It is narrated from Hazrat Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that look at people who are financially less well off than you, (who do not have as much wealth as you do, and who are not as rich as you are) and do not look at people who are richer than you, and who are financially better off than you. This way you will not look down upon the blessings of Allah that have been given to you. (Because if you always keep comparing yourself with people who are wealthier than you, then you will not value and will never be happy with what has been given to you, and you will always remain dissatisfied)
In this Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has advised the best treatment for removing the love of Dunya from our hearts and gaining inner peace and tranquillity in this world. It requires that while one does consume and use material possessions, he should not fall in love with these. A human being needs to have material possessions because he cannot survive in this world without them. How would a person live if he doesn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, or a roof over his head? He does require all of these to fulfil his needs, but these material possessions should not become his ultimate goal and his sole purpose of existence, and he should not be spending every waking moment worrying about how to increase his material wealth. This will only happen if a person develops contentment (قناعت). When a person becomes content then he does possess material wealth but he is not in love with them. The easy way to tell whether a person is in love with material wealth is that he always feels that what he has is not enough for him, he always wants to earn more than he did the previous day, his focus is not on whether what he has is enough to satisfy his needs, he just has an insatiable appetite for making more and more money. From the moment he wakes up, till the moment he falls asleep, all he is preoccupied with is how to earn more. This love for material possessions then leads to greed (حرص).
In a Hadith Qudsi Allah Ta’ala says;
“If son of Adam (human beings) gets a valley full of gold, then he would want to get another such valley. When he would get two valleys, he would want another one.” Then Allah Ta’ala further said, “Nothing will fill the tummy of son of Adam except the soil of the grave.”
The above statement means that a human being’s tummy will only feel full after he has died and has been buried in a grave. Then all the effort he was making in this world to earn more and more wealth would be in vein as he would exit from this world empty handed leaving all his possessions here. However, there is one thing that fills a person’s tummy in this world, and that is if Allah Ta’ala grants him contentment (قناعت). The prescription of developing contentment described in this Hadith is that we do not keep comparing himself with people who are richer than us. Otherwise, we will always keep feeling that others have been granted such and such material blessings that have not been given to us.
If we look at people who are not as financially well off as we are, and look at how much more has been given to us compared to them, then we will thank Allah Ta’ala for what has been given to us more than so many others. If we keep looking at people who are more financially well off than us then we will develop greed (حرص). Then we try to get into a race and competition with them about getting more and more material possessions. This will then lead to jealousy (حسد) that he has got more than I do. This jealousy will then lead to resentment (بغض) which will then lead to enmity. Then we start engaging in all sorts of impermissible behaviour to get ahead of others or to bring them down. Thus, this one act of coveting what others have been given more than us leads to violation of so many of Allah Ta’ala’s rights and rights of human beings. On the other hand, if a person develops contentment (قناعت) that I am very happy with what Allah Ta’ala has given me, what I have is sufficient for my needs, and I have been blessed with more than what has been given to millions of other people in this world, then that person achieves inner peace and tranquillity.
One can hardly find a person in this world who would say that all his wants and wishes have been fulfilled. This is because wants are unlimited. Every time a person’s present wishes get fulfilled, he wants something else, and something more. For example, an unemployed person desperately wants a job. But once he gets a job he starts noticing that other people are earning more than him, so he wants a higher paying job. Once he gets that higher paying job he notices that there are still some people who are earning more than him so he wants an even higher paying job. This cycle is never ending because no matter how much a person earns there is always going to be someone who may be earning more than him. A person can spend his entire life running this race but can never win it.
The only people who do fulfil all their wishes in this world are the ones who understand the reality of this world; the Prophets and their followers, the people who have understood that this world is a temporary abode, we are here on borrowed time which can come to an end any moment, and all we need to earn is to just enough to sustain us till that last moment. There is no sense in trying to earn more than we need to sustain ourselves and to gather too much wealth or worldly comforts as we won’t be able to take any of this to the next world once our time here is up. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy worldly comforts if Allah Ta’ala blesses us with them out of His kindness, what it means is that they should not become the sole purpose and focus of our entire existence.
