In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
Many of the latter people [i.e. those who came after the Salaf] associated Zuhd with poverty, but Zuhd can be present alongside wealth and poverty. Amongst the Prophets and those who were foremost in embracing Eemaan [i.e. the Sahaabah] there were those who were wealthy and Zaahid (i.e. one who abstained from extra permissible things of the worldly life]. [Majmoo 11/28]
Imaam Ibraaheem Bin Ad’ham [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
Abstinence from the worldly life is of three types: obligatory abstinence, the abstinence that is of a superior virtue and the abstinence that is safety. As for obligatory abstinence, it is to abstinence from the unlawful; the abstinence that is of superior virtue is to abstain from the what is lawful wordly things that are unnecessary, and the abstinence that is safety is to abstain from the doubtful matters. [Jaami-ul Uloom Wal-Hikam: page: 310]
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [rahimahullaah] said: Indeed, whenever the people increase in opulence and it is made accessible to them, evil gains access to them. When a person fixes his sight on opulence and becomes engrossed in bodily pleasures, he becomes heedless of softening his heart [i.e. with remembrance of Allaah, remembrance of death, performance of good deeds, repentance, remembrance of the Aakhirah etc] and his greatest concern becomes [engaging] this body in opulence, whose final state will be worms and rot.
The Worldly Life Is For Types of People
Narrated Abu Kabshah Al-An’maariy (radiyallaahu-anhu) that Prophet (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam) said: “I swear by Allah regarding three (affairs) which I am going to tell, so remember them. The wealth of a man does not decrease due to (giving) charity; a slave does not exercise patience when oppressed, except that Allah increases his honour; a slave does not open the door of begging, except that Allaah opens for him the door of poverty (or he stated a statement similar to it).” I am going to tell you (something), so remember it: The worldly life is for four types of people. A slave whom Allaah has given wealth and knowledge, so he fears his Lord by way of it. He preserves the ties of kinship and acknowledges Allaah’s Rights regarding it. This (type of person) is on the most virtuous position. A slave whom Allaah has given knowledge but not wealth. He is truthful in his intention and says: `If I had wealth, I would have done the deed of such and such (person).’’ So because of this intention of his, his reward is the same (i.e. the righteous one who has been given wealth and knowledge). A slave whom Allaah has given wealth but not knowledge. He wastes his wealth out of ignorance. He neither fears Allaah nor does he keep the ties of kinship, nor does he acknowledge Allaah’s rights. This (type of person) is at the evilest position. A slave whom Allaah has neither given wealth nor knowledge and he says: `If I had wealth, I would have done the deed of such and such (person).’’ So by way of his intention, they are similar (i.e. similar to the evil person who wastes his wealth). [Reported by Tirmidhee 2325; Ahmad 18031; Al-Baghawiy 4097]
Al-Allaamah Ubaid Bin Abdillaah al-Jaabiri (may Allaah preserve him) stated: The first is a wealthy person who is thankful (to Allaah); so Allaah will raise him to the most virtuous position due to his deed. The second is a poor person who exercises patience. He is truthful in his intention with regards to spending from that which Allaah has bestowed on him. So Allaah makes him reach the most virtuous position due to his truthful intention. The third is a boastful wealthy person. He is covetous and stingy; so his deed takes him to the most evil position. The fourth is a boastful poor person and his intention is evil. So together with his poverty, his intention takes him to the most evil position. So based on this, we know that by way of truthful intentions Allaah raises the person. And an evil intention debases a person until he finds him/herself in the most evil position. [An Excerpt from: البيان المرصع شرح القواعد الأربع- pages 8-9. Slightly paraphrased]
The Worldly Things Are Not a Purpose
Imaam Muhammad Ib Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [rahimahullaah] said:
This is the calamity and it is what harms people these days. You do not find anyone [i.e. many people] except that they say, “What have we missed [i.e. of the worldly things]?” “What is our car?” [i.e. what car do you have?] “And what is our furniture?” [i.e. what furniture do you have?] -to the extent that some of those who seek knowledge [of the religion] only do so for the purpose of reaching a [particular] level or grade in order to attain the enjoyment of the worldly things. It is as if the human being is not created for a great purpose. The enjoyable things of the worldly life are only a means [i.e. a means to fulfilling ones needs and not the purpose of this life]. Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] said: “It is befitting that a person utilises wealth in the manner he utilises his donkey for riding, and in the manner he utilises the toilet for defecation”. [i.e. only when he needs it]
