By Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (30:33-39) says: “When harm touches people they call out to their Lord for help, turning to Him in repentance. But when He gives them a taste of His grace, some of them associate partners with their Lord, (as if) to show their ingratitude for what We have given them. Enjoy, then, your life (as you may); before long you will come to know (the truth). Have We ever sent down to them a warrant to confirm what they associate as partners with Allah? When We give people a taste of grace, they rejoice in it; but if evil befalls them as an outcome of what their own hands have wrought, they lose all hope.
“Are they not aware that Allah gives in abundance, or in scant measure, to whom He wills? In this there are clear signs indeed for people who believe. Hence, give his due to the near of kin, as well as to the needy and the traveller in need. This is best for all who seek Allah’s countenance. It is they who shall be successful. Whatever you may give out in usury so that it might increase through other people’s property will bring no increase with Allah, whereas all that you give out in charity, seeking Allah’s countenance, will bring you multiple increase.”
These ayat draw a picture of the human soul that does not rely on solid concepts. It thus vacillates between sudden reactions, in response to conflicting events. Thus, when harm touches such people, they turn to Allah, realising that only He can save them. Yet when the affliction is over, and things are comfortable again, with Allah bestowing His grace on them, “some of them associate partners with their Lord.” Rather than being grateful to Him, they disbelieve in His guidance and the grace He has bestowed on them.
A warning is given in the first instance to the unbelievers who opposed the Messenger of Allah’s message, making it clear that they belong to this group: “Enjoy, then, your life (as you may); before long you will come to know.” People fear threats issued by rulers. How then will they react to a threat from the Creator of this universe, He who brought it into existence by merely saying to it, ‘Be’?
“Have We ever sent down to them a warrant to confirm what they associate as partners with Allah?” This question depicts the fallacy of all types of idolatry. At the same time, it states that the only proper and true faith is that revealed by Allah, with clear sanction from Him. Otherwise, it remains flimsy, devoid of substance.
“When We give people a taste of grace, they rejoice in it; but if evil befalls them as an outcome of what their own hands have wrought, they lose all hope.” This is another image of a soul that either does not follow a clear line in judging situations or which lacks an accurate standard that does not sway with events. They emotionally rejoice at every taste of grace, forgetting its source and purpose. They do not express gratitude to the One who has granted such grace. They do not realise that a situation of grace also poses a test. When it is Allah’s will to requite people for their deeds, making them taste a situation of hardship, they are again blind to Allah’s wisdom in such a test. Such is the situation of people who do not maintain their bonds with Allah and, consequently, do not understand His laws or wisdom.
In both situations of grace and affliction, one consistent law applies. Both are the results of Allah’s will. It is He who bestows grace and tests us with hardship, gives in abundance or in a scant measure, in line with His wisdom. This takes place all the time, but we do not see: “Are they not aware that Allah gives in abundance, or in scant measure, to whom He wills?” There is no need, then, for elation at the time of grace, or for despair during times of hardship. A believer sees in them confirmation that all matters ultimately belong to Allah. It all indicates the consistency of Allah’s laws in all situations.
In the background of ayat 38-39, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and according to Hasan Al-Basri, every person privileged with abundance, is advised not to be close-fisted in spending the wealth Allah has graced him with. Rather it should be spent on the needy cheerfully. This spending will not result in shrinking of the wealth. Some avenues of spending have also been enumerated along with this advice. First, kinsman; second, the needy (masakin); third, travellers; these categories should be given from the wealth Allah has granted us. This is the right of these people which has been obligated on our wealth. Therefore, while giving it to them, no favour should be shown to them, because passing on someone’s share to him is an act of fairness and justice and not a favour. Imam of Tafsir Mujahid says that the charity of that person is not acceptable in the sight of Allah who neglects his own close relatives and gives it to someone else. The right of close relatives is not restricted to financial support, but includes looking after them, and providing physical service for them as well. If nothing else is within means, they may at least be treated sympathetically and be consoled in their distress.
This is the basic financial principle Islam lays down, from which all aspects of the Islamic economic theory derive. Since all money and wealth belong to Allah, it is subject to what He, as the original owner, determines with regard to how it is owned, invested or spent. The person who is in control of it does not enjoy absolute authority in this respect.
Allah Almighty issues this directive to those He has placed as trustees of wealth showing them the best methods for investment, growth and prosperity. This means sharing with one’s near kin, the needy and stranded travellers, and spending generally in ways that serve Allah’s cause: “This is best for all who seek Allah’s countenance. It is they who shall be successful.”
This is the guaranteed way of increasing money: to give it freely, expecting no favours from anyone, but seeking only Allah’s pleasure. Is He not the One who gives sustenance in plenty or in small measure? Is He not the One who bestows or denies favours? He, thus, gives in multiples to those who spend of their money for no reason other than to please Him. He also takes away from the usurers who seek to increase their wealth at other people’s expense. One method makes its calculation by this world’s standards, while the other looks at the standards of the life to come, when rewards will be given in multiples. This last method is the one that makes real profits both in this life and in the life to come.