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إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا إِلَّا الْمُصَلِّينَ
Innal-insāna khuliqa halū‘ā, idhā massahush-sharru jazū‘ā, wa-idhā maasahul-khayru manū‘ā illal-musallīn.
Indeed, man has been created covetous and intolerant. He is anxious when ill befalls him and grudging when goodness [wealth] comes his way. [All are such] except those who pray.
(Sūrat al-Maʿārij, No 70, Āyāt 19-22)
From the above verse, we can extract an important lesson in human nature. Allah ‘azza wajall has created man such that he is naturally greedy and anxious. Greedy when he attains wealth and anxious when difficulty befalls him. However, those who humble themselves before Allah or as mentioned in the verse “those who pray” are untainted by, or have cleansed themselves from, these negative traits. Neither do they covet wealth, nor do they get stressed out in times of difficulty.
In what follows we will present a few points with regards to greed and how we can control the natural inclination towards wealth.
The human being naturally feels a sense of attachment and ownership over the wealth that he procures. This is especially so when he toils and struggles to earn. But this notion of being independent in obtaining and owning wealth is imaginary. The reality is that man—as with all of creation—is utterly dependent on Allah in every aspect of his existence. This is something proven by the intellect as well as tradition. For example, in another verse of the Noble Quran Allah reminds us that whatever we have was provided by Him: What harm would it have done them had they believed in Allah and the Last Day, and spent out of what Allah has provided them? Allah knows them well. (Q 4:39)
Having such an outlook towards wealth can help us control the greed that rises within us. If our wealth is from Allah, then undoubtedly, He has the right to demand how we use it and where we obtain it from! In this regard Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā has specified rulings that pertain to wealth in the holy sharī‘ah. The first stage of obeying Allah with regards to our wealth and controlling the related vices that may come about such as greed is to follow these rulings carefully and diligently. A believer sets aside time to learn these rulings in accordance with the opinion of his marjaʿ taqlīd.
Regarding how to acquire wealth there are financial commandments about the rules of commerce, renting, partnership, gifting, and so on. In some cases, someone may think that they have become the owner of wealth whereas according to the rules of the sharī‘ah, the transaction they engaged in was invalid! For example, wealth acquired through usury, buying, and selling certain prohibited things, or by performing prohibited actions is invalid.
The sharī‘ah also has rulings with regards to spending wealth. In certain cases, it is obligatory to spend one’s wealth in a particular cause. For example, zakāt, khums, going to Hajj, taking care of one’s parents, wife, and children. All of these have details and conditions that must be first understood and then implemented. Also, the obligation to take care of one’s wife is not dependent on her financial situation. Even if she has her own money her husband is still obligated to take care of her daily expenses. This is not the case however for one’s parents and children.
In any case, what is essential is to realize that these luminous commandments of the sharīʿah are not separate from man’s akhlāq. Akhlāq refers to the deep-rooted traits in man’s being and these are formed by actions. Hence, there is a deep and profound relationship between the external and the internal. Someone who spends his money in the obligatory causes has already begun to control and bridle negative traits such as greed.
As a final point, Islam further encourages man to uproot the trait of greed by recognizing that this world and all that is within it is transient. The effect of deeds on man’s soul is something that will persist, and he will take that with him to the hereafter. In the books of our brothers from the Ahl al-Sunnah it is narrated from a wife of the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam that the Muslims once slaughtered a sheep and distributed it among the needy. The Messenger of Allah (s) asked her: How much of it is left?” She replied, “Only its shoulder is remaining.” He said: Everything [that was given away in charity] is remaining except its shoulder. (Al-Hindī, Kanz al-Ummāl, H. 16150)
We pray to Allah the Exalted by the Noble Messenger and his pure family to allow us to rectify our affairs, cleanse our actions and perfect our internal traits while we still have time in this short life.
Sources: Āyatullāh Muhmmad Bāqir Tahrīrī, Insān va gustaray-i huqūq-i bandegī (A Commentary on the Risālat al-huqūq).
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