In another Hadith, this saying of the Holy Prophet ﷺ has been narrated as “in matters of Dunya (material possessions) look at the person who is less well off than you, that you have been given many blessings that he hasn’t been given, and thank Allah Ta’ala for those blessings, and do not look at the person who is materially better off than you. However, in the matters of Deen (religion) look at people who are ahead of you, and feel envious of them that they have made so much progress on the path of religion which I haven’t. This way you will get motivation to make progress in religion. So, in matters of Deen look at the person above you, and in the matters of Dunya (worldly matters) look at the person below you. This way you will improve your lot both in this world and the Hereafter.
Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubarak RE was a great Faqih (scholar of Fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence), Muhaddith (scholar of Hadith), and a great saint and Sufi. He was a contemporary of Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah bless im) and was one of his pupils. Initially he was a very rich landowner, and did not have anything to do with religion. He owned some apple orchards. Once when the season of apples’ ripening came we camped there with his friends to enjoy fresh apples and to have fun. There was a party one night when people had dinner, drank alcohol and then there was a musical party. Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubarak was himself a great musician and played Sitar. He fell asleep while playing the Sitar. When he woke up he found the Sitar in his hands so started playing it again but couldn’t create any music. He tried to straighten its wires and tried playing it again but it still didn’t work. When he tried a third time, instead of music, the recitation of a verse from the Holy Quran started coming from the Sitar. The verse was,
“Has the time not yet come for those who believe that their hearts should be humble for the remembrance of Allah and for the truth that has descended (through revelation)?” (57:16)
When Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubarak RE heard this recitation coming from the Sitar it greatly affected his heart and he replied, “Yes O’ Allah! That time has come.” He did Taubah (repentance) from his previous sins immediately. He then started seeking religious education and learnt so much that he became a great scholar of Hadith and also became a great Sufi.
Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubarak (may Allah bless him) used to say that there was a phase in my life when I spent all my time with very rich friends. But at that time no one was more distressed and sad than me. Whenever I visited a friend I saw that their house was better than mine, their transport was better than my transport, and their clothes were more expensive than my clothes. No matter how expensive clothes I bought, there was always some friend whose clothes were more expensive than mine. Then, instead of rich people, I started spending time with people who were financially just average. As a result of that I gained inner peace and tranquillity because when I visited a friend now I saw that my house was better than theirs, my transport was better than their transport, and my clothes were costlier than their clothes, and I thank Allah Ta’ala that He has blessed me with so much more wealth than other people. This is contentment (قناعت), and unless a person achieves it he will always remain dissatisfied and unhappy.
Inner peace and tranquillity is not a synonym for the state of one’s bank account and his material wealth. It is a state of heart which can only be achieved if granted by Allah Ta’ala. There are many people who have immeasurable wealth, who have many mansions, many cars, many servants and helpers, and yet they are unable to sleep peacefully at night. They have the most expensive beds, most expensive pillows, yet they keep tossing and turning the whole night and are unable to sleep peacefully. A number of them turn to sleeping pills but these also stop working after a while. They have every possible material comfort one can think of, expensive houses, comfortable beds, air conditioning, but none of these are able to provide them a restful sleep at night. On the other hand, there is a person who is not so rich, who does not have all these stigmata of wealth, but enjoys a peaceful and refreshing sleep every night. One can decide for oneself which of these two people is enjoying true comfort. Inner peace and satisfaction are blessings from Allah Ta’ala. These material possessions are tools of comfort, but they cannot bring inner peace and comfort by themselves.
If a person is always looking at people richer than oneself he will always remain unhappy and dissatisfied, and sooner or later this unhappiness turns into jealousy (Hassad, حسد). Because when one develops greed for material wealth and then watches other people having more wealth, it is inevitable that at some point this greed leads to jealousy. This leads to a rat race in society. Once a person has decided that he has to earn more at any cost, then he stops caring about what is Halal (allowed) and what is Hara’am (impermissible). He then indulges in taking bribes, deceiving other people, and all sorts of sins, all because he has decided that he has to have certain material possessions and it has become irrelevant how he gets those. This all happens when a person is not content with what he possesses. That is why the Holy Prophet ﷺ has advised us to develop contentment, and to look at people less well off financially than us.
