WEALTH – ACCUMULATE OR SPEND
Wealth is one of the biggest trials for the mankind. All worldly things are a trial for mankind (including wealth, businesses, families, careers etc.). Majority of the problems challenging the world are because of trail (fitnah) of money. If we go back to the times of our beloved Prophet and his noble companions, we see that their approach towards wealth was in stark contrast to what is the approach of Muslims (and others) nowadays. It is a matter of grave concern. For those who are not clear about the rulings of Islam regarding wealth, and for those who are aware but need to be reminded. We should know what Islam says about wealth, with a special emphasis on whether a Muslim is supposed to accumulate wealth or spend it.
Islam emphasizes that its followers spend their wealth. Allah says: “O you who believe! Spend of that which We have provided for you, before a Day comes when there will be no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And it is the disbelievers who are the Zalimun.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:254
This ayath from Qur’an tells us that a Muslim should spend his/her wealth in this life. The amassed wealth shall be of no benefit for a person on the ‘Day of Judgement’; it is only the wealth that a Muslim spends that shall benefit him/her on that ‘Day’.
The next obvious question is what and where to spend. Let us take these two questions separately.
A vast majority of Muslims is of the view that they pay Zakat and hence they fulfill the obligation of spending their wealth. This is a perverted view. There is something more than Zakat. Even after having paid Zakat, there is an obligation on each and every Muslim to spend more in the Way of Allah. This is essential for equality and justice to prevail in Muslim society. On these guidelines, the answer to ‘What to spend’ is found in following ayath of Qur’an: “And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: That which is beyond your needs. Thus Allah makes clear to you his laws in order that you may give thought.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:219
Therefore, whatever remains with us after taking care of our needs and those of our dependents (and after paying Zakat), is recommended to be spent. The answer to ‘Where to spend’ is: Spend it in the Way of Allah, in the Cause of Allah. Spending in the Way of Allah is called Infaq-fi-Sabeelillah. There are many ways which can ensure that our spending is in the Way of Allah. Let me highlight some points in this context: a) Support own families; b) Support relatives who are financially weak; c) Support orphans; d) Support other poor people; e) Support Muslim organizations who are devoted to Daawah; g) Support people who are new to Islam; h) Perform Hajj as soon as one is financially and physically capable of; All these categories of expenditure, when done with an intention of pleasing Allah, end up as Infaq-fi-Sabeelillah. However, there is a priority list defined by Allah: “They ask you, [O Muhammad], what they should spend. Say, "Whatever you spend of good is [to be] for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveler. And whatever you do of good - indeed, Allah is Knowing of it..” Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:215
It is important that we spend our wealth on people in the order of priority as mentioned above in the ayath.
This is for those who are too busy in their businesses and find no time to give a thought about spending in the Way of Allah. Allah calls such people to His way, attracting their attention by means of providing them the best trade possible. “O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment?” “[It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know.” Quran Surah As-Saff, 61:10-11
Allah assures that whoever spends in His Cause, He shall bless His wealth. Such a person shall experience manifold increase in his/her wealth, up to seven hundred times. Refer to following ayath: “The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:261
Where can we find such a beneficial trade where the profit (of such magnitude) is guaranteed?
Al-Birr means righteousness. Refer to this glorious ayath of Qur’an:
“It is not Al-Birr (righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and / or west (in prayers); but Al-Birr (righteous) is one who;
1. Believes in
b) The Last Day
c) The Angels
d) The Book (Qur’an)
e) The Prophets.
2. Gives his / her wealth, inspite of love for it,
a) To the kinsfolk
b) To the orphans
c) To Al-Masakin (the poor people)
d) To the wayfarer
e) To those who ask
f) To set the slaves free.
3. Performs As-Salat
4. Gives Zakat
5. Fulfill their covenant when they make it (meaning: to keep promises)
6. Are patient in extreme poverty & hardship and during battles.
Such are the people of truth and they are the righteous (Al-Muttaqun)”. Quran Surah Al-Baqarah 2:177
This explains that there is something more than just paying Zakat that comes under Infaq-fi-Sabeelillah. And the significance or weightage of spending the wealth in context of righteousness is established by following aayah: “By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, Allah’s reward), unless you spend of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well.” Quran Surah A’le-Imran, 3:92
“As for him who gives (in charity etc.) and have Taqwa (or fear Allah),” “And believes in Al-Husna.” “We will make smooth for him the path of ease (goodness).” Quran Surah Al-Layl, 92: 5-7
The first important characteristic that Allah looks for in an individual (to guide him/her to right path) is the tendency of spending / giving of his/her wealth, resources etc. to others who are needy. For example: Whenever such a person sees someone hungry and if he at that time has something with him that can help in satisfying the hunger of the needy, he will do it without fail. Similarly, if such a person comes across anyone who is in dire straits and need financial help badly, he doesn’t think twice while spending his wealth to help the needy. This trait is known as Atā.
“O you who believe! Do not render in vain your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide disbelieving people.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 264
Therefore, whatever we spend in the Way of Allah should be purely for the sake of Allah; we should not boast about our spending every now and then. There should be no show-off of the spending. All this is prohibited. These things make all the charity deeds go in vain.
