Seeking status through authority, leadership & wealth is very dangerous – Imam Ibn Rajab

A person’s craving after status is even more destructive than his craving after wealth. Seeking after worldly status, position, leadership and domination causes more harm to a person that his seeking after wealth – it is more damaging and harder to avoid since even wealth is expended in seeking after leadership and status. Craving after status is of two types.

The First Type of Craving for Status

The first is seeking status through authority, leadership, and wealth and this is very dangerous – since it will usually prevent a person from the good of the Hereafter and nobility and honour in the next life, Allaah, the Most High says:

“That home of the Hereafter We shall assign to those who seek neither haughtiness nor any corruption on earth. The good end is for the pious.” [Al-Qasas (28):83]

So it is rare that a person seeks after position in this world by seeking authority and is guided to and granted what is good for him. Rather he is entrusted to his own self, just as the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to `Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Samurah, radiyallaahu `anhu, “O `Abdur-Rahmaan! Do not ask for authority since if you are given it due to requesting it then you are abandoned to it, but if you are given it without requesting it then you will be aided in it.” [10]

One of the Salaf said, “ No one seeks after authority and then behaves justly in it.” Yazeed ibn `Abdillaah ibn Mawhib was a just judge and one of the righteous people and he used to say, “Whoever loves wealth and status and fears adversity will not behave with justice.” There occurs in Saheeh al-Bukharee from Aboo Hurairah, radiyAllaahu`anhu, from the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that he said, “You will be keen to attain authority and it will be a source of regret on the Day of Resurrection. So what an excellent wet-nurse it is and what an evil weaner.” [11]

(Al-Bukhaaree) also reports from Aboo Moosa al-Ash`aree, radiyAllaahu `anhu, that two men said to the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), ‘O Messenger of Allaah! Appoint us to some position of authority.’ So he said, ‘We do not appoint to authority in this affair of ours one who requests it, nor one who is keen to have it.” [12]

Know that craving after status and position inevitably causes great harm before its attainment due to the striving necessary to attain it, and also afterwards due to the person’s strong desire to hold onto it which produces injustice, haughtiness and other evils.

Aboo Bakr al-Aajurree, who was one of the wise scholars and teachers at the start of the fourth century, wrote at treatise about the manners and the sentiments of the scholars and it is one of the best works on this topic. One who studies it will know from it the way of the scholars of the Salaf, and will know the innovated ways contrary to their way. So he describes the evil scholar at length, from this description is that:

‘He has become infatuated with love of this world, and with praise, honour and position with the people of this world. He uses knowledge as an adornment just as a beautiful woman adorns herself with jewellery for this world, but he does not adorn his knowledge with action upon it.”

He then mentions a lengthy speech and then says,

“So these characteristics and their like predominate in the heart of one who does not benefit from knowledge, so whilst he carries these attributes his soul will come to have love of status and position – so that he loves to sit with kings and the sons of this world. The he loves to share in their opulent lifestyle, sharing their lavish attire, their comfortable transport, servants, fine clothing, delicate bedding and delicious food. He will love that people throng to his door, that his saying is listened to, and that he is obeyed – and he can only attain the latter by becoming a judge (qaadee) – so he seeks to become one. Then he is unable to attain it except at the expense of his Religion, so he debases himself to the rulers and their helpers, serving them himself and giving them his wealth as a tribute. He remains silent when he sees their evil actions after entering their palaces and homes. Then on top of this he may praise their evil actions and declare them good due to some false interpretation in order to raise his position with them. So when he has accustomed himself to doing this over a long period of time and falsehood has taken root in him – then they appoint him to the position of judge (qaadee) and in so doing slaughter him without a knife.” [13]

Then they have bestowed such a favour upon him that he is obliged and has to show his gratitude to them – so he takes great pains to make sure that he does not anger them and cause them to remove him from his position. But he has no concern about whether he angers his Lord, the Most High, so he misappropriates the wealth of orphans, widows, the poor and the needy, and wealth bequested as waaf (religious endowment) for those fighting Jihaad and the nobles of Makkah and al-Madeenah, and wealth which is supposed to be of benefit to all the Muslims – but instead he uses it to satisfy his clerk, chamberlain and servant. So he eats that which is haraam and feeds with that which is haraam and increases that which is a proof against him.