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has recommended another treatment for greed and jealousy. In the previous Hadith, it was recommended that we don’t keep looking at people who are more financially well off than us. However, when we live in this world it is inevitable that we come across such people and also interact with them. So, in this Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has said that whenever we see a person who is better than us in some way, for example, they may be stronger, or richer, or more beautiful than us, we immediately think about someone who is weaker, or poorer, or less beautiful than us, so that we do not keep dwelling on what we do not have, and rather focus on what we have been blessed with. This gets rid of the dissatisfaction with what we have been given, and prevents this dissatisfaction and sense of competition from turning into greed and jealousy.
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
“That person will be ruined who is a slave of Dinar and Dirham.”
Dinar used to be a gold coin and Dirham a silver coin in those days. Being slave of Dinar and Dirham means that a person is always preoccupied with accumulating more and more wealth, and has become so obsessed with making money that he has forgotten Allah Ta’ala’s commandments. If he gets material possessions he is happy, if he doesn’t get as much material wealth as he thinks he should, he becomes unhappy with his fate and Allah Ta’ala. On the other hand, the person who has been blessed with contentment, becomes happy with whatever material wealth Allah Ta’ala has given him. He makes efforts to earn within the boundaries of Halal (allowed) and Hara’am (impermissible) set by Allah Ta’ala, and does Allah’s Shukr (thanks, شکر) for whatever Allah Ta’ala grants him. He does not harbour any grievance about what he has not been given and has been given to others.
All of the above Ahadith teach us that while we should use whatever material wealth has been given to us, we should not fall in love with it. The Sahabah (Holy Companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ) had learnt from the Suhbat (companionship) of the Holy Prophet ﷺ that this material world is immaterial and worthless, and while one should adopt it according to one’s needs, one should not become so preoccupied with it that we start neglecting that we have to make efforts for the Aakhirah (life Hereafter) as well.
ASHAB-E-SUFFAH (اصحابِ صفّہ)
In this Hadith Hazrat Abu Hurairah (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) is describing the conditions Ashab-e-Suffah used to live in. Ashab-e-Suffah were those Holy Companions (Sahabah) who had given up all other activities of the world and used to live in the company of the Holy Prophet ﷺ all the time to learn the Deen (religious knowledge) from him. There was no particular time of day or set curriculum for them to learn about Deen. They used to memorize every time the Holy Prophet ﷺ told them anything about Deen. Similarly, when someone came and asked the Holy Prophet ﷺ a question, they memorized the question and its answer. They also memorized how Holy Prophet ﷺ dealt with people coming for different purposes. The lives of the Ashab-e-Suffah were devoted to this purpose alone. This was the first university and seat of learning in the history of Islam.
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) was one of these Ashab-e-Suffah. He is describing the living conditions of the Ashab-e-Suffah that he saw that seventy of them did not have two pieces of clothes to cover their entire body. Some only had a sheet which they tied around their neck and tried to cover their entire body with it. Others only had pajamas to cover their lower body and nothing to cover their upper body. These people lived there in these conditions to learn the knowledge of Deen from the Holy Prophet ﷺ. Were these people not capable of earning great wealth? Allah Ta’ala had given them so much knowledge, so much wisdom, so much ability, that they could earn whatever wealth they wanted to, but they chose to live in these conditions for the sake of gathering religious knowledge because material wealth was not a priority to them. Whatever they got to sustain their life was enough for them.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ had changed Sahabah’s (Holy Companions) perspective so much that they had lost all love for this material world and its attractions. All they were interested in was what to do in this world to improve their lot in the next one. They were only interested in earning as much Dunya (material wealth) which would be sufficient to sustain them in this world. How was the Holy Prophet ﷺ able to change their perspective so much?
It is narrated from Hazrat Abu Hurairah RAA that once when I came out of my home in the afternoon I saw Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar (may Allah Ta’ala be please with them) walking. When I asked where they were going they said that they were hungry but there was nothing to eat at home. Therefore, they thought they will do some manual labour and earn some money to buy food with. In a short while the Holy Prophet ﷺ also came out of his home. When he asked them what had brought them put of their homes, they replied that “O’ Rasool Allah ﷺ, hunger has brought us out of our homes”. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “I have come out for the same reason”. Then the Holy Prophet ﷺ suggested that they go to one of his Ansari friend’s orchard. The Ansari Sahabi wasn’t there but his wife was. When she learnt that the Holy Prophet ﷺ, and Hazrat Abu Bakr and Umar RAA had come, she was greatly pleased. She slaughtered a goat, and served the meat of that goat, and fresh dates and cold water to her guests.
