Could you give information on stinginess?

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Could you give information on stinginess?
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Dear Brother / Sister,

In this article, we are going to try to explain stinginess and characteristics of stinginess rather than stingy people. 

1. Definition of Stinginess 

a) Literally, the word “stingy” means “miserly, who does not want to spend his money whatsoever, mean, parsimonious. (1) It is expressed with the words “bukhl” and “shuh” in the Quran and sunnah generally. (2) A stingy person is called “bakhil”. A bakhil likes keeping his money and gives it only when he is asked. The opposite of stinginess is generousness. A generous person gives money without being asked first and likes giving it. 

b) As a term, stinginess means “Refraining from spending something which is supposed to be spent and refraining from giving freely to someone else because of excessive love for money and property.” According to Ghazali, stinginess is to keep property or money endowed upon one by Allah, refraining from spending it on the reason of creation; wastefulness is using something for a reason except the reason of creation, and it is generousness to use and spend something in accordance with the reason of creation. (3) 

2. Notion of Stinginess in the Quran 

The word “bukhl” is used in three verses related to stinginess and verbs derived from this word are used other nine verses in the Quran. (4) Also, the word “shuh” is used in three verses and the word “ashihhah” which means stinginess is used in one verse. We also see that words “qatr” and “man” are used in some verses to mean stinginess in the Quran. The word “qatur” means “stingy, mean” in English. It is used in the Quran as the opposite of wastefulness which means spending everything wastefully. And the word “man” is used in verb form as “yamnauna” in a verse, as “manu” in another and as “manna” in two other verses. (5) 

About the situation of unbelievers who deny the truth, the Quran generally says: “Those who (want but) to be seen (of men), but refuse (to supply) (even) neighborly needs.” (al-Maun, 107:6-7). That is to say; in addition to being very stingy, they prevent others from giving freely too. Now, we would like to analyze the notion of stinginess in the light of the Quranic verses here:

- Stinginess means saving money and property and not using them to help others. Stinginess, in the Quran, means saving property and money endowed upon one by Allah and not using them for help as Allah orders us to.

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter, who pileth up wealth and layeth it by.” (al-Humazah, 104:1-2).

“And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God: announce unto them a most grievous penalty.” (at-Tawbah, 9:34)

One of the main essentials of the Quran is justice. Money, gold and silver are not supposed to be saved and piled up but to be delivered to the public and used. If these assets circulate amongst people they are beneficial. If these assets are kept by certain people, only a few people can benefit from them and a large part of the society is left poor and hungry. And this is against the justice of Allah. Everybody has got the right to benefit from boons created by Allah. The disease of stinginess one has got hinders available boons to be spent for the poor and needy.

-Human beings are stingy.

“Truly man was created very impatient; fretful when evil touches him; and niggardly when good reaches him.” (al-Ma’arijj, 70:19-21).

“Men's souls are swayed by greed.” (They are inclined to be stingy by nature). (an-Nisa, 4:128)

Allah the Glorious states in these verses that stinginess is a feeling that stems from one’s creation/nature and that this feeling was placed in their nature by Him. However, one should use this feeling in a positive way. If this feeling controls one’s all actions, it hinders him from doing good things. (6) Stinginess was placed in human beings’ nature in order to test them and for various reasons. One advances and develops by fighting against it. The religion of Islam emerged in order to earn a second nature.

- Satan directs people to stinginess by frightening them with poverty.

“The Evil One threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties. And God careth for all and He knoweth all things.” (al-Baqarah, 2:268)

Charity and alms given freely from one’s property does not decrease the amount of the property, but makes it even more abundant because alms-giving purifies property from non-physical dirtiness and makes it halal and clean. That pessimistic Satan, who has lost his hopes of Allah’s mercy, instills hopelessness in people secretly or illicitly, directs people to stinginess, to niggardliness by spreading around false and deceptive ideas and feelings. He encourages people to spend their money/property on evil, nonsensical things and sins. However, Allah guarantees people’s eternal happiness by forgiving their sins because of alms and charities they have given, and by endowing upon them thawabs and benefits in return for their charity, both in the worldly life and in the otherworldly life. (7)

- A stingy person thinks that his property will make him eternal. He thinketh that his wealth will render him immortal.” (al-Humazah, 104:3) Man tries to save money ambitiously, due to his love for property. Moreover, he thinks that the money he has saved will give him the power to do anything he wants. Therefore, he never thinks of death, thinking that death will not come for him and he will stay alive forever because of his property. However, property, money and fortune are all temporary. When the time of death comes for him and when his soul leaves his body, all the property and money he has saved ambitiously so far will be left behind and if he did not use them on the way of Allah, he would not be able to save himself from the wrath of hellfire. 

