Rich Muslim, Poor Muslim – Which Would You Rather Be?
Acquiring money and building wealth can be a confusing topic for Muslims.
On one hand, when we read the Seerah and learn of the extreme frugality and hardships borne by the Sahaba it seems as if our luxurious, consumer-fed lives are opulent in comparison.
But then we have many other Sahaba who amassed and spent their great fortunes on helping the Ummah. For example, the third caliph, Uthman ibn ‘Affan, during a famine in Madinah, purchased a large caravan of food and goods at 10X the price before giving away the entirety to the sufferers!
This is the wonderful balance and perfection of Islam: we have prophets like Sayyidia Ayyub (a.s.) who was the personification of patience during adversity, having suffered extreme poverty, sickness and loss. In contrast, Allah sent us Prophet Sulaiman (a.s.) – whose wealth, power and kingdom will never be matched.
What’s remarkable is that both prophets are praised by Allah with the same words: ‘How excellent a servant, verily he was ever-returning in sincere repentance.’ (see Qur’an 38:30 & 38:44).
Sometimes, a thought may come to you – as it has to me many times – that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself was frugal and actually chose to be poor. Indeed, I asked this very question to Shaykh Ahmad Saad al-Azhari (who has taught tafsir for SeekersGuidance) when he visited my local masjid.
‘Didn’t the Prophet (s.a.w.) choose to be a servant prophet, rather than a ‘king prophet’ and therefore it’s his Sunnah to be poor?’
The shaykh replied that a ‘servant prophet’ is interpreted here as being ‘close to the people’. Think of a leader who is a king – distant and far in his ivory tower; now compare that to a leader who mingles with his people. The point was effective dawah and leadership, not poverty.
SubhanAllah, this is why we need the guidance of ‘ulema to help us navigate through such topics!
To summarize, Shaykh Ahmad Saad told me that there are ‘no restrictions’ in earning wealth as long as the ‘money doesn’t change their personality’, i.e. it doesn’t get a grip on our hearts.
In one of the finest contemporary manuals of spirituality ‘Sea without Shore’, Shaykh Nuh Keller gives a comprehensive list (my emphases):
“Beneficial wealth is that which is spent on one’s family, or gifts to others, charity, gaining useful knowledge, facilitating one’s works or worship, making final bequests… saving up for such things as buying a home, the children’s education, building mosques, training ‘ulema, or fulfilling other Islamic communal obligations – all of which are sound reasons to make and save money.”
IN OUR TIMES, WE NEED MORE WEALTHY PRACTISING MUSLIMS
The priorities for the Ummah change according to time and place. When Islam was a dominant force culturally and politically, scholars and righteous Muslims were the superstars, the celebrities! That’s why many shaykhs of the past placed heavy emphasis on zuhd (non-attachment to the world), frugality, anonymity, etc.
Now though, it is no secret that Muslims are in a state of extreme weakness. Our Ummah is filled with refugees, political prisoners, persecuted minorities, oppressed civilians and starving orphans (Ya Allah, aid them all!).
For those of us who are fortunate not to be in those groups – or living in the West – one of the greatest acts of worship we can do is to gain wealth and power for the sake of helping the Ummah. Living in the West, we have privileged access to quality education, technology and opportunity which can help us build powerful institutions – like SeekersGuidance, masajid, darul ulooms and charities – which can help heal our Ummah.
Think of Sayyidah Khadija (r.a.) – a mother of the believers. She was one of the wealthiest women of Makkah and her charity was critical in supporting the new, emerging Muslim community.
Remember Abu Bakr (r.a.) and his freeing of Bilal (r.a.) and many other slaves.
Are we not in a similar situation?
ENTREPRENEURS – TODAY’S TRADERS
Another amazing emphasis in our Deen is the status of traders.
In Hadith we read: ‘Verily the trustworthy and truthful trader will be counted among the siddiques and the martyrs.’ (Tirmidhi)
Our contemporary ‘ulema have encouraged Muslims to excel in trade and business. An amazing example is recounted in Faza’il-e-Tijaarat where ‘Umar (r.a.) bemoaned the fact that many Muslims had given up trade due to becoming independent through the wealth flowing from conquered lands.
He replied: ‘If you are going to do that and discard trade as a profession, you will find your men will be in need of their men and your women in need of their women.’
Allama Abdul Hay Kattani comments on this prophecy that indeed Muslims left the ranks of trade and commerce whilst ‘others took hold of it and controlled the business world to such an extent that the entire Ummah came to be in need of others.’
SubhanAllah, this was written over 40 years ago, before the digital revolution and the rise of massive Western monopolies. We are now witnessing the corporate take over of the planet; businesses and businessmen are wealthier than entire nations.
Today’s traders are entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Richard Branson. Rather than buying and selling in the physical marketplace – they leverage technology and modern skills of marketing to amass fortunes.
A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN ABOUT ‘MONEY MASTERY’
I hope I have convinced you that it really is part of our Deen to become wealthy enough to support our families and communities.
Indeed, many readers will be familiar with the heavy modern costs of merely owning a house and educating one’s children to university level.
For women, who already have to juggle considerable parenting and wife responsibilities, entrepreneurship is a unique solution. We are seeing an impressive rise of Muslima ‘mompreneurs’ who are modern day Khadijas!
However, there is still a huge lack of knowledge – in society as a whole – about wealth creation.
We still are caught up in outdated models of ‘work hard, go to uni, get a salaried job, save and enjoy your pension.’
It was only when I read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ that I had my own personal paradigm shift and realised that one should ‘not work for money, but make money work for you.’
We weren’t taught financial intelligence at school. And unless your parents were businessmen, you weren’t taught by them either.
How do you learn the fundamentals of wealth creation, money management, savings, investment and entrepreneurship (even if you are working fulltime) – all within an Islamic framework?
I am delighted to be able to invite you to a remarkable workshop Money Mastery for Purpose co-organised by one of my respected readers, Tanim Zaman – a serial entrepreneur.
This is a two-day workshop with so many raving testimonials from Muslim professionals that it needs no praise from me.
And Tanim has given a very special discount ONLY for readers of SeekersGuidance and my community. Alhamdulillah, he has generously discounted more than I asked – over 50% off the public price!
There are only 20 seats left. Deadline is Sunday 1 March, 23:59. Please read about the event below:
I’d love to meet my readers in person. InshaAllah, I shall be speaking on Day 2 of the event.
For readers who can’t make it to London for the event, you can still benefit from watching this unique panel discussion with 3 Muslim Entrepreneurs discussing how they ‘Escaped the Rat Race’ in search of a more meaningful path. The 3 speakers who are from very different backgrounds shared some incredible insights from their journeys and valuable tips for anyone thinking of doing the same: