At any Muslim family gathering, a favourite topic (amongst the men at least) is how best to go about accumulating more wealth. When in attendance at such gatherings, I have often been advised, which stocks and shares to invest in or which riba (interest) based mortgages to enter into. Ironically, those advising me to commit flagrant transgressions against Allah (swt) in an attempt to become more wealthy, were Muslims!
Islam teaches us that a man should go and earn his living, and this is a noble act in the eyes of Allah (swt). Most of us have several responsibilities, be they to our parents, our children, or both. There are always bills to pay.
We know through the forewarning of Allah (swt) that we must use only allowed (halal) means in the pursuit of wealth. Why then do some Muslims persist in pursuing their wealth through prohibited (haram) means? Much can be attributed to man’s weakness, and desire for immediate gratification and comfort, which lead to his short sightedness. In turn much of this weakness is attributable to a weakness in understanding certain concepts from Islam, and the widely misunderstood concept of rizq.
How many times have we come across a Muslim man who does not go to pray jumuah salat on Friday although it is an obligation on him. His argument is “if I go to jumuah, , I may not be seen as a hard worker so I may loose my job. If I loose my job, I will not be able to provide for my family.” So his misunderstanding about the source of his provisions has lead him to disobey Allah (swt) by missing jumuah prayers.
Rizq is from Allah
Allah (swt) said:
“Say: ‘Truly my Lord enlarges the provision (rizq) for whom He will of His slaves, and (also) restricts (it) for him, and whatever you spend of anything (in Allah’s cause), He will replace it. And He is the best of providers’” [TMQ Saba: 39].
It is part of the aqeedah (belief) of a Muslim that his sustenance and wealth (his rizq) is given to him by Allah (swt). One of Allah’s names is Ar-Razzaq or The Provider. Rizq includes everything provided by way of provision or nurture, including both monetary wealth, food and any sustenance. The references to rain, and fruit in some ayahs of Qur’an that talk about rizq, demonstrate that the concept of rizq is more general than gold, silver or money alone, but encompasses all provision.
Rizq is fixed
Another crucial point to understanding rizq is that it is fixed in its amount. That is the rizq for each and every human has already been decreed by Allah (swt).
Ibn Mas’ud narrated that Allah’s Messenger (saw) said to his wife Umm Habiba: “Verily you have asked Allah about the duration of life already set, and the steps you would take, and the sustenance the share of which is fixed. Nothing will take place before its due time, and nothing will be deferred beyond when it is due.” [Muslim].
These two concepts from the Islamic aqeedah (belief) mark a believer as being distinctive from the kuffar. The belief that his wealth is provided by Allah is in conflict with the widely held belief that it is the individual through his own efforts or job who provides rizq for himself. Secondly this allocation is fixed and unchangeable despite our efforts to increase it. This is also a distinct view. Together they provide a variety of unique effects.
Muslims believe in rizq because it is contained in the miraculous text of the Qur’an and explained in the sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, as well as it being something we can appreciate by studying the reality around us. Some confusion may arise when attempting to understand its application in everyday life, after all a hot shot financial analyst surrounded by all the trappings of 21st century life has so much wealth because of his work and his pay cheque, as compared to a lowly farmer in the developing world and his humble surroundings. Actually it is perfectly demonstrable that the difference in rizq is beyond the control of man and is the work of divine providence.
What we control
It is easily understood that there is a sphere in which men have been granted control by Allah (swt) i.e. our words and our chosen actions. It is also self evident that there is a sphere which is beyond the influence of man, and which Allah as the Master of creation controls all - the weather, if a flipped coin lands heads or tail - so called ‘luck’, and generally everything man has no control over.
People often confuse the circumstances by which we attain our rizq with the actual of cause of rizq. If these circumstances such as our profession were the true causes of rizq then they should not fail in producing a particular amount of rizq, but it can clearly be seen that they do not guarantee the rizq. These circumstances may exist but the individual for some reason doesn’t gain the expected income. On the other hand someone may be uneducated, unemployed and poor but becomes a millionaire overnight for some reason such as winning a competition, inheriting wealth, etc. If circumstances such as status, education and profession were determining factors of rizq then this would not be the case.
An employee might work for a whole month but he is prevented from his expected income due to settling a previous debt, or spending money on those whose maintenance he is obliged to provide, or by paying taxes. In such a situation, the circumstance which brings the provision (i.e. the employee's work), the rizq was not obtained since he did not get his wages. On the other hand, there might be someone in his house in tower hamlets, to whom the postman brings the news that so and so relative of his in America has died, leaving him as the sole inheritor, and that all of his wealth will pass into his hands. This rizq came to him even though he didn’t imagine it ever becoming so wealthy.
