THE SPECTRUM OF GREED
Greed is a disease that resides in man. Yet, almost every tongue denies its existence. This unreserved refutation is not in any way bizarre since one of the identified weaknesses of man is his poor understanding of his own innate composition and tendencies. Even if he did understand his instinctive elements and tendencies, indisputably, greediness would be missing on the list. This is because greed is a distinctive ‘bug’ that is hardly noticed by its host. But, the reality is that it does subsist within us and affect our sense of judgement and character. It ultimately defines who we are.
“And human inner-selves are swayed by greed”. Q4:128
If this latent sickness were to be defined in easy terms, it would be ‘excessive desire for something, mostly wealth and worldly goods’. And you would agree that everyone does have that instinctive tendency to incline towards anything charming, interesting and immensely beneficial to his continual existence in life. Therefore, it is natural to work hard towards owning ones dream cars, yachts, houses and a horde of other worldly things that breed pleasure and more income. This must at no time be misconstrued as greed because Islam itself does favour acquisition of wealth and properties. History did reveal to us that some of the early Muslims who were most dutiful to Allah in worship were incredibly wealthy and prosperous merchants. Amidst their wealth, they were able to strike an enviable balance between trade and worship. They were also the saviours of the Islamic spirit during financial droughts.
“Men, who neither trade nor sale diverts them from the Remembrance of Allah, performing Solaat or giving the Zakaat.” Q24:37
Greed becomes apparent only when the fellow finds it extremely difficult to give out to the needy, a little from what he owns due to his acute desire to have them all to himself; sometimes, his nuclear family members as well. A greedy individual always perceive himself as being deprived; not rich enough to be generous to the have-nots. But in Islam, when a man earns an income which is enough to feed himself or his family, clothe and shelter them in the most humble manner, he is judged rich, and sound enough to extend to the poor from the little he has been bestowed with.
“And he, whose resources are restricted (limited), let him spend according to what Allah has given him.” Q65:7
But sadly, this noble philosophy of Islam still struggles to find a comfortable niche in the present Muslim communities of the world. It only flourished successfully during the glorious years of Islam within the early Muslims. It was an epoch when the poor never admitted they were poor; they would happily give out to poorer individuals and they would in turn be gently coerced with plea by the rich to make them accept their Sadaqa. Then, true love and brotherhood ruled the atmosphere so much that there was not a single deprived individual on the street in every Muslim community that existed. It was an ideal and real society modelled on the Glorious verse of the Qur’an mentioned above. Some individuals may be exceptionally wealthy, but not a single individual would be so poor that his daily meals would come as miracles.
The world has since changed. It is no longer news that men, women and children now die of starvation and diseases that could be easily cured with a few hundred Dollars. It is no longer the social responsibility of Muslims to assist the weak. Everyone is still in the pursuit of more wealth. No one seems to have earned enough money to help the dying. The greed in us constantly deludes us to wonder why the richest among us cannot feed the hungry and save the sick. We had never admitted the fact that such generosity and kindness must first emanate from us. This is the remarkable difference between us and the early Muslims. Then, everyone suppressed their greed and saw charity as a responsibility. The Holy Prophet (saw) had told them the story of a man who resolved to give alms from what Allah has blessed him with. He took his alms and gave it to a man. He was later told that the man who received the alms was a thief and not a needy. The man praised Allah and resolved to give out another one. This time, a lady came his way. He gave it to her sincerely and he left. To his dismay, he was later told that the lady was an adulteress. He felt he had missed the bull’s eye once again. He was not dispirited; he was still enthused to give out another one, hoping to meet someone in dire need of help. This time, he gave it to a man. Afterwards, he was told that the man who received the alms was a rich man. He could not believe he had missed three shots. A wise and pious Muslim then walked up to him and said:
“The alms which you gave to the thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from adultery, and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause”. Bukhari
If everyone suppresses the greed in him and gives out a little from what he owns, our world may do well without even involving the wealthiest among us. The freedom from greed begins when an individual cut loose from his inner thought that repeatedly mislead him to believe that he is also a man in need and not rich enough to assist the poor and defenceless. He must also understand that no amount of wealth can tame greed. Sometimes the richer he is, the greedier he becomes. The wealth may engulf and shroud him from the reality of life and the hereafter until he ends up in the grave.
“The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, until you visit the graves (death)”. Q102:1-2
Furthermore, a daily culture of giving alms to the needy has been the most effective way of reducing greed. It is well known that the great Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr Siddiq, would always give alms to the needy before he goes for the Fajr Solaat in the Masjid. If this act is sustained, after a while, the individual would unconsciously lose every atom of greed in him. Sometimes, your mind may discourage you to withhold what you have to offer the needy because it is diminutive. In Islam, the size of the gift is not what matters; rather, the intention with which it was given.