Craving Wealth and Rulership: ibn Taymiyah

In one of his many writings, sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah made the following insightful comments:

لا ريب أن الحرص والرغبة في الحياة الدنيا وفي الدار الدنيا من المال والسلطان مضر كما روى الترمذي عن كعب بن مالك قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ” { ما ذئبان جائعان أرسلا في زريبة غنم بأفسد لها من حرص المرء على المال والشرف لدينه } ” قال الترمذي حديث حسن صحيح . فذم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم الحرص [ ص: 143 ] على المال والشرف وهو الرياسة والسلطان وأخبر أن ذلك يفسد الدين مثل أو فوق إفساد الذئبين الجائعين لزريبة الغنم . ـ

There is no doubt that craving and pining after this worldly life and the wealth and rulership in it is something harmful. This is just as al-Tirmidhi relayed from Ka’b ibn Malik who said: Allah’s Messenger said:

Two hunger wolves let loose in the sheep pen is no more destructive to them than a person’s craving for wealth and rulership is to his religion.

and al-Tirmidhi said that this was a hasan saheeh hadeeth. So the Prophet criticized pining after wealth and al-sharf – which is positions of rulership and authority – and he informed us that such things corrupt one’s religion as much if not more than the destruction that two hunger wolves unleash upon an enclosure of sheep.

وهذا دليل على أن هذا الحرص إنما ذم لأنه يفسد الدين الذي هو الإيمان والعمل الصالح فكان ترك هذا الحرص لصالح العمل وهذان هما المذكوران في قوله تعالى { ما أغنى عني ماليه } { هلك عني سلطانيه } وهما اللذان : ذكرهما الله في سورة القصص حيث افتتحها بأمر فرعون وذكر علوه في الأرض وهو الرياسة والشرف والسلطان ثم ذكر في آخرها قارون وما أوتيه من الأموال وذكر عاقبة سلطان هذا وعاقبة مال هذا ثم قال : { تلك الدار الآخرة نجعلها للذين لا يريدون علوا في الأرض ولا فسادا } كحال فرعون وقارون ; فإن جمع الأموال من غير إنفاقها في مواضعها المأمور بها وأخذها من غير وجهها هو من نوع الفساد . ـ

This is a proof that this craving is dispraised precisely because it corrupts one’s deen, that is, one’s eemaan and righteous deeds. So a person should leave off this avarice for the sake of doing good deeds. And these objects of desire are also mentioned together in Allah’s statement:

مَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنِّي مَالِيَهْ ۜ * هَلَكَ عَنِّي سُلْطَانِيَهْ

My wealth has not availed me * Gone from me is my authority [69:28-29]

Allah also mentions these two desires in surah al-Qasas when He opens the surah with the matter of Fir’awn and mentioning how he exalted himself across the land, which is that rulership, high status and authority. Then at the end of the surah Allah mentions Qarun and wealth he was given. So he mentioned the end result of that authority and the end result of this wealth, and then He said:

تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا

We assign that home of the Hereafter to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth nor corruption. [28:83]

as had been the way of Fir’awn and Qarun, for amassing wealth without spending it in the places that one has been commanded to spend it and seizing the wealth of others in improper ways are both types of corruption.

وكذلك الإنسان إذا اختار السلطان لنفسه بغير العدل والحق لا يحصل إلا بفساد وظلم وأما نفس وجود السلطان والمال الذي يبتغى به وجه الله والقيام بالحق والدار الآخرة ويستعان به على طاعة الله ولا يفتر القلب عن محبة الله ورسوله والجهاد في سبيله كما كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وأبو بكر وعمر ولا يصده عن ذكر الله فهذا من أكبر نعم الله تعالى على عبده إذا كان كذلك . ولكن قل أن [ ص: 144 ] تجد ذا سلطان أو مال إلا وهو مبطئ مثبط عن طاعة الله ومحبته متبع هواه فيما آتاه الله وفيه نكول حال الحرب والقتال في سبيل الله والأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر فبهذه الخصال يكتسب المهانة والذم دنيا وأخرى . ـ

Likewise, if a person chooses to assume a position of authority without enacting justice and the truth, then he will not attain anything but corruption and injustice. But as for a person who has authority and wealth which he then uses to seek Allah’s face, to enact justice and to pursue the hereafter and he uses these things to aid him in obedience to Allah without letting his heart’s attachment to Allah and His messenger and jihad in His path wane – and thereby following in the way of Prophet and Abu Bakr and ‘Umar – and without being diverted away from the remembrance of Allah, then this is one of the greatest of Allah’s blessings upon a slave if that is the case. However, it is rare that you will find a person who holds power or wealth who is not slow and reluctant towards obeying and loving Allah, instead following his own desires with what Allah has given him. Examples of this include his shrinking away from activities like fighting for Allah’s sake or commanding the good and forbidding evil. These traits earn him disgrace and criticism in both this life and the next.

وقد قال تعالى لنبيه وأصحابه : { ولا تهنوا ولا تحزنوا وأنتم الأعلون } فأخبر أنهم هم الأعلون وهم مع ذلك لا يريدون علوا في الأرض ولا فسادا وقال تعالى : { فلا تهنوا وتدعوا إلى السلم وأنتم الأعلون والله معكم } { إن الله اشترى من المؤمنين أنفسهم وأموالهم بأن لهم الجنة } وقال : { ولا تؤتوا السفهاء أموالكم التي جعل الله لكم قياما } فالشرف والمال لا يحمد مطلقا ولا يذم مطلقا بل يحمد منه ما أعان على طاعة الله وقد يكون ذلك واجبا وهو ما لا بد منه في فعل الواجبات . وقد يكون مستحبا . وإنما يحمد إذا كان بهذه النية . ويذم ما استعين به على معصية الله أو صد عن الواجبات فهذا محرم . ـ

And Allah said to His prophet and his companions:

وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ

Do not find yourselves weak nor grieve, and you will be superior … [3:139]

so Allah is informing them that they would be superior while at the same time they did not desire this exaltedness in the land nor corruption. And Allah said:

فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّـهُ مَعَكُمْ

So do not weaken and call for peace while you are superior; and Allah is with you … [47:35]

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ

Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. [9:111]

and He said:

وَلَا تُؤْتُوا السُّفَهَاءَ أَمْوَالَكُمُ الَّتِي جَعَلَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ قِيَامًا

And do not give the weak-minded your property, which Allah has made a means of sustenance for you … [4:5]

so rulership and wealth are neither entirely praiseworthy nor are they completely blameworthy matters. Rather, these things are commended to the extent that one uses them in obedience to Allah. In fact, using them in such a way could be mandatory, meaning some kind of required action which must be done, or it could be for an encouraged though not mandatory act. Furthermore, these matters are only praiseworthy if they are used with the proper intention. And what is blameworthy is if they are used in order to perform disobedience to Allah or to prevent others from fulfilling their obligations, which would be completely forbidden.

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa 20/142-144]

See also: The Story of Qarun: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The great blessing of being a guiding leader: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Exerting Oneself and Galvanizing Others – the Best of Conditions: Imam al-Sa’di

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2 thoughts on “Craving Wealth and Rulership: ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: The Story of Qarun: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: ‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 4 – Moderation in Spending: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr | Tulayhah

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