Abdullah was sleeping in a corner of a mosque in Mecca, when he was awakened by the conversation of two angels above his head. They were preparing a list of the Blessed and one angel was telling the other that a certain Mahbub of Sikandar City deserved to be ranked first, even though he has not come on pilgrimage to the Holy City.
Hearing this, Abdullah went to Sikandar City and found out that he was a cobbler, repairing the shoes of people. He was famished and poor; for, his earnings barely sufficed to keep flesh and bone together. He had by severe sacrifice piled up a few coppers during the course of years; one day, he spent the entire treasure to prepare a special dish, which he proposed to place before his enceinte wife as a surprise gift.
When he was proceeding home with the gift he heard the cry of a starving beggar who seemed to be in the throes of extreme hunger. Mahbub could not proceed further; he gave the pot containing the costly delicacy to the man and sat by his side, enjoying the blossoming of satisfaction on his haggard face.
The act gave him a place of honour in the register of the Blessed, a place which pilgrims to Mecca who had spent millions of Dinars in charity could not secure. The lord cares for the feeling behind the act, not the fanfare and the fuss.
There is an ancient saying in India that goes like this: Anna daanam maha daanam; Vidya daanam mahattaram. Annena kshanika trupthihi Yaavajjeevanthu vidyaya.
It means that giving food to a hungry person is indeed a great donation, but the greatest donation of all is to give a person education. Food gives but a momentary satisfaction whereas education empowers the person for his entire life.
The Sanskrit word Annadanam literally means the offering or sharing (danam) of food (annam).In sanskrit the word “Annam” means food and “Daanam” means to donate. Thus “Annadanam” means feeding the hungry and needy.Taittiriya Upanishad declares, All life force comes from food. (annam vai pranah) and Let food be produced in plenty (annam bahu kurveet). In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna declares, From food all beings are evolved (annad bhavanti bhutani).Even in Vedas, Upanishad, Ramayana, or Mahabharata during all these periods feeding a hungry person was treated as a greatest service to man kind. ANNA DAANAM MAHAA DAANAM [offering food is the best gift in the world.]is a very popular Sanskrit verse which has motivated millions of Indians to perform this divine act and in ancient India in most of the temple premises there were annadana centers.
Annam Para Brahma Swarupam. Food only can support the body to attain Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. The person, who participate in this sacred Annadanam, will be blessed by divine Gods. Creatures cannot live without food, hence the donors of Annadanam are also considered as donors of pranadanam. Pranadanam means to offer all things as donation, accordingly they are blessed. Annadanam is a sacred activity. It is said that the sacred works done by the people with the energy acquired by food bestows half of its effect to the donor of food and the rest is to that person. Many positive results like this can acquire from the Annadanam.
Manu Dharma Sastra declares, regard the guest as a deity (atdhithi devo bhava) plainly expresses this worldwide tradition among ancient societies that deities may move upon the earth in human guise, and that one should therefore regard them with the utmost courtesy and respect and hospitalityincluding the offering of food items. Annadanams are conducted with this very principle in mind, for among the hungry crowd there may also be the anonymous genuine devotee, saint or even a deva or deity. Indeed, each and every poor person is regarded in this way, as expressed in the Sanskrit saying Daridra Narayana (God dwells in the poor person).
Service to human is service to God. Serving food to the hungry is equal to effect of performing ritual yagna. Human beings can only be satisfied with food but not with gold, dress and other things, as they desire to have them more and more. But in case of food a man wholeheartedly says that the food is enough for him. It is said that glory, strength and fame will be acquired in Trilokas by Annadanam.