Our ulama have mentioned that reciprocating, being of good cheer, and giving gifts (Arabic: hadaya) in general are recommended, along with keeping family and neighborly ties.
At times that are festive for non-Muslims, such as the Christmas season, that recommendation stands though one should keep one’s intention general and avoid greetings and expressions associated with the religious aspects of observances.
In keeping with that goodly intention here are some of the adab (proprieties) of giving gifts (Arabic Hadya or Hadyah):
- The actual purpose of giving a gift is to strengthen bonds of affection (Mawaddah). Therefore, care should be taken in choosing a gift that is appropriate and not a cause of inconvenience of offense.
- Give gifts in private, not in public. The Muhdaa ilayh (the person to whom the gift was given) is entitled to choose whether or not to disclose his gift.
- Immediately after accepting a gift it is not proper to give it (the gift) away in the presence of the person who gave the gift. If one must give it away then do so in the absence of the Muhdee (the one who has given the gift) in a way which will not be known to him.
- For gifts in kind (as opposed to cash) be moderate with the amount given. It should not be so much that it constitutes a difficulty for the Muhdaa ilayh. It does not matter how much or little value the gift may be. People of piety are not concerned with the amount or quantity of the gift. They look at the sincerity of the one who makes the gift.
- If for some reason a gift is refused, then respectfully request the reason for the refusal and bear it in mind for the future. But do not insist on obtaining the reason immediately. If the gift is refused because of a misunderstanding or a baseless supposition or misinformation on the part of the Muhdaa ilayh, then it is correct, in fact better, to immediately notify him of the error.
- The motive for giving gifts should be only Muhabba and Mawaddah (love and affection), not the fulfillment of one’s needs or request. Therefore, if you have some need of a person, do not offer a gift while that is outstanding. It is unbecoming in such circumstances (as it resembles a bribe or incentive).
- A gift tendered with the motive to obtain some benefit in lieu is, in fact, bribery. It is not Hadyah.
- If the motive underlying the gift is to obtain thawaab in the hereafter, then too, it is not Hadyah, but will be Sadaqah (charity).
- Accept gifts from such persons who you believe are giving in good faith and good cheer (not due to some other motive), otherwise it will eventually lead to ill-feeling.
- Do not give a gift in such a way that taking possession of it becomes difficult and onerous on the Muhdaa ilayh .
- It is improper to disregard (i.e. to forget about) a gift which one has received, for this displays lack of appreciation. Similarly, it is improper to advertise with pride the great value or abundance of the gifts received. The one who has accepted a gift should endeavor to reciprocate. If one does not have the means to give anything in return, at least praise the person and express gratitude. Mention his favor in the presence of others. Expressing gratitude by saying “May Allah reward your goodness” will suffice. One who does not express gratitude to a person who did a favor, does not express gratitude to Allah.
- It is not permissible to accept gifts from minors or the insane – since they may not legally dispose of property.
- A gift should not be refused because it is deemed of little value, quantity, or quality.
- A gift should not be refused on account of pride or arrogance.
- If one is convinced that a gift is being given for some specific end (such that it is or resembles a bribe), then such a gift should be refused.
- When sending a gift with someone, ensure that the person whom you are sending it with is reliable so that there is no need to obtain a receipt or acknowledgement letter from the Muhdaa ilayh. Requesting acknowledgement from the Muhdaa ilayh is an irksome imposition on him and is unbecoming.
- When a gift is given, there should be no discussion, questions, or reference of any sort to the price, quantity, or quality of the gift in the presence of the Muhdee.
We ask Allah to accept all noble deeds and intentions and grant us the best of this world and the hereafter.
This list is based on a similar list at islam.org.