So woe to the one whose knowledge which the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sought refuge from and ordered us to seek refuge from. This is the knowledge which the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentioned, saying, “Those amongst the people receiving the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection is the scholar who is not given benefit through his knowledge by Allaah.” [14]

He (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say, (Allaahumma innee a’oodhubika minal arba’i, min `ilmin laa yanfa`u, wa min qalbin laa yakhsha`u, wa min nafsin laa tashba`u, wa min du`aa in laa yusma`u) “O Allaah I seek Your refuge from knowledge which does not benefit; from a heart which does not fear; from a soul which is never satisfied; and from a supplication which is not heard.” [15]

And he (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say:

(Allaahumma inne as`aluka `ilman naafi`an, wa a`oodhubika min `ilman laa yanfa`u)
“O Allaah I ask You for beneficial knowledge, and I seek Your refuge from knowledge which does not benefit.” [16]

This was said by Imaam Aboo Bakr al-Aajuree, rahimahullaahu ta`aala who lived at the end of the fourth century [17] and corruption increased and multiplied greatly since his time – and there is no might and no strength except by Allaah’s will.

From the subtle afflictions caused by love of status is seeking after and aspiring positions of authority – this is something whose reality is hidden and obscure. It is not understood except by those who have knowledge of Allaah, those who love Him and who are at enmity with those ignorant one’s from His creation who desire to compete with Him with regard to His Lordship and Divinity and right to worship, despite their despicability and the contemptible position they have before Allaah and in the eyes of His chosen servants who have knowledge of Him.

It is just as al-Hasan (al-Basree), rahimahullaah, said about them,

“Even if the hooves of mules clatter for them and riding beasts strut for them, yet still the humiliation of sin rests upon their necks. Allaah has refused except that He will humiliate those who are disobedient to Him.”

Know that love of status attained by having one’s orders and prohibitions obeyed and enacted, and by merely the attainment of a position above the people and to have importance over them, and that it be seen that the people are in need of him and seek their needs from him – then the soul of this person is seeking to compete with Allaah in His Lordship and His Divinity and right to worship. Some such people may even seek to put the people into such a condition of need that they are compelled to request their needs from them, and to display their poverty before them and their need of them. Then he is inflated with pride and self-importance because of that, whereas this befits none except Allaah alone. He who has no partner. Allaah, the Most High, Says,

“Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility.” [Al-An`aam (6):42]

It also occurs in some narrations that Allaah, the Most High, sends adversity upon His servant in order to hear him call upon him with full humility. There also occurs in the narrations that when the servant whom Allaah loves supplicates to Allaah, the Most High, then He, the Most High, says, “O Jibreel! Do not hasten to carry out his need, for I love that I should hear him calling with full humility.”[18] So these matters are worse and more dangerous than mere injustice and are more sinister, and they are a part of shirk – and shirk is the greatest injustice and transgression with Allaah. It is reported in the Saheeh from the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that he said, “Allaah, the Most High, says, ‘Pride is my cloak and majesty is my lower-garment so whoever vies with Me regarding them I will punish him.’” [19]

It also happened that one of the people of the past was a judge and he saw in a dream that someone was saying to him, “You are a judge and Allaah is a Judge.” So he awoke in a distressed state and removed himself from the position of a judge and abandoned it. Some of the pious judges used to prevent the people from calling them ‘Judge of judges’ (Qaadiyyul-Qudaat) since this name resembles the name ‘King of kings’ which the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) censured that one should use as a title, and ‘Judge of judges’ is like that.

Also related to this is the one having status and authority loves that he is praised and commended for his actions and seeks that from the people. Those who do not comply with this suffer as a result. It may even be that his actions are actually more deserving of blame than of praise, or he manifests something that is apparently good – and loves to be praised for it, yet in reality he is intending something evil and is happy that he is able to deceive the people and fool them about it. This falls under the saying of Allaah, the Most High:

“Think not that those who rejoice in what they have done (or brought about), and love to be praised for what they have not done, think not that they are rescued from the torment, and for them is a painful torment.” [Aal-‘Imraan (3):188]

Since this Aayah was sent down regarding those who have these attributes, and this attribute (i.e. seeking praise from the creation and loving it and punishing those who do not give it) is not fitting except for Allaah, alone, having no partner. This is why the rightly guided leaders used to forbid people to praise them for their actions and any good which if they did, and they would order that rather praise be given to Allaah alone, having no partner – since all blessings are from Him.

`Umar ibn Abdul – `Azeez, rahimahullaah, was very particular about this and he once wrote a letter to be read out to the people performing Hajj. It contained an order that they should be treated well and that oppression of them should stop, and in it there occurred, “And do not praise anyone for this except Allaah, since if He abandoned me to my own desiresI would be just like the others.”

