The Evil of Craving for Wealth and Status

Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

The first type of craving for wealth is that a person has extreme love for wealth and also relentlessly exerts efforts to attain it – via means which are lawful – being excessive in that, striving hard and making painstaking efforts and toiling in order to attain it.

It has been reported that this hadeeth was in response to the appearance of some elements of this, as at-Tabaraanee reports from `Aasim ibn `Adiyy, radiyallaahu `anhu, who said, `I bought a hundred shares from the shares of Khaybar and that reached the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam so he said, “Two ravenous wolves remaining amongst sheep whose owner has lost them will not be more harmful than a Muslim`s seeking after wealth and status is to his Deen.”

There is nothing more to chasing after wealth than the wastage of a person’s noble life for that which has no value. Instead he could have earned a high rank (in Paradise) and everlasting bliss, but he lost this due to his craving after provision – which had already been assured to him and allotted to him, and it was not possible for anything to come to him except what was decreed for him – then on top of this he does not benefit from that, but rather abandons it and leaves it for someone else.

He departs from that and leaves it behind so that he will be the one held accountable for it, yet someone else benefits from it. So in reality he is only gathering it for someone who will not praise him for that, whilst he himself goes on to One who will not excuse him for that – this itself would indeed be enough to show the blameworthiness of this craving.

The person who has this craving wastes his valuable time and engages himself in that which is of no benefit to himself – in journeying and exposing himself to dangers in order to amass that which will only benefit someone else, so it is as is said:

“So one who spends his days in gathering wealth
Out of fear of poverty – then he has achieved only poverty.”

It was said to a wise man, “So and so has amassed wealth,” so he said, “Then has he amassed days in which to spend it?” It was said, “No.” So he said, “Then he has amassed nothing!”

It was also said in some narrations from the People of the Book, “Provision has already been allotted and the one greedy for wealth is deprived. Son of Aadam! If you spend your life in seeking after this world then when will you seek after the Hereafter?” “If you are unable to do good deeds in this world, then what will you do on the Day of Resurrection?”

Ibn Mas`ood, radiyallaahu `anhumaa, said, “Certain faith (yaqeen) is that you do not make the people happy by angering Allaah, and that you do not envy anyone for that which Allaah has provided, and that you do not blame anyone for something which Allaah has not given you – since provision will not be brought on by a person’s craving after it, nor will it be repelled by a person’s disliking it. Indeed Allaah through His Justice has made joy and happiness dependant upon having certain faith and contentment, and He has made worries and sorrow spring from doubt and displeasure.”

One of the Salaf (predecessors) said: “Since predecree (qadr) is a reality then craving is futile. Since treachery exists in people’s characters then trusting everybody is to expose oneself to humiliation. Since death awaits everybody, then being satisfied with this world is foolishness.”

`Abdul-Waahid ibn Zayd (from the successors of the Taabi`een of Basrah, died after 150H) used to swear by Allaah that a person’s craving after this world was more fearful to him than his worst enemy. He also used to say, “O my brothers! Do not grow up craving after his riches and increase in earnings or wealth, rather look upon him with the eye of one who detests that he is preoccupying himself with that which will cause his ruin tomorrow in the Place of Return – and is proud with that.” He also used to say, “Craving is of two types: Craving which is an affliction and craving which is beneficial. As for the craving which is beneficial, then it is one’s desire for that which is obedience to Allaah, and as for the craving which is an affliction then it is a person’s craving after this world.”

Craving after this world torments a person, he is preoccupied and does not attain joy or pleasure whilst amassing – since he is preoccupied. He does not find time – due to his love of this world – for the Hereafter, and is preoccupied with that which will perish and forgets that which will abide and remain.

In this regard a person said,

“Do not envy a brother who craves after riches –
rather look upon him with aversion.
Indeed the one who craves is preoccupied with his
wealth from having any happiness due to his belongings.”

