So often we hear people saying, “He never gives me an expensive gift. That is why I have chosen this cheap gift for him” or someone might say, “I am going to buy an expensive gift for her because she is rich. She will return it with a better one.”

Is this what exchanging gifts is all about? While saying such things we forget the real meaning of a gift. Giving a gift or present should be done without expecting any compensation.

It is a voluntary act that does not require anything in return. Therefore it is totally different from trade. In Islam, giving gifts is a virtuous deed and an expression of love, friendship, and gratitude. It is strongly recommended in the religion because it strengthens the bonds of brotherhood. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love for one another.” (Al-Bukhari)

Looking down upon one’s gift is disliked in Islam as Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said, “O Muslim women! None of you should look down upon the gift sent by her she-neighbor even if it were the trotters of the sheep (fleshless part of legs).” (Al-Bukhari)

Abu Huraira also narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I shall accept the invitation even if I were invited to a meal of a sheep’s trotter, and I shall accept the gift even if it were an arm or a trotter of a sheep.” (Al-Bukhari)

If we receive a gift from anyone, we are encouraged to respond by giving him or her something better than what we received. Al-Bukhari narrated that Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to accept gifts and reward people for giving them.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever do you a favor, respond in kind, and if you cannot find the means of doing so, then keep praying for him until you think that you have responded in kind.” (Abu Dawood)

The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) disliked taking back gifts that one had already given, and strongly discouraged this habit, as is evident by the narration of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) who narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “One who takes back his gift (which he has already given) is like a dog that swallows its vomit.

The consequences of not following the Islamic etiquettes are long-lasting. If a Muslim gives a gift to a rich person expecting a better gift in return, and if this wish is not fulfilled, he might spoil his relations with his fellow Muslim because of his greater expectation.

Similarly, a person who follows Sunnah will always return the giver with something better and this creates love, friendship, and brotherhood amongst each other.

Thus when we do deeds for the sake of Allah and hoping for His reward alone, then we won’t have expectations from people, then this leads to peace of mind and success in this world and the hereafter.