By Abdur Raheem Kidwai
As part of its economic code of conduct, Islam condemns the squandering and abuse of resources put at man’s disposal and calls for moderation. In Islam, man is assigned the role of trustee, enjoying control over what Allah has granted him.
Your Lord has decreed:
– Do not squander your wealth wastefully. Those who squander are Satan’s brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.
– And if you turn away from them, awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect to receive, then speak to them kindly.
– Do not let your hand be chained to your neck, nor outspread it to its extreme, for you will then be left sitting reproached, destitute. Certainly your Lord enlarges the provision for whom He will and measures it out. He is All-Aware and All-Observant of His servant.
– Do not kill your children for fear of want. We provide for them and for you. Surely their killing is a great crime. (Al-Israa’ 17:26-31)
It is important then that one uses one’s resources prudently. Spending one’s money on anything which is sinful amounts to using it wastefully and hence is forbidden.
Once again, this economic teaching is permeated with morality. Those guilty of squandering resources are likened to Satan’s brothers on the following two counts:
1- In squandering their resources, they behave like Satan who abuses the faculties granted to him only for disobeying Allah.
2- Squandering betrays ungratefulness to Allah, which is Satan’s main personality trait.
It is the height of ignominy for man to be branded as one of Satan’s party. The Qur’an employs this strong epithet in order to dissuade man from squandering his wealth. For this strikes a severe blow to the moral fabric of society.
Generally speaking, wealth spent wastefully is directed at gambling or at making a show of one’s wealth which vitiates social life. That squandering is something evil is effectively brought out by its association with Satan.
Another directive embracing man’s financial conduct is that he should treat the needy politely when he is unable to help them. One is not to be blamed, if one cannot help them owing to one’s own adverse circumstances. However, what is forbidden is to act harshly and uncharitably towards those in need.
Balance and Moderation
The golden rule governing man’s financial conduct is spelled out in the next verse, as is elaborated by Mawdudi:
“Human beings are required to act with moderation in financial matters. They should neither prevent the flow of wealth out of miserliness, nor should they waste financial resources by irresponsible extravagance. Instead, they should have such an instinctive sense of balance and moderation that they should not shrink from spending when that is genuinely needed, and should abstain from spending when it is not truly needed or is not justified – expenses incurred for show or out of vanity, or on sheer luxury, and for sinful purposes. In fact, every misdirected expense which is made at the expense of genuine needs and beneficial purposes amounts to ingratitude to God for His bounty.” ( Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an)
The directive for balance and moderation in financial matters is followed by reiterating the truth that it is Allah Who grants resources to everyone as He wills. Man should not, therefore, have any grudge against someone with large provisions.
Allah has given provisions to man in a measure ordained by Him. He has done so in order to test man, both in prosperity and adversity. He is fully aware of everyone’s conduct and will call man to account on the Day of Judgment with reference to his deeds. It is important to clarify that one’s wealth or poverty, which is part of Allah’s grand plan, is not to be interpreted as a sign of one’s proximity or otherwise to Allah.
A person blessed with wealth is not necessarily the one with whom Allah is well-pleased. Nor does one’s poverty indicate His displeasure. Accordingly, it is stressed that Allah being All-Aware grants sustenance in varying measures to men in accordance with His plan.
Don’t Fear Poverty
Since Allah has promised sustenance for everyone, man should not resort to such ignominious practices as family planning or infanticide out of fear of poverty. For this amounts to interfering with His plan, which is a very serious sin.
The Qur’an forbids this in unambiguous terms, reminding us that Allah, the Provider, will feed everyone. According to Sayyid Mawdudi:
“This verse totally demolishes the economic basis on which birth control movements have arisen in different periods of human history … However, according to the provision of the Islamic manifesto, man is required not to waste his energies on the destructive task of reducing the number of mouths that have to be fed … Human history also bears witness to the fact that economic resources in different parts of the world have increased in proportion to the growth of human population … Hence, man’s amateurish interference in the providential arrangements of God amounts to nothing short of folly.” (Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an)
The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation.
Abdur Raheem Kidwai is a professor of English at the Aligarh Muslim University, India and a well-known author of many works on the Qur’an, Islam and Muslims. Of his books are “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, “Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Holy Qur’an”, “Daily Wisdom: Islamic Prayers and Supplications”, “Empowerment of Indian Muslims: Perspectives, Planning and Road Ahead”.