Clear Up Your Muslim Money Misconceptions
Let me ask you this, straight up: do you feel guilty for asking Dunya things? Would you feel guilty if you were to raise your hands and say some of the following: “O Allah, give me the latest smartphone.” “O Allah, see that mansion down the street? I want one of those.” “O Allah, see this hot car?”
IWhen you will actually see what Islam says about this, you will realize that you can ask for Dunya as much as you are asking for Akhirah.
We are often culturally conditioned to romanticise poverty. We praise poverty but when we see somebody who is wealthy, we frown upon them, we look down upon them, and we think they stole the money, or they must not be God-fearing, or they must not have Taqwa. This is a wrong cultural conditioning that doesn’t come from Islam. When we go around telling people not to mix Islam with culture, we ourselves need to understand that the dislike for making Dua for Dunya, in addition to Akhirah, is also due to culture.
Here are ten points to reassure you that there is no problem in making Dua for things of this Dunya, in addition to the Akhirah.
- Command to make Dua for Dunya. Allah (swt) commanded you to make Dua for this Dunya, just like you make Dua for the Akhirah. Allah (swt) teaches us in the Quran that people should say in their Dua: “Our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire!.” (Al-Baqarah 2:201) This is what Allah (swt) guided us to, so it makes no sense to feel guilty about making Dua for something that Allah (swt) guided you to make Dua for.
- Relationship between prosperity and Iman. Allah (swt) tells us in the Quran about a tribe: if only they had feared Allah (swt) and had Taqwa, what do you think Allah (swt) would have done to them? Do you think He would have taken the Dunya away from them? No. Allah (swt) says that if they only had Iman, Allah (swt) would have opened the doors of prosperity from the heavens and the earth.
- Blessed wealth for a blessed heart. Once, a companion came to the Prophet (sa), and the Prophet (sa) gave him some spoils of war. This companion then said that he didn’t become a Muslim for this reason. The Prophet (sa) replied: “What blessed wealth in the hands of a blessed man.” This is the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa); this is the balance that I’m talking about because money is a magnifier. If you have a blessed heart, then may you have so much wealth that you can share what is in your heart. If you love to help people, your wealth can make you help so many more people. Likewise, the opposite would be true – evil hearts would spread evil agendas.
- Wealth does not lead to hellfire. If you were to tell me that wealth and Dunya lead to hellfire, then why was the wife of the Prophet (sa) so wealthy? Khadeejah (rtaf) and Uthman (rtam) were very wealthy. By spending freely in the way of Allah (swt), Uthman ibn Affan (rtam) bought Paradise with his wealth. So the answer to the question, whether wealth and Dunya lead to hellfire is: no, they do not.
- However, money does not necessarily lead to Paradise either. It does not mean that only rich people go to Paradise, or that only the poor will go to Paradise either. Money is just a test in this life which can either bring you closer to Allah (swt) or take you away from Him.
- Allah (swt) gives to whom He wishes. Some less wealthy companions went to the Prophet (sa) and complained about the wealthy companions. (Take a step back and think: They are all companions of the Prophet (sa), which means they are all promised Jannah, no matter how wealthy they are.) They complained that the rich companions amongst them are running away with all the good deeds: they pray and fast like the not so wealthy ones, but they have so much more wealth to give in charity. So the Prophet (sa) guided them to ways that they could do charity: with every Subhan’Allah, with every Alhumdulillah, with every Allahu Akbar – all of which is charity. The Prophet (sa) gave them examples of ways they could give charity that does not have to be with their wealth. The companions were happy and went home.
- Then the rich companions among them heard of this Hadeeth, and they started doing those good deeds as well in addition to giving their wealth in charity. So the less wealthy companions came to the Prophet (sa) again and said: “They did everything that you said.” The Prophet (sa) responded: “This is the favour of Allah (swt); He gives to whomever He wishes.” (Muslim)
- Wealth as a magnifier. Does money lead to Paradise? No, not necessarily. We have in the Quran stories of extremely wealthy people with messed up hearts (such as Firaun) – they went to hellfire. It is not the wealth that took them to hellfire but it may have magnified the evil that they did. Wealth is a magnifier – if the hearts of people are evil, it magnifies that, but if the hearts of people are good, it magnifies that as well.
