This hadith is a lesson on good and long-sighted way for da'awa.
Mu'ad in this hadith was sent to do da'wa (invite non-Muslims to Islam) in Yemen where a notable part of the population was from ahl al-Kitab, al-'Ayny بدر الدين العيني in his 'Umdat al-Qary عمدة القاري explained how the Jewish came to Yemen and where later mixed by Christian, but after the failure of Abraha to demolish al-Ka'aba only settled in Najran between Mekka and Yemen, while the Jewish settled there in Yemen. So according his explanation these ahl al-Kitab were Jewish.
the prophet () gave Mu'ad a good advice in several steps:
- Invite them to Tawheed.
- (only) after they have accepted Tawheed (only reciting the two shahadah is not enough), tell them about Allahs orders starting with the five daily prayers.
- (only) after they have accepted praying (they must perform the prayer in order to achieve this step), tell them Allah ordered Zakat on their property.
But do not take from their property the best of it (at this stage).
At this point I must do a break because this is the content of this hadith.
Just for your information according Badr ad-Deen al-'Ayny (again) in his book:
the best property of the people
it was referring to their sheep more exactly to the ewe (female sheep) which can offer much of milk. You could imagine that taking these for zakat would mean for them a financial loss, which may lead to a new hostility and refusal of the rules of Islam (at this stage).
Another hadith tell us what happened after Thaqif accepted Islam:
Wahb said: I asked Jabir about the condition of Thaqif when they took the oath of allegiance. He said: They stipulated to the Prophet (ﷺ) that there would be no sadaqah (i.e. zakat) on them nor Jihad (striving in the way of Allah). He then heard the Prophet (ﷺ) say: Later on they will give sadaqah (zakat) and will strive in the way of Allah when they embrace Islam.
(Sunan abi Dawod and also Musnad Ahmad)
Therefore 'Umar ibn 'abd al-'Aziz was reported saying (with full chain) -see for example here (in Arabic) in abi Nu'ayms Hilyat al-Awliyaa' حلية الأولياء وطبقات الأصفياء-:
In the following I'm translating form Arabic language, as these translations are of my own take them carefully!
حدثنا سليمان بن أحمد ، ثنا أحمد بن يحيى ثعلب النحوي ، ثنا الزبير بن بكار ، ثنا محمد بن مسلمة ، عن هشام بن عبد الله بن عكرمة قال : قال عمر بن عبد العزيز : ما طاوعني الناس على ما أردت من الحق حتى بسطت لهم من الدنيا شيئا .
People did not obey me to what I wanted from the truth until I spread something for them from the world.
Another example: Ibn 'abdi Rabbih al-Andalussi ابن عبد ربه quoted in his al-'Aqd al-Fareed العقد الفريد -see here in Arabic- (a similar statement should be quoted in Tareekh Dimashq تاريخ دمشق of ibn 'Assakir ابن عساكر) another statement of 'Umar ibn 'abd al-'Aziz:
وقال عبد الملك بن عمر بن عبد العزيز لأبيه عمر: يا أبت، مالك لا تنفذ في الأمور، فو الله لا أبالي في الحق لو غلت بي وبك القدور.
قال له عمر: لا تعجل يا بني، فإن الله تعالى ذم الخمر في القرآن مرتين وحرمها في الثالثة، وأنا أخاف أن أحمل الناس على الحق جملة فيدفعوه وتكون فتنة.
'Abd al-Malik ibn Omar ibn 'abd al-'Aziz said to his father, 'Umar: O Father, Why don't you carry out the rules/affairs, by Allah I do not care about the truth if you boost me and your pots.
'Umar said to him: Do not hurry, my son, for Allah the Almighty condemned alcohol twice in the Qur’an and forbade it in the third.
So offering people who are willing to accept Islam a bit of "ease" by any means is a good way to help them accept Islam more easily. Especially in cases where a bit of leniency is acceptable.
In the given case: one may chose other sheep instead of such ewe's.
Once this is accepted these people would reach the next step in their acceptance of Islam:
- they will accept Islam without any conditions or exceptions.
Note that Allah did the same with many rules Muslims today know by the final order/ruling see for example:
Some corresponding fiqh rules
Further from a fiqh perspective:
Imam al-Qurafy القرافيsaid in his al-Furooq كتاب الفروق -see here in Arabic-:
يشترط في خطاب التكليف علم المكلف وقدرته على ذلك الفعل
The order assignment requires knowledge of the Mukallaf and his ability to do that
This means a person who is not able to fulfill orders -for reasonable reasons- is exempt from doing them (until he/she would be able to). Such kind of person therefore is regarded as not being addressed by the corresponding orders of the shari'a unless he/she would be able to fulfill them (again).
Al-Qurafy further added a rule -see here in Arabic-:
والقاعدة أن المتعذر يسقط اعتباره والممكن يستصحب فيه التكليف
The rule is that the impossible is forfeited and the possible is accompanied by the assignment or order