Quranic Reflection No 558. Āyat 25:67 – Moderation in spending


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﴿وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنْفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ قَوَامًا﴾
Waladhína idhā anfaqū lam yusrifū wa lam yaqturū wa kāna bayna dhalika qawāmā
Those who are neither wasteful nor miserly when spending but balanced between these [two extremes].
(Surat Al-Furqān, No.25, verse 67)

The above verse appears in a series of verses in which Allah ‘azza wajall describes the qualities of the servants of the Merciful – ‘Ibād al-Rahmān. In this verse, one of the qualities that Allah expects from His servants is that they practice moderation.
The verse can be understood in a general sense and in the specific context that it describes. From a general perspective, the servants of Allah are moderate in all aspects of their lives; in how they sleep, eat, spend their spare time, etc. In everything that they do, they practice neither ifrāt (excess) nor tafrīt (negligence). As Allah says: O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess (Q 7:31). The prescription of moderation also applies to our souls to ensure we do not allow excess or negligence to destroy our innate faculties. Through the diligent practice of moderation, we can nurture ourselves and achieve sublime qualities such as wisdom, chastity, courage, and justice.

The specific understanding of this verse refers to being moderate and balanced in spending our wealth. Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā uses two words to describe a lack of moderation in this context: isrāf and iqtār. Isrāf is to spend more than what is needed, either by spending on that which we don’t really need, or on things which are extravagant and even sometimes impermissible. Iqtār on the other hand to is to spend less than what is required. We have an obligation to not be so excessive in our spending that our family and those who are dependant upon us suffer because of our wastefulness. And also, not be so stingy that others do not benefit from our resources. It is in between these two extremes that moderation is found.

There is no exact rule or equation that will allow us to gauge whether we are practicing moderation in our spending. However, Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām has a beautiful tradition in which he gives us a basic structure to follow. He says: Then shun extravagance by economizing and recall today what you will need tomorrow. Hold on to wealth to the extent of your necessity and send forth the surplus for the day when you will need it. (Ghurar al-Hikam, H 4365).

The advice of the Imam in line with this verse is threefold:

1 – To be smart and economical with one’s resources. We should know what our expenses and obligations are and ensure that those needs are looked after first.
2 – To save some portion for that which we may need in the future, either for emergencies or for expenses we anticipate
3 – To spend on that which will benefit our hereafter. If we can do the first two; looking after our obligations and being smart about our future, then we will be able to give to others and spend for our hereafter.

It is interesting to note that the Quran also talks about moderation in giving charity. It says: Do not keep your hand chained to your neck, nor open it altogether, or you will sit blameworthy and regretful (Q 17:29). ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān explains this verse saying:

Making the hand to be shackled to the neck” is a metaphorical way of talking about withholding, like the case of one who does not give or donate because of miserliness and avarice. “Stretching the hand to the utmost” is a metaphor for donating everything that one has such that nothing is left, like one who opens his palm completely at such that it cannot hold any-thing [like rainwater]. Thus, the verse involves an emphasized prohibition against practicing extremes regarding offering donation.

Let these verses remind you of the need for moderation in spending, and in all aspects of life. Moderation leads to a balanced life and helps us both in this world and the hereafter.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.