There were very large numbers of people immigrating to Medina. Therefore they needed shelter. All the Muslims who had migrated from Mecca to Medina had been moved to a house where they had been staying for a while until they stood on their own feet.
But as the number of people who converted to Islam increased and more people came to Medina, it was almost difficult to manage all of them. Therefore a shelter was built. As soon as new Muslims arrived, they went to the mosque, which became their home. The shelter became known as “Suffa”.
The number of people in the shelter varied. Sometimes there were ten and other times up to 70 people. Most stayed there for a limited time.
The people who lived in the “Suffa” had reached a point where they did not even have good clothes to wear. They had nothing to eat.
When there was a special event, the Prophet always called the people of the shelter. One of the Prophet’s most famous companions was Abu Hurairah.
Abu Huraira narrated, “Once the Prophet (SAW) saw me so hungry that I was weak and exhausted lying on the ground. He called me to his house and asked his wife if there was anything to eat or drink. “She said a neighbor gave them a glass of milk.”
Abu Huraira was happy! A glass of milk… It could quench his hunger. Then the Prophet (SAW) said to him: “Go and call the people from the shelter (Suffa).”
There were about 40 people there!
Abu Hurairah continues the narration and says: “The order of the Prophet upset me, and I said to myself, “How will this little milk be enough for the people of As-Suffa?” thought I was more entitled to drink from that milk to strengthen myself, but behold! The Prophet came to order me to give that milk to them. I wondered what will remain of that milk for me, but anyway, I could not but obey Allah and His Apostle so I went to the people of As-Suffa and called them, and they came and asked the Prophet’s permission to enter. They were admitted and took their seats in the house.
The Prophet said, “O Aba-Hirr!” I said, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Take it and give it to them.” So I took the bowl (of Milk) and started giving it to one man who would drink his fill and return it to me, whereupon I would give it to another man who, in his turn, would drink his fill and return it to me, and I would then offer it to another man who would drink his fill and return it to me. Finally, after the whole group had drunk their fill, I reached the Prophet who took the bowl and put it on his hand, looked at me, and smiled, and said. “O Aba Hirr!” I replied, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “There remain you and I.” I said, “You have said the truth, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Sit down and drink.” I sat down and drank. He said, “Drink,” and I drank. He kept on telling me repeatedly to drink, till I said, “No. by Allah Who sent you with the Truth, I have no space for it (in my stomach).” He said, “Hand it over to me.” When I gave him the bowl, he praised Allah and pronounced Allah’s Name on it and drank the remaining milk.” (Sahih Bukhari)