There is a also a well-known narration about what occurred with him concerning the woman who requested from him that he should provide an allowance for her orphaned daughters. She had four daughters and he gave an allowance to two of them and she praised Allaah. Then he gave an allowance to the third so she thanked him, so he said, “We were giving an allowance to them as long as you were giving praise to the One to whom it is due, but now order this third one to share her allowance with the fourth,” or as he said, radiyAllaahu `anhu. He wanted to make it known that the position of leadership is only established so that Allaah’s commands are carried out, and so that the servants can be commanded to obey Allaah, the Most High, and forbidden from those things which Allaah has prohibited, and so that the leader acts with sincerity towards Allaah’s servants by calling them to Allaah. His intention is that the Deen should in its entirety be for Allaah, and that honour be for Allaah. Along with this he is fearful that he is himself falling short with regard to the rights of Allaah, the Most High. So as for those who love Allaah, then the limit of their desire with regard to the creation is that they should also love Allaah, obey Him and single Him out with all worship and recognise His Divinity alone. (Then how about one who seeks to vie with Him in this?!) Rather this type of person does not desire any reward or any thanks from the creation, but hopes for reward for his actions from Allaah, the Most High:

“It is not (possible) for any human being to whom Allaah has given al-Hukma (knowledge and understanding of the laws of Religion etc.) and Prophethood to say to the people: “Be my worshippers rather than Allaah’s.’ On the contrary (he would say): ‘Be you rabbaaniyyoon (learned men of Religion, who practice what they know and also preach to others) because you teach the Book, and you study it.’ Nor would he order you to take angels and Prophets for lords (gods). Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to Allaah’s Will?” [Aal-`Imraan (3):79-80]

He (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the Messiah, the son of Maryam. Indeed I am only a slave. So say the slave of Allaah and His Messenger.” [20]

Allaah’s Messenger (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also used to criticise anyone who did not keep to this manner of address with regard to him, just as he (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not say, ‘Whatever Allaah has willed and Muhammad has willed, ` but rather say, ‘Whatever Allaah has willed, then what Muhammad has willed.’” [21]

He also replied to a person who said, “Whatever Allah and yourself have willed,” by saying, “Have you made me a rival for Allaah! Rather say, ‘Whatever Allaah alone has willed.’” [22]

Due to this khulafaa who have succeeded the Prophets, and their followers – the just rulers and their successors, and their judges, never used to call to glorification of themselves but rather to the glorification of Allaah alone and that He is to be singled out with worship and divinity. From them were those who did not wish for leadership at all except as an aid to calling to Allaah alone. Some of the righteous people who accepted the position of judge said, “Indeed I accepted this in order to use it to help me in ordering the good and forbidding the evil.”

Indeed the Messengers and their followers would persevere in the face of injury and harm which they suffered whilst calling to Allaah, and in carrying out Allaah’s commands they were put into the severest hardship by the people and yet they bore it with patience. Indeed being pleased with that, since one who has love may find pleasure in any harm he meets whilst seeking to please the one whom he loves. Just as `Abdul-Maalik ibn `Umar ibn `Abdul-Azeez used to say to his father when he was the khaleefah and he had keen desire that the truth and justice be established, “O father I would have loved that we had been forced into boiling cooking pots for the sake of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.”

Another righteous person said, “I would have loved that my flesh were cut away with scissors if it meant that all the creation would obey Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.” This saying of his was related to a certain wise person, so he said, “If what he was speaking of was sincere concern for the creation, otherwise I do not know.” Then he fainted. The meaning of this is that the one who said this had true and sincere concern  for the creation and pity for them, fearing Allaah’s punishment for them, so he would have loved that they could have been saved from Allaah’s punishment at the expense of his ownself. It could also be that he was considering the Majesty and Greatness of Allaah and the glorification, honour, obedience and love due to Him, so he wished that the creation would fulfil that even if it meant the most severe harm to himself. This is the state of mind of the distinguished ones who love Allaah and have knowledge of Him and keep Him in mind. This is what caused the man to faint.

Allaah, the Most High, also described in His Book those who love Him as being those who fight Jihaad in His cause and do not fear the blame of those who seek to blame.[23]

Concerning this someone said:

“I find that being blamed whilst pursuing what you desire is delightful, For having love for your remembrance let those who wish  to blame me do so.”


