National Grand Mufti of Australia

Miserliness (Bukhl)

واعبدوا الله ولا تشركوا به شيئاً وبالوالدين إحساناً وبذي القربى واليتامى والمساكين والجار ذي القربى والجار الجنب والصاحب بالجنب وابن السبيل وما ملكت أيمانكم إن الله لا يحب من كان مختالاً فخورا
Worship Allah and join none with Him; and do good to your parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.

The essence of Islam is to worship Allah and do good to your fellow creatures, including animals. This aayah emphasises practical, rather than sentimental, service. It also discourages one from withholding help or generosity when one can extend it. Allah says:

الذين يبخلون ويأمرون الناس بالبخل ومن يتول فإن الله هو الغني الحميد
Those who are misers and enjoin upon people miserliness – (Allah is not in need of their charity). And whosoever turns away (from Faith – Allah’s Monotheism), then Allah is Independent (of all needs), Worthy of all praise.

Allah is referring to the Jews of al-Madinah who, although they possessed wealth in abundance, refused to spend it for good purposes, preferring instead to keep it for themselves.

Pride and arrogance are one reason that our deeds of love and kindness do not prosper and flourish. A person who is a miser hides the gifts that Allah has given him, whether they be wealth, talent, position etc. Miserliness is a sign of hypocrisy (nifaaq), and in nifaaq there is no love either for Allah or for one’s fellow man.

In the above aayaat, Allah commands the Muslims to do good to their parents, relations, the needy, the orphans, neighbours, and companions, and not to withhold help due to miserliness, greed or pride.

There are three types of people who do not do these duties. (1) The arrogant one or mutakabbir who is proud and always thinks of his own greatness, considering attending to others to be beneath his dignity. (2) The proud one or mutafakhkhir, who indulges in self-praise, exhibiting his pride at every step. And (3) The miser or bakheel, who although he has been ordered to spend his wealth in the Cause of Allah, hoards it and cannot bear the thought of parting with a single cent of it. This attitude prevents him from doing his duty to others.

These arrogant and affluent people accumulate wealth without considering how best to make use of it, or they invest it with a view to multiply and increase it. They hoard money for its own sake, for the security and pleasure they feel in possessing it, and for the sense of pride and arrogance that it imparts to them. They feel that they are far above the ordinary people due to their money, power, and influence. Such hard-hearted and miserly people would find it very difficult even to part with a few dollars to help a starving man to buy a loaf of bread. Their hearts are bereft of the light of faith, and in the Hereafter, they will receive a painful torment. Allah says:

ويل لكل همزة لمزة الذي جمع مالاً وعدده يحسب أن ماله أخلده كلا لينبذن في الحطمة وما أدراك ما الحطمة نار الله الموقدة التي تطلع على الأفئدة إنها عليهم مؤصدة في عمد ممددة
Woe to every slanderer and backbiter, who gathers wealth and counts it, thinking that it will make him immortal. No! He will certainly be thrown into the Shatterer – and what will make you realise what the Shatterer is? The kindled Fire of Allah, that rises over the hearts. Verily, it will be above them like a vault, with outstretched pillars.

Such a frightening spectacle, that makes the hearts tremble with terror, will certainly be the situation of anyone who gathered wealth, hoarding it, and withholding it from being spent in a good way. Such people do not have any trust or true faith in Allah, and when adversity strikes them, they may even resort to drastic measures. Allah describes their mentality when He says:

فأما الإنسان إذا ما ابتلاه ربه فأكرمه ونعمه فيقول ربي أكرمن وأما إذا ما ابتلاه فقدر عليه رزقه فيقول ربي أهانن كلا بل لا تكرمون اليتيم ولا تحاضون على طعام المسكين وتأكلون التراث أكلاً لماً وتحبون المال حباً جماً
As for man, when his Lord tests him and gives him honour and bounties, he says: “My Lord has honoured me.” And as for when He tests him and restricts his provision, he says: “My Lord hates me.” No! You do not give generously to the orphans, nor do you give food to the needy, but instead you devour inheritance hungrily, and you love wealth with too great a love.