- Stinginess is a selfish passion of the soul. This passion prevents one from spending his money freely on the way of Allah and prevents people from being purified. This feeling prevents people from using their assets on the way of Allah. Thus, if one cannot defeat this selfish feeling and stinginess in his lower-self, it is impossible for him to purify his lower-self because true salvation is possible when one purifies his soul from evil desires. (8) The following Quranic verse expresses this selfish feeling in people’s lower-selves in a very astonishing way:

“Say (unto them): If ye possessed the treasures of the mercy of my Lord, ye would surely hold them back for fear of spending, for man was ever grudging.” (al-Isra, 17:100) 

It is not stinginess to give freely as alms and charity from property which Allah has endowed on people. One who does not give alms and charity from their property is stingy.

- One who protects himself from selfish ambitions finds happiness and success. One can be a good and decent person only by spending bounties, which Allah endowed upon him, generously for others. Actually, Allah says: “By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth God knoweth it well.” (Aal-i Imran, 3:92). A greedy stingy person, who always wants to take and never to give, cannot be expected to be useful for others. One who is protected from lower-self’s selfish passions has overcome this obstacle in front of the good and has begun to run towards the good and give abundantly from his property. This is what the true salvation is. (9)

- Believers are not stingy. Characteristics of believers are mentioned in various places in the Quran. One of these characteristics of believers told in the Quran is that they are not stingy and that when they spend, they do it moderately. This is expressed in the 67th verse of surah al-Furqan as follows:

“Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes).” True believers should not be stingy.

- Wrath awaits those who are stingy and who bids others to be stingy. Allah the Glorious always warns human beings in different verses with different styles in order to protect people from this disease called stinginess.

“(Nor) those who are niggardly or enjoin niggardliness on others, or hide the bounties which God hath bestowed on them; for We have prepared, for those who resist Faith, a punishment that steeps them in contempt” (an-Nisa, 4:37)

“On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, their flanks, and their backs.- "This is the (treasure) which ye buried for yourselves: taste ye, then, the (treasures) ye buried!"” (at-Tawbah, 9:35)

The Quran often suggests people to get rid of this selfish feeling and develop the feeling of generousness instead of it and do good deeds in every possibility.

“And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which God Hath given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: Nay, it will be the worse for them: soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks Like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment. To God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Aal-i Imran, 3:180)

In this verse, Allah criticizes those who do not use their money for the sake of Allah, fearing that it will decrease, and states that it is wrong of them to think that this is good for them and that it is not good for them at all. All the property they have saved and have not spent for Allah will be hanged around their necks in the form of a fire-collar on the Day of Judgment. Allah the Supreme calls them to give up stinginess, by threatening them with this terrible wrath. Actually, man comes to this world, having nothing. Allah, with His great generousness, endows upon them property and enriches them. And eventually, when Allah wants them to help others with the property which He gave to them, they refuse to help, forgetting that it was all given to them by Allah, and claiming that they are the real owners of them. However, it is necessary to use not only the property, but also all kinds of boons such as abilities, skills and knowledge, which Allah endowed upon us helping the way of Allah.

They think that their property will decrease if they give alms and charity from them and that it is better for them to save their money instead of using it for helping others. However, it is bad for them to do so. One day they will depart from this world and all the money they have saved will be left behind. The true owner of all property is only Allah the Supreme. On the Day of Judgment, one will find with him only the property which he spent for helping others. That is what will be useful to him. (10)

3. The Result of Stinginess

In fact, feelings which Allah the Glorious has placed in humankind’s disposition are not evil by themselves. What is evil is to make improper use of them. If the feeling of stinginess is used for not giving any from boons which Allah has endowed on one, with the passion for saving money for the worldly life, and thus hindering social aid, it is wrong and impropriety. Actually, Islam which prohibits wastefulness also prohibits stinginess.