- Wealth, power, and submission to Allah (swt). Among my favourite stories in the Seerah is the one about Najashi, the king of Abyssinia, who treated everybody with justice. When Najashi heard the message of Islam, he submitted his heart to Allah (swt) despite his wealth and power. And when he died, Jibreel (as) brought this message to the Prophet (sa), who made everybody stand up and pray, saying: “Pray for forgiveness for your brother.” (Muslim) Thus, there is no conflict between having wealth and power, and having a heart that places trust in Allah (swt). They can go together, unlike the people who say that you should feel guilty about it.
- The all-encompassing nature of Islam. There are people who do not want the Dunya in their lives, as there is a Hadeeth in which the Prophet (sa) says that the poor people would enter Paradise first. (Tirmidhi) I want you to understand that Islam is not only for the wealthy, Islam is for everybody. So when you read through the Quran and the Sunnah, you will not read just ‘this is good for the wealthy; that is good for the wealthy’ – you will read also ‘this is good for the poor, and this is good for the poor’. Everybody is welcome in Islam.
- However, you must double check your sources. You will not find the Quran and the Sunnah romanticising poverty. You will not find it. You might find it in some story many generations after the Prophet (sa). There might be an individual person who took his story, romanticised it, blew it out of proportion, and made everybody think that this is how the companions lived. I want you to understand that some of the people closest to the Prophet (sa) were the most wealthy companions: Uthman (rtam), Abu Bakr (rtam), and Khadeejah (rtaf). He married Khadeejah, his best friend was Abu Bakr (rtam), and he married his daughter to Uthman (rtam), and after she passed away, he married his other daughter to Uthman (tram). They had wealth, but it was in their hands – their hearts were sincerely for Allah (swt).
- Wealth vs. extravagance. A famous story used to justify that wealth does not have a place in Islam is the life of Umar (rtam), which is quoted as an example of aiming low and being poor. You have to understand that Umar (rtam) was one of the most influential human beings to ever walk this erath; so don’t tell me he was a man of poverty. He had under his rule Arabia, Yemen, Persia, and North Africa. In modern times, if there was a ruler who had all these countries under his power, how wealthy do you think he would be? However, Umar’s (rtam) life proves that he didn’t use the wealth he had in his pocket. Having wealth doesn’t mean that you have to be extravagant or do Haram things. That is what people misunderstand. Umar (rtam) was extremely wealthy, but he used that wealth for the sake of Allah (swt), for the sake of Islam, and for the sake of the people. It’s like an ideal life that we would aim for. A life of wealth!
- Wealth for the Ummah. With all the trials of the Muslim Ummah today, someone might say: “I don’t have any time to make Dua for Dunya right now. I need to make Dua for my brothers and sisters.” To that person, I reply: your brothers and sisters need you to raise your standards. They don’t need you to sit there and cry. They need you to be an example, a hero – somebody who can save them, somebody who has wealth and can do something with it. Somebody with power – that is the person they are calling for. You need to be that hero which means you should raise your standards in this Dunya and the Akhirah.
How to Change Your Life with One Simple Word
Often, when we are trying to build our careers or businesses, Shaitan might come up and make you think: “If I build my business, then I won’t have time to spend with my family. Or if I make a lot of money, that means I’m not a good Muslim. It’s like I have to do this or that. Like I want to give charity or become a for-profit like a venture capitalist kind of company or something like that.” You have to understand that there’s a difference in our language between using the word ‘or’ and using the word ‘and’: that I can have this ‘and’ that.
What I want you to understand is that we already have the word ‘and’ in our lives. We take on multiple roles in our life without making it a big deal. You can be a mother and a wife, correct? Both these roles are different. The way you love your child is not the way you love your husband; yet, people can do both. Now, let me ask you this question: what else are you ‘and’ in? Like you are a good son or daughter to your parent and you are a good teacher at the Islamic school. And so on and so forth. This is what you do. Why not, right? Somebody will say: how can I do that? Well, you have to have the attitude that you are going to have it all. That is how rich people think – slaves do not think like that. I am going to be an excellent parent to my child, and I am going to run a world class business or have a world class career, and I am going to be world class healthy, and I am going to be an amazing servant of Allah (swt), praying my five prayers, praying Qiyam-ul-Layl and so on and so forth. Whatever it takes to be a great servant of Allah (swt). So you keep adding that ‘and’, ‘and’, ‘and’, ‘and’. What I want is that you keep adding ‘and’ to your vocabulary.