Qaaroon was the wealthiest man of his time. Allah says about him:

إن قارون كان من قوم موسى فبغى عليهم. وآتيناه من الكنوز ما إن مفاتحه لتنوأ بالعصبة أولى القوة. إذ قال له قومه لا تفرح إن الله لا يحب الفرحين.
وابتغ فيما أتاك الله الدار الآخرة ولا تنس نصيبك من الدنيا. وأحسن كما أحسن الله إليك ولا تبغ الفساد في الأرض إن الله لا يحب المفسدين.
قال إنما أوتيته على علم عندي. أولم يعلم أن الله قد أهلك من قبله من القرون من هو أشد منه قوة وأكثر جمعا. ولا يسئل عن ذنوبهم المجرمون.
Verily, Qaaroon was of Moosaa’s people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. Remember when his people said to him: “Do not exult. Verily, Allah likes not those who exult.
“But seek, with that which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of lawful enjoyment in this world; and do good as Allah has been good to you and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not the mischief-makers.”
He said: “This has been given to me only because of the knowledge I possess.” Did he not know that Allah had destroyed before him generations, men who were stronger than him in might, and greater in the amount (of riches) that they had collected? But the sinners will not be questioned of their sins (because Allah knows them well, so they will be punished without being called into account.)

Qaaroon had gathered so much wealth that he began to think of himself as more important than others. He thought that the wealth that he possessed was due to his own perceived superiority over other people. He did not spend it in the way that was right but kept it all for himself. Allah gave him respite until an appointed time, and when that time was up, Qaaroon received a terrible punishment.

فخرج على قومه في زينته قال الذين يريدون الحياة الدنيا يا ليت لنا مثل ما أوتي قارون إنه لذو حظ عظيم. وقال الذين أوتوا العلم ويلكم ثواب الله خير لمن لآمن وعمل صالحاً ولا يلقاها إلا الصابرون.
فخسفنا به وبداره الأرض فما كان له من فئة ينصرونه من دون الله وما كان من المنتصرين
So, he went forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of this world said: “Ah, would that we had the like of what Qaaroon has been given! Verily, he is the owner of a great fortune.” But those who had been given knowledge said: “Woe to you! The Reward of Allah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and none shall attain this except those who are patient.”

So, We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling place. Then he had no group or party to help him against Allah, nor was he one of those who could save themselves.

All the aayaat that I have quoted teach us that arrogant, proud, and miserly people can never be useful or effective members of any Muslim community. Indeed, they have a destructive and corrosive effect on the community. And in addition, there will definitely a painful torment waiting for them in the Aakhirah. Therefore, one who calls himself a Muslim must try his best to protect himself from these harmful moral and spiritual diseases.

Allah has placed the treasures of the earth at our disposal to test us as to how we make use of it. The purpose of wealth is to firstly fulfil our own necessities, and then to utilise the rest of it on what is most beneficial for the community, for the individual and common good. Allah has given some people more wealth than others, and this is so that the former may help the latter, and not so that they may feel proud or oppressive towards them.

Allah explains, in the first aayah that I mentioned, that the duty of being good to one’s parents is the first and foremost duty after worshipping Allah. Parents should be served earnestly and with sincerity, keeping in view the unparalleled kindness and affection shown by them. You should fulfil even those demands of theirs that may be contrary to your taste and liking.

Parents are to be regarded as the owners of your assets, and you should spend your money generously upon them. Once a man presented a complaint before the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), saying that his father takes away things from his wealth whenever he needed. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) sent for that man’s father. The father came to the Prophet (s.a.w.). He was an old man who was very frail and who walked with the help of a stick. When the Prophet (s.a.w.) enquired as to his case, the old man said: “O Messenger of Allah! There was a time when my son was weak and helpless, and I was strong. I had everything and he was empty-handed. I never checked him from taking anything from me. Today, I am weak, and my son is strong. I am empty-handed and he is rich. Now he hides his wealth from me.” The Messenger of Allah who was Rahmatun lil-‘aalameen, a Mercy to the worlds, could not resist his tears on hearing this story, and he said to the son: “You and your wealth belong to your father.”

We must realise that the primary purpose of wealth is to spend on worthy causes, not to hoard for oneself, for fear of poverty or insecurity.

May Allah guide us to spend our wealth in the correct and most worthy manner. And may He bless our Prophet Muhammad.