Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) said:
اَلزَّاهِدُ فِى الدُّنْيا مَنْ لَمْ يَغْلِبِ الْحَرامُ صَبْرَهُ وَ لَمْ يَشْغَلِ الْحَلالُ شُكْرَهُ.
The real ascetic in the world is one whose endurance is not defeated by the temptations of unlawful wealth and who is not distracted from god’s remembrance and duty of thanksgiving when he acquires lawful wealth.1
Some uninformed people have given a negative twist to the definition of asceticism. They have interpreted asceticism as giving up divine graces and economic pursuits and living like the poor.
This is not the case. Asceticism in its real sense is what is narrated above from Imam ‘Ali (a.s.). And it could be summarized in two phrases: “enduring hardship rather than resorting to illegal means of acquiring things” and “not forgetting responsibilities and gratitude in respect of lawful things”. With this correct interpretation, asceticism becomes a force for self-improvement and reforms in the society rather than a negative influence on progress and prosperity.