I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
“Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world. But the good righteous deeds (five compulsory prayers, deeds of Allaah’s obedience, good and nice talk, remembrance of Allaah with glorification, praises and thanks,), that last, are better with your Lord for rewards and better in respect of hope.” Qur’an 18:46
One of the greatest fears of man is poverty and one of his greatest goals is to attain power and authority and in between he strives relentlessly in order to become powerful and to earn a means of sustenance. This is not generally applicable to all but it is mostly a reality in the lives of many. Our societies today lay more emphasis on wealth and power to such an extent that those without them are looked down upon as being highly deprived. No religion or any society has made seeking wealth and authority forbidden. Moreover, these two are seen as effective tools to bettering the socio-political strength of the society. The problem is when wealth and power become ends and not means to attaining greatness and benefitting others for the sake of Allaah, Exalted be He.
Man wakes up and works from sunrise in the morning to sundown in the evening seeking wealth or scheming on how to attain power and authority and this shifts his focus from the Hereafter to this world. By his toiling tirelessly, he thinks of this world as an end forgetting its temporary and deceptive nature. So, whatever he acquires of this world he holds onto it tightly as though he will never part ways with it. All his life he has always wanted to be rich and powerful and because he sees these two as the ultimate ends thus, he becomes overly greedy not wanting to genuinely benefit others. He would rather invest in others for his sake rather than for their sake. And because of this twist and shift in paradigm where means is seen as an end, the society remains stagnant.
Nothing destroys man faster than the lust for women, wealth and power. While the first arguably necessitates the second and the third, these last two take away compassion in the heart of man and replaces it with greed. He finds it difficult to benefit others with his wealth and power, he would rather use them to his advantage to acquire more and more wealth and to strengthen his political base. One of the most interesting descriptions of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) given by Allaah in the Glorious Qur’an is that, they were selfless and full of compassion towards others and their focus was the Hereafter and they understood that the things of this world are means to an end of the Hereafter. Allaah, Exalted be He says: “And those who, before them, had homes (in Al-Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given (from the booty of Bani An-Nadir), and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from the stinginess of his soul, such are they who will be the successful.” Qur’an 59:9
The wrong perception man has of wealth and power forces him to oppress others and even kill them. He assumes that by the time he acquires wealth then he can have whatever he so desires and because man’s desire is endless he becomes a slave to his own lust. With much wealth he seeks power and authority because wealth without genuine generosity is boring. To him the absolute end in this world is to have wealth and power. He has failed to see wealth and power as means of having a fulfilled life in this world and a favorable decision in the Hereafter. Allaah Exalted be He, tells us in the Qur’an that wealth and power and every blessing of this world are a means to an end (that is, the Hereafter). He says: “But seek, with that (wealth) which Allaah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allaah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not the Mufsidun (those who commit great crimes and sins, oppressors, tyrants, mischief-makers, corrupts).” Qur’an 28:77
To further illustrate how dangerous it is to have this wrong notion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a narration by al-Bukhari said: “Perish the slave of the dinar and the slave of the dirham and the slave of fine clothing; if he is given he is pleased and if he is not given he is angry. Let him perish and relapse, and if he is pierced by a thorn let him not find anyone to remove it for him…” At the worst level of it, a man becomes so greedy and stingy that he stops spending on himself and his family he would rather have his account balance expanding than do the needful because to him, nothing after wealth and power.
If man truly understands that wealth and power and nay, everything of this world is a means not an end, he will become selfless, he will benefit others for the sake of Allaah, he will not amass wealth illegitimately, he will not become blindly desperate for power, he will simply use these blessings as tools to benefit others thereby earning the pleasure of Allaah and this the ultimate goal of any sane believer. With wealth and power as means, an individual can turn a hamlet into a city, a poor population into an economic hub, his selfish nature into selfless one and his addiction to wealth and power will be significantly tamed and we will once again live in a sane society.