Once they had all finished eating, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “These great blessings that Allah Ta’ala granted us today; such good food, good water, the excellent shadow of the dates trees we are sitting under, these are the blessings that Allah Ta’ala has talked about in the Holy Quran that We will ask you in the Aakhirah (Hereafter) that We gave you so many blessings, how did you utilize them?
Just imagine that they had nothing to eat at home and were really hungry. In these circumstance, they got some food to eat, while sitting underneath a tree, and the Holy Prophet ﷺ is teaching them that while this food is a blessing from Allah, on the Day of Qiyamah ﷺ (Day of Doom) you will have to answer about this food.
Once the Holy Prophet ﷺ was going somewhere. He saw a Sahabi repairing his hut. When he got near he asked, “What are you doing?” The sahabi said, “My hut had become damaged. I am repairing it.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ didn’t tell him not to do it, he just said,
“ما اری الامر ا ّلا اعجل من ذلک”
that the time of death is going to come even sooner than that. What he meant was that if the person is mindful of the fact that his death can at any time then he doesn’t care that his hut has been damaged. The point was that while repairing your hut and your home you should not start thinking that this is my permanent home, and I have to live here forever. Always be mindful that this home is a temporary abode and our permanent home will be in the next life. Just treat this world as stop on the journey and just try to attain enough material wealth that is necessary to sustain you in this temporary home.
Sometimes after reading Ahadith such as above weak-willed people like us start despairing that it is not possible for us to follow the Deen fully. It was only possible for people like Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar, and Hazrat Abu Hurairah (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with them) to practice it. It is not possible for us to remain without food for so many days, or to just keep wearing a sheet of cloth, or to not repair our hut when it needs repair, or to start thinking that the Day of Qiyamah is close when we start repairing our hut. Please understand that the purpose of narrating these incidents is not make a person hopeless or despair. The purpose is to elaborate that this was the highest standard of behaviour that the Holy Prophet ﷺ created in the Sahabah (Holy Companions). But it is not necessary that every human being needs to reach that highest standard of behaviour before he or she will receive forgiveness from Allah Ta’ala. Rather every person’s capacity and capability is different, and in the Holy Quran Allah Ta’ala says, “Allah does not obligate anyone beyond his capacity” (2:286). We will have to answer whether we did everything that was within our capacity.
Sometimes people wish that they were born in the days of the Holy Prophet ﷺ so that they could see him in person, could accompany the Sahabah (Holy Companions) (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with them), and could participate in Ghazvat (the holy wars in which the Holy Prophet ﷺ participated). But in reality, maybe it was a blessing from Allah Ta’ala that we were not born in those days. It was the capacity and perseverance of Sahabah RAA that they stood side by side the Holy Prophet ﷺ under such difficult circumstances. If we had been born in the same era, with our capacity and our weaknesses, who knows whether we would have been on the side of the Sahaba or standing beside Abu Jahal and Abu Lahab.
However, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has set out some basic rules for human beings who would be born right up to the time of the Qiyamah. We are allowed to utilise the material world to fulfil our needs, but not fall in love with it or become completely preoccupied with it. We are allowed to obtain wealth through Halal (allowed) means, but to refrain from obtaining it through Hara’am (illegal) means. As long as we can remain within these boundaries to the best of our capacity and abilities, we would have fulfilled our obligation towards not developing love for Dunya.
Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) has given some great guidelines about how to judge what is an appropriate expenditure and what is not. While he used the example of furnishing a house but it is much more widely applicable across a range of circumstances.