Wealth can come to us in many ways and leave us in many ways. One may inherit wealth, or find it - like hidden treasure in a pirate story or a ten pound note on the street. One may be made redundant, or be given a raise, robbed of all one’s wealth by a highwayman or conned by a grifter. These are only a few scenarios from a long list of possibilities that happen to people every day, some unable to gain the income they worked for and others obtaining wealth without working for it. Therefore the circumstances in which rizq is obtained are as a rule, conditions of rizq and not its causes.
Simply put, it is not within our control to choose how wealthy we are, otherwise we could all will ourselves to be millionaires and own properties in Mayfair. This does not mean we go to the extreme of leaving our work and obligation to ourselves and our family as this would be disobeying the laws of Allah (swt). Rather we do the best actions we can (as providence usually favours the prepared), but with the firm belief that provision is from Allah (swt) alone. The Prophet (saw) advised a man, “Tie the camel and trust in Allah”.
This teaches us that we need to look after the means within our control but must continuously trust in Allah (swt). Islam doesn’t promote fatalism or laziness, it was narrated that Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) passed by some people, who were known as readers of the Qur’an. He saw them sitting and bending their heads, and asked who they were. He was told: "They are those who depend (al-mutawwakiloon) upon Allah (SWT)." Umar replied: "No, they are the eaters who eat the people’s properties. Do you want me to describe those who really depend upon Allah (al-mutawwakiloon) are?" He was answered in the affirmative, and then he said: "He is the person who throws the seeds in the earth and depends on His Lord The Almighty, The Exalted (‘azza wa jalla)."
In difficult times
A Muslim must always rely upon Allah (swt), this belief gives the believer the strength to overcome difficulties. Someone with the correct understanding that his provision is from Allah (swt), will trust fully in Allah (swt) to provide for him especially when times are difficult.
Allah (swt) said: “Allah increases the provision (rizq) for whom he wills, and straitens (it from whom He wills), and they rejoice in the life of the world, whereas the life of this world as compared with the hereafter is but a brief passing enjoyment” [TMQ Ar-Ra’d: 26].
So if times are difficult the true believer sees it as a test from Allah (swt), and it is He (swt) who will provide what is due. We take heed in what the ayah states that the life of this world “…is but a brief passing enjoyment.”
Confronted with difficult times, another may be tempted in desperation to resort to prohibited (haram) means such as stealing, fraud or taking out an interest bearing loan. There is no such temptation for the steadfast believer who understands that his rizq is from Allah (swt) and he just needs to go out and try his best to earn it in a permitted (halal) way.
The prohibited choices are many, stocks and shares in PLC companies, prohibited mortgages to become landlords or other usurious means, many of which Muslims have delved into, to their great loss.
One failure is the failure to understand their rizq comes from Allah (swt) alone. In believing they have increased their allotment through their choice they are actually deceived, because the only matter they controlled was their choice to do something forbidden and hateful in the eyes of Allah (swt) or not. We should realise that the rizq allotted by Allah (swt) for us will come to us whether we undertake haram or halal actions to obtain it, it is our loss if we follow the path towards jahannam (hell fire) chasing after wealth which has been predestined for us. The great scholar Nu’man ibn Thabit, otherwise known as Abu Hanifah explained this point when he asked a thief why he is stealing from his own rizq i.e. stealing to obtain something which he would come to him anyway.
Value of wealth
One final quality of the believer who has understood rizq in its correct context, is the small value he places upon his wealth, or rather the value he places upon it is of a different type. He knows it is a burden, he knows his provision is fixed and that Allah (swt) will provide for him so there is no need to fear in spending his wealth freely in a righteous manner, as these deeds will benefit him in the hereafter whereas the material wealth he accumulates and the items he has bought with them and covets will not.
A pure understanding, well thought out and free from doubt, of key notions like rizq, the value of deeds and the insignificance of this dunya (wordly life), causes a believer to be freed from the struggle to accumulate wealth to purchase the next best thing and places his focus upon actions instead. It will also produce an individual who sticks to the shariah rules when obtaining wealth and someone who is characterised with generosity, actively seeking useful ways to spend or invest his wealth which will benefit him through earning Allah’s pleasure. Compare this to the struggle of most people to save for a faster car, a bigger house, or the finest fashions.
“Verily Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills.” [TMQ al-Imran: 37]