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Wealth In Man’s Service

Whoever examines the verses of the Qur’an, trying to find out Islam’s perception of wealth, money, goods, and all which is of use to man, will certainly conclude that the Qur’an regards all the existing things on earth as means to satisfy legitimate human needs, and no more.

The Qur’an always urges man to cut off his ties with them. That is why it dispraises the Jove of money, the accumulation of wealth, and the collection of property for no justified reason. It forbids these harmful practices and decides that money, wealth and products have an economic role, which they should play in order to keep life going on.

It is unacceptable that these things become a target, to which man directs all his efforts and energies. Islam strictly forbids amassing wealth without investing it in profitable and honorable projects.

Employing all available means, Islam emphasizes this critical economic concept. It works to instill it in man, so as to weaken greediness and large-scale amassing of wealth, and to face up to exploitation and economic inequity.

Islam wants wealth and money to play their natural role in man’s life, gratifying all his natural needs. No group of people should monopolize profits and wealth, or get rich at the expense of impoverished, downtrodden people.

The Most High says:

"No, man is surely inordinate, because he looks upon himself as self-sufficient.” (Holy Qur’an, 96:6, 96:7)

“No, but you honour not the orphan, nor do you urge one another to feed the poor, and you devour heritage, devouring all, and you love wealth with exceeding love.” (Holy Qur’an, 89:17, 89:18, 89:19, 89:20)

"Woe lo every slanderer, defamer.’ .Who amasses wealth and counts it - He thinks that his wealth will make him abide. No, he will certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster.”(Holy Qur’an, 104:1, 104:2, 104:3, 104:4)

“…and those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in Allah’s way – announce to them a painful punishment.” (Holy Qur’an, 9:34)

“So keep your duty to Allah as much as you can, and hear and obey and spend; it is better for your souls. And whoever is saved from greediness of his soul, these it is that are the successful.”(Holy Qur’an, 64:16)

“Whatever Allah restored lo His Messenger from the people of the town, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and needy and the wayfarer, so that it be not taken by turns by the rich among you. And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain (therefrom); and keep your duty to Allah. Surely, Allah is Severe in punishment. " (Holy Qur’an, 59:7)

“And devour not your property among yourselves by false means, nor seek to gain access thereby lo the judges, so that you may swallow up a part of the property of people wrongfully while you know.” (Holy Qur’an, 2:188)

"Tell My servants who have faith to keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them, secretly and openly,...” (Holy Qur’an, 14:31)

“And in whose wealth there is a known right. For the beggar and the destitute ” (Holy Qur’an, 70:24, 70:25)

Besides these holy verses, we find in the ‘Sunnah’ explanation of the Qur’anic teachings, which broaden the horizons of economic thought. These texts can be adopted as principles and key bases for the economic system in Islam.

The quotes we cite below are only a part of hundreds of Qur’anic verses, traditions and statements, which deal with themes on money, wealth, production, and distribution. They make clear Islam’s view concerning each one of these items.

The following are a few traditions dealing with money and wealth:

“Poor-rates (zakat) were certainly ordained to test the wealthy and help the poor. If all people pay the ‘zakat’ on their wealth, no single Muslim will remain poor or needy. He will rather, be independent of people, to this Allah-ordained tax. People will certainly not be impoverished, hungry, and clothless, if the wealthy do not commit sins..”1

“All has certainly given the people a share of the wealth of the well-to-do, for the paying of which they deserve no praise. It is ‘zakat’. Thanks to ‘zakat’, the blood of Muslims was spared, and they were called Muslims. But, next to zakat, Allah has made a portion of wealth of the rich dues belonging to the poor.

Allah, the Exalted, says: “And in whose wealth there is a known right….(Holy Qur’an, 70:24)2

Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, assessed the wealth of the well-to-do, and evaluated the needs of the poor. He set and adequate portion of the wealth of the rich to be given to the poor. If it were not satisfactory, Allah would certainly have made that portion greater.” 3

“Allah has certainly ordered a sufficient portion of the effluent’s wealth set aside on behalf of the poor. If He knew that what had been set apart on their behalf was not adequate, He would certainly have increased that share. It is the refraining, on the part of the well-to-do, from paying the poor’s dues that makes the latter suffer from poverty. The portion Allah ordained on their behalf from the wealthy is undeniably enough”.4

In his letter to Malik al-Ashtar, Imam Ali (‘a), outlines the responsibilities of the Islamic state. Concerning the poor and destitute, the Imam (‘a) writes:

“Then I want to caution you about the poor. Fear Allah about their conditions and your attitude towards them. They have no support, no resources and no opportunities. They are poor, they are destitute and many of them are crippled and unfit for work. Some of them, come out begging and some (who maintain self-respect), do not beg - but their condition screams about their distress, poverty, destitution and wants. For the sake of God, Malik, protect them and their rights. He has laid the responsibility of this up on your shoulders. You must fix a share for them from the government treasury.