Allah the Glorious states: “Who hoard their wealth and enjoin avarice on others, and hide that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty. For disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom.” (an-Nisa, 4:37)

Stingy people think that bounties which Allah has endowed generously are only for them and do not admit that poor people have got the right for a share from them. Those who do not know that property and treasures are means of testing direct others to be stingy too. Actually, this reality is expressed in the following verse as follows:

Say (unto them): If ye possessed the treasures of the mercy of my Lord, ye would surely hold them back for fear of spending, for man was ever grudging.” (al-Isra, 17:100)

Those who have not failed to give the shares of the poor people from their property are blissful personalities. Allah’s bounties are different for every person. “One should give alms from the bounties endowed upon him, as if he were a trustee and a servant.”

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says: “Refrain from stinginess because stinginess destroyed those who lived before you and tempted them to shed each other’s blood and to consider harams to be halal…” (Muslim, Birr 56) Once, the Prophet said to his companions: “Shall I tell you the people of Hell?” The companions said: “Yes, o the Messenger of Allah!” The Prophet said: “They are those who are rude, stingy and arrogant.” (Bukhari, Adab 61; Ayman 9). Stinginess is one of the roads that lead to the wrath of Hell. Therefore, believing people should seriously avoid stinginess.

4. Reasons of Stinginess

It is possible to categorize factors resulting in stinginess under two titles:

a) Excessive love for property holdings and ambition of saving money: The leading reason of stinginess, which is one of the negative ways of human beings, is excessive love for property holdings and ambition of saving money because the desire for richness and ambition for saving money are present in humankind’s disposition. For this reason, they always work for this world and save money. As a matter of fact, the verse, which says, And lo! In the love of wealth he is violent” (al-Adiyat, 100:8) points out to this aspect of the humankind. 

As it is stated in this verse, there is so much love for richness and so much ambition for saving money in human beings’ heart that they always care for themselves only. And they care about others so little or not at all. Even if they had everything in the world and even if the treasures of Allah’s mercy belonged to them, they would still hesitate to use them for helping others fearing that they would decrease in amount. In their narrow hearts do reasons form which enchain their hands with cuffs of stinginess.

As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) puts into words humankind’s love and ambition for richness in a nice way and states that this love and ambition will end with death only, by saying “If humankind had two valleys full of property, he would desire for the third valley. Only earth (death, being buried) can satisfy him. Allah accepts the repentance of those who repent.” (Muslim, Zakat 116).

Islam explains to people that their excessive love for richness will lead them to their own destruction, in nice and persuasive ways. If one thinks of the end of property, he will understand that it is better for him to be generous. In fact, one has got no other possessions on the earth than what he eats up, he wears and what he spends for the sake of Allah and saves for his otherworldly life.  It is really astonishing that one struggles with all his power for saving money and property which he will leave to his inheritors in the end and receives Allah’s wrath for this reason. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) explained this reality as follows:

One day, the Prophet asked: “Which one of you loves his inheritors’ property more than his own?” The Companions answered: “O the Messenger of Allah! All of us love our own property more than those of our inheritors.” Upon this, the Messenger of Allah said: “The true property of one is what he has sacrificed for the sake of Allah all his life. And what he has saved and put aside instead of spending is the property of his inheritors.” (Bukhari, Riqaq 12)

b) Greed and thinking of children’s future: There is a feeling in the humankind’s disposition as if they would live forever. However, man is mortal. As it is impossible for them to live forever, they try to satisfy this feeling by having children who will continue their lineage. This is one of the reasons of sexual intercourse. Parents having children prefer to save their property to spending them, with the aim of providing their children with enough livelihood and a nice future. Therefore, they behave stingily.

Saving the bounties stingily which Allah has endowed upon us rather than spending them means turning those bounties that are for us to against us. Hawla binti Hakim reports: “One day, the Messenger of Allah hugged one of his grandchildren and said:

“You are those for the sake of whom stinginess, frightfulness and ignorance exist. You are one of the nice bounties that Allah has endowed upon people.” (11) If one’s children cause one to be frightful, stingy and heedless, he is doubtlessly disappointed. And whoever respects the law of the Lord and the rights of His servants above all, he is saved. Actually, being stingy in order to realize domestic rights and piling up possessions does not prevent poverty; it does not guarantee richness, either.

It is nice that a Muslim thinks of meeting the needs of the generation that he will leave behind in order to protect them. Actually, people generally try to hand down property to their children so that they can endure troubles and problems that can occur after they die. In fact, this is a good will. It is expressed in a hadith as follows:

“It is better that you leave your inheritors rich enough than you leave them so poor that they will need others’ help.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, 1/172). However, guaranteeing children’s future and leaving them a comfortable life should not be done by making concessions on religion and ethics. It should not sound so reasonable that one hands down property to his children by being stingy and sacrificing his soul, generousness and Allah’s pleasure.

