tafsir of this ayah:
لِلْفُقَرَاءِ الَّذِينَ أُحْصِرُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ ضَرْبًا فِي الْأَرْضِ يَحْسَبُهُمُ الْجَاهِلُ أَغْنِيَاءَ مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ تَعْرِفُهُم بِسِيمَاهُمْ لَا يَسْأَلُونَ النَّاسَ إِلْحَافًا ۗ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ
“(Charity is) for Fuqara (the poor), who in Allah’s Cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land (for trade or work). The one who knows them not, thinks that they are rich because of their modesty. You may know them by their mark, they do not beg of people at all. And whatever you spend in good, surely, Allah knows it well.” [Al-Baqarah: 273]
Ibn Kathir comments:
﴿لِلْفُقَرَآءِ الَّذِينَ أُحصِرُواْ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ﴾
((Charity is) for the poor, who in Allah’s cause are restricted (from travel)) meaning, the migrants who migrated to Allah and His Messenger, resided in Al-Madinah and did not have resources that sufficiently provided them with their needs,
﴿لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ ضَرْبًا فِى الاٌّرْضِ﴾
(And cannot Darban (move about) in the land) meaning, “They cannot travel in the land to seek means of livelihood.” Allah said in other instances ﴿using a variation of the word Darban﴾
﴿وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُواْ مِنَ الصَّلوةِ﴾
(And when you (Muslims) travel in the land, there is no sin on you if you shorten the Salah (the prayer)) ﴿4:101﴾, and,
﴿أَن سَيَكُونُ مِنكُمْ مَّرْضَى وَءَاخَرُونَ يَضْرِبُونَ فِى الاٌّرْضِ يَبْتَغُونَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَءَاخَرُونَ يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَاقْرَءُواْ﴾
(He knows that there will be some among you sick, others traveling through the land, seeking of Allah’s bounty, yet others fighting in Allah’s cause) ﴿73:20﴾.
Allah then said,
﴿يَحْسَبُهُمُ الْجَاهِلُ أَغْنِيَآءَ مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ﴾
(The one who knows them not, thinks that they are rich because of their modesty) meaning, those who do not know their situation think that they are well-off, because they are modest in their clothes and speech. There is a Hadith with this meaning that the Two Sahihs recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,
«لَيْسَ الْمِسْكِينُ بِهذَا الطَّوَّافِ الَّذِي تَرُدُّهُ التَّمْرَةُ وَالتَّمْرَتَانِ، وَاللُّقْمَةُ وَاللُّقْمَتَانِ، وَالْأُكْلَةُ وَالْأُكْلَتَانِ، وَلكِنِ الْمِسْكِينُ الَّذِي لَا يَجِدُ غِنىً يُغْنِيهِ، وَلَا يُفْطَنُ لَهُ فَيُتَصَدَّقَ عَلَيْهِ، وَلَا يَسْأَلُ النَّاسَ شَيْئًا»
(The Miskin (needy) is not he who wanders about and whose need is sufficed by a date or two, a bite or two or a meal or two. Rather, the Miskin is he who neither has enough resources to sustain him, all the while people are unaware of his need so they do not give to him, nor does he ask people for anything.)
Imam Ahmad also recorded this Hadith from Ibn Mas`ud.
(You may know them by their mark) means, “Those who have good minds discover their situation,” just as Allah said in other instances,
﴿سِيمَـهُمْ فِى وُجُوهِهِمْ﴾
(The mark of them (i.e. of their faith) is on their faces) ﴿48:29﴾, and,
﴿وَلَتَعْرِفَنَّهُمْ فِى لَحْنِ الْقَوْلِ﴾
(But surely, you will know them by the tone of their speech!) ﴿47:30﴾. Allah’s statement,
﴿لاَ يَسْـَلُونَ النَّاسَ إِلْحَافًا﴾
(they do not beg of people at all) means, they do not beg and, thus, do not require people to provide them with more than what they actually need. Indeed, those who ask people for help, while having what suffices for their needs, have begged.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sa`id said, “My mother sent me to the Messenger of Allah to ask him for help, but when I came by him I sat down. The Prophet faced me and said to me,
«مَنِ اسْتَغْنَى أَغْنَاهُ اللهُ، وَمَنِ اسْتَعَفَّ أَعَفَّهُ اللهُ، وَمَنِ اسْتَكَفَّ كَفَاهُ اللهُ، وَمَنْ سَأَلَ وَلَهُ قِيمَةُ أُوقِيَّةٍ فَقَدْ أَلْحَف»
(Whoever felt satisfied, then Allah will enrich him. Whoever is modest, Allah will make him decent. Whoever is content, then Allah will suffice for him. Whoever asks people, while having a small amount, he will have begged the people.)
Abu Sa`id said, “I said to myself, `I have a camel, Al-Yaqutah, and indeed, it is worth more than a small amount.’ And I went back without asking the Prophet for anything.” This is the same wording for this Hadith collected by Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i.
﴿وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ﴾
(And whatever you spend in good, surely Allah knows it well) indicates that no charity escapes Him, and He will reward it fully and perfectly on the Day of Resurrection, when it is most desperately needed.
There’s a lesson for the beggars (in the literal sense) here as well. Avoid asking of people. If you uphold your dignity and self-respect, Allah will too. As the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said:
Whoever felt satisfied, then Allah will enrich him. Whoever is modest, Allah will make him decent. Whoever is content, then Allah will suffice for him. Whoever asks people, while having a small amount, he will have begged the people.
One more thing, identifying people’s needs and giving them without their asking is a real talent. Try putting it to use! :)