In non-religious societies, wealth has always been the symbol of power and respect and it has been among the major goals that people strive for throughout their lives. One of the reasons for this is that people without faith believe that they will only be truly happy if they are wealthy. They think that they can only secure their possessions and achieve comfort, ease and the beautiful things they like in this way. For this reason, they spend their whole lives amassing property and possessions, saving money and making the right investments. They worry that their possessions will be used up and so they do not make use of them, they avoid spending money at all costs and do everything they can to preserve their wealth.
But in the life of this world, a person’s wealth will not bring him the pleasure he expects no matter how hard he works for it. It may give him comfort in some ways, but in this flawed and imperfect world wealth is also flawed and imperfect. The Arabic word dunya (world) is derived from the word dani which means “low, inferior, simple, worthless.”
A reason why Allah created the world flawed, and as a transitory place is to allow people to appreciate better the good things of the Garden. For example, if a person who has lived in poverty since childhood is invited to a home with magnificent furniture and priceless works of art, decorated with precious stones, and is offered rare foods to eat, he would be struck by the beauty of the place. Doubtless, this person’s delight would be much greater than that of someone who has lived in such an environment since childhood. Our position in this world is similar to that of a person brought up in poverty and want. But even the world’s wealthiest person is poor in comparison to the riches of the Garden. And, in this world, a person can never attain this true wealth. Even the richest person in the world will finally be wrapped in a few metres of cloth or put into a coffin and buried in the ground, leaving all his wealth behind. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that the blessings of the world are transitory:
The metaphor of the life of the world is that of water which We send down from the sky, and which then mingles with the plants of the earth to provide food for both people and animals. Then, when the earth is at its loveliest and takes on its fairest guise and its people think they have it under their control, Our command comes upon it by night or day and We reduce it to dried-out stubble, as though it had not been flourishing just the day before! In this way We make Our Signs clear for people who reflect. (Surah Yunus: 24)
The wealth of the Garden, unlike the wealth of this world, is an everlasting wealth that people will experience in their hearts and with their bodies and senses, without worrying that it will ever come to an end. This verse in the Qur’an tells us about the beautiful wealth of the Garden: “Seeing them, you see delight and a great kingdom.” (Surat al-Insan: 20)
The wealth of the Garden is a harmony containing the artistry of Allah’s endless bounty and dazzling splendour. All of this beauty is presented in such a way as to fulfil the believers’ passions and desires, because it is only when wealth is turned into beauty in this way that it can give meaning to the human spirit.
The beauty of the places in the Garden, apart from their aesthetic qualities, comes from the value of the materials used to decorate them. In a hadith, our Prophet replied to someone who asked about what materials the Garden is built from:
One brick of gold and one brick of silver, its mortar is of strongly scented musk, its stones are pearls and emeralds, and its soil is of saffron … (Narrated by Abu Hurayra, at-Tirmidhi)
The wealth promised to the people of the Garden is limitless; it is in abundance, and there is no worry that it will ever be used up.