Understanding The Prophet's Life


From Issue: 934 [Read full issue]

Mastering this World

We know that love of this world destroyed the first and last, and that it lies behind the shocking crimes which the elite classes commit against the common people, leaders against followers, and the intelligent against fools; but the sound cure for the chronic illness lies in mastery of this world and then rising above its baseness. It is good for you to possess more treasure than Qarun and wield wider powers than those of Sulayman if you then use that in support of the truth when the truth needs a buttress, and abandon it for Allah's sake when death is nigh. As for living in utter poverty and reckoning that vagrancy is the Path to the Garden, this is madness and self-deception. When atheism has imposed its power through control in the earth, your abandoning control of the earth is a worse outrage than fornication and usury.

Anas ibn Malik said, "Salman al-Farisi was fatally ill. Sad ibn Abi Waqqas visited him and saw that he was weeping. Sad asked him, 'What makes you weep, my brother? Did you not keep the company of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Were you not this? Were you not that?' Salman replied, 'I am not weeping from either reluctance to leave this world nor dislike of going to the Next. But the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made a contract with us, and it seems to me that I have only broken it!' Sad asked, 'What was your contract?' He said, 'He made a contract with us that each of us should have only what which is adequate, like the provision of the rider, and I think that I have exceeded that. As for you, Sad, fear Allah in your ruling when you give judgement, in your distribution when you divide, and in your plan when you decide!'" Al-Mundhiri said, "We read in the Sahih of Ibn Hibban that Salman's property was collected after his death and it amounted to fifteen dirhams."

Salman was one of the great and loyal Companions. The hadith shows that he feared to meet Allah even though he left only fifteen dirhams. This is a picture which evokes fear and humility: the sight of one of the commanders of the Islamic conquest meeting his Lord with this divestment and piety at a time when you see the generals and commanders full of this world without limits! But there is a question of fiqh here: Sad ibn Abi Waqqas, who was speaking with Salman, heard this directive from the Messenger of Allah: "It is better for you to leave your heirs rich than to leave them in need, begging from people." So a large legacy is certainly not a crime! Sad ibn Abi Waqqas was one of the ten promised the Garden, as we find in the Sunan, and those ten were all wealthy Muslims. There was not a poor man among them. Transmitters claim that one of them left so much gold that it was made into axes. The problem is not in owning vast wealth: the problem is in how to use it and how to spend it. In this world we have seen rich men who have built colleges to act as fortresses of knowledge and study, rich men who have combated illness and hardship with great vigour, and rich men who have offered their nations the taxes they paid to assist in matters of general public interest. Uthman ibn Affan offered a stupendous amount of money in preparing for the Expedition of Hardship, and the Messenger said, "O Allah, be pleased with Uthman! I am pleased with him." The fact is that the hadith of Salman only represents a particular psychological state and does not imply a general legal judgement.

Compiled From:
"The Sunna of the Prophet" - Muhammad al-Ghazali