A lot of people do not understand this type of ‘and’ vocabulary. As soon as you start telling somebody: “hey, I am building this mega world class business or developing this world class career,” the person in front of you might say something like: “But aren’t you going to be wasting your life on building your career or business when you could have worshipped Allah (swt)?” Then you would think: “Oh yeah, you are right, I do want to worship Allah (swt).” Your mentality becomes: either I worship Allah (swt) or have a world class business or world class career. Exactly – this is an ‘or’ mentality. So you say to that person: “I am going to build a world class business, just like Islam requires of me, and I am going to be a world class servant of Allah (swt).”
The chances of a world class business mentality person taking this mentality and implementing it in their Deen is much stronger than someone who has a recurring theme of lowering their standards in everything that they do.
The Ultimate Balance: Can Chasing Dunya Lead to Jannah?
You might think: I would like to have this little website, or I might be doing a little homeschooling or so on and so forth. Listen, you are coming from the legacy of Sahabah – people who had very high standards. Imagine if the Sahabah came to business, do you think they would have high standards? Would they say: “Oh, this is just Dunya. I have to run away from it.” They had high standards in everything they did.
The Prophet (sa) said about the wealth of Abu Bakr (rtam) that: “There is no wealth that benefitted me more than the wealth of Abu Bakr (rtam).” Look at Khadeejah (rtaf) – when the Prophet (sa) would go up to the cave, who was taking care of him? It was his wife Khadeejah (rtaf) with her wealth – and she was very wealthy. Look at the example of Uthman (rtam). When Muslims had to prepare an army for Tabuk, and the Prophet (sa) said: “Who will prepare the army? Who will donate the huge amount of money to prepare the army?” Uthman (rtam) was the one who stepped forward and prepared the entire army.
Where did they get this money from? Did they get it thinking “Oh, you know, I have to run away from the Dunya” or were they exceptionally smart business people? They had the highest standards in both Dunya and Akhirah. Does that mean that they dressed themselves in the luxuries of the Dunya? The answer is obviously ‘no’. In fact, if you look at their lives, they were exceptional in the Dunya and exceptional in the Akhirah, and they used both for the sake of Allah (swt).
Let us look at the Khalifahs, starting right from the very top – the Prophet (sa). He was a businessman, correct? You might not have remembered that, but he was a businessman working for Khadeejah (rtaf). He was so intelligent in business dealings that when everybody would go to Syria and get their profit from Ash-Sham, they would go and make profit and just come back. The Prophet (sa) would go to Ash-Sham, make profit, then buy other commodities, come back to Makkah, and sell them again, thus making double profit. The Prophet (sa) was so intelligent and trustworthy in his business dealings that it actually led to Khadeejah (rtaf) asking to marry the Prophet (sa).
Khadeejah (rtaf) was a businesswoman; the Prophet (sa) was a businessman. What about Abu Bakr (rtam)? Of course, just like the Prophet (sa) said: “No wealth benefitted me more than the wealth of Abu Bakr (rtam).” Now, what about Umar (rtam)? Was he a businessman? You got that right! He was! He said one day he would sit with the Prophet (sa), and the other day he would do what? He would sit in the marketplace because he was a businessman. When he was the Khalifah, Umar (rtam) instituted many businesses, platforms, strategies, marketplaces, and chambers of commerce because he had the highest mindset and a burning desire to establish the system of governance based on his business experience.
Look at Uthman (rtam) – was he a businessman? He was an exceptional businessman, Subhan’Allah. How many times did he buy Jannah with his wealth? And when it comes to Akhirah, the beautiful thing about aiming high for Jannat-ul-Firdaws (the highest level of Paradise) is just like the Prophet (sa) said. If you truly aim for the highest level of Jannah and that becomes your attitude and your mindset, it also become something that you will implement in every slice of your life. You will try to implement the best and the highest levels in every slice of your life.