Nazrana (Offerings): In Scriptures - According to the Koran, “Who gives away his wealth, purifying himself.” (92:18).
By Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali
Story of Abdul Mutalib
Abdul Mutalib had taken a vow to give one of his ten sons as a nazrana to God if he got ten sons. He eventually got ten sons, and then to fulfill his vow, he wrote the names of his ten sons on ten separate chits to draw the name of the one chosen by God. The name of his most beloved son, Abdullah (father of the Holy Prophet) was drawn up. It shocked Abdul Mutalib. He then wrote name of Abdullah on a chit and ten camels in another chit and prayed to God to spare Abdullah and accept ten camels, which he would sacrifice and distribute among the destitue class. But the name of Abdullah appeared once again. Hence Abdul Mutalib increased number of camels to twenty and prayed for God’s acceptance. This time again name of Abdullah appeared. Abdul Mutalib kept on increasing number of camels from twenty to thirty, forty and so on until he wrote hundread camels. In the last time, the name of Abdullah did not appear, but the hundred camels. At last God heard his petition and spared his most beloved son, Abdullah. Abdul Mutalib jumped in jubilation and slaughtered hundred camels as an accepted token of his nazrana. (Tabaqat, 1:65)
The tradition of Nazrana in the time of Prophet (pbuh)
Qurtubi (d. 1273) writes in Al Jami li-Ahkam al-Koran (13th vol., p. 132) that, “The Prophet of Islam and all the prophets accepted and encouraged the exchange of gifts on account of their beneficial effect on human relations.” Thus, “the Prophet also accepted the gifts” (Bukhari, 51:11).
The presence of the nazrana to the Prophet was in vogue in Medina. Abdullah b. Bushr relates: My sister used to send presents with me to the Prophet and he accepted them (Tabaqat, 2:458). Once a tiffin made of clarified butter, honey and wheat presented, the Prophet ate it and said, “How good it is?” He also liked to have gourd among curries, vinegar condiment, dried dates among dates. Anas bin Malik relates that once he chased and caught a hare in the forest of Marruz-Zahran. Abu Talha slaughtered it and sent both of its hind-legs (between knee and the trunk) to the Prophet as a gift. The Prophet gladly accepted it. Besides, Umm-i Malik Behzia, Umm-i Aws Bahzia, Umm-i Salim and Umm-i Sharik were noted for sending ghee in leathern bottles to the Prophet. Once Sa’d bin Mu’adh told the Prophet, “Why should I not build a cottage for you to take rest? I also wish to offer a conveyance for you.” The Prophet praised and prayed for him and accepted the gifts (al-Bidayah, 3rd vol., p. 268).
Anas b. Malik also narrates that the ruler of Rome presented a cloak of serenest to the Prophet (Ibid., 2:571). Tabari (1st vol., p. 1528) writes that a man of the clan of Najjar presented a stronghold to the Prophet. Abdullah b. Buraydah relates that the ruler of Abyssinia presented to the Prophet two simple boots which he wore (Tabaqat, 2nd vol., p. 573). The ruler of Yamen presented a precious robe to the Prophet, whose value was equal to the price of thirty camels (Abu Daud, 2:203). A white mule was presented by a Syrian chief, another mule received from the ruler of Egypt and Aila (Bukhari, 24:54). A chieftain had sent him a pair of sockings.
Nazrana (Offerings) In Ismaili History - The legacy of the nazrana was prevalent in the Dawr-i Satr (concealment period) of the Ismaili history.
Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali has authored several articles and books, including Encyclopedia of Ismailism, 101 Ismaili Heroes and Ismailis through History. For several decades, he has been involved with Ismaili Tarqiah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) in Pakistan as an Honorary Missionary and lecturer of religious education classes on history, ginans and other educational topics.
Karachi: April, 2017