What About the Rich?

Updated: Sep 9, 2018

We're always making dua for the poor, but what about the rich? If we actually pondered about it, the rich are in equal need of guidance as the poor. "I looked into Paradise and found most of its residents were the poor." What does that hadith tell you? What is a harder test? Wealth or poverty? Wealth. Further, our deen is neither a religion of the rich or the poor. The 'bad guys' are not the Have's, while the Have-Nots are not always victims.

It's true, the Prophet ﷺ loved the poor, but for what reason? For the incidentals that come along with not having much wealth. Namely, humility, spare time to go to the masjid and pray, reliance upon Allah, simple living. In many ways, less wealth equals more of a lot of other things, like spirituality, family ties, etc. The poor are often easy to get along with which is a virtue, as the Prophet ﷺ said, "The believer is approachable and easy to get on with."

However...note that poverty itself is nothing to aim for. There's not a single verse or hadith that tell us to go out there and try to be poor. The Prophet ﷺ said, "Leaving your inheritors with wealth is better than leaving them impoverished, relying upon people." And he ﷺ said, "The strong believer is better than the weak believer, and goodness is in both." And, "The honest merchant is with the martyrs on the Day of Judgement" (Darimi, Tirmidhi). Surat al-Jum'a tells us, "When the prayer is over, go seek the bounty of Allah." So all over the texts, we get the opposite message: go out there and make money.

And so we what we come away with is that we have to observe this delicate balance: we are to seek wealth, but beware its pitfalls. We are to avoid poverty, but recognize the beauty of its positive affects. In other words: fill your bank accounts, but be in your humility and reliance upon Allah, like the poor.

There's so much direction out there on how to handle poverty. But no so much on how to handle being rich. The rich need specific guidance. You don't need to tell the poor to make dhikr: they're sent to their knees every time a bill arrives in the mail. There are poor people who are literally triggered by the sight of their mailbox or the thought of going out to get the mail, because of how much bad news comes in those envelopes. But for the rich, they must be encouraged specifically towards dhikr, because never ever having a worldly need leads to the hardness of the heart. "The human being always goes beyond his limits when he has no need." The rich have to be informed of the great importance of the jama'a in our salvation, because it's very tempting, once you become wealthy, to seal yourself off from people. And I know people who are so rich, they seal themselves off because everyone is after their money. They don't know who is a real friend and who is not. 

Lastly, the rich have a very importance place in the deen. Imam al-Haddad said, the community stands on the backs of four people: the scholar, the ascetic worshipper, the leader (amir) and the business man who finances it all. (The alignment is Abu Bakr the scholar, Umar the leader, Uthman the merchant, Ali the ascetic.) 

We also overlook the hadith I mentioned above: the honest merchant is resurrected with the martyrs. Why? Because as the martyr is the last line of the defense, the honest merchant is the first. There's a famous saying, "When merchants cross borders, soldiers stay home." Internally, when trade is booming, people are happy (assuming fair distribution); there is no need for rebellion. Likewise, when nations are trading and making each other rich, the leaders will never go to war.

May Allah give sabr to the poor and allow them to benefit from their test, and climb out of it into blessed wealth. And may Allah give guidance to the rich and allow their wealth to be a cause by which they attain Paradise. ​ Ameen.

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