Mansa Musa

What should your relationship with wealth be like as a Muslim? 

In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

The Praise belongs to Allah Lord of the Worlds. It is He who has bestowed guidance on His final Prophet and Messenger for the benefit of all people. We beseech Allah to support the mission of Muhammad (s) and His people who strive to follow in his noble footsteps. As to what follows:

There are many indications in the Qur’an and the Hadith that warn us against living our lives in the interest of vain pleasures and pursuits:

Allāh extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]. And they rejoice in the worldly life, while the worldly life is not, compared to the Hereafter, except [brief] enjoyment. (13:26)

Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord1 for reward and better for [one’s] hope.

And this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter – that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew. (29:64)

Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler along a path.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 6053, Grade: Sahih

It is evident from the above verses and the prophetic narration that hedonism and materialism is not a standard of success nor something the believers should be engaged in. Furthermore, it is obvious throughout the history of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the early converts that they did not live luxurious lives nor pursue it despite some of them being wealthy. Furthermore the Qur’an enjoins us not to hoard wealth:

O you who have believed, indeed many of the scholars and the monks devour the wealth of people unjustly and avert [them] from the way of Allāh. And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allāh – give them tidings of a painful punishment. (9:34)

However, the question arises then that if living merely for the temporary pleasures of the world and hoarding wealth are both forbidden in Islam, what then is the point of marriage, having children and wealth also mentioned and regulated in the same religion? When is amassing wealth hoarding, and when is it merely saving for the future? 

Marriage

Marriage in the Qur’an is part of worship. It is a way in which to experience love, mercy and kindness. It is also to guard oneself against illicit relationships and to protect one’s private parts:

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (30:21)

And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allāh will enrich them from His bounty, and Allāh is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (24:32)

From the above we can see that marriage serves a higher purpose than only sexual gratification and is in fact from amongst the signs of Allah. In marriage there is purity and worship, and not merely hedonism and gratification. This is achieved in Islam by allocating responsibilities for all worldly pleasures. In other words, if joy is experienced with the price of having worked for it, it is less likely to corrupt your soul. 

Hoarding wealth

There is no definitive indication regarding how much wealth is too much wealth. However, we can deduce some baseline indications based on certain laws in the Qur’an:

And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – for their wives is a bequest: maintenance for one year without turning [them] out. But if they leave [of their own accord], then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way. And Allāh is Exalted in Might and Wise. (2:240)

[Joseph] said, “You will plant for seven years consecutively; and what you harvest leave in its spikes, except a little from which you will eat.(12:47)

Then will come after that seven difficult [years] which will consume what you advanced [i.e., saved] for them, except a little from which you will store. (12:48)

While scholars explicitly say that the stories of the Qur’an are not an indication of law, we can deduce that keeping enough wealth to live and eat for seven years cannot be hoarding if Joseph was instructed to do so. Furthermore, in more concrete terms, if a man is to leave a year’s worth of maintenance for a wife in his will and without turning them out of the property, then as a baseline, working towards projecting a year’s worth of maintenance cannot be hoarding and in fact can be seen as meritorious. I would argue that anything over and above seven years would be hoarding because we know that hoarding is forbidden and we know that taking wealth out of circulation creates gross poverty. 

Concluding Remarks

The relationship with wealth, women and children in the Qur’an is nuanced. On the one hand, your motivation should always be to serve and worship Allah and to not allow any of the affairs of the world to distract you from that goal. On the other hand, accumulating wealth in order to look after your family and to spend in the cause of Allah to further Islam are all good reasons for becoming wealthy. We note that the Prophet Muhammad (s) and many of his companions lived rather simple lives even though some of them were wealthy. Hedonism is antithetical to Islam. 

Citations

Sahih International, Qur’an and it’s meaning in English: https://quran.com/

Sahih Al Bukhari:  https://sunnah.com/bukhari

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