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.”

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Al Ihsaan – Shaykh ibn Uthaymeen

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Salih al-`Uthaymeen
Explanation of the Three Fundamental Principles of Islaam
© 1997 al-Hidaayah

Al-Ihsaan is the opposite of behaving badly, and it means that a person strives to do what is good and to repel harmful things. So he strives to benefit the servants of Allaah through his wealth, position, knowledge and his person. So as for the case of doing good with ones wealth, then he spends and gives in charity, and pays the zakaat, and the best of the types of doing good through wealth is the zakaat since it is one of the pillars of Islaam, and one of its great foundations. A person’s Islaam will not be complete without it. It is the charity most loved by Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and that is followed by that which it is obligatory upon a person to spend upon his wife, mother, father, children, brothers, children of his brothers, sisters, paternal uncles, paternal aunts, maternal aunts, and so on. Then by charity given to the poor and to the rest of those deserving of charity – such as students of knowledge for example.

As for the case of doing good by means of ones position, then it is that people are found in different levels. Some of them have status with someone in authority and so strive to benefit the people by means of his position. So if a man comes to him and requests that he should intercede for him with the one in authority then he does so, either to repel some harm from him or to attain some good for him, As for doing good by means of his knowledge, then it is that he strives to pass on his knowledge to Allaah’s servants, in open and private gatherings and assemblies. Even if people sit socially, to drink coffee, then it pertains to good and fine behaviour that he should teach the people. Even if you are in a public gathering it is from what is good that you teach the people. However wisdom is to be used in this matter. So you should not weary the people making it a habit that every single time you sit in a gathering you admonish and address the people, since the Prophet used to give them admonition now and then, and not too frequently. This is because the souls become weary and bored. When they become bored they become languid and weak and may even come to dislike what is good merely because of the frequency with which the per son stands and addresses them.

As for seeking to benefit the people with ones person, then the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “… that you help a man to mount and ride his riding beast, or you lift up his luggage on to it for him, is a charity” [Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Eng. Transl. 4/90-94/no. 161) and Muslim (Eng. transl. 2/483-484/ no. 2204)]. So you help this man to carry his luggage, or you guide him to the correct road to take and so on, all of this pertains to ihsaan. So this is with regard to striving to do good to the servants of Allaah.

As for ihsaan in the worship of Allaah, then it is that you worship Allaah as if you were seeing Him, as the Prophet ( said. So worship done in this way, that a person worships his Lord as if he were actually seeing Him is worship that is accompanied by yearning and seeking. So a person will find that his soul encourages him upon worship done in this way, since he is yearning for the one he loves. Therefore he worships Him as if he were seeing Him, and he directs his heart to Him and turns to Him and seeks to draw near to Him, He the One free of all imperfections and the Most High.

“Then even though you do not see Him, then He certainly sees you.” This part shows worship done whilst fleeing and fearing, and is therefore the second level of ihsaan. So if you do not worship Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, as if you are seeing Him and seeking Him and your soul is encouraging you towards Him, then worship Him keeping in mind that He sees you. So you will then worship Him as one who fears Him and seeks to flee from His retribution and punishment.

This level is held by those having knowledge of these affairs to be lower than the first level. Worship of Allaah, the Perfect and Most High, is, as Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said: ‘Worship of the Most Merciful is utmost love of Him, along with the worshippers submission and humility, they are its two pillars.’ So worship is built upon these two matters: utmost love, and utmost humility and submission. Love causes one to desire and seek, and humility causes one to fear and flee. This is ihsaan in the worship of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. If a person worships Allaah in this manner, then he will become one who is pure and sincere in his worship of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. He will not desire with his worship that he is seen by the people, or heard of, nor will he desire their praise. It will be the same to him whether the people notice him or do not notice him.

He will worship with ihsaan in every condition. Indeed part of the completion of purity and sincerity of worship (al-ikhlaas) is that a person should seek not to be seen by the people when he worships, and that his worship should be a secret between him and his Lord. That is unless there is some benefit for the Muslims or for Islaam in his performing it openly, for example if he is a person who is followed and taken as an example and he wishes to manifest his worship to the people so that they should take it as an example to follow; or that he manifests his worship so that his companions, friends and associates should follow his example, then this is good. This benefit which he takes account of may be more excellent and greater than the benefit of keeping it hidden. Therefore, Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, has praised those who spend of their wealth in charity secretly and openly. So whenever performing it secretly is better and more beneficial for the heart, and causes one to be more humble and submissive, and to turn to Allaah more attentively, then they give in secret. But when performing it openly produces benefit for Islaam, due to manifestation of its prescribed practices, and will mean that the people follow this persons example, then they do this openly. The Believer looks to what is most appropriate. So whatever is most appropriate and most beneficial in worship, then it will be what is most complete and most excellent.

 

Craving For Wealth And Status : Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

The first type of craving for wealth is that a person has extreme love for wealth and also relentlessly exerts efforts to attain it – via means which are lawful – being excessive in that, striving hard and making painstaking efforts and toiling in order to attain it.

