The great Imaam and Muhaddith, ‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (rahimahullah), would perform hajj very regularly. He would carry along a lot of luggage and travel in a caravan of many servants and others whom he would sponsor.
On one of his journeys for hajj, he was accompanied by a servant who had a partridge with him. One day during the journey they sent the luggage ahead and were packing up their camp to continue travelling when the servant saw that his partridge had died. Knowing that it was carrion and could not be eaten, the servant left it at a dump nearby.
‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (rahimahullah) was, in the meanwhile, seated on his horse when he suddenly caught sight of a young girl who kept peeping from the door of a home close to the dump. Realizing that she was trying to avoid being spotted and was waiting for a chance to emerge unseen, he turned and pretended that he had not noticed her. As soon as he turned, she came running to the dump wearing only a lower garment. As quickly as she could, she grabbed the dead partridge and darted back home. Concerned that this young girl should not consume carrion, ‘Abdullah (rahimahullah) instructed his servant to knock on the door of the small home. The servant did as instructed and the girl came to the door. ‘Abdullah (rahimahullah) approached her and asked her why she had taken the dead bird to which she replied, “I live here with my sister. We own nothing besides the lower garment I am wearing. Our father was a wealthy man but when he passed away, we were oppressed and our share of the inheritance was snatched from us. We have, ever since, lived in such poverty and hunger that even carrion is permissible for us to consume. There is nothing in this home besides this lower garment. When I wear it, my sister has to go without anything to wear. This lower garment is our clothing, our bedding and even our blanket.”
‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (rahimahullah) enquired, “Do the two of you have no guardian?” “By the oath of Allah, no” she replied. ‘Abdullah (rahimahullah) immediately felt sympathy for the sorrowful plight of the two girls and took pity on them. He sent a servant to catch up with and bring back the luggage and thereafter turned to his treasurer and asked, “Where is the money we brought for our travelling expenses?” “Around my waist” he replied. ‘Abdullah (rahimahullah) had brought along a thousand gold coins. He instructed the treasurer: “Keep twenty gold coins which will be enough for us to return home and give the girl the remainder. On arriving back at the campsite, somebody asked him why had he cancelled his hajj to which he replied, “I was given the opportunity to earn a reward greater than that of nafl hajj.” (Al Muntazam li-ibnil Jawzi vol. 9 pg. 62)
1. It is extremely important to determine our priorities and act accordingly. ‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (rahimahullah) understood that although his plans for hajj had already been made and he had already covered some of the journey, the need of the hour – and more virtuous act – was to assist the girls in need. Similarly, a person who has outstanding debts must first pay off his debts before going for nafl ‘umrah, hajj etc. Likewise, it does not behove a believer to spend huge sums of money on going for nafl ‘umrah every now and again when those on his own doorstep (his family members, neighbours, staff etc.) are struggling to make ends meet.
2. If a person is not blessed to journey to the Holy Lands for hajj, it does not mean he has to be deprived of reward. By exerting ourselves in the ‘ibaadah which is most important at that moment, we can sometimes gain greater reward.