WITH the exception of a few, all humans are weak in many aspects. But what is the biggest weakness of all humans, a weakness that besets many of us except for a few individuals who are saintly, pious and in search of the truth? A philosopher says that the biggest weakness of all individuals is the love and insatiable desire of accumulating material wealth.
Earning wealth through fair means is not prohibited by Islam but the insatiable thirst for getting too much wealth and becoming obsessed with it is prohibited. It affects an individual’s spirituality and health as well as society as a whole. It is said that whoever is trapped in the love of wealth is more likely to be involved in corrupt practices such as bribery, dishonesty, corruption, malpractices, fraudulent earning etc.
These practices not only ruin the hereafter, but also snatch a person’s peace of mind. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is believed to have said that “If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys. Nothing fills his mouth but the dust of the grave, yet Allah will relent to whoever repents to Him” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6075, Sahih Muslim 1048). The “son of Adam” referred to in the hadith indicates the perennial nature of humanity which remains unsatisfied with the wealth acquired.
Abundant wealth earned through illegal means is not beneficial for anybody. It stigmatises a person, which is not limited to him but extends to his family and friends. He becomes arrogant with a harsh attitude, he demeans other members of society and lives a life of constant insecurity. Though society shows him false respect, it also raises questions about his lifestyle as to how he lives beyond his known sources of income. In many cases his illegal wealth dissipates in his lifetime or he leaves a legacy where his heirs (sons and daughters) fight and litigate in court for his bequeathed wealth and sometimes the end result is total destruction of the family.
Those obsessed with wealth are likely to be involved in corrupt practices.
Keeping the present situation of our society in view, there is a need for some impartial and dispassionate analysis. Much of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line but there are segments of the population who live beyond their resources. They are involved in a rat race of accumulating wealth through illegal means. The impact of materialism on them is so strong that it drives out all other considerations. They think that earning more money through quick and illegal means will provide them happiness, satisfaction and a sense of security and confidence. But the money earned through wrongful means never gives them happiness or satisfaction, rather it would snatch what is available to them.
The Holy Quran has severely reprimanded those who accumulate wealth and think that it will last forever. It says: “Woe to every slanderer, backbiter who has gathered wealth and counts it. He thinks that his wealth will make him last forever! Nay but verily he will be thrown into That which Breaks to Pieces” (104:1-4).
The life of the Holy Prophet is exemplary in this manner. He was the ruler of an Islamic state, having enormous sources of wealth and power but he did not give any importance to material wealth. He did not accumulate but rather distributed wealth among the needy. An example of the Battle of Hunayn is most pertinent.
It was fought by the Islamic army under the leadership of the Prophet against the Bedouin tribe of Hawazin and its subsection the Thaqif in 630 CE in the valley of Hunayn. The battle ultimately ended in a decisive victory of the Muslims who captured enormous spoils. Thousands and thousands of cattle including camels were captured but the Holy Prophet did not keep anything for himself nor gave it to his close companions, but rather distributed it among the novices.
The Quran also presents the example of Qarun who was the richest man in the time of Prophet Moses. He was so wealthy that the keys of his treasures were carried by a group of strong men (28:76-77). But his excessive wealth with bags of gold, silver and other precious gems earned through wrongful means made him arrogant and devoid of morals. He refused to pay heed to the call of the Prophet Moses and thought that his wealth would remain forever.
His end was terrible. Such stories have lessons for all of us. The wealth we earn is a blessing if it is earned through legal means and then used prudently. But one should never develop an insatiable desire to obtain excessive wealth through the wrong means. Besides, everyone should self-examine the sources of his or her earning before the law of the land takes its course.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021