It has been reported that this hadeeth was in response to the appearance of some elements of th is, as at-Tabaraanee reports from `Aasim ibn `Adiyy, radiyallaahu `anhu, who said, `I bought a hundred shares from the shares of Khaybar and that reached the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam so he said, “Two ravenous wolves remaining amongst sheep whose owner has lost them will not be more harmful than a Muslim`s seeking after wealth and status is to his Deen.” [It is quoted by al-Haithumee in Majma` uz-Zawaa`id (10/250) and he attributed it to at-Tabaraanee in al-Awsat and said, “Its isnaad is hasan (good).”]

There is nothing more to chasing after wealth than the wastage of a person’s noble life for that which has no value. Instead he could have earned a high rank (in Paradise) and everlasting bliss, but he lost this due to his craving after provision – which had already been assured to him and allotted to him, and it was not possible for anything to come to him except what was decreed for him – then on top of this he does not benefit from that, but rather abandons it and leaves it for someone else.

He departs from that and leaves it behind so that he will be the one held accountable for it, yet someone else benefits from it. So in reality he is only gathering it for someone who will not praise him for that, whilst he himself goes on to One who will not excuse him for that – this itself would indeed be enough to show the blameworthiness of this craving.

The person who has this craving wastes his valuable time and engages himself in that which is of no benefit to himself – in journeying and exposing himself to dangers in order to amass that which will only benefit someone else, so it is as is said:

“So one who spends his days in gathering wealth
Out of fear of poverty – then he has achieved only poverty.”

It was said to a wise man, “So and so has amassed wealth,” so he said, “Then has he amassed days in which to spend it?” It was said, “No.” So he said, “Then he has amassed nothing!”

It was also said in some narrations from the People of the Book, “Provision has already been allotted and the one greedy for wealth is deprived. Son of Aadam! If you spend your life in seeking after this world then when will you seek after the Hereafter?” “If you are unable to do good deeds in this world, then what will you do on the Day of Resurrection?”

Ibn Mas`ood, radiyallaahu `anhumaa, said, “Certain faith (yaqeen) is that you do not make the people happy by angering Allaah, and that you do not envy anyone for that which Allaah has provided, and that you do not blame anyone for something which Allaah has not given you – since provision will not be brought on by a person’s craving after it, nor will it be repelled by a person’s disliking it. Indeed Allaah through His Justice has made joy and happiness dependant upon having certain faith and contentment, and He has made worries and sorrow spring from doubt and displeasure.”

One of the Salaf (predecessors) said: “Since predecree (qadr) is a reality then craving is futile. Since treachery exists in people’s characters then trusting everybody is to expose oneself to humiliation. Since death awaits everybody, then being satisfied with this world is foolishness.”

`Abdul-Waahid ibn Zayd (from the successors of the Taabi`een of Basrah, died after 150H) used to swear by Allaah that a person’s craving after this world was more fearful to him than his worst enemy. He also used to say, “O my brothers! Do not grow up craving after his riches and increase in earnings or wealth, rather look upon him with the eye of one who detests that he is preoccupying himself with that which will cause his ruin tomorrow in the Place of Return – and is proud with that.” He also used to say, “Craving is of two types: Craving which is an affliction and craving which is beneficial. As for the craving which is beneficial, then it is one’s desire for that which is obedience to Allaah, and as for the craving which is an affliction then it is a person’s craving after this world.”

Craving after this world torments a person, he is preoccupied and does not attain joy or pleasure whilst amassing – since he is preoccupied. He does not find time – due to his love of this world – for the Hereafter, and is preoccupied with that which will perish and forgets that which will abide and remain.

In this regard a person said,

“Do not envy a brother who craves after riches –
rather look upon him with aversion.
Indeed the one who craves is preoccupied with his
wealth from having any happiness due to his belongings.”

Someone else said in this regard:

“O gatherer and miserly one being watched closely by time
which is wondering which of its doors it should close.
You have gathered wealth, but think have you gathered for it –
O gatherer of wealth – days in which you can spend it.
Wealth is hoarded away with you for those who will inherit it –
The wealth is not yours except on the day when you spend it.
Satisfaction is for the one who settles in its neighbourhood
And in its shade he finds no worries to disturb him.”

A wise person wrote to a brother of his who desired this world: “To proceed, you have become one who craves after this world. It will serve you whilst taking you away from it with accidents, illnesses, calamities and infirmity. It is as if you have not seen one who craves prevented from what he desires, nor one who shuns this world granted provision, nor one who died despite having great wealth, nor one who is fully satisfied in this world with a small amount.”

A desert Arab rebuked a brother of his for covetousness, saying, “O my brother you are a seeker and one sought. You are being sought by One whom you cannot escape, and you are seeking that for which you have been sufficed. O brother, it is as if you have not seen one who craves being prevented, nor one who shuns the world being granted provision.”

A wise man said, “The people who have the greatest degree of restlessness are the envious, those who have the greatest degree of happiness are the contented. Those who persevere most through suffering are those who are covetous. Those who have the simplest and most pleasant life are those who most strongly refuse this world. The one who will suffer the greatest regret is the scholar whose actions contradict his knowledge.”