Islam considers one’s property and children a means of testing just like other boons and bounties. If one behaves lazily and avoids doing the necessary things and sacrificing, all these boons and bounties turn out to be troubles and even the greatest enemies for him. Islam orders people to be good to their own selves first, and then to his families, then to relatives and finally to all other people.

Being good to oneself: Meeting your needs in halal ways, protecting yourself from harams, avoiding behaviors which will humiliate yourself in front of people and protecting yourself from the kind of poverty which puts Muslims in a situation which does not fit Muslim dignity. And this is possible only through a moderate lifestyle which excludes cruelty and wastefulness. A Muslim can keep property which will allow him to reach his lawful goal. If he cannot have it, he is considered poor.

5. Disadvantages of Stinginess

While generousness is praised in Islam, stinginess is excoriated. One should refrain from stinginess to the utmost degree because stinginess is one of the reasons which destroyed previous civilizations. As a matter of fact, stinginess led them to shed blood and consider harams to be halal, as it is stated in the hadith.

“There are two characteristics which cannot exist in a believer. They are stinginess and low ethics.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd 8)

This characteristic can be likened to selfishness that is the source of many evils. Actually, a selfish person spoils many social relationships by using all opportunities, whether be material or spiritual, to satisfy his caprices. He breaks off social links. For instance, it prevents visiting relatives, caring for friends and relatives, giving gifts to each other and helping the needy people.

Stinginess causes unhappiness. The public criticizes stingy people and a stingy person cannot receive respect from people. Shortly, stinginess is a disease that prevents all kinds of good deeds and charities; because charities can be done giving the boons, which Allah has endowed upon one in various ways, generously to needy people. And stinginess prevents one from giving freely to other people for the sake of Allah.

Stinginess has got many disadvantages related both to individuals and to society. Stinginess neither allows the possessor of property to benefit from it nor the society to benefit from it, by encaging the property. So, stinginess causes many significant problems in society and in finance. Keeping property because of stinginess causes financial crisis. It causes the ethics to degenerate and hearts to become seditious. (12)

6. Ways to Escape Stinginess

Islamic scholars consider stinginess a disease of the heart and state that this disease can be cured only with knowledge and practice. Service to God is the job of earning a secondary disposition by putting Islam’s orders into practice. One can escape stinginess by being generous. One should believe that boons come only if Allah endows them and one should learn to be generous and get accustomed to be generous by supplicating beginning from the childhood.

a) Treatment through knowledge: It is possible to get over the disease of stinginess only by learning its harms related to ethics, religion and social aspects and the ways of getting rid of it. A person who knows dangers of stinginess refrains from it. For instance, would a person who knows how dangerous a snake is play with it? Would he let that snake sleep with him in his bed? Similarly, a person who knows how dangerous stinginess is quits this negative characteristic.

b) Treatment through practice: This treatment is possible by dealing with people’s problems. The Prophet (pbuh) said in one of his hadiths: “Whoever does not share the problems of believers is not one of us.” (Suyuti, al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, 2/164). Therefore, we should care about people’s problems in the society that we are a part of. Although we may find it difficult, we have to help the poor and needy people in our society. If we get ourselves accustomed to generousness and save ourselves from stinginess, we can help the poor and needy people in our society.

There are the rich and the poor in every society. They should help each other; especially the rich should help the poor. If the rich are stingy and the poor are impatient, the balance and orderliness of the society will decline. Theft, extortion, conflicts and shedding blood will start in the society; as it has been seen in all stages of history. And this will result in the destruction of that society. People will start shedding blood and considering harams to be halal. The larger the gap between the poor and the rich grows, the more we see unfairness and cruelty in the society and all kinds of injustice start to spread over in the society. Increase and spread of injustice is considered an indication of proximity of destruction. In this sense, stinginess is one of the reasons of injustice. We can say that this is the reason why stinginess is mentioned together with injustice.

In a hadith, the Prophet explains the way of getting over stinginess as follows:

“One who gives zakat, who entertains his guests and who helps others in time of calamities is saved from stinginess.” (Bukhari, Mazalim 8)

Ibn Muzir reported that Hazrat Ali had said: “Whoever gives zakat for his property is saved from stinginess.” (13) Actually, people are often ordered to give zakat both in Quran and hadiths in order to prevent the ambition for saving money that exists in human disposition from turning into stinginess. For this reason, one of the ways to escape stinginess is, for those who can afford, to give zakat for their property.