Hazrat Thanvi RE said the first reason a person spends money on a house is to live in it, so that there is a roof over his head and it protects him from rain, direct sunlight, cold and heat. While these needs can be met through a hut as well but it is also allowed to spend whatever is appropriate considering one’s income and circumstances, on it. The second reason a person spends money on a house is to get comfort. For example, while a person can survive in a meagre hut but it may start leaking in rainy season, and it may get too hot or too clod in different seasons. Therefore, if a person spends money on the house to make it more comfortable to live in, it is fully permissible and is no sin. The third reason a person may spend money on a house is to make it look nice to him. For example, while a house with bare unpainted walls may provide shelter from rain and sun, and may provide a degree of comfort, it does not make a person feel happy when he comes home and looks at it. If a person then furnishes the house, paints it, and adorns it with some decoration so that it will look good to him and make him happy, it is completely permissible as long as the person does it within his means.
The fourth reason a person may spend money on a house is showing it off and trying to impress other people, meaning that the house was providing shelter, it was comfortable, it looked good to its owner, but now the person is spending money on it with an intention that those who see it will be impressed with his wealth, and will think that he must be somebody great, then spending money with that intention will be Hara’am (impermissible).
The same principle can be applied to most other situations. It is permissible to spend within one’s means to fulfil basic needs, to obtain comfort, to make one’s heart happy, but it is Hara’am to spend with the intention of showing off to other people.
The purpose of going into all the detail above was to explain the true meaning of contentment. Contentment means that the person is happy and satisfied with whatever Allah Ta’ala has given him. However, while a person is happy with what he has been given but also thinks that there is some problem with his house and he wishes to get it rectified, and he can do so within his means and with his Halal income, then this wish is not against contentment and does not constitute greed (حرص). Similarly, if a person thinks that while his house is comfortable, but wants to plant a garden so that he will enjoy it, then that is also permissible and doesn’t constitute greed, as long as the person can do it with his Halal income. Both these situations are not against being content.
However, if a person wants to upgrade his house because he wants other people to think of him as rich, wants people to praise him and his wealth, and do not want others to think of him as poor, then doing the same thing is Hara’am and is included in greed. Similarly, if a person wants to make his house more comfortable which would have been otherwise permissible, but resorts to unfair means of income, for example, by taking bribes or robbing others, then this too goes against contentment and is included in greed and is Hara’am.
While we cannot achieve the exalted status of the Sahabah we should try to reach the minimum standard required as has been described by Hazrat Thanvi (may Allah Ta’ala bless him). However, it is difficult to achieve even that standard unless one is mindful of the fact that this life is temporary and can end any time, and that the next life is permanent and we will have to live it forever. We keep making future plans for years and years, but we do not know whether we will be alive tomorrow, even though we keep seeing all the time that a person who was alive a day ago, has now passed away suddenly. Therefore, we should stop making such decades long plans, and should only try to earn as much wealth as we need to sustain us in this life. If we are able to achieve such contentment then we will have peace in this world, and Allah Ta’ala will make the next world comfortable for us too. And the way to achieve this is what Rasool Allah ﷺ has taught us that look at people less well off than you and thank Allah Ta’ala for what has been granted to you. And do not look at people richer than you because no matter how rich you get there will always be someone richer than you.
In Surah Taubah (Repentance) Allah Ta’ala says,
“So, their wealth and their children should not attract you. In fact, Allah intends to punish them with these in this lowly life and that their souls should depart while they are disbelievers.” (9:55)
It means that Allah Ta’ala punishes some people who fall in love with their material possessions, through the same material possessions. Their wealth becomes a source of suffering, rather than a source of happiness and comfort for them. The only way to escape that punishment and curse is not to covet what others have, but to be satisfied and happy with what we have, and thank Allah Ta’ala for it. There is no restriction on fulfilling one’s basic and just needs through Halal (permissible) means, but earning more and more wealth should not become an all-consuming pursuit and passion for us, to the exclusion of carrying out what other duties Allah Ta’ala has bestowed upon us in this world.
A STORY NARRATED BY SHEIKH SA’ADI (may Allah Ta’ala bless him)
Sheikh Sa’adi RE has narrated a story in his Gulistan that once he stayed for a night at a trader’s home during one of his travels. The whole night the trader kept telling him stories about what he imported from one country or exported to another country. After spending the whole night on this topic he said to Sheikh Sa’adi RE that all my other wishes have been fulfilled and my business has flourished well. Now I want to undertake just one more journey and if that is successful I will adopt a life of contentment (قناعت) and will spend the rest of my life sitting in my shop.
Sheikh Sa’adi RE asked him, “What travel are you thinking of undertaking?” He said, “I will carry sulphur from here to sell in China because I have heard that it sells at a very good price there. From China I will take pots and pans to Rome. From there I will take Roman clothes to India to sell it there. I will buy steel in India and sell it in Syria. From Syria I will buy glass and sell it in Yemen. From Yemen I will bring Yemeni sheets back to Persia. After this journey I will spend the rest of my life just minding my shop here.”
When Sheikh Sa’adi RE heard this he said, “Have you heard the story that in a desert the merchandise of a great trader was lying on the sand having fallen from his camel. The dead camel was lying on one side of the merchandise, and his own dead body was lying on the other side. It was as if his merchandise was saying that if a person is in love with this material world, his appetite can only be sated either by contentment (قناعت), or the dirt of his grave. There is no third way of satisfying his appetite.”
After narrating this story Sheikh Sa’adi RE says that when the love of material wealth takes over a person then he becomes so preoccupied with it that he starts neglecting everything else. This is the love of Dunya (material possessions) that has been forbidden. If a person does not have such all- consuming love for Dunya, then if Allah Ta’ala grants him material wealth, and that wealth does not get in the way of him carrying out the duties bestowed upon him by Allah Ta’ala, and the person uses it to earn Allah Ta’ala’s pleasure and approval, then such wealth is not Dunya, rather it is a vehicle for the Aakhirah.
Many of us are so busy in our lives that in the entire day we do not have time to reflect on the fact that we are going to die one day. Once we die we will be presented before Allah Ta’ala. In Allah’s Court we will have to account for all our deeds that we are committing in this life. If the balance of our good deeds is heavier than that of our bad deeds then Insha’Allah we will go to Jannah (Paradise), but God forbid, if it is the reverse then we will have to go to Jahannam (Hell) at least for a period of time. Hazrat Thanvi (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) used to say that a person should set aside some time each day to contemplate about it that I am going to die one day, what will happen to me after I am dead? I will have to go in front of Allah Ta’ala. What questions will I be asked? How will I answer those questions? What will be the outcome of that questioning? If a person keeps doing this every day then only after a few weeks he/she will start noticing that love of Dunya is leaving their heart.
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
“On waking up in the morning, if a person has these three things, that he is unafraid in his abode (meaning he is safe in his home and has no fear of any enemies or cruel people in power), that there is nothing wrong with his body (in that he has no illnesses and is healthy), and that he has enough food to sustain him for one day, then it is as if he has been blessed with the whole world with all its material wealth.”
If a person has these three blessings, then all his physical needs have been met, and he should be grateful to Allah Ta’ala.
In this Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has advised us to do two things, to keep doing Shukr (thanks) to Allah Ta’ala, and to avoid being ungrateful. We keep being showered in blessings from Allah Ta’ala the whole day. We have a roof over our heads, we have plenty of food on our tables, we have been blessed with good health, we have been blessed with loving families, wonderful children, good jobs, good incomes, but it hardly ever occurs to us to do Allah Ta’ala’s Shukr for all that he has blessed us with. And yet when the smallest of things happens against our wishes we ignore all these blessings, and start being ungrateful to Allah Ta’ala for that one thing that is wrong in our lives.
When someone asks us, “How are you? or how is your life?”, how many of us stop to think about all the blessings that Allah Ta’ala has showered upon us, which we are enjoying every moment, and then say that I am grateful to Allah Ta’ala for all his blessings that he has granted me. When we are in some difficulty do we ever say to Allah Ta’ala that “O’ Allah! I am grateful for all the good things you have given me. And I know that this difficulty that I am going through is also a blessing from you, but I am weak, it is difficult for me to bear it. Can you please remove this difficulty from me?” Are we ever mindful that even at that moment we are facing some difficulty in life, how many blessings from Allah Ta’ala we are enjoying at the same time?
Life does some time look difficult to us. The most common reason for this is that we have a set template in our minds about how our lives should be. We have decided that me must have a big house, we must have so much wealth, we must have so much earning, we must have a certain standard of living, a certain lifestyle, we should have so many children, so much bank balance, and if the reality falls short on any of these expectations then we forgot all that we have been blessed with, and start being ungrateful for what has not been given to us, and start complaining about how unfulfilled and miserable our lives are.