The second type of craving after wealth is that in addition to what has been mentioned in the first type, he also seeks wealth through unlawful means and withholds people’s rights – then this is definitely blameworthy greed and covetousness. Allaah, the Most High, says:

“And whoever is saved from his covetousness, such are those who are successful.” [Soorah al-Hashr (59):9]

It is reported in Sunan Abee Daawood from `Abdullaah ibn `Amr, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, from the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam that he said, “Beware of greed (avarice) for indeed greed (avarice) destroyed those who came before you. It ordered them to cut off ties of relationship so they cut off ties of relationship, and it ordered them to be miserly so they were miserly, and it ordered them to commit sins so they committed sins.” [Reported by Aboo Daawood (transl. vol.2, p.445, no.1694), and al-Haakim (1/415) who declared it saheeh and adh-Dhahabee agreed, and Ahmad reports it (2/159, 195) with similar wording. I (Badr `Abdullah al-Badr) say: Its isnaad is saheeh.]

It is reported in Saheeh Muslim from Jaabir, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Beware of greed (avarice), since greed (avarice) destroyed those who came before you. It led them to shed their blood and make lawful what was forbidden for them.” [Reported by Muslim (transl. vol.4, p.1366, no. 6248) and others, an-Nawawee said in explanation of the hadeeth, “al-Qaadee `Iyaad said: It is possible that this destruction was the destruction of those whose blood was spilled who were mentioned here, and it is possible that it is destruction in the Hereafter – and this is more apparent, and it is possible that it means destruction in both this world and the Hereafter. A number of people have said that avarice/greed (shuhh) is more severe than miserliness (bukhl) and causes the person to withhold to a greater degree. Some say that it is miserliness combined with covetousness. Some say that miserliness is with reference to specific actions whereas avarice/greed is general. Some say that miserliness is in particular actions and avarice/greed is with reference to wealth and good actions. Others say that avarice/greed is desiring that which one does not possess and being miserly about what one does possess.”]

Some of the scholars say, “Avarice is eager craving which causes a person to take things which are not lawful for him, and to withhold the rights of others. Its reality is that a person craves that which Allaah has forbidden and prohibited him from, and that one is not contented with the wealth and womenfolk and whatever else Allaah has made lawful for him. So Allaah, the Most High, has made lawful for us that which is good from foods, drinks, clothing and women and has forbidden us to acquire these things except by lawful means and He made lawful for us the blood and wealth of the Unbelievers and those fighting against us. He also forbade us from everything impure from foods, drinks, clothing and women, and He forbade us from seizing people’s wealth and spilling their blood unjustly. So he who limits himself to that which is permitted for him is a Believer, and one who goes beyond that into what he has been forbidden – then this is blameworthy avarice which is inconsistent with Eemaan (true faith in belief, word and action).

Therefore the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam informed that avarice causes a person to cut off relations, commit sins and to be miserly – and miserliness is a person’s clinging on greedily to what he has in his hand. Whereas avarice is seeking to obtain that which does not belong to him unjustly and wrongfully – whether it is wealth or something else. It is even said that it is the head of all sins – this was how Ibn Mas`ood, radiyallaahu `anhu, and others from the Salaf explained avarice and greed.

So from this the meaning of the hadeeth of Aboo Hurairah, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, will be understood. He reports that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Avarice (shuhh) and Eemaan will not combine in the heart of a Believer.” [This is part of a hadeeth whose wording is, “Dust in the way of Allaah and the smoke of Hell-Fire will never combine in the belly of a servant, nor will avarice and Eemaan ever combine in the heart of a servant.” It is reported by Ibn Abee Shaibah (5/344), Ahmad, an-Nasaa’ee (6/13,14)… and its chain of narration is hasan lighairihi (good due to supports).] Also in another hadeeth from the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam he said “The best of Eemaan is self-restraint (sabr) and compliance/liberality (musaamahah).” [This hadeeth has been reported from four Companions: (i) `Umayr ibn Qataadah al-Laythee, by al-Bukhaaree in at-Taareekhul-Kabeer (3/2/530) and al-Haakim (3/ 626), (ii) Jaabir ibn `Abdillaah – by Ibn Abee Shaibah in al-Eemaan (no.43) and Ibn Hibbaan in al-Majrooheen (3/136), (iii) `Amr ibn `Abasah – by Ahmad (4/375) and (iv) `Ubaadah ibn as-Saamit – by Ahmad (5/319), and the hadeeth is saheeh due to these chains – and Allaah knows best.] Sabr here has been explained to be withholding oneself from forbidden things, and musaamahah as the carrying out of the obligatory actions.

Also the word shuhh (avarice) may sometimes be used to mean bukhl (miserliness) and vice-versa, however in origin they are different in meaning, as we have mentioned.

If the person’s craving after wealth reaches this level then the deficiency it causes in a person’s Religion is clear – since failing to fulfill what is obligatory and falling into what is forbidden reduce one’s Religion and Eemaan without a doubt to the point that nothing but a little remains of it.

Excerpts from the Book – al-Hidaayah Publishing