Do not make wealth your greatest concern; rather you should be the one in control of wealth. That is because if you are not the one in controlled, it will control you and the worldly life will become your [main] concern. So for this reason, we say: Whenever the worldly things are opened up to the people and they start looking at it [i.e. with much concern], then indeed they lose the afterlife in accordance with their interest in the worldly life. The Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, “By Allaah! It is not poverty that I fear for you; rather what I fear is that the worldly things will be made accessible to you, so that you compete one another for it, just as those before you competed one another for it, and it destroys you, just as it destroyed them”. The Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] spoke the truth because what has destroyed the people at present is competition for the worldly things as if they were created for that purpose, and as if it was created for them for that purpose. [Source: An Excerpt from ‘Sharh Riyaadus Saaliheen Cassette number 17’. slightly paraphrased]
Abu Hurairah [radiyallaahu-anhu] narrated that the Messenger of Allaah [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, ‘’Look at those who are below you and do not look at those above you, for it is more suitable lest you look down on Allaah’s blessings [bestowed upon] you.” [Saheeh Muslim’ Hadeeth Number 2963]
Al-Allaamah Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] stated:
A person should neither be covetous of this worldly life nor anxious due to what afflicts him [or her], rather he (or she) should exercise patience and hope for [Allaah’s reward due to exercising patience] – whether he [or she] is poor, sick or other than that. The worldly life is a place of trial and test, so one should not become anxious due to calamities and trials. And what makes this affair easier for a person is the guidance given by the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] in this hadeeth [as follows]:” Look at those who are below you and do not look at those above you, for it is more suitable lest you look down on Allaah’s blessings [bestowed upon] you”.
A poor person should look at the one who is poorer and should not look at a wealthier [person], for if Allaah willed He would have placed you in the same situation as that poor person who has nothing. You have something – you have your daily nourishment; but that one poorer than you has nothing – he does not even have his daily nourishment. You are in a better situation, so praise Allaah for this and do not look at the wealthier people because that will lead you to harbour anger against Allaah and being displeased with His divine Will, and then you [will or might] say, ‘’Why can I not be like such and such person; why am not like the wealthy people?’’ This is the meaning of looking down on the blessing you have. However, if you look at the person below you, it will make you thankful because your situation is better than that of many people. Therefore, the one in good health should look at the sick person and then praises Allaah for granting him [or her] good health. The one who is sick should look at the one who is sicker than him (or her) and then praises Allaah for being less sick than the person who is sicker than him [or her]. This (hadeeth embodies) a great principle. Therefore, ‘look to the one below you’ in (relation) to wealth, health and in other affairs.
However, this should not be the case in affairs related to acts of worship – in affairs related to acts of worship, you should not look at the one below you. You should not look at the lazy people and those who neglect their religious duties, rather you should look at the righteous and God-fearing people so that you can join them in performing good deeds and be like them. Therefore, with regards to affairs related to the religion, you should not look at the one below you, rather you should look at the one above you in the religion, for why do not want to be like him (or her); why do you not want to be like the righteous people; why do not want to emulate the God-fearing scholars? [i.e. those scholars whose creed is sound; those free from shirk, religious innovations, superstitions, fictitious beliefs and practices- who practice Islaam based on the Qur’aan, the authentic Sunnah and the understanding of the Sahaabah]. If you are a student of knowledge, you should not be satisfied with the sciences of the religion you have acquired; rather you should seek to increase in knowledge as long as you are alive. [Tasheelul il’haami Bi-Fiqhil Ahaadeethi Min Bulooghil Maraam’ Hadeeth Number 1438’ Vol 6′ pages 168-169. slightly paraphrased]
Ubaidullaah Ibn Mihsan Al-Khatmiy narrated from his father that the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said: ‘’Whoever among you wakes up [in the morning] safe in his property, healthy in his body and has his daily nourishment, it is as if he has been granted the entire world’’.
Al-Allaamah Zayd Bin Haadi Al-Mad’khali [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
This hadeeth shows that those blessed with safety in the lands, physical health, houses to live in and daily nourishment have indeed been blessed with a complete [worldly] blessing. Therefore, it is obligated [on them] to thank Allaah constantly.
This hadeeth shows that what suffice a person’s needs are a bounty and a blessing for which he must thank Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic]. A person may strive to gather a lot of wealth; however he was created to worship of Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] in the manner [commanded, legislated etc] by Allaah and His Messenger [i.e. based on what is legislated and commanded in the Qur’aan and authentic Sunnah]. If a person does this, then indeed he will achieve and attain success; but if not, he will fail and incur loss. Therefore, is there one who will receive admonition?!
