Wealth. The word itself seems to have an almost bitter ring to it- it is as if we have characterized wealth in our minds as some objective evil. But is it really?
Wealth, like many and almost all things in life, is objectively neutral. It can be utilized in a positive or negative manner. Just as a lack of wealth is a test for us, an abundance of wealth is a test we either pass or fail as well.
Of course, the Prophet PBUH, the greatest of all mankind, was known to be poor to the point that he would not know whether or not he would have a meal every night. Granted, this sort of lifestyle is one that undeniably exemplifies what it means to let go of the dunya. However, there were many companions of the Prophet known for their abundance of wealth- and their generosity in giving away that wealth.Islam’s perspective doesn’t so much concern itself on whether wealth is good or bad, but rather what wealth is and how we use it.
In today’s hyper-individualistic society, we’ve been taught that our wealth, by way of our labor, is our property. Essentially, we subconsciously think, “what’s mine is mine because I earned it.” We have criminalized poverty in all its forms and glorified wealth to be a consequence of deserved nobility rather than a series of fateful privileges and circumstances. Islam, however stresses that everything one “owns” in this life is rather a loan from God. Some are given more provisions than others; in the end, the issue isn’t what we’re given but how we strive to invest what we have in goodness and often persevere through our lack of worldly provisions.
Now this isn’t to say, wealth cannot also be gained through hard work. Surely, this is possible. But, one must reflect on the fact that many may work hard but still have zero access to the sorts of opportunities others are afforded. And that’s where those with an abundance of wealth come in. There is an important Islamic principle to be learned here. We give charity not of our own self-righteousness, but rather of our responsibility towards others.
Indeed, there is a sweetness to committing pious actions. However, many may give monetary charity and feel a sense of self-satisfaction. In that moment, we must remember that we are not giving from what we have but rather from the means God has entrusted us to employ in goodness.
That’s what Zakat is- a constant reminder that while we work towards securing a stable life for our loved one’s in the dunya, we must remember the fragility of “our” wealth, the responsibility that comes with it, and those that do not have what we may.
Wealth doesn’t only extend to material goods like money. It extends to the faculties Allah SWT has given us as well. This means our bodies, our intellect, our talents, and our compassion for others- these are all valuable assets to be invested in goodness as well.
Abu Huraira related that the Prophet said: The Lord’s commandment for every one of His slaves is, ‘Spend on others, and I will spend on you’. (Bukhari, Muslim) In the end, giving charity, in any form, is a way for one to add blessings to their life. It’s a win/win situation. So give.