Second Topic: It points out ways of avoiding greed, another awesome disease, as harmful for the life of Islam as enmity, and it explains the importance of zakah.
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Verily Allah it is Who gives all sustenance, Lord of Power and Steadfast.1 * How many are the creatures that carry not their own sustenance? It is Allah Who provides for them and for you; He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.2
O people of belief! You will have understood by now how harmful is enmity. Understand too that greed is another awesome disease, as harmful for the life of Islam as enmity. Greed brings about disappointment, deficiency, and humiliation; it is the cause of deprivation and abjection. The humiliation and abjection of the Jews, who more than any other people have leaped greedily upon the world, is a decisive proof of this truth. Greed demonstrates its evil effects throughout the animate world, from the most universal of species to the most particular of individuals. To seek out one’s sustenance while placing one’s trust in Allah will, by constrast, bring about tranquillity and demonstrate everywhere its beneficient effects.
Thus, fruit trees and plants, which are a species of animate being insofar as they require sustenance, remain contentedly rooted where they are, placing their trust in Allah and not evincing any greed; it is for this reason that their sustenance hastens toward them. They breed too far more offspring than do the animals. The animals, by contrast, pursue their sustenance greedily, and for this reason are able to attain it only imperfectly and at the cost of great effort. Within the animal kingdom it is only the young who, as it were, evince their trust in Allah by proclaiming their weakness and impotence; hence it is that they receive in full measure their rightful and delicate sustenance from the treasury of Divine mercy. But savage beasts that pounce greedily on their sustenance can hope only for an illicit and coarse sustenance, attained through the expenditure of great effort. These two examples show that greed is the cause of deprivation, while trust in Allah and contentment are the means to Allah’s mercy.
In the human kingdom, the Jews have clung to the world more greedily and have loved its life with more passion than any other people, but the usurious wealth they have gained with great efforts is merely illicit property over which they exercise temporary stewardship, and it benefits them little. It earns them, on the contrary, the blows of abjection and humiliation, of death and insult, that are rained down on them by all peoples. This shows that greed is a source of humiliation and loss. There are in addition so many instances of a greedy person being exposed to loss that “the greedy is subject to disappointment and loss” has become a universally accepted truth. This being the case, if you love wealth, seek it not with greed but with contentment, so that you may have it in abundance.
The content and the greedy are like two men who enter the audience-hall of a great personage. One of them says to himself: “It is enough that he should admit me so that I can escape from the cold outside. Even if he motions me to sit in the lowest position, I will count it as a kindness.”
The second man says arrogantly, as if he had some right in the matter and everyone were obliged to respect him: “I should be assigned the highest position.” He enters with greed and fixes his gaze on the highest positions, wishing to advance toward them. But the master of the audience-hall turns him back and seats him in a lower position. Instead of thanking him as he should, he is angered against him in his heart and criticizes him. The lord of the palace will be offended by him.
The first man enters most humbly and wishes to sit in the lowest position. His modesty pleases the lord of the audience-hall, and he invites him to sit in a higher position. His gratitude increases, and his thankfulness is augmented.
Now this world is like an audience-hall of the Most Merciful One. The surface of the globe is like a banqueting spread laid out by His mercy. The differing degrees of sustenance and grades of bounty correspond to the seating positions in the audience-hall.
Furthermore, even in the minutest of affairs everyone can experience the evil effects of greed. For example, everyone knows in his heart that when two beggars request something, he will be offended by the one who greedily importunes him, and refuse his request; whereas he will take pity on the peaceable one and give him what he asks.
Or to give another example, if you are unable to fall asleep at night and wish to do so, you may succeed if you remain detached. But if you desire sleep greedily, and say: “Let me sleep, let me sleep,” then sleep will quit you entirely.
Yet another example is this, that if you greedily await the arrival of someone for some important purpose and continually say: “He still hasn’t come,” ultimately you will lose patience and get up and leave. But one minute later the person will come, and your purpose will be frustrated.
The reason for all this is as follows. The production of a loaf of bread requires a field to be cultivated and harvested, the grain to be taken to a mill, and the loaf to be baked in an oven. So too in the arrangement of all things there is a certain slow deliberation decreed by Allah’s wisdom. If on account of greed one fails to act with slow deliberation, one will fail to notice the steps one must mount in the arrangement of all things; he will either fall or be unable to traverse the steps, and in either event will not reach his goal.