This hadeeth shows that to be blessed with safety in one’s religion, honour, wealth and blood is [something very] valuable. These are among those affairs whose establishment- in a society- will bring about a good life and security. But if security is not present, chaos will unravel in the society – the powerful people will overpower the weak and the oppressor will overpower the oppressed, and thus there will be an evil state of affairs and maybe evil consequences. Therefore, any society or land that has been bestowed a ruler amongst the Muslims and granted security in a region under his ruler-ship, then it is obligatory to obey him [i.e. obey the ruler of the land in what is good and not to rebel against him, even if he has shortcomings] and he should be aided by the other lands as much as one is able.
And what is seen as a fact in relation to this [hadeeth] is that whoever is blessed with enough food and drink, a dwelling place, means of transportation, security in his place of residence and good physical health, then it is as if he has been given the entire world. Therefore, he should be thankful to Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] for that until he meets Allaah- [i.e. until death comes to him]. [Source: An Excerpt from ‘Awnul Ahadis Samad Sharh Al-Adabil Mufrad’ Vol 1. page 335]
Narrated Abu Hurairah [radiyallaahu-anhu]: The Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, “let the slave of the Deenaar and Dirham, and Qateefah and khameesah [i.e. money and luxurious clothes] perish, for he is pleased if these things are given to him, and if not, he is displeased”. [Bukhaari. Number 2886]
Al-Allaamah Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] said:
This hadeeth is about the one who only seeks after the Dunyah [worldly possessions] and does not desire the Hereafter; rather his only desire is Dunyah. He does not give concern to his religion, rather his only concern is the Dunyah; so if he is given something from the Dunyah he becomes pleased with Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] and the people; but if he is not given from it, he becomes displeased with Allaah and the people.
[تعس ]- meaning ‘destroyed’. [التعس] means ‘destruction’ and unsuccessful. [Allaah (The Most High) said]: [وَٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فَتَعۡسً۬ا لَّهُمۡ – But those who disbelieve (in the Oneness of Allah), for them is destruction. (47:8)]
Why is he called a slave [of the Deenaar and dirham]? That is because he attaches his heart to it [i.e. wealth], so the worldly life becomes as if it is his lord. He attaches his heart to it and becomes enslaved by it. The poet says:
*I obeyed my desires and thus they enslaved me
*And had I indeed been satisfied [with what I have] I would have been free
Therefore, this man’s concern is [only] the Dunyah- if given from it he becomes pleased, praises and extols; but if not given, indeed he is displeased and angry, just as Allaah [Glorified be He and free is He from all Imperfections] stated about the hypocrites:
وَمِنۡہُم مَّن يَلۡمِزُكَ فِى ٱلصَّدَقَـٰتِ فَإِنۡ أُعۡطُواْ مِنۡہَا رَضُواْ وَإِن لَّمۡ يُعۡطَوۡاْ مِنۡہَآ إِذَا هُمۡ يَسۡخَطُونَ
And of them are some who accuse you (O Muhammad) in the matter of (the distribution of) the alms. If they are given part thereof, they are pleased, but if they are not given thereof, behold! They are enraged! [9:58]
Their pleasure and displeasure is attached to wealth. The one who (becomes) pleased and displeased (solely) for the sake of wealth is a hypocrite, a slave of the Deenaar and the Dirham. Allaah [The Most High] said:
[ وَلَوۡ أَنَّهُمۡ رَضُواْ مَآ ءَاتَٮٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَقَالُواْ حَسۡبُنَا ٱللَّهُ سَيُؤۡتِينَا ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥۤ إِنَّآ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ رَٲغِبُونَ – Would that they were contented with what Allah and His Messenger () gave them and had said: “Allah is Sufficient for us. Allah will give us of His Bounty, and (also) His Messenger (from alms, etc.). We implore Allah (to enrich us)]. [9:59]
This (hadeeth) conveys a rebuke against covetousness and that a person should not solely be pleased or displeased due to the Dunyah, rather his anger and pleasure should be for the sake of his religion and for the sake of Allaah. As for the Dunyah, if he is given something of it he takes it; but if not given anything from it, then indeed he should say: “Allaah suffices me and He will give me give from His bounty”.
