Societies distant from Qur’anic values have a flawed understanding of giving and spending. In order to ease their consciences, they give away an insignificant portion of their possessions, while keeping most back for themselves. Their act of giving makes them feel satisfied that they have fulfilled a religious obligation. Allah alludes to this, saying:
Have you seen him who turns away and gives little, and that grudgingly? (Surat an-Najm; 33-34)
The worshipful act of giving revealed by Allah in the Qur’an is completely different. According to the Qur’an, giving is measured as that which is left after one’s needs have been met. This is a command from Allah and the duty of everyone to perform:
... They will ask you what they should give away. Say, ‘Whatever is surplus to your needs.’ In this way Allah makes the Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will reflect. (Surat al-Baqara; 219)
Anyone who hoards his surplus while others are in need displeases Allah, endangering his eternal life in the Hereafter. Such a person is actually disobeying a commandment of Allah, and by being stingy, he unjustly claims ownership of what actually belongs to Allah. In fact, Allah gives him possessions to test him. In the Qur’an, Allah describes this attitude as one particular to unbelievers:
As for those who are tight-fisted and direct others to be tight-fisted, and hide the bounty Allah has given them, We have prepared a humiliating punishment for those who disbelieve. (Surat an-Nisa’; 37)
The end of those who hoard and do not give what is due to Allah and His needy servants is related as follows:
You who believe! Many of the rabbis and monks devour people’s property under false pretences and bar people from access to the Way of Allah. As for those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allah, give them the news of a painful punishment on the Day it is heated up in the fire of Hell and their foreheads, sides and backs are branded with it: ‘This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you were hoarding!’ (Surat at-Tawba; 34-35)
Who has amassed wealth and hoarded it!
He thinks his wealth will make him live for ever.
No indeed! He will be flung into the Shatterer.
And what will convey to you what the Shatterer is?
The kindled Fire of Allah. (Surat al-Humaza; 2-6)
A believer can never be like the people described in these verses, amassing wealth and being stingy. Yet he still needs to beware of this attitude. He may have spent the majority of his earnings, but if he does not make a habit of sharing his possessions, he may tend to the mentality described above. The major causes of amassing possessions are fear of future poverty, attachment of more importance to this world than the Hereafter, and a lack of sufficient trust in Allah, which results from weakness of faith. As we have seen, there may be very important weaknesses behind such an act, and this would show his lack of sincerity and submission to Allah. A sincere believer should fear a great loss in this world and the Hereafter and meticulously obey this command of Allah’s.