A Muslim is ought to spend whole-heartedly for the sake of Allah. One should not be a niggard (a miser), for Allah does not likes a niggard. Allah says: “Behold! You are those who are called to spend in the Cause of Allah, yet among you are some who are niggardly. And whoever is niggardly, it is only at the expense of his own self. But Allah is Rich and you are poor.” Quran Surah Muhammad 47:38
This ayath warns the misers that their miserliness is not going to have any effect on Allah, because Allah does not need any support from anyone, he is Rich. In fact, their miserliness shall be their own loss, for they shall be deprived of the blessings and rewards they were to get had they spent the same. It is we, the mankind, who is in need of Allah’s blessings.
Islam discourages amassing wealth. There are several aspects which explain this. Let us go through them one-by-one.
Say, [O Muhammad], "If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and Striving in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people."Quran Surah Al-Taubah 9:24
This beautiful ayath is absolutely clear about its message. This is how wealth may lead a person towards Fisq. Love for wealth also leads to a type of ‘Shirk‘, known as ‘Shirk-fil-Mahabbah‘.
There is a general concern: At the end of the day, all we earn is spent; there is no saving. Why are we out of our country if we cannot save? We are not able to achieve the aim which we are here for. Some have a tendency of setting a goal of saving at least a pre-determined amount of money from their earnings, no matter what happens.
This mindset needs to be changed. It is true that Islam is against useless expenditure, and every spendthrift shall be held accountable for that. Therefore, we have to be cautious that we do not simply throw away the hard earned money in a spending spree. A Muslim is supposed to spend his/her wealth in the Way of Allah. Give it a thought about how can one justify having saved millions with him and on the other hand one of his brothers/sisters does not have enough to feed himself and his dependants properly for even one time.
Therefore Islam promotes a balance; do not waste the wealth mindlessly, save it for genuine expenditure. In fact, the problem starts when the sole ambition becomes saving money. We earn and accumulate wealth with a sole criterion of saving for future; keeping the money idle in bank accounts, gold and silver beautifying the vaults; and soothing his/her nafs regularly by enjoying the gradual growth in accumulated wealth. This is prohibited in Islam. Refer to following: “Woe to every slanderer and backbiter; “Who has gathered wealth and counts it.” Quran Surah Al-Humazah 104: 1,2
These glorious ayaths of Qur’an warn against saving the money and seeing it grow day by day. We have already talked about spending whatever is beyond our needs in Section A.1 above. Therefore, a Muslim should not aim for savings. However, after spending on all due requirements in the Way of Allah, if still something remains, it is absolutely fine to keep it for himself and his dependants (children etc.).
“But he who is greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient,”“And belies Al-Husna.” “We will make smooth for him the path for evil.” Quran Surah Al-Layl 92:8-10
Bakheelor miser is a person who keeps his wealth close to his heart and does not spend (on others). Whenever he comes across any needy person, he will ignore him; the love and attachment to his wealth does not let him spend it on the needy or on any noble cause. This characteristic is called Bukhl. The ayaths mentioned above tell us that the first trait of a person which leads to misguidance is Bukhl.
So far we talked about amassing wealth by mankind in general. Now let us get a bit specific. There are two influential classes in every society that have a big influence on the values, ethics, traditions etc. of the society: The Leaders and The Scholars. There is a third group also which is common to these two main groups: The main followers of these two. However, we shall consider the two main classes only as they are the major ones and cover the third class as well.
If the leaders and scholars of any society are honest and pious, the society tends to be good. Honesty prevails, justice prevails and people live peacefully. But if these two classes are corrupt, the society gets corrupt. The effects of this are not limited to a person or two, or a family or two, rather the effects are big.
Let us go through this ayath from Qur’an in this context: “O you who believe! Verily, there are many of the ‘Ahbar‘(Scholars) and ‘Ruhban‘(monks) who devour wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder from the way of Allah; And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend them not in the way of Allah, announce unto them a painful torment.” Quran Surah At-Taubah, 9:34
This ayath warns against the corrupt scholars and misguided worshippers. Such scholars sell the religion in return for worldly gains, using their positions and status among the people to illegally devour wealth. They also confuse truth with falsehood and pretend before their ignorant followers that they call to righteousness. The true reality is that they call to painful punishment.
Success of a person nowadays is judged by the amount of wealth he has amassed. You may be highly educated, extremely good-valued, ethically and morally correct, but if you are not wealthy, society (including your own relatives) considers you as a failure. Whereas, a corrupt, dishonest & unethical person may enjoy high regards in society because of the wealth he/she has accumulated. A marriage proposal for one’s daughter now depends on the financial status of the groom-to-be. Parents are reluctant to give their daughters to guys who are not so high in terms of financial status. But the moment a proposal comes from a wealthy family, the parents try to ignore all other requirements that need to be judged for giving the hand of their daughter to the guy. Parents go gaga about high status and wealthy achievements of their kids. The whole concept has gone perverted.
But be careful; money is the biggest fitnah on the earth. Man’s love for money never ends, even till death; and it may lead to disastrous consequences for man, in this life as well as in the Hereafter. Therefore, it demands caution, extreme caution. The best way of succeeding against the fitnah of wealth is to spend it. Allah promises great reward to those who spend in His cause. Allah says: “Those who spend their wealth (in Allah’s Cause) by night and day, in secret and in public, they shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah 2:274
We see that at every stage, Allah encourages spending the wealth. And it should be spend whole-heartedly for the sake of Allah. Another concern that needs to be highlighted is that many of us keep earning money, but we do not give a thought towards performing Hajj. Plenty of Muslims can be seen busy in their lives, building beautiful homes, buying chunks of lands, real estates, businesses, but absolutely no thought of going to Hajj.