[10] Reported by Ahmad and al-Bukhaaree (transl.9/194/no.260)

[11] Reported by al-Bukhaaree (transl.9/196/no.262) and others. Note: His saying, “It will be a source of regret.” Means one who does not behave correctly having attained it – and the proof of this is what Muslim reports from Aboo Dharr who said, ‘I said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Will you not appoint me to some position?” He said, “You are weak and it is a trust and on the Day of Resurrection it will be a source of humiliation and regret, except for one who fulfils its obligations and carries out the duties required from him.” (Saheeh Muslim, transl.3/1015/4491). An-Nawawee said, “This is a great reason to avoid positions of authority especially those who are weak – and this refers to those who are not suitable and those who do not act justly in the position – then he will regret his negligence when he is humiliated on the Day of Resurrection. However one who is suitable for the position and behaves justly in it – then there is a great reward as shown in a number of reports. However entering into it carries a great danger therefore the great scholars avoided it. His saying, “What a good wet-nurse” (i.e. the one who feeds the baby at breast) meaning in this world, and “What an evil weaner” meaning after death – since he will be taken to account for it. So he is like one who is weaned away from breast milk before he can manage without it – so this causes his destruction. And it is said, “What a good wet nurse” due to the status, wealth, authority, attainment of physical and imagined enjoyment which it produces whilst one has it, but “What an evil weaner”, meaning when one is removed from it by death or other causes – due to the even consequences one faces in the Hereafter.” (Abridged and edited from Fathul-Baaree of Ibn Hajar (13/125-126)).

[12] Reported by al-Bukhaaree (transl.9/196/no.263) and Muslim (transl. 3/1014/no.4489)

[13] Alluding to the saying of the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “He who is appointed as a judge has been killed without a knife.” Reported by Ahmad, Aboo Daawood (transl.3/1013/no.3564) and at- Tirmidhee who declared it hasan. I say: its isnaad is saheeh.

[14] Reported by Ibn `Abdul-Barr in Jaami` Bayaanil-`Ilm (1/162) and al-Aajuree (pp.93-94) and at- Tabaraanee in as-Sagheer (1/1831) and others and its chain of narration is very weak since it contains `Uthmaan ibn Miqsam al-Burree who was accused of lying and fabrication. It is however reported as being the saying of Abud-Dardaa only, with an authentic chain of narration. It is reported by ad- Daarimee (1/82) and others.

[15] Reported by Ahmad, Aboo Daawood (transl. vol.1/p.401/no.1543) and others, all with the wording, “O Allaah I seek Your refuge from four: from knowledge which does not benefit…” The hadeeth was declared to be saheeh by al-Haakim and adh-Dhahabee agreed, and it has supports from a number of the Companions.

[16] Reported with this wording by al-Aajuree (p.134) and Ibn Hibbaan (no.2426). It also reported by Ibn Maajah (no.3843) and Ibn `Abdul-Barr (1/162) with the wording, “Ask Allaah for beneficial knowledge and seek Allaah’s refuge from knowledge which does not benefit.” Its chain of narration is hasan (good) and there is similar narration from Umm Salamah reported by Ibn Majah and others.

[17] Al-Aajurree, rahimahullaah, died in the year 360H.

[18] The meaning of this is reported in the hadeeth qudsee which is mentioned by Shaikh Muhammad al- Madanee in his book al-Ittihaafaatus-Sunniyyah fil-Ahaadeethil-Qudsiyyah (no.438) – and he mentioned that Ibn `Asaakir reported it with a chain of narration containing Ishaaq ibn `Abdillaah ibn Abee Farwa who is abandoned as a narrator.

[19] Reported by Ahmad, Aboo Daawood (transl.3/1141/no.4079) and Ibn Maajah from the hadeeth of Ibn Maajah, except that their wording ends, “…So whoever vies with Me regarding any of them…” and in a wording, “…. Anything from them, I will fling him into Hell-Fire.” And in a wording, “…the Fire.” Its chain of narration is saheeh. Muslim (transl. 4/1381/no.6349) also reports one version of the hadeeth.

[20] Reported by al-Bukhaaree (transl.vol.4, p.435, no.654) and others.

[21] Reported by ad-Daarimee (2/295) with this wording and its chain of narration is saheeh. It is also reported with the wording, “Do not say, ‘Whatever Allaah and so and so have willed.’ but rather say, ‘Whatever Allaah has willed and then what so and so has willed.’” It is reported by Ahmad, Aboo Daawood (transl. vol.3, p.1386, no.4962) and others and its chain of narration is saheeh.

[22] Reported by Ahmad, Al-Bukhaaree in al-Aadabul-Mufrad (no.783) and others, and its chain of narration is hasan.

[23] Sooratul-Maa’idah (5):54

Source: The Evil of Craving for Wealth and Status – by al-Haafidh ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee, Translated into english by Abu Talha Dawud Burbank rahimahullaah, published by al hidaayah

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