When the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] used to distribute wealth, he used to give those whose Eemaan was weak and the hypocrites – gave them more; but he did not give anything to the best of the Sahaabah; rather he entrusted them to their religion, for indeed due to their [strong] Eemaan they would not become angry if not given. As for the people of weak Eemaan, the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] feared that they will be enraged, so he gave them and brought their hearts closer [the religion].
So this [hadeeth also conveys the affair of] piety and that it is obligated on a person not to attach his heart to the Dunyah [i.e. in the blameworthy manner mentioned in this hadeeth] – solely getting angry and pleased due to it; rather he should attach his heart to Allaah. As for the Dunyah, if he is given something lawful from it- which he did not ask for- then indeed he takes it and utilises it as a means of obedience to Allaah; but if he is not given anything, then indeed his religion suffices him and he places his trust and reliance in Allaah. This is the difference between the people of the Dunyah [i.e. those who solely strive for it at the expense of the Aakhirah] and the people of the Deen [i.e. those who seek after lawful provision in the worldly life and make the afterlife their main goal]. [An Excerpt from Tasheelul Il’haam Bi-Fiqhil Ahaadeeth Min Bulooghil Maraam’ Vol 6’ page 217-218]
The Struggle For Worldly Status and Recognition
Imaam Al-Bukhaari [rahimahullaah] said, ‘’Chapter: If somebody does not seek authority of ruling, then Allaah will surely help him [if he is given such authority].’’
Narrated Abdur-Rahmaan Bin Samura: The Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, ‘’O Abdur-Rahmaan! Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand, then you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking [for it], then you will be helped [by Allaah] in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then you should expiate your oath and do what is better.’’ [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari, Number 7146]
Few Reminders From Fat-hul Baari:
The one who seeks authority and receives it will not be helped. It is well known that to be in authority is accompanied by difficulties, so the one who does not receive help from Allaah will be trapped within it and thus loses both his Dunyah and Aakhirah. Therefore, the sensible person does not ask for authority, but if he is suitable and it is given to him without him asking for it, then indeed the truthful and trustworthy one [i.e. The Messenger (sallal-laahu-alayhi-wsallam)] has promised him that Allaah will help him. [An Excerpt: Chapter: (باب من لم يسأل الإمارة أعانه الله عليها )in ‘kitaab al Ahkaam’ Saheeh Al-Bukhaari with Fat-hul Baari]
Imaam Ibn Rajab [rahimahullaah] said: Eagerness for high status is of two types: The first type is seeking high status through leadership, authority and wealth. This is very dangerous and in most cases it prevents [a person] from [acquiring] the good of the afterlife, its nobility, honour and elevated station. Allaah [The Most High] said: [تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ – That home of the Hereafter [i.e. Paradise], We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqoon]. [Al-Qasas. Ayah 83]
The second type is seeking high status and to be raised in status above the people through the religious affairs, such as knowledge, deeds and Zuhd. This is more abominable than the first type and greater in danger and corruption, because knowledge, deeds and Zuhd are [affairs] by way of which one seeks what Allaah [has prepared for His slaves] of high station and everlasting bliss [in the afterlife]- a means to drawing close to Him [i.e. by way of sincere and righteous deeds] and to receive His favours [in the worldly life and afterlife]. Imaam Sufyaan Ath-thawree [rahimahullaah] said: “Knowledge has more virtue because it is for the [purpose] of attaining fear of Allaah; and if not, it is just like all other things.’’ [Excerpts from the book (Two hungry wolves let loose amongst a flock of sheep) pages: 29, 47 & 53]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] said: Therefore, he [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] clarified that the corruption [caused] through craving for wealth and high status in the religion cannot be lesser than the corruption [caused] by two hungry wolves let loose among a livestock, and that is [something] manifest; for indeed there is [nothing] of this [type] of craving in the sound religion. That is because when the heart tastes the sweetness of servitude to Allaah and love of Him, nothing else becomes more beloved to it than that. And through this, evil and immorality are averted from the people who are sincere to Allaah. [An Excerpt from (Majmoo Al-Fataawaa) 10/215]
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah] also said: The seeker of leadership- even through falsehood- becomes pleased with a statement that contains an exaltation of him, even if it is falsehood; and becomes angered by a statement that contains a rebuke against him, even if it is truth. [As for] the believer [i.e. the one with strong Eemaan and fear of Allaah], he is pleased with a statement of truth whether it is for or against him; and he is angered by a statement of falsehood whether it is for or against him. That is because Allaah [The Most High] loves truth, truthfulness and justice, and He hates lies and oppression. [Majmoo Al-Fataawaa: 10/600]