Ghazali states the following about the cure of stinginess:

“One of the ways to get rid of stinginess, fear of poverty and greed is to think about the situation of stingy people and think that everybody hates them. Even a stingy person does not like other stingy people. There is not a stingy person who likes stingy people. If a stingy person thinks about it, he will understand that he is considered gloomy and terrible, and is disliked by other people, like other stingy people, too.” (14)

Moreover, it is possible to get over the psychological disease of stinginess by thinking about the aim of gaining property. As a matter of fact, property is for meeting needs. After taking the amount of what we need, we should spend the rest for saving our otherworldly life. If a believer can comprehend that it is better to spend for otherworldly life than keeping property, the desire for spending on the way of Allah will predominate in his heart. (15)

Remembering death often, thinking about friends or relatives who tired themselves to death while struggling for saving money and gaining property and that all they had were in vain after their death can help people quit stinginess, too.

Allah the Glorious teaches us how we can compensate for our shortcomings and weaknesses via His attributes and how we can reach the sublime ones and wants us to develop our characters in accordance with divine ethics. Allah has got beautiful names and attributes, one of which is generousness. That is to say, Allah is generous and likes those who are generous. So, if people follow this attribute of Allah and become generous, they are thus saved from stinginess which Allah dislikes and also please Allah. Actually, Ghazali states that the cure of stinginess is possible by doing the opposite of stinginess that is generousness; that is to say, spending property on the way of Allah. (16)

In addition to all of these, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) suggests supplication in order to get rid of stinginess. In a hadith, he says: “I seek refuge with You from frightfulness and stinginess.” In another hadith, he says: “Every morning, two angels come down from the skies. One of them supplicates by saying ‘O Allah, may You make the property of those who help others with their own property abundant’ and the other one curses by saying ‘Destroy the property of stingy ones who keep their property.’”  (17) The Prophet (pbuh) encourages people to break their habit of stinginess by helping others financially, with this hadith. 

Human beings were created as stingy and impatient. That means these traits come from their disposition. Moreover, they have got both negative traits such as hatred, grudge and enmity and positive traits such as love, affection and kindness. Each of these is a corridor leading to either good or evil. In this sense, human beings should close the doors opening to evils and control their negative feelings and passions with the help of religious thoughts and feelings, which is called in religion “secondary disposition.” One should develop this disposition so that he can comprehend the perfection that is destined for him, that is, he can turn his disposition, which can turn into anything, to be something good, that is, into a believer.

1. Olgun, İbrahim; Dravşan, Cemşit, Türkçe Farsça Sözlük, İran 1350, p. 40; Şükün, Ziya, Farsça Türkçe Lügat, (Ferhengi Ziya), M.E.B., İst, 1984, I, 659.
2. Raghib al-Isfahani, Mufradat, Beirut 1992, p. 109; 446; Ibn Manzur, Lisanu’l-Arab, Beirut 1990, II, 496; XI, 47.
3. Ghazali, Ihyau Ulumiddin, Beirut, nd., III, 63.
4. Çağrıcı, Mustafa, “Cimrilik Mad.”, T.D.V.İ. Ans, İst, 1993, VIII, 4.
5. See, al-Maun, 107/6-7; al-Ma’ârijj, 70/21; Qaf, 50/25; al-Qalam, 68/12.
6. Qurtubî, al-Jamiu Liahkami’l-Qur’an, V, 406.
7. Yazır, Hak Dini, Kur’ân Dili, II, 203.
8. See, ash-Shams, 91/9.
9. Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilali’l-Qur’ân, XIV, 385.
10. Sayyid Qutb, ibid., II, 582,583.
11. Canan, İbrahim, Hadis Ansiklopedisi, (Kütüb-i Sitte), Akçağ Yay., İst, trs., XVII, 487.
12. Sayyid Qutb, ibid., X, 565.
13. Suyuti, ad-Durru’l-Mansur, Beirut, trs.VIII, 110.
14. Ghazali, ibid., III, 578.
15. Ateş, Süleyman, İslâm Tasavvufu, p.323.
16. Ghazali, ibid., III, 578.
17. Bukhari, Zakat 27.

(Prof. Dr. Mehmet Soysaldı)

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