In the Hadith above the Holy Prophet ﷺ has brought our attention to the point that it is a big mistake to have such set expectations of life in advance. Because if we have these three blessings, that we are safe in our homes, that our body is healthy, and that we have enough food to sustain us and our families for one day, then we have been blessed with the whole world. If a person has an expectation that these three things are all the worldly blessings he is going to get, then if he gets more he will be grateful to Allah Ta’ala for giving him more than he deserved, and if he doesn’t get any more than this then he will not be ungrateful and will think that this was the share of the world he was going to get anyway and has got it now.
After reading the above Hadith a question may come to mind that the Holy Prophet ﷺ has mentioned having food for one day only, that if you have enough food to suffice you for one day, then the you have been blessed with the whole world. What about food for the next day? And what about the day after next? In this Hadith, the point that is being made is that who knows whether the next day would come or not. And if it does come, the same Allah Ta’ala who has given us food today, will give it to us tomorrow as well. Allah Ta’ala has clearly said that Allah has taken responsibility for providing sustenance to whichever living creature walks on earth. Allah Ta’ala know where its permanent home is, as well as where its temporary home is. Allah Ta’ala will deliver its sustenance to it in its abode. So, you should work hard the next day as well and place your trust in Allah. Allah Ta’ala will provide sustenance to you as a result of this hard work and your trust in Him. Trust Allah Ta’ala for tomorrow, and do His Shukr (thanks, شکر) for what he has blessed you with today. Because Allah Ta’ala has promised, ‘if you do My Shukr I will grant you even more’.
The second lesson we learn from this Hadith is that there is no other way of achieving inner peace and tranquillity in this world, except through contentment (قناعت). The only way of achieving inner peace is that a person becomes satisfied and happy with what he has been able to earn through permissible means, and without neglecting his other duties and obligations, and that he does not develop greed for gathering more and more regardless of the methods. If a person does not have contentment, then it does not matter how big a bank balance he has, or how many houses or cars he owns, he will still be dissatisfied and unhappy. And if he does have contentment, then he will be happy and satisfied even in a small house and eating simple food. But some feelings can only be understood after one experiences them, they cannot be understood through words.
While mentioning Qarun’s treasure Allah Ta’ala says in the Holy Qur’an;
“Indeed Qarun was from the people of Musa (Moses), then he rebelled against them. And We had given to him such treasures as their keys would weigh too heavy for a strong group of people. (Remember) when his people said to him, ‘Do not exult. Surely, Allah does not like the exultant’.” (28:76)
The keys to his treasures were so heavy that a group of people were required to carry those keys. One person alone was unable to carry those keys. When he used to travel with all his wealth, some people used to say with envy that we wish we had been granted as much wealth as has been granted to Qarun. Qur’an Karim says about such people that these people were envious towards Qarun because they could only see his obvious wealth. They did not know what punishment awaited him. When the same people saw Qarun’s ultimate fate they thanked Allah Ta’ala that they were not given the same fate as Qarun. The point is that there is no limit to material wealth. If a person spends his whole life striving to earn it, he will still be unable to achieve it all. The only way he will achieve satisfaction is through following the guidance given by the Holy Prophet ﷺ to become content, that is to develop contentment with what one has been able to earn through Halal and permissible means. Once a person develops contentment, then whatever he has been granted becomes sufficient for him.
Hazrat Mufti Muhamad Shafi (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) used to say that it is not always in a person’s control to increase his income, but it is always in a person’s control to reduce his expenses. If one is being bothered by the mismatch between his income and expenditure, then he should reduce his expenditure to bring it within his means, and be content with what he has. Then all his financial worries would subside. The problem starts when a person pre- decides in his mind that he must have a certain lifestyle, if even he doesn’t have enough income to sustain that lifestyle. Then when his income isn’t enough to support his lifestyle, he starts doing things like taking loans and living beyond his means which make his financial problems worse. If a person is able to make his lifestyle simpler, and decide that I will adopt a lifestyle to suit my income, and not the other way round, and be content that if I earn less I will spend less, and if I earn more I will spend more, then he will have a very happy and fulfilled life. This is the essence of contentment.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught us a prayer;
“O’ Allah! Please make me become content with the sustenance you have granted me, and please grant me Barakah (blessing, برکت) in that sustenance”.
