Imam Ahmad, An-Nasaa'i, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Heban in their Saheeh report the hadeeth of Ka'b ibn Malik al-Ansari (ra) of the Prophet (saw), who said:
"Two hungry wolves let loose among sheep are not more harmful than a person craving after wealth and status is to his Deen."
At- Tirmidhi said, "It is hasan saheeh."
It is also reported from the Prophet (saw) in the hadeeth of Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbaas, Abu Hurairah, Usama ibn Zayd, Jaabir, Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree and `Aasim ibn `Adiyy al-Ansaree (ra), and the wording of the hadeeth is that of Jaabir (ra):
"Two ravenous wolves which spend the night amongst sheep whose shepherd is absent, will not cause more havoc for the people than will love of status and wealth to a Believer's Deen."
The hadeeth of Ibn Abbaas (ra) narrates as, "…love of wealth" in place of "…craving."
This analogy given to us by the Prophet (saw) clearly illustrates the dangers of craving wealth and worldly status. The hadeeth explains that desire for wealth is more dangerous to man than hungry wolves are to a flock of stranded sheep. The hadeeth explains that very few sheep can escape the havoc caused by the wolves, implying that very little of a Muslim's Deen is safe in the face of his lust for wealth and status. This is a severe warning against the evil of craving wealth and status in the world.
Craving for Wealth
Craving wealth, or “Hubb Al-Dunya,” is when a person has an intense desire for wealth, relentlessly exerting effort to attain it – even if through halal (lawful) means. It was reported that this hadeeth was in response to the emergence of some elements of Hubb Al-Dunya, as Al-Tabaraani reports from `Aasim ibn `Adiyy (ra) who said,
“I bought one hundred shares from the shares of Khaybar, and that reached the Prophet (saw), so he said, ‘Two ravenous wolves remaining amongst sheep whose owner has lost them will not be more harmful than a Muslim's seeking after wealth and status will be to his Deen’.”
Based on the situation and the response by the Prophet (saw), the craving for wealth, is the extreme love for material possession that leads a man to relentlessly chase after it.
For a man to chase after wealth is to waste his efforts on something that he cannot change. The provision of every man is fixed by Allah (swt), and he cannot increase it. So, rather than running after his Rizq (something already guaranteed for him), the Believer should strive to attain a high rank in Paradise (something not already guaranteed for him). Abdullah bin Mas'ood, Abu Amamah, and Huthayfah bin Al-Yaman (RAA) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said:
"The Holy Spirit (Gibreel [as]) inspired to me that no person shall die except after they have completed their share of Rizq (wealth, sustenance, livelihood appointed for them), so fear Allah when seeking wealth" [Ibn Heban]
The wealth of this world has no lasting benefit for man. It must eventually be abandoned, and all that it brings is accountability for its possessor on the Day of Judgment. This in itself is indeed enough to show the blameworthiness of craving for wealth.
Abu Hurairah reported that Allah's Messenger (saw) said:
“A servant says, ‘My wealth, my wealth’, but out of his wealth three things are only his: whatever he eats and makes use of or by means of which he dresses himself and it wears out or he gives as charity, and this is what he stored for himself (as a reward for the Hereafter), and what is beyond this (it is of no use to you) because you are to depart and leave it for other people.” [Muslim]
This hadeeth has been narrated on the authority of Al-'Alaa' bin 'Abd al-Rahman with the same chain of narrators.
Craving after this world torments a person – he is so preoccupied with amassing wealth that he does not attain any joy or pleasure in it. Furthermore, he does not find time – due to his love of this world – for the Hereafter, and is obsessed with that which will perish, while forgetting that which will last and remain.
Purpose of Our Life
We are taught by Islam that the real objective of our existence is to worship Allah (swt) through righteous actions while living in this world. Allah (swt) revealed:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ (56) مَا أُرِيدُ مِنْهُمْ مِنْ رِزْقٍ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ يُطْعِمُونِ (57) إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الرَّزَّاقُ ذُو الْقُوَّةِ الْمَتِينُ
"I have not created the jinn and the men except for this that they should worship Me and I do not ask any sustenance of them, nor do I ask them to feed Me and Allah Himself is the Sustainer, Possessor of power and might" [TMQ 51:56 – 58]
Securing our material well being is important, even a fard (obligation) for those in a position of responsibility, but it is not the ultimate goal of this life. A Believer must never allow his thoughts and actions to be consumed by such an objective. In contrast, the secular-Capitalist mentality views economic well-being as the central focus of one’s very existence – resulting in perpetual mental anxiety, consumed by chasing the fleeting desires of this world. Islam deems the satisfaction of one’s needs as necessary and indispensable, but does not view them as the purpose of life. As Allah (swt) has warned us in the Qur’an that wealth becomes an allurement and a delusion if man loses sight of his real purpose. Allah (swt) revealed:
وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
“The life of this world is but a delusion”[TMQ 3:185]
Therefore, the right path is to engage in worldly economic matters in the manner prescribed by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (saw), both at societal and individual level. Allah (swt) states:
وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آَتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآَخِرَةَ وَلَا تَنْسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا
"'Seek the other world by means of that which Allah has bestowed upon you, and do not be negligent about your share in this world " [TMQ 28:77]
It is clear from the above ayah that we, as Muslims, are instructed to focus on the Akhirah (i.e. "the other world") while not forgetting about (i.e. "and do not be negligent") what we require in order to survive in this world. In other words, our minds must be preoccupied with the Akhirah to the point where we need to remind ourselves about pursuing “our share of this world.”
May Allah (swt) make us among those who fear Him in all aspects of our lives, and make us among those who will not be deceived by this dunya.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ فَلَا تَغُرَّنَّكُمُ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا وَلَا يَغُرَّنَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ
"O people, the promise of Allah is surely true. Therefore, let not the worldly life deceive you, nor let that great deceiver deceive you concerning Allah" [TMQ 35:5]