Besides this reservation in cash, you must also reserve a share in kind of corps etc., from government grains go downs in cities, in which such grains are collected as are cultivated on state owned lands. Because in this collected the share of those living far away from particular city is equal to the share of those living nearby.”5

From putting these quotes together and examining them in depth, we can conclude the following:

1. Wealth as Islam views, it, belongs to Allah. Man is allowed to use it within what is lawful in Islam. The Most High says:

“Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend of that whereof He has made you heirs. So those of you who have faith and spend for them is a great reward.” (Holy Qur’an, 57:7)

“And certainly you have come to Us one by one as We created you first, and you have left behind your back what We gave you." (Holy Qur’an, 6:95)

2. The relationship between man and wealth is that of gratification of human needs. It should never be transformed into fervent relationship of love and greed. Wealth is a means to serve life, but it is not a goal in itself. Islam condemns obsession in covetousness of money, and in amazing it out of mere avarice.

“….and you love wealth with exceeding love.” (Holy Qur’an, 89:20)

“He (man) thinks that his wealth will make him abide.” (Holy Qur’an, 104:3)

3. Wealth should be distributed among all people and everyone should take what satisfies his needs. It should not be withdrawn from the field of economic investment and circulation, amassed and refused to others. Some people do this out of overpowering tendency towards monopolization and greediness. Allah, the Most High, says:

“….and those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in Allah’s way- announce to them a painful punishment.” (Holy Qur’an, 9:34)

“…and spend; it is better for your souls. And whoever is saved from the greediness of his soul, these it is that are the successful.” (Holy Qur’an, 64:16)

4. The lower social classes, and the disabled, who are either unable to work because of age, or disease, and those whose incomes cannot satisfy all their needs, have a share in the wealth of the well-to do, ordained by Allah. Should they procrastinate, or refuse to pay, the state must take it from them by force.

In so doing, economic equity is achieved in accordance with this call of the Qur’an:

“…so that it be not taken by turns by the rich among you.” (Holy Qur’an, 59:7)

The Qur’an rejects the misappropriate of the nation’s wealth by the upper classes and states that it must reach every Muslim individual. He should take his share, and the rest of the money, the surplus money, should be invested in useful economic activities, even if it belongs to certain individuals, or is known to be the property of them. Money, thus, will not be stored away, like any other treasured article.

5. Economic balance and financial laws, in Islam, are enacted so as to meet people’s needs, establish economic equality, and achieve an honorable kind of living for every individual in the Muslim society.

“Allah has certainly ordered a sufficient portion of the effluent’s wealth set aside on behalf of the poor. If He knew that what had been set apart on their behalf were not adequate, He would certainly have increased that share".

“If all people pay the ‘zakat’ on their wealth, no single Muslim will remain poor or needy. He will, rather, be independent of people, thanks to this Allah-ordained tax.”

6. The cause of the economic crisis that is plaguing mankind lies in bad distribution, and the greediness of the exploiting classes. Man’s self-centeredness is the prime cause of this problem. The system of distribution and man-made economic laws, which are linked to man’s selfishness, are the second effective cause of the problem.

The two statements communicated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), make this point clear:6

“People will certainly not be in1poverished, hungry, and clotheless, if the wealthy do not commit sins.”

“It is the refraining, on the part of the well-to-do, from paying the poor’s dues that make the latter suffer from poverty. The portion Allah ordained on their behalf from the wealthy is undeniably enough.”

7. So as to achieve equity in distribution, or fight poverty, Islam makes it obligatory on the Islamic state to implement all financial laws it has laid down. Such Jaws forbid usury, monopoly, freezing of money, greediness, exploitation, and immoderate Jove of assets, so as to put an end to excessive accumulation of wealth and deprivement of the destitute.

8. The economic system in Islam binds the Islamic state to allocate a certain amount of money, included in the budget, to fight poverty and meet the needs of the destitute. This is clearly stated in these words, quoted from a letter sent by Imam Ali (‘a) to Malik al-Ashtar, the then governor of Egypt:

“You must fix a share for them from the government treasury. Besides this reservation in cash, you must also reserve a share in kind of crops etc., from government grains go downs in cities, in which such grains are collected as are cultivated on state owned lands...”

And Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds

  • 1. Al-Naraqi, Jami’ al-Sa'adat (Collector of Felicities) ,vol. 2,p. 124, from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.).
  • 2. Al-Naraqi, Ibid ,p.15
  • 3. Mirza Hussein al-Noori al-Tabrasi, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il (The Book, which collected the Traditions Left out by Wasa’il al-Shi’iah), Bab al-Zakat (Chapter of 'Zakat').
  • 4. Al-Naraqi, Jami’ al-Sa'adat (Collector of Fecilities)
  • 5. Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.), Nahjul-Balagha (Peaks of Eloquence) Collated by Dr. Subhi al-Salih, p.438.
  • 6. Sometimes an economic crisis is blamed on a decline in production as a result or bad conditions.