Quran Journey Series: Reflections on the Quran Verses – V

Jul 22nd, 2013 | By | Category: Quran Journey Series, Religion

greedIn the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Woe to every slanderer and backbiter. Who has gathered wealth and counted it. He thinks that his wealth will make him last forever!  Nay! Verily, he will be thrown into the crushing Fire. And what will make you know what the crushing Fire is? The fire of Allah, kindled, Which leaps up over the hearts. Verily, it shall be closed in on them. In pillars stretched forth (i.e. they will be punished in the Fire with pillars, etc.). (Chapter 104)

The Surah is a powerful point-blank condemnation of all forms of greed and lust for material objects that human beings desire. While Islam recognizes the existence and importance of the material universe and acknowledges human dependency on material things of this world, yet it also delineates limits which should not be trespassed and stresses on balance and moderation, reminding us at the same time that

“Truly, the life of this world is nothing but a (quick passing) enjoyment, and verily, the Hereafter that is the home that will remain forever.” (Quran 40:39)

When this lesson is forgotten, the balance is lost, and one begins to consider the luxuries and comforts of this life as the be-all and end-all. One begins to hanker after these losing all sense of proportion that this life is a mere droplet in the ocean of eternity. And in this mad rat-race for more and more of this world, one loses his sense of reality as he chases vain dreams, selfish desires impelled by the egotistical impulse. Little does he know that he chases all but shadows.

In this endless breathless wild-goose chase, he becomes a slave to his physical desires and baser instincts, acting on their imperious command, and his soul is stifled and suffocated. he becomes obsessed with himself, self-absorbed and narcissistic. His single concern in life is his own material well-being which he uni-focally seeks to advance.

This has significant effects on his spiritual condition. The very basis of Muslim life is submission. However, relentlessly following the desires of his bloated Self, he becomes utterly incapable of submission, humility, surrender. He worships the god of his desires, the god of wealth, fame, power and can no longer uphold faith in ‘ no god but Allah.’  The altruistic impulses of his soul are snuffed out as a rugged narcissism and self-love takes over. The symptoms of this inner moral decay are as the surah mentions, that he becomes a slanderer and backbiter. He trespasses and flouts all limits to fulfill his greed, to the extent that he violates the rights of others and tramples over them in his relentless chase. He has no regard for others and sees them only as means to achieve his personal agenda, to be used and abused for convenience. Human connections are based on mutual respect, sharing, humbleness, inclusion, selflessness, sincerity. He has none of those, hence he is incapable of any sincere human connection and feels no shame in speaking ill of others behind their backs (backbiting) or to their face, blaming them, vilifying them (slander) and stripping them of all dignity, if that serves his own devious ends.   …and do not back-bite one another. Do any of you (who back-bite) love to eat the flesh of your dead brother? Rather, you detest this act, therefore have consciousness of Allah. Certainly Allah is the One who is Oft-Turning to you in repentance, the Merciful.’ (Surah Hujurat, verse 12)

The love of wealth and luxury gives such a person a false sense of permanence of these temporal, transient objects. He gradually forgets that all is fleeting, all a passing shadow, and that the dust of the grave awaits him in the end. It is only belief in the hereafter and a consciousness of accountability before a higher power that restrains man from blindly and madly pursuing material goal to the extent of losing all sense of balance and discrimination between good and evil. It is the absence of the certainty in the afterlife that is the seed of greed and lust in the human heart. Once this greed is allowed to take root, it becomes an all-consuming fire destroying the altruistic impulses and the seed of faith in a higher Power that owns all life. What takes over this inner vacuity and emptiness is a bloated self dominated by the carnal desires of the ‘id.’‘Have you seen the one who has taken his own desires as his god?’

Hence the punishment for such a life is the raging fire of Hell. The fire of greed that burns to ashes all restraints, all traces of goodness ends up in the Home of Fire that crushes just like this person crushed his soul. However, the stay in this Crushing Place is eternal and ever-lasting, just as he vainly thought his joyride, his heydays of revelling in physical pleasures were going to last forever. The flames shall mount and leap high over him like towers just like his own towering ambition to possess, acquire and hold on to what was not rightfully his. That is Divine Justice.

May Allah save us from His Wrath and make us recipients of His Mercy.


Maryam Sakeenah

About the author

Maryam Sakeenah teaches Sociology, Literature and Islamic Studies in Lahore, Pakistan. She authored a book documenting Islamic and Oriental responses to the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Maryam is also a social worker running an organization providing free virtual primary education for the poor.

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