Someone else said in this regard:

“O gatherer and miserly one being watched closely by time
which is wondering which of its doors it should close.
You have gathered wealth, but think have you gathered for it –
O gatherer of wealth – days in which you can spend it.
Wealth is hoarded away with you for those who will inherit it –
The wealth is not yours except on the day when you spend it.
Satisfaction is for the one who settles in its neighbourhood
And in its shade he finds no worries to disturb him.”

A wise person wrote to a brother of his who desired this world: “To proceed, you have become one who craves after this world. It will serve you whilst taking you away from it with accidents, illnesses, calamities and infirmity. It is as if you have not seen one who craves prevented from what he desires, nor one who shuns this world granted provision, nor one who died despite having great wealth, nor one who is fully satisfied in this world with a small amount.”

A desert Arab rebuked a brother of his for covetousness, saying, “O my brother you are a seeker and one sought. You are being sought by One whom you cannot escape, and you are seeking that for which you have been sufficed. O brother, it is as if you have not seen one who craves being prevented, nor one who shuns the world being granted provision.”

A wise man said, “The people who have the greatest degree of restlessness are the envious, those who have the greatest degree of happiness are the contented. Those who persevere most through suffering are those who are covetous. Those who have the simplest and most pleasant life are those who most strongly refuse this world. The one who will suffer the greatest regret is the scholar whose actions contradict his knowledge.”

The second type of craving after wealth is that in addition to what has been mentioned in the first type, he also seeks wealth through unlawful means and withholds people’s rights – then this is definitely blameworthy greed and covetousness. Allaah, the Most High, says:

“And whoever is saved from his covetousness, such are those who are successful.”

It is reported in Sunan Abee Daawood from `Abdullaah ibn `Amr, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, from the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam that he said, “Beware of greed (avarice) for indeed greed (avarice) destroyed those who came before you. It ordered them to cut off ties of relationship so they cut off ties of relationship, and it ordered them to be miserly so they were miserly, and it ordered them to commit sins so they committed sins.”

It is reported in Saheeh Muslim from Jaabir, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Beware of greed (avarice), since greed (avarice) destroyed those who came before you. It led them to shed their blood and make lawful what was forbidden for them.”

Some of the scholars say, “Avarice is eager craving which causes a person to take things which are not lawful for him, and to withhold the rights of others. Its reality is that a person craves that which Allaah has forbidden and prohibited him from, and that one is not contented with the wealth and womenfolk and whatever else Allaah has made lawful for him. So Allaah, the Most High, has made lawful for us that which is good from foods, drinks, clothing and women and has forbidden us to acquire these things except by lawful means and He made lawful for us the blood and wealth of the Unbelievers and those fighting against us. He also forbade us from everything impure from foods, drinks, clothing and women, and He forbade us from seizing people’s wealth and spilling their blood unjustly. So he who limits himself to that which is permitted for him is a Believer, and one who goes beyond that into what he has been forbidden – then this is blameworthy avarice which is inconsistent with Eemaan (true faith in belief, word and action).

Therefore the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam informed that avarice causes a person to cut off relations, commit sins and to be miserly – and miserliness is a person’s clinging on greedily to what he has in his hand. Whereas avarice is seeking to obtain that which does not belong to him unjustly and wrongfully – whether it is wealth or something else. It is even said that it is the head of all sins – this was how Ibn Mas`ood, radiyallaahu `anhu, and others from the Salaf explained avarice and greed.

So from this the meaning of the hadeeth of Aboo Hurairah, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, will be understood. He reports that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Avarice (shuhh) and Eemaan will not combine in the heart of a Believer.” Also in another hadeeth from the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam he said “The best of Eemaan is self-restraint (sabr) and compliance/liberality (musaamahah).” Sabr here has been explained to be withholding oneself from forbidden things, and musaamahah as the carrying out of the obligatory actions.

Also the word shuhh (avarice) may sometimes be used to mean bukhl (miserliness) and vice-versa, however in origin they are different in meaning, as we have mentioned.

If the person’s craving after wealth reaches this level then the deficiency it causes in a person’s Religion is clear – since failing to fulfill what is obligatory and falling into what is forbidden reduce one’s Religion and Eemaan without a doubt to the point that nothing but a little remains of it.

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