By Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (25: 67-69) says: “Whenever they put their money to use, they are neither wasteful nor niggardly, but always maintain a just mean between the two. And who never invoke any deity side by side with Allah, and do not take any human being’s life – (the life) which Allah has willed to be sacred – except for a just cause, and do not commit adultery. Whoever does any of this will face punishment. And on the Day of Resurrection his suffering will be doubled, and he will abide therein in ignominy.”
Allah’s true servants lead a balanced life that is exemplary in its seriousness and moderation. Balance is the distinctive feature that Islam establishes in the life of the individual and the community. Its achievement is what Islam aims at through educating its followers and its legal system. Its whole structure is based on balance and moderation.
The words israf (extravagance) and iqtar (miserliness) are used in the ayah for the two opposite traits. Israf means to cross the limits. According to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Juraij, any spending on something sinful, however little, is israf, while others say that even overspending in the rightful and allowed things which is wasteful would fall under the definition of israf. It is because any wasteful spending is by itself a sin and hence israf. Allah says, “Surely squanderers are brothers of Shaitan.” (17:27) In this way, the latter explanation is also covered in the explanation given by Ibn Abbas that is any spending on some sinful thing is extravagance. (Mazhari)
Iqtar means miserliness. In Islamic jurisprudence, it means to be tight fisted where a believer is directed to spend. This is the worst situation. This explanation is also given by Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and others. (Mazhari) Therefore, the message of the ayah is that those of us whom Allah has blessed should neither be spendthrifts nor misers but take the middle path. There is a saying of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ: “It is the sagacity of man to adopt the middle path in spending.” In another hadith quoted by Abdullah Ibn Masood, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The person who sticks to the middle path and moderation in spending will never become a destitute and poor.” (Imam Ahmad and Ibn Kathir)
Tabarani has mentioned that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has said, “It is a sign of wisdom to adopt the “golden mean” in one’s living.”
It is also important for us to understand that our meals should consist of food that provides adequate nourishment. Plenty of different dishes during meals or even during parties reflect israf. May Allah save us from it! Clothes too are necessary, but to have our wardrobe full of clothes falls under israf for which we would be accountable on the Day of Judgement. Israf leads us to spending beyond our resources for which we resort to loans. It forces us to cross all limits of lawful (halal) spending and unlawful (haram) spending in order to meet our demands. Although it may lead to social recognition, it ultimately makes life miserable, as it is contrary to what Allah expects from us. It is thus better to maintain a balanced life and live with contentment.
Although Islam approves private ownership, a Muslim is not free to spend his money without restriction, as is the case in the capitalist system and in communities which do not conduct their lives in accordance with divine law. A Muslim is required to strike a balance between extravagance and miserliness. Both attitudes are bad for the individual, society and for money itself. Indeed, a miser not only deprives himself of the benefits of his money, but also deprives the community of the benefits of keeping money in circulation. Indeed, money is meant to provide services for the community. Both extremes of overspending and withholding money produce social and economic imbalance, leading to crises, in addition to their unhealthy effect on people’s hearts and ethics.
As Islam regulates this aspect of human life, it begins with the individual, making the adoption of a balanced approach in life a feature of faith. Thus, whenever true servants of Allah put their money to use, they “are neither wasteful nor niggardly, but always maintain a just mean between the two.”
Their next important quality is that they “never invoke any deity side by side with Allah.” This point establishes that shirk is the biggest sin of all. To believe in Allah’s oneness is the cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It is the point where clarity, straightforwardness and simplicity of beliefs is separated from ambiguity, confusion and complexity. Needless to say, no proper system of life can be based on the latter.
Similarly, prevention of killing anyone, except for a legitimate reason, is central to the achievement of security in society so that human life is given its rightful value and due respect. Otherwise, life would become like a jungle where no one was safe or able to do constructive work.
Likewise, preventing adultery is basic to the establishment of a clean social life where man rises above naked physical desires, and where he feels that the union of the two sexes has a nobler purpose than the mere satisfaction of desire. Otherwise, life sinks low and men and women become preoccupied with the satisfaction of unrestrained physical desire.
These three qualities distinguish the sound and clean life that is worthy of man from the life of cheap pleasures that reduces man to the rank of an animal. Hence, Allah mentions these qualities as belonging to His true servants who are the most honourable in His sight.
“And on the Day of Resurrection his suffering will be doubled” refers to some details of the punishment to be faced by the aforementioned sinners. This chastisement will be exclusive to those who were infidels and also indulged in adultery or homicide. Any increase in the intensity of chastisement will not be in the case of believers. Doubling of chastisement will be exclusive to infidels i.e., the first chastisement will be for infidelity and in case they have also committed sins the chastisement will be doubled. In brief, the infidels who reject monotheism and also commit adultery and homicide will be awarded double chastisement which will increase in intensity and will last forever.
In the next ayah there is a solace for the such sinners in that if they seek Allah’s forgiveness and act righteously, then Allah is expected to change their sins into righteous deeds. In other words, once they have repented on their past sins and accepted Islam, their past sins will be taken away from their record and all that will be left in the record would be nothing but righteous deeds. It is because Allah has promised that when an infidel accepts Islam, all sins he might have committed during infidelity are pardoned. Hence their previous record which was full of sins and evil deeds will be forgiven and scraped, and will be replaced with a fresh record of good and righteous deeds which they would perform after submitting to Islam.