If this prayer gets accepted on our behalf then it will solve all of our life’s problems. Because if Allah Ta’ala grants us contentment (قناعت), then it will satisfy the unquenchable thirst we have of earning more and more, and what we have never being sufficient for us. The second sentence prays for Barakah (blessing). Barakah means that even if an amount looks small, it provides great benefit. It means that Allah Ta’ala makes what we have, a source of pleasure and happiness for us, and makes a small income go a long way towards fulfilling a person’s needs.
Barakah means that a small amount or income goes a long way in fulfilling a person’s needs. It doesn’t just mean an increase in numbers. For example, a person may not earn as much but his family remains healthy, and he does not have overhead expenses, against another person who earns a lot more but his child contracts a serious illness and most of his income gets spent on doctors and medicines. Even though the second person earned more, less of his income was spent on gaining comfort for him. This is what Barakah, or lack of it, means.
This happens commonly when someone earns through Hara’am means. For example, a person may take a bribe and be happy that he earned a lot of money, but what he isn’t seeing is how many bribes he will need to give, and in what other ways this money would be spent before it brings any comfort to him. That is why the Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught us to pray for contentment and Barakah.
In the third sentence the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
“O’ Allah! In place of the things I prayed for but didn’t get, please grant me better things which are better for me in Your knowledge.”
So, there are three prayers in this one prayer, please give me contentment, please grant me Barakah, and in place of things I prayed for but didn’t get, please give me things that are better for me in Your knowledge. What else does a person need in this world if all of these three blessings, contentment, Barakah, and better alternatives, are accepted in his favour?
Contentment is a great blessing. There is no wealth greater than contentment. People think of bank balance, houses and means of transportation as wealth, but true wealth is contentment. In a Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
لیس الغنی عن کثرة العرض والکن الغنی غنی النفس
It means that the true Ghani (غنی) (a person who is carefree with regards to material wealth) is not the person who has lots of money and material possessions. The Ghani of heart is the person whose heart is free of love for material wealth, who does not ask anyone for anything, who does not express his needs in front of other people, and who does not try to accrue wealth through unfair means. He is happy and satisfied with what he has been given, and he is contented that what hasn’t been given to him must not be good for him in Allah’s knowledge, if it was Allah Ta’ala would have given it to him.
Once an angel presented before the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said,
“If you command, the whole of Uhud mountain will be turned into gold, and it will all be your property.”
The Holy Prophet ﷺ declined the offer and said,
“I want to live life this way that if I get something to eat, I eat it after doing Shukr (شکر) (saying thanks to Allah Ta’ala), and if I don’t get something to eat then I do Sabr (صبر) ) (patience), so that I get the blessings of both Shukr and Sabr. And I do not want excess of wealth. I want that Ghina (غنا) that makes me turns towards Allah Ta’ala.”
He, therefore, made the following prayer;
“O’ Allah! I seek refuge from such wealth that shall make me disobedient.”
In summary, these Ahadith are giving us three lessons.
The first lesson is to do Allah Ta’ala’s Shukr (شکر) for all the blessings He has showered upon us, without any effort or entitlement on our part. Our health, our families, our children, our wealth, our peace and tranquillity, our comfort, are all such blessings. If we lose any of these, sometimes we cannot get them back no matter how much we are willing to spend. We should set aside some time each day to remember all of these blessings and do Allah’s Shukr for these.
The second lesson is that in matters of Dunya (material possessions) we do not look at the person who is wealthier than us, rather look at the person who is less well off than us, and in matters of Deen (religion) look at the person who is better than us.
The third lesson is to develop contentment (قناعت). Contentment does not mean that we should not make our best effort to earn through Halal (permissible) means. What it means is that we are satisfied with whatever we can earn through Halal means, and do not get tempted to earn more through Hara’am (unlawful) means. And keep praying to Allah Ta’ala to grant us contentment to be happy and satisfied with what we have, and to grant us Barakah (blessing) in our material wealth.
May Allah Ta’ala grant these blessings to all of us. Ameen
و آخر دعوانا ان الحمد الّٰلہ رب العٰلمین

وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين