Muslims take “taqwa” (awe or fear of Allah which inspires the individual to be on guard against wrong actions and eager for ones which please Him) as the only criterion by which to appraise people. As the Prophet (saas) said, they know that “the most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent.” (Tirmidhi) In ignorant societies, however, which are made up of people with no faith, “money” is considered the main criterion by which to form an opinion of others:
This being the case, many distorted rationales appear in ignorant societies:
- A rich person, albeit indecent and corrupted, is paid respect.
- Due to this rule laid down by society, one who is “rich but indecent” believes himself actually to be an “estimable” person.
- Because society attaches so much importance to “money,” the poor lack self-confidence. This attitude of the poor becomes most obvious when they are among the rich. A poor person may well recognise that he is superior to the rich man next to him because the latter is depraved. However, under the influence of ideas instilled by society, he is unable to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.
- In the society of ignorance, where the possession of “money” is a highly estimable criterion, moral degeneration prevails. Such corruption appears in various forms, such as bribery, abuse of authority or forgery, and is almost totally incorporated into daily life. Since the successful amassing of money is the most important value, all methods rendering the making of money possible, no matter how immoral and unjust they may be, are legitimised.
The story of Qarun in the Qur’an best describes the “money-oriented” stance of the society of ignorance:
Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him such treasures that their very keys would have been too heavy a weight for a band of strong men. When his people said to him, “Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat. Seek the abode of the hereafter with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your share in this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the land. Allah does not love corrupters.” he said: “I have only been given these riches because of the knowledge I have.” Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evil-doers will not be questioned about their sins. He went out among his people in all his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said: “Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses.” But those who had been given knowledge said: “Woe to you! Allah’s reward is better for those who have faith and act rightly. But only the steadfast will attain it.” We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, nor was he able to defend himself. Those who had longed to take his place the day before began to say: “Allah gives abundantly to whom He will, and sparingly to whom He pleases. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful.” As for the abode of the hereafter, We shall grant it to those who do not seek to exalt themselves in this world or to cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who fear Allah. (Surat al-Qasas: 76-83)
As can be understood from the verses, Qarun and those who envied him were representative of a typical society of ignorance. They failed to comprehend that Allah is the owner of everything and that Allah bestows possessions upon whoever He wishes. Qarun thought that the wealth he possessed had been given to him because of his superiority. But this was not so.
Because Allah creates every being, He is the real owner of everything. In this sense, one who owns something may be considered as a “trustee,” temporarily taking care of a possession which actually belongs to Allah. Blessings bestowed upon people are given to them not because they are superior or because they possess something important. These blessings are given to man as a favour or as a trial. What is expected of him in return is not to grow “arrogant” but to be “grateful” to Allah. If one fails to understand this, the property he owns brings him neither happiness nor salvation in this world and in the Hereafter.
Those who can distance themselves from the inculcations of society are the true believers. Because the criterion of believers was not money but faith and because they knew all property belonged to Allah, they realised that it was unwise to envy Qarun. Furthermore, they understood that he was certainly in a pitiable position. Unlike the members of the society of ignorance, they did not say: “Allah gives abundantly to whom He wills, or sparingly to whom he pleases” after Qarun’s death, but comprehended this fact right at the beginning. (For further reading see Harun Yahya Devoted to Allah)