In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Ibn Qudaamah [rahimahullaah] said:
In most cases envy occurs between contemporaries, peers, brothers and cousins, because of the conflicting goals [or aims] of everyone which lead to discord and enmity. And due to this, you will find a scholar envying another scholar, but he will not envy a worshipper; a worshipper envying another worshipper, but he will not envy a scholar; a trader envying another trader and a cobbler envying another cobbler etc… because they have conflicting goals [or aims]. The basis of this affair is due to love of the worldly things, for indeed the worldly things are restricted for those who compete for it; but as for the afterlife, there is no restriction within it, for indeed the one who loves knowledge and awareness of Allaah, knowledge and awareness regarding Allaah’s angels, Allaah’s Prophets and Allaah’s Mighty Dominion over the heavens and the earth, he will not envy others after being acquainted with these affairs, because they [i.e. those who are acquainted with these affairs] are not restricted by one another; rather one particular individual scholar is known by thousands of scholars and they rejoice due to the understanding he has.
This is why there is no envy between the scholars of the religion, because their aim is to acquire knowledge and awareness of Allaah [Glorified be He and free is He from all imperfection], which is a vast affair. Their [i.e. the upright scholars] goal is to acquire a high status in the sight of Allaah and that which Allaah has kept in the afterlife is unlimited, because Allaah’s loftiest blessing is the pleasure of meeting Him, which can neither be prevented nor restricted, nor can some competitors in the affair make it restricted for others; rather harmony increases as the competitors increase; but if wealth and status becomes the goal the scholars, they will envy one another.
The difference between knowledge and wealth is that wealth does not remain in the hands of one person; but as for knowledge, it settles in the heart of a scholar and in the heart of the one taught by the scholar, whilst still remaining in the heart of the scholar. Therefore, whoever contemplates on the Greatness of Allaah and His Mighty Dominion [i.e. by pondering upon what Allaah has created and the revelation He has sent down], it will become the greatest pleasure for him than every other blessing, because neither can he be prevented nor restricted in that. And he will not harbour any envy in his heart towards anyone, because if others were acquainted with what he is acquainted with, it will still not reduce his pleasure in the affair.
You do not find people overcrowding to view the beauty of the sky because it is vast and unrestricted; therefore, if you are merciful to yourself, then it is obligated on you to seek after a bliss in whose path there is no obstruction and a pleasure that will not cease [i.e. the competition for this worldly life is restricted for its competitors and will come to an end, whereas the afterlife is unrestricted]. And this cannot be found in this worldly life, except by acquainting oneself with knowledge and awareness of Allaah and the amazing nature of His Dominion [over everything].
However, if you do not yearn to acquaint yourself with knowledge and awareness of Allaah and your desire is weak, then neither will you find it nor its pleasure. Therefore, you’re not man enough, because this affair is that of men, for indeed yearning for something occurs after experiencing [or tasting] it. The one who has not tasted will not know, the one who does know will not yearn, the one who does not yearn will not seek, the one who does not seek will not find [anything], and the one who does not find [anything] will be amongst those who are deprived.
Know that envy is a great disease of the hearts and the diseases of the hearts are not cured except with knowledge and action. The beneficial knowledge for curing envy is to know that in reality envy is harmful to your Religious and worldly affairs, and the envied one is neither harmed in his Religious nor worldly affairs; rather he is benefited by it. Blessings do not cease from the person you envy.
And even if you were not a believer in the resurrection, this would still have necessitated a realisation–if you are sensible–to be mindful of envy due to the pain it brings to the heart as well as [having] no benefit; then how about when you know of its punishment in the afterlife.
And the clarification of our statement: Indeed the envied one is neither harmed in his Religious nor worldly affairs, rather he is benefited by it in his Religious and worldly affairs: That is because the blessings Allaah has decreed for him will continue until the end of his lifespan and there is no harm upon him in the hereafter [due to being envied] because he has not committed any sin in that; rather he is benefited by it because he is someone receiving oppression from you, especially if the envy comes out through speech and action.
As for the benefit in the worldly life [i.e. the benefits of being envied], it is because the most important aim of the creation is [to witness] the grief of an enemy and there is no punishment greater than the [blameworthy] envy you find in yourself. If you contemplate on what we have mentioned, you will know that you are indeed an enemy to yourself– a friend of your enemy [within yourself]. Your likeness is nothing other than that of a person who threw a stone at his enemy to kill him, but he could not harm him and the stone bounced back on his right eye and plucked it out. So his anger increased and he -again- threw a stone harder than the first one, but it bounced back on his other eye and plucked it out. So his rage increased and he threw a third stone, but it bounced back on his head and broke it, whilst his enemy is safe and laughing at him. This is a knowledge base cure [for envy]. If a person reflects upon this, the inferno of envy will be extinguished from his heart.