O brothers giddied by preoccupation with your livelihood, and drunk on your greed for this world! Greed is harmful and pernicious; how is it then that you commit all kinds of abject deed for the sake of your greed; accept all kinds of wealth, without concern for licit or illicit; and sacrifice much of the hereafter? On account of your greed you even abandon one of the most important pillars of Islam, the payment of zakat, although zakat is for everyone a means of attracting plenty and repelling misfortune. The one who does not pay zakat is bound to lose the amount of money he would otherwise have paid: either he will spend it on some useless object, or it will be taken from him by some misfortune.
In a veracious dream that came to me during the fifth year of the First World War, the following question was put to me:
“What is the reason for this hunger, financial loss, and physical trial that now afflicts the Muslims?”
I replied in the dream:
“From the wealth He bestows upon us, Allah Almighty required from us either a tenth or a fortieth3 so that we may benefit from the grateful prayers of the poor, and rancour and envy may be prevented. But in our greed and covetousness we refused to give zakat, and Allah Almighty has taken from us a thirtieth where a fortieth was owed, and an eighth where a tenth was owed.
“He required of us to undergo, for no more than one month each year, a hunger with seventy beneficial purposes. But we took pity on our instinctual souls, and did not undergo that temporary pleasurable hunger Allah Almighty then punished us by compelling us to fast for five years, with a hunger replete with seventy kinds of misfortune.
“He also required of us, out of each period of twenty-four hours, one hour to be spent in a form of Divine drill, pleasing and sublime, luminous and beneficial. But in our laziness we neglected the duty of prayer. That single hour was joined to the other hours and wasted. As penance, Allah Almighty then caused us to undergo a form of drill and physical exertion that took the place of prayer.”
I then awoke, and upon reflection realized that an extremely important truth was contained in that dream. As proven and explained in the Twenty-Fifth Word, when comparing modern civilization with the principles of the Qur’an, all immorality and instability in the social life of man proceeds from two sources:
The First: “Once my stomach is full, what do I care if others die of hunger?”
The Second: “You work, and I’ll eat.”
That which perpetuates these two is the prevalence of usury and interest on the one hand, and the abandonment of zakat on the other. The only remedy able to cure these two awesome social diseases lies in implementing zakat as a universal principle and in forbidding usury. Zakat is a most essential support of happiness not merely for individuals and particular societies, but for all of humanity. There are two classes of men: the upper classes and the common people. It is only zakat that will induce compassion and generosity in the upper classes toward the common people, and respect and obedience in the common people toward the upper classes. In the absence of zakat, the upper classes will descend on the common people with cruelty and oppression, and the common people will rise up against the upper classes in rancour and rebellion. There will be a constant struggle, a persistent opposition between the two classes of men. It will finally result in the confrontation of capital and labour, as happened in Russia.
O people of nobility and good conscience! O people of generosity and liberality! If acts of generosity are not performed in the name of zakat, there are three harmful results. The act may have no effect, for if you do not give in the name of Allah, you are in effect imposing an obligation, and imprisoning some wretched pauper with a sense of obligation. Then you will be deprived of his prayer, a prayer which would be most acceptable in the sight of Allah. In reality you are nothing but an official entrusted with the distribution of Allah Almighty’s bounties among His servants; but if you imagine yourself to be the owner of wealth, this is an act of ingratitude for the bounties you have received. If, on the contrary, you give in the name of zakat, you will be rewarded for having given in the name of Allah Almighty; you will have offered thanks for bounties received. The needy person too will not be compelled to fawn and cringe in front of you; his self-respect will not be injured, and his prayer on your behalf will be accepted. See how great is the difference between, on the one hand, giving as much as one would in zakat, but earning nothing but the harm of hypocrisy, fame, and the imposition of obligation; and, on the other hand, performing the same good deeds in the name of zakat, and thereby fulfilling a duty, and gaining a reward, the virtue of sincerity, and the prayers of those whom you have benefited?
Glory be unto You; we have no knowledge save that which you have taught us; indeed, you are All-Knowing, All-Wise.4
O Allah, grant blessings and peace to our master Muhammad, who said: “The believer is with respect to the believer like a firm building, of which one part supports the other,”5 and who said too that “Contentment is a treasure that never perishes,”6 and to his Family and his Companions. And praise be to Allah, the Sustainer of All the Worlds.
1. Qur’an, 51:58.
2. Qur’an, 29:60.
3. A tenth, that is, or wealth like corn that every year yields a new crop; and a fortieth of whatever yielded a commercial profit in the course of the year.
4. Qur’an, 2:32.
5. See page 320, fn. 13.
6. Suyuti, al-Fath al-Kabir ii, 309; Ahmad al-Hashimi, Mukhtar al-Ahadith al-Nabawiya, Istanbul 1967, 99.