By Maria Zehra
“If you live in a time when sinning is easier, understand it’s a time where the reward of being a person of Taqwa is also greater.”
This applies to Muslim economic matters as well. In an era where it is so easy to indulge in unlawful economic activities and invest in non-compliant products, Muslims who give extra efforts to refrain from interest and unlawful activities in their economic lives shall be rewarded manifold as per their intentions, efforts, and difficulty they experience in doing so due to the conventional environment.
RELIGION OF BALANCE
Islam is a religion of balance (al-wasittiyah). It means Islam promotes moderation. From an economic aspect, this maxim conveys that Muslims should not be stingy nor should they be extravagant when it comes to their economic dealings.
In an economic aspect of their lives, Muslims should be vigilant and active. Islam does not stop Muslims from earning decent and investing and multiplying money. Rather, Islam asks for a balance which is achieved by following the Shari’ah measures of investing and doing business, as well as by being generous and giving away compulsory alms (zakat) and charity (sadaqah), thus regularly purifying one’s wealth.
NEITHER BEING STINGY NOR EXTRAVAGANT
Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Thus, We have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:143)
Thus here this verse talks about ‘moderation’. In another verse, Allah The Almighty talks about qualities of the believer that he is neither extravagant nor a miser.
“And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate.” (Surah Al-Furqan 25:67)
The Qur’ān even talks about, at several places, spending one’s wealth and bounties and not withholding it.
Allah says, “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.” (Surah Ale-Imran, 3:180)
The wealth and bounties can be utilised by spending, giving to charity as well as investing in good causes, such as Muslim businesses. By investing one’s wealth in Shari’ah-compliant avenues, instead of hoarding it, a Muslim cannot only contribute to the prosperity of his wealth but also to the upliftment of the Muslim Ummah and its economic stability. If the larger population of Muslims becomes financially stable, it will eventually have a positive effect on the economic life of other underprivileged Muslims. As they will be getting more employment opportunities. The payers of compulsory alms (zakat) will increase in numbers which shall eventually lead to the mobilisation and multiplication of wealth.
PROPHETIC NARRATIONS ON ECONOMIC STABILITY
This principle is further discussed by the Prophet ﷺ. In one narration Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was asked about donating one’s wealth by a noble companion Sa’ad where he said: “I have some wealth. May I donate all of it?” The Prophet said, “No.” I said, “Half of it?” The Prophet said, “No.” I said, “A third of it?” The Prophet said, “Yes, a third, but this is still too much. That you leave your inheritors wealthy is better than leaving them dependent, begging for what people have. Whatever you spend on them is a charity for you, even the morsel you feed to your wife.” (Sahih al-Bukhārī 5039)
In this narration, the Prophet ﷺ highlighted a very profound issue and that is of leaving one’s inheritors in good economic stability. There is a lack of awareness among Muslims in this regard. We need to think about our present and future generations and make relevant steps in that direction. As per this narration, a Muslim should try to earn enough in a halal way and leave a sufficient amount of wealth for his inheritors. This promotes a principle of preservation of wealth.
In another narration, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The upper hand is better than the lower hand. The upper hand gives and the lower hand takes.” (Sahih al-Bukhārī 1429; Sahih Muslim 1033)
In no way it means that the people who are taking zakat are less in value than those who give but this hadith means that it is better for a Muslim to be independent and provider of assistance to other Muslims through whatever permissible means available. When more and more Muslims will strive to become the owners, entrepreneurs and the providers i.e., the upper hand, it will strengthen the Muslim Ummah.
In another hadith Prophet Muhammad ﷺ informed about the statement of Allah (the Almighty) that He (Allah) likes a believer who is “independent of means”. He said, “Verily, Allah loves a servant who is righteous, independent, and obscure.” (Sahih Muslim 2965)
In another narration the Prophet reflected that a strong believer is better than a weak believer. And this does solely refer to the physical attributes of a Muslim rather encompasses physical, spiritual, and economic aspects of a Muslim’s life.
It is evident from several other narrations and from the life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that how it is important for a Muslim to be independent and stable spiritually, physically and economically. Various prayers (du’as) mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ cover several aspects of the economic life of Muslims whereby a Muslim asks for the independence of means and a life free from debt and poverty.
ASCETICISM IN ISLAM
Muslims need to be financially independent and should always try to contribute to the betterment of society as a whole. Islam does not stop Muslims from being wealthy.
As opposed to the general assumption, it is not the part of zuhd (asceticism) to remain poor; it simply means not to love this world or worldly things. Zuhd means not to engage in idle activities which may divert our attention from our Islamic duties. It is keeping away from those activities which are not haram but waste our time.
Ibn al Qayyim said: “When there is money in your hand and not in your heart, it will not harm you even if it is a lot; and when it is in your heart, it will harm you even if there is none in your hands.”
(Madaarij As-Saalikeen, 1/463)
Islam is a complete way of life. The economic life of Muslims holds a relevant space in the overall well-being of the Muslim society. Various classical and contemporary scholars have talked about it – how an economy governed by Islamic laws must be free from speculation, hoarding, greed, and interest and should be enriched with “mutual interest of people”, “betterment of the society in general and Muslims in particular”, “preservation of the wealth of the community”, and mobilisation of funds among the diverse groups of the society.
[Maria Zehra is a researcher in the area of Islamic Studies and Islamic Finance. She is a graduate of commerce and post-graduate in Islamic Studies from Aligarh Muslim University. Presently she is interning at Ethica Invest, Aligarh, as a Shari’ah compliance analyst-stock screening. Email: [email protected]]