As for beneficial action [to help cure envy], then it is to make binding upon oneself to destroy what envy commands one to do. If it arouses him towards hatred and defamation of the one who is envied, he should make it binding upon himself to praise and extol him. If it makes him arrogant, he should make it binding upon himself to be humble towards him [i.e. the one envied]; and if it makes him block favours from reaching him, he should make it binding upon himself to increase in giving him favours. And there were a group of the Salaf who whenever it reached them that a person backbit them, they would give him [i.e. the back bitter] a gift. These are very beneficial remedies for envy. [Ref 1]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said:
Allaah [The Most High] said:
حَتَّىٰ زُرۡتُمُ ٱلۡمَقَابِرَ
The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die). [102:1-2]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] stated about this mutual rivalry: It is everything a slave piles up in rivalry against others (with regards to things of) the worldly life, such as wealth, prestige, (ownership) of slaves, construction of buildings or growing crops; or knowledge by way of which Allaah’s Face is not sought; or deeds through which [one does not seek] to get close to Allaah. All this is from mutual rivalry in piling up of worldly things, which diverts (a person) from Allaah and the home of the Afterlife. [Ref 2]
Shaikh Rabee Bin Haadi [may Allaah preserve him] said:
Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood [radiyallaahu-anhu] said that the noble messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] said, ‘’There is no envy except in two cases: a man whom Allah has given Al-Hikmah [i.e. knowledge of the Qur’aan and Sunnah] and he acts according to it; and a man whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously. [Al-Bukhaari’ Number 73]
These people have Ghibtah [i.e. they desire the blessings bestowed on others but do not have a blameworthy envy]. Hasad [envy] in this hadeeth means Ghibtah, but [as for blameworthy] envy, it is to wish that the blessings bestowed upon a person, such as wealth, knowledge and other that, should cease to exist – regardless whether you want to have the same or merely wishing that the blessings be taken away from him. This is a disease of the Yahood [i.e. those Yahood who knew the truth brought by the Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) but they rejected it out of envy] and we ask Allaah to alleviate [this disease] from the Muslims, for indeed it is destructive disease – and Allaah’s refuge is sought.
So, the Hasad [Envy] intended in this hadeeth [i.e. the hadeeth of Abdullaah] Ibn Mas’ood] is Al-Ghibtah, which is to wish for the same blessings given to another person [without wishing that he be deprived of it]; for example, Allaah gives a person knowledge and the [ability] to perform good deeds, so you wish that Allaah should also give you knowledge and the [ability] to perform good deeds just as it has been bestowed upon that person. This is Ghibtah and it is praiseworthy. It is a [praiseworthy] striving to excel one another in good deeds. Allaah said: [وَفِى ذَٲلِكَ فَلۡيَتَنَافَسِ ٱلۡمُتَنَـٰفِسُونَ – And for this [i.e. paradise] let (all) those strive who want to strive (i.e. hasten earnestly to the obedience of Allah)]. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the students of knowledge to strive in acquiring knowledge and hasten towards all that is good, but without blameworthy envy; rather they should do this based on Ghibtah and hastening earnestly to the obedience of Allaah.
As for striving and hastening towards the Dunyah [against one another], it is blameworthy. [The Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam)] said: ‘’Do not envy one another and do not hate one another [i.e. blameworthy envy and hatred], do not outbid one another [i.e. do not offer a higher price for a commodity when someone else wants it even though you do not intend to buy it (Ref 2.2)] and do not compete one another in a blameworthy manner.’’ [Muslim 2563]. All these traits are blameworthy – both in the worldly and religious affairs.
Therefore, in the hadeeth [i.e. hadeeth reported by Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood], the Messenger of Allaah [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] urged the Ummah to [hasten and seek to excel one another] in good deeds, such as in [acquiring] knowledge, [performance of the] Salaah etc. The Prophet said, ‘’The best rows are the first rows [Muslim 440]. [The Prophet also said], ‘’If the people knew [the reward for] pronouncing the Adhaan and for standing in the first row [in the congregational prayer] and found no other way to get it except by drawing lots, they would do so.’’ [Al-Bukhaari 654]
Hastening to get to the first row is a praiseworthy deed. Likewise [it is praiseworthy to] hasten towards seeking knowledge, seeking to become proficient in it, excel and become talented in it. I ask Allaah to facilitate i.e. ease and the means] for the Mutanaafiseen [i.e. those striving and hastening towards all good], so that there arises from this ummah the likes of the senior Imaams, such as Al Awzaa’ee, Ath-Thawri, Maalik, Ash-Shaafiee, Ahmad, Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn Abdil Wahhaab and those like them amongst the Imaams of guidance – those by way of whom Allaah raised the guiding light of Islaam and guided the nations, and whose knowledge enlightened the whole world. [Ref 3]
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from ‘Mukhtasar Minhaajil Qaasideen’ page: 199-201. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: Source: ( بدائع التفسير الجامع لما فكره الإمام ابن قيم الجوزية) Vol 3. pg. 355]
[Ref 2.2: For further detail see Al-Minhatur Rabbaaniyyah Fee Sharhil Arba’een An-Nawawiyyah’ page 260]:
[Ref 3: Source: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm’ pages 51-52. Abridged and slightly paraphrased]