Sayyiduna Maymun ibn Abi Shabib (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reported:
A beggar asked ‘Aaishah (radiyallahu ‘anha) for charity and she gave him a piece of bread. Thereafter, one well-dressed person asked her for charity and she invited him to sit down and served him food. When she was asked about the reason for the difference in treatment, she said: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) instructed us: ‘Treat people according to their status.”
Some people are claiming that this teaches us to treat people differently and not as equal. Can you please provide an explanation to expel the misconceptions?
This Hadith has been recorded by several Hadith Masters. See here for the details of its source and authenticity.
This Hadith provides an essential code of conduct for socialising with the different sectors of society.
As far as your specific query is concerned, firstly the translation provided in your question is inaccurate.
The second person was not a beggar, and there is no mention of him asking for charity!
He was a visitor who was well respected in his society.
Here is the Arabic text of the Hadith as it appears ibn Sunan Abi Dawud, Hadith: 4809.
عن ميمونِ بْنِ أَبِي شَبيب أَنَّ عَائشة مر بِهَا سَائل فَأَعْطَتْه كِسْرَة ومر بهَا رجل عليه ثِيَاب وهيْئة فأَقْعدَتْهُ فَأَكَلَ
One cannot expect all and sundry to be shown the same amount of regard and respect.
Undoubtedly, when it comes to rights/human rights, all are equal. Similarly the Shari’ah declares equality in corporal punishments and other such matters.
(Fathul Mulhim, vol.1 pg.331)
This Hadith is actually referring to additional respect that certain individuals deserve. Obliging to offer additional respect to someone, does not result in disrespect for the other…
In the incident in question, one may ask: ‘Did Sayyidah ‘Aaishah (radiyallahu’anha) cheat the initial poor beggar in any way?’
The obvious answer is: No. She gave him what was sufficient for him, even if it be a piece of bread.
As far as the second visitor was concerned, since he was a respectable person in his community, he deserved added attention. This is perfectly understandable. One does not treat everyone like one treats the elders in the community. When we show added respect to our elders, does it mean we are being unfair to the youngsters?
And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,
Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar