Hadith 35: Do Not Be Envious

On the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not be envious of one another; do not artificially raise prices against one another; do not hate one another; do not turn one’s back on each other; and do not undercut one another in business transactions. And be, [O] servants of Allah, bretheren. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him. He does not fail him [when he needs him]. He does not lie to him. And he does not show contempt for him. Piety is here” – and he pointed to his chest three times. “It is enough of evil for a person to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All of a Muslim is inviolable to another Muslim: his blood, his wealth and his honor.” (Recorded in Muslim)

The Narrator

Abu Huaira, may Allah be pleased with him, embraced Islam in the seventh year after hijrah, and was well known for his piety. Abu Huraira was his kunya or nickname and it means the father of cats, after the pets that he so loved. His given name was Abdul Rahmaan ibn Sakhr ibn al-Dausi. He may Allah be pleased with him, was a constant companion of the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and lived in the Prophet’s mosque as one of the people known as ahl al-Suffa, or the people of the verandah, due to his living there. His close proximity to the Prophet meant that he was able to relate more hadith than any other companion, 5374 in total. The Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, guided Abu Huraira to an act that would ensure that he never forgot any of the hadith that he learnt. At night, along with praying the late night prayer, he would study and memorise hadith. He was very cautious when narrating them, may Allah be pleased with him.

“Do not be envious of one another…”

The word translated here as ‘envy’ is al-hasad in Arabic. The concept of hasad includes hating to see someone superior or better off than yourself, disliking it when someone else receives a bounty, or wishing that someone else would lose what they have. It thus incorporates a range of scenarios, some being worse in degree than others.

The Evils of Hasad

Hasad is a disease of the heart. It was the cause of one of the first sins ever committed. Envy and pride are what caused Satan to be jealous of Adam, and turn away from his Lord. He felt that he was better than Adam, and he did not feel that it was right that Allah gave the bounty of knowledge to Adam. As Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says in the Qur’an:

“[Allah] said, ‘What kept you from prostrating when I ordered you?’ He said, ‘I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay” (Surah al Araaf:12)

SubhanAllah, how simple and deadly are the diseases of pride and envy? ‘I am better than you because…’ You see this beginning in childhood and lasting throughout life, ‘My car is better than his’, ‘I hate her because she is better looking than me’, ’I wish I got that phone before she did’, ’My wedding was bigger than his’, ‘I don’t want him to get that job’, ‘I want my children to be more successful than theirs’. Comparing ourselves and our circumstances with others, and thinking ourselves better, or not wanting good for others, this is the disease of hasad. When hasad spreads amongst the people it is very destructive. It strikes at the core of love and compassion between the believers. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said concerning hasad:

“Creeping upon you is the disease of the peoples before you: envy and hatred. And the hatred is the thing that shaves. I do not say it shaves hair, but it shaves the religion. By the One in whose hand is my soul – or he said: by the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad – you will not enter Paradise until you believe. And you do not believe until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that will establish such for you: spreading the greetings (of peace) among yourselves.” (Recorded in Ahmad)

Harbouring envy in our hearts affects our faith and provides a way in for Satan. Envy breeds ungratefulness, hatred, backbiting and discontent. It causes division within the community, and even worse, within the family. Hasad can cause family members to argue and break the ties of blood relations. Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the two sons of Adam:

“And recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam (Cain and Abel) in truth. When each of them offered a sacrifice [to Allah], it was accepted from one of them but not the other. The latter said to the former, ‘I will surely kill you.’ The former said, ‘Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are pious. If you do not stretch your hand to kill me I shall never stretch my hand out to kill you, for I fear Allah Lord of the Worlds. Verily, I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours. Then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and this is the recompense of the wrongdoers.’ So the soul of the other encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother. So he murdered him and became one of the losers.” (Surah al-Maaidah: 27-30)

We can see that it was envy of his brother, and of his sacrifice being accepted, that led him to the grievous deed of murdering his own brother. A true believer should love for their brother what they love for themselves. They should feel happy when their brother or sister is blessed with something nice. This state of the heart is the opposite of hasad,which is a sign that a person’s soul is far away the level of imaan that it should achieve.

A Sign That One has the Disease of Hasad

According to ibn Uthaimeen, one of the strong signs that a person is inflicted with the disease of hasad is that they always try to conceal the virtues and goodness of others. They don’t like it when others talk about the good that another person has done. Hasadis also one of the greatest causes of backbiting, in that the person likes to put down other people rather than highlight their good points. If you are prone to pointing out others negative points, you may be suffering from hasad or that other evil disease that Satan suffered from – pride.

How to Free Oneself of the Disease or Effects of Hasad

If you feel you may be suffering from the problem of envy, realise that this is dangerous for your religion and therefore your soul. Consider deeply its evil and destructive effects, and know that it is displeasing to Allah and destructive to human relationships. If the feeling of envy comes to you, do whatever you can to repel it, think of something else, read Qur’an or perform a prayer. If you cannot get the thoughts our of your mind, then realise that they are only thoughts and if you don’t act on them, you will remain sinless. You should try to improve your actions towards the one that you feel envy for, develop you relationship and earn Allah’s pleasure. Realise that the true bounties are not the bounties of this world, but the bounties of the Hereafter. Concentrate on those and work towards that greater goal. With a change of focus, you will not worry about what others in this world are receiving.

“… do not artificially raise prices against one another…”

In this part of the hadith the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, stated that one should not commit al-najash. In business terms, this means that a person, neither the buyer nor the seller, bids up the price of an item, without the intention of buying it. If a Muslim does this, they are robbing the buyer of some of their wealth.

Although there is some difference of opinion, the majority of scholars hold that even if al-najash has occurred, the sale of the item is still valid, although the person who committed the act is a sinner. Imams Ahmad and Malik give the buyer the opportunity to cancel the transaction if they were not aware of what was going on and the price increase was a large one.

Ibn Uthaimeen states that there are three cases wherein one bids up the price of something. The first case if the prohibited case of najash, where one bids up the price of something although they have no intention of buying it. The second case is where the person feels that something is being sold at a cheap price, and they are prepared to buy it for that, but then the bidding continues and it goes beyond what they are prepared to pay for it and they stop bidding. There is nothing wrong with this type of action. The third case is where someone continues to bid until they have outbid everyone else and they buy the item. There is nothing wrong with this type of behavior either.

A second interpretation of this part of the hadith is more general, not restricting najashto business transactions. Lexically speaking, the root of the word najash implies, ‘he concealed himself’ as in a hunting game. In the more general understanding, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was implying with this wording that we should not deceive each other, or work in underhanded ways, or harm our fellow Muslim. This includes every type of business transaction and our behavior in general.

“… do not hate one another…”

Continuing with our summary of this hadith, as explained by Jamal al-Din M. Zarabozo in his work ‘Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi’, we find that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, prohibited us from hating each other. This means that we cannot hate our fellow Muslim over a difference of opinion, or due to their origin or the colour of their skin and so forth. All of that type of hatred is forbidden in Islam, and goes against the concept of Brotherhood.

It is clear from the Qur’an that one of the greatest blessings that Allah gives the believers is togetherness and the love of Islam. This is a very special kind of bond that transcends worldly things.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And remember Allah’s favour upon you. You were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His grace, you became bretheren. And you were on a brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it” (Surah ali-Imraan:103)

He, all praises and glory to Him, also says:

“And He has united their [the believers] hearts. If you [O Muhammad] had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts. But it is Allah who has united them. Certainly, He is All-Mighty, All-Wise” (Surah al-Anfaal:63)

We should never underestimate the importance of loving one another for the sake of Allah. In another hadith the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“You will never enter Paradise until you believe. And you will not believe until you love one another. Certainly, I shall guide you to something that, if you do it, you will love one another: Spread the greetings (of peace) among yourselves.” (Recorded in Muslim)

As we saw in the explanation of the evils of envy, spreading the salam brings us closer together, and fosters love amongst the Muslims. We should also be very careful to treat one another in the best of manners so that we do not offend or hurt the feelings of our fellow Muslims, as this can lead us towards the sin of hating one another. We should do our best to be patient and overlook each other’s faults. This is especially true of the husband and wife who have to deal with each other on a regular basis. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“A believing man should not hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one characteristic in her, he is pleased with another.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Highlighting the importance of love between the believers, Allah has also forbidden acts that lead to enmity and hatred, such as alcohol, gambling. He makes it clear that these are from the tools that Satan uses to cause hatred between humans. Allah says:

“Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred among you with intoxicants and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from the prayer. So will you not then abstain?” (al-Maaidah:91)

In the same way, Allah prohibits backbiting or speaking badly about others. He, all praises and glory be to Him, also praises those who try to reconcile the hearts and make peace between two people who have been estranged. All of these things work together to bring hearts closer together for the sake of Islam.

Is Hatred Amongst Muslims Ever Permissible?

It is important to note that this hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, does not mean that all forms of hatred are forbidden in Islam. There is one type of hatred that is permissible, hate for the sake of Allah. Indeed love and hate for the sake of Allah is a very important aspect of our faith. As the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“The one who loves for the sake of Allah, hates for the sake of Allah, gives for the sake of Allah and withholds for the sake of Allah has completed the faith.” (Recorded in Abu Dawood)

In other words, if a Muslim commits an evil, they should be hated for having transgressed the bounds of Allah by committing that evil, and if they commit good deeds they should be loved for performing those good deeds. Hating for the sake of Allah does not mean that we do not advise others. Perhaps Allah will guide that person to what is better, and only Allah knows what is in the hearts.

An interesting point to highlight here is when people begin having different opinions about the religion, and often times divide, they tend to hate and curse each other, and say it’s for the sake of Allah. Sometimes they may be excused for what they are doing, but many times, the hatred is in fact based on their own personal dislikes and desires. They are following a certain scholar, but do not realise that he could in fact be wrong.  They hate everyone who opposes his opinion. In such a case, this hatred for others is not actually for the sake of Allah, and is not correct according to the Shareerah. 

So let’s remember to spread the salam, amongst those whom we know and those who we don’t, to deal with each other with the best of manners, and not to backbite or lie. Let’s try to overlook each other’s shortcomings, and advise each other to what is best. Remember that the only permissible form of hate is hate for the sake of Allah, and the best form of love is love for His sake.

“… do not turn one’s back on each other…”

A Muslim should never cut off relations with their fellow Muslim. They should always strive to greet each other with a smiling face, and should respond to the greetings given by others. This is part of keeping the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam alive. In fact, Islam teaches us that to avoid or boycott another Muslim for more than three says, solely for the sake of worldly reasons or personal likes and dislikes, is prohibited. Another hadith tells us that:

“It is not allowed for a man to boycott his brother for more than three nights, when they meet this one turns away and the other turns away. The best of them is the one who is the first to offer the greetings.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If we find that we are in this type of situation with another Muslim, where we are avoiding them and harboring ill-feelings towards them, we should realise that this is prohibited, and strive to rectify the situation.

One way of overcoming this is to meet the other person and give them the salam, because spreading the salam brings peace and enjoins the hearts. If that is not enough, try asking yourself, ‘Is this thing that I am upset about so serious that I am not afraid of being found sinful in front of Allah?’ There is only one answer to that question.

Permissible Forms of ‘Boycotting’

As with the case of hatred towards other Muslims, there are also forms of boycotting that are considered permissible or sanctioned by the shareeah. This exception to the rule is generally reserved for when Allah’s rights are violated, not just the rights of individuals. This type of boycotting of an individual, who has transgressed the rights of Allah, may go on for more than three days, until the situation is remedied.

There are numerous examples of where the Companions boycotted others for the wrong that they did. This type of boycotting is a way of illustrating to the offender how serious their offence is. There is an example recorded in Sahih Muslim, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ordered a boycott of two men who failed to take part in the Battle of Tabook. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, did this because he feared for the men, having committed a sin that was akin to an act of apostacy. They were therefore boycotted for months, and their greetings were not responded to. Finally, Allah accepted their repentance and the Muslims returned to their old behaviour with them.

It is also permitted for a husband to boycott his wife if he sees bad conduct for her, on account of the ayah:

“As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), then refuse to share their beds…” (Surah al-Nisaa:34)

The purpose of the act is to solve the problem if talking won’t work, and it does not mean that he should display this type of behaviour in front of others. Rather it is to be done in private, as a way of showing her how upset he is by her behaviour.

We can see then, that boycotting behaviour is permitted if it is done for a purpose that is approved by the shareeah, and should only be resorted to when it is judged that its benefits will be greater than its harm.

“…and do not undercut one another in business transactions.”

We can find this command of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to not undercut one another in business transactions, in a number of hadith. For example, we see it mentioned in the following:

“The Prophet forbade the city dweller from selling on behalf of a bedouin. And there is to be no najash. One also should not undercut others in business transactions. A man should not make a proposal against the proposal of his brother. A woman should not ask that her sister be divorced in order to take her place.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

We can see that there is an emphasis here on not ‘acting against one another’. Some of the scholars, such as Ahmad, have understood this to be a part of the rights of Muslim brotherhood. Others, such as An-Nawawi, have interpreted the hadith more generally, to incorporate not undercutting non-Muslim’s in business transactions either.

Economic well-being is a very fundamental aspect of our lives, and Allah makes it clear in the Qur’an, that wealth is beloved to many people. It is therefore also one of that main causes of dispute. Even small sums of money can cause people to argue and hate one another. So in the interests of maintaining good relations, we should be very careful to act fairly in all our dealings.

The type of action that this is hadith is referring to is if someone has bought something for a set price, and then another person comes and says, ‘I could sell you that, or better, for less’ and as a result the person returns the item to the first seller and buys it from the other person for the cheaper price. This would cause grief and misgivings to the original seller and it is therefore forbidden. Another example would be someone agreeing to sell something for a set price and then a second person coming and saying they will buy it for more, so the seller nullifies his agreement with the first person and sells it to the second. This type of action is also forbidden.

This hadith demonstrates to us the emphasis that Islam gives to business dealings. They are not simply considered to be a way of getting ahead on the world, rather they are based on strong ethics and consideration for others. There was a time in which the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, was in the marketplace, and he put his hand into a pile of grain and found that it was wet at the bottom. He asked the vendor, who told him that rain had fallen on it. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the said:

“Why did you not put it on top of the grain so people could see it? Whoever deceives is not from me.” (Recorded in Muslim)

We can therefore see that the key to a blessed business transaction is honesty and straightforwardness. A good Muslim realises that every business dealing must be based on sound morals and ethics, and that Allah will judge them not just on their actions, but on their intentions as well.

“…And be, [O] servants of Allah, bretheren. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim.”

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, summarised the point of the previous instructions by informing us that we should be brothers (and sisters) to one another. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

“Verily, the believers are but one brotherhood” (Surah al-Hujuraat:10)

In order to preserve this sense of brotherhood, Muslims should treat each other with respect. Each Muslim should think of themselves as part of greater brotherhood that has the goal of serving and worshipping Allah. This goal is met partly through treating one another with the best of conduct and concern, for the sake of Allah alone. A Muslim should not work against another Muslim in any way.

We should note here that every Muslim is the brother or sister of another Muslim, regardless of their race, nationality, ethnicity, skin colour and so forth. We are brothers and sisters in Islam. We love each other for the sake of Allah, not because we belong to the same tribe. If a Muslim mistreats or discriminates against another Muslim because of their race or colour, they are sinning and wronging their fellow Muslim, and they will be held accountable for this.

Further, if a Muslim follows any of the accepted schools of fiqh (madhabs or schools of thought) or works for any of the groups working for Islam (that do not fall into the realm of kufr), then they are a brother or sister to all other Muslims. Whether you are a Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi or a Salafi you a part of the brotherhood of Islam and they should treat each other well.

The level of love and loyalty that we have towards one another should be determined only by the level of righteousness and good deeds that others possess. In other words we should love each other for the sake of Allah, and love in others what Allah loves. We should also be especially careful not to commit any acts that will harm our fellow Muslims. These will be detailed in the following posts inshaAllah.

“… He does not wrong him…”

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, next told us that a Muslim should not wrong their fellow Muslim.

The concept of dhulm, or wrongdoing was discussed in detail in a previous post. Wrongdoing towards other people, including non-Muslims, will not be overlooked by Allah, and must be rectified. Because you have taken from a person’s rights or their honour by wronging them, you must restore what was taken. One must either seek forgiveness from the wronged person, or perform a deed that will restore the injustice (such as saying something good about them to the same audience you said something bad if you were backbiting, paying back money etc), or suffer punishment in this life or the Hereafter. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Whoever has wronged another concerning his reputation or anything else should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money [to compensate for wrong deeds], but, if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to the wrong he has done. And if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)

When we think that even saying something about someone that they would not like to hear is a punishable form of wrongdoing, how many of us can truly say that we have nothing to fear on the Day of Resurrection? Take heed and watch your tongue, for nothing leads us to Hellfire like the sins of the tongue.

If the wrongdoing is committed on a large scale, for instance against a class of people, it can lead to a great deal of hatred and even, as we have seen historically, civil strife. People who are constantly wronged  or oppressed by others may finally revolt against the wrongdoers, even if they are of the same religion. A Muslim society should therefore be free of wrongdoing both at an individual and societal level.

“… He does not fail him [when he needs him]…”

When we reflect on the concepts of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘sisterhood’ in Islam, we can see that they seek to foster almost familial relationships between the believers, and this carries with it both benefits and responsibilities. One of the responsibilities that we have, as brothers and sisters is Islam, is to be there for each other in our times of need.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, commanded the Muslims to help and assist each other. In one hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, stated:

“Help your brother, whether he is the one doing wrong or the one being wronged.” They [the Companions] said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), we know how to help him if he is being wronged, but how do we help him if he is the one doing the wrong?” He answered, “Take him by his hand.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)

We can see from this hadith that we should not fail to assist our brother or sister in Islam even if they are wronging their own selves. This obligation therefore extends from just helping one in distress, right through to guiding them to what is best for their own souls. We can see that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, actually instructed us to ‘take him by his hand’ that is physically prevent him from wronging himself.

Mutual support, aid and assistance is therefore a vital aspect of the brotherhood of Islam. Not only does it enjoin the hearts, and work to prevent evil, but we also find, by the blessing of Allah, that if a Muslims helps their fellow Muslim, Allah will help them in return. Let’s reflect on the beautiful example of the Ansaar, the helpers, from Madinah. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says in the Qur’an:

“But those [Ansaar] who, before them, had homes [in Madinah] and had adopted the Faith – they love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given [from the booty], but they [the Ansaar] give them [the Emigrants] preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be successful.” (Surah al-Hashr:9)

We know that the Ansaar assisted the Muhajirin, the Muslim migrants from Makkah, not just with their hands, but with their homes, their livelihoods, their food and even their wives, such was their selfless motivation to help the Muslims in their time of need. They asked nothing in return, they only hoped for the reward of Allah.

This obligation of assistance is not limited to those Muslims that we know, it extends to all Muslims in the fold of Islam. We have obligations to those suffering in other countries, even if we do not know them. If we do not have the financial or physical capacity to help other Muslims in need, especially those suffering in other lands, then the very least that we can do is make dua for them. We should seek out the best times to make dua – the last third of the night, when breaking the fast, between Asr and Maghribon a Friday etc – and plead Allah to help those Muslims suffering in those situations.

How many of us actually get up in the last third of the night, with the specific intention of asking Allah to relieve the suffering of Muslims that we do not know, or even those that we do? Really this is a sign of how heard our hearts have become. Muslims should pray for one another, for forgiveness of sins, for the best of this life and the Hereafter, for an end to suffering etc. Remember that when you make dua for you fellow Muslim, Allah will grant the dua for yourself also. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“No Muslim servant [of Allah] prays for his brother behind his back except that an angel says, ‘And for you the same.’” (Recorded in Muslim)

And also:

“For whoever seeks forgiveness for the believing men and women, Allah will record one good deed corresponding to every believing and and woman.” (Recorded in al-Tabaraani)

What greater motivation could we ask for?

“…He does not lie to him…”

In this portion of the hadith, the Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, told us that a Muslim should not lie to their fellow Muslim. It is also narrated in other hadith, that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, did not like people to lie. When a person lies to someone else, they are betraying the other person’s trust in them.

When a Muslim listens to another Muslims, they expect that they are telling them the truth. If we tell lies, even ‘small’ ones, we break this sense trust. Lying then leads to many ills, including animosity, hatred, and a sense of betrayal. It can cause relationships to breakdown, and erode the sense unity and togetherness within a community.

There is only one circumstance, from a Shareeah point of view,  in which any form of lying is permitted. That is for the ultimate goal of reconciling the hearts of those who are estranged. This greater good of bringing about harmony between two people is so important that it is considered permissible to tell a lie in order to help reconcile the hearts.

If you feel tempted to tell a lie for any reason other than this, even if you think it’s ‘harmless’, remember who the ultimate liar is… Shaitan. Shaitan loves it when we lie to one another. It is his way of causing mischief amongst the people. Seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan and remain silent, that is far more beneficial for you.

“…And he does not show contempt for him…”

Like envy, pride and arrogance were the cause of the first sins ever committed. Satan was arrogant and envious with respect to Adam, in that he thought he was better than him. Envy, pride and arrogance prevented Satan from obeying Allah and bowing down to Adam, peace be upon him. From this lesson we can see what dangerous and threatening things arrogance and pride are. If we have even a small amount of pride in our hearts, it could lead us to the Hell-Fire. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“One who has an atom’s weight of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise” A man said, “But a man loves that his clothes are nice and his shoes are nice.” He [the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] replied, “Verily Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. [Thus, that is not pride] Pride is rejecting the truth and showing disdain for the people.” (Recorded in Muslim)

In general, an arrogant or proud person thinks that they are better than others. Brotherhood implies treating each others as equals and giving people their due rights. In fact it implies giving preference to others over ourselves. When we look down on others, or think that we are better than them, because of our education or job etc, this shows contempt for the other person and this does not give the person their rights. This attitude strikes at the very heart of the concept of Brotherhood upon which Islam is based.

We do not know what is in the hearts of others. The poorer, simpler person may well be more pious than us, because they have only Allah to rely on. By thinking ourselves better, we may also forget that it is Allah who has given us our blessings. In a blink of an eye He, all praises and glory be to Him, could take everything away and where would we be then?

If we find ourselves suffering from this sin of arrogance and pride and having contempt for others, we should stop to reflect on our origins. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, created us from a clot, a small clinging thing, mixed juices that we would not even touch if we saw them. He took us from this state and gave us the faculties of hearing, sight, intelligence and affection through no effort of our own. Everything we have comes from Him. Should we not then stop feeling pride, and rather be grateful and give thanks?

“Piety is here” – and he pointed to his chest three times.”

For us, as human beings, our most important concern should not be our appearance, or the colour of our skin, or the amount of money we have. In fact, it is not even our outward actions that are of the utmost importance. The most important concern for us is what is in our hearts, and piety or taqwa is a matter of the heart. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“Verily, Allah does not look at your bodies or your shapes. But He looks at your hearts.”(Recorded in Muslim)

To have taqwa, is to fear Allah in our hearts and to strive to protect ourselves from His anger or punishment. The minimum aspect of taqwa, is to obey Allah and not disobey Him. To achieve a higher level, one must put some distance between oneself and anything that could anger Allah. The people of taqwa, will leave even permissible deeds out of fear that there might be something harmful in them. Leaving these doubtful or permissible deeds then acts as a barrier between the believer and any acts of disobedience. When a believer performs all the obligatory deeds that they are capable of  and stays away from all the forbidden and doubtful matters, and when they further perform the recommended acts and stay away from the disapproved ones, they are truly deserving of the title muttaqeen “the people possessing taqwa“.

Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says in the Qur’an:

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female , and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable among you in the sight of Allah is the one with the most taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Surah al-Hujuraat:13)

The beauty of this is that only Allah knows what is in the hearts of the people. We as human beings, can’t determine what is inside someone’s heart. We should therefore not look down on anybody, because they may in fact be very beloved to Allah. A person may look contemptible from a wordly point of view, and yet they may be very beloved to Allah due to their taqwa. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

“O believers! Let not a group of you scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let [some] women scoff at other women for it may be that the latter are better than the former.” (Surah al-Hujuraat:11)

Outward appearances and ‘status’ should therefore not be our basis for judging others. This point is illustrated in a very telling hadith:

“A man passed by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he [the Messenger (peace be upon him)] asked someone who was siting next to him, “What do you think of that man?” He said, “He is from the noblest class of people. By Allah, if he were to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, his proposal would be accepted. If he were to intercede on behalf of another, his intercession would be accepted.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) kept quiet. Then another man passed by and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) asked the same man “What do you think of that man?” He replied, “He is from the poor Muslims. If he were to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage it would not be accepted. If he were to intercede on behalf of someone, his intercession would not be accepted. And if he were to speak, no one would listen to his speech.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) then said, “This [poor] man is better than an earth full of the other [type of man].” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)

SubhanAllah this should give us such a long pause for thought.

This is the exact opposite of the criteria that most people use to judge others. The heartbreaking point that is illustrated here is that because of people’s perceived status, they are given preference over others who are in fact more beloved to Allah. Many times, when it comes to the marriage of their children, parents look for the suitor with the best status, the best job, the best tribe, the best family, but not, the best taqwa. The Prophet, peace be upon him, advised us to choose the partner that is the most pious, and that is better for us.

On the Day of Judgement, the true ‘value’ and ‘worth’ of people will be shown, and it will not be the worldly criteria that matter. It will not benefit us that we were wealthy, or from an important family, or were the Managing Director of such and such a company. The only thing that will matter is what matters to Allah – and that is the state of our hearts.

“It is enough of evil for a person to hold his brother Muslim in contempt.”

We can see here that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is further emphasizing what he stated earlier in this hadith – that a Muslim should never show contempt or look down on another Muslim. His use of language shows us that looking down on others is a serious matter, in fact it is a form of evil.

In his commentary on this hadith, Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo points out that Allah created human beings as noble creatures. Allah has further blessed Muslims with the gift of faith. When we consider this fact, it should show us that we have no right to look down on those that Allah has blessed. Contempt for our fellow Muslims is manifested in actions such as: not greeting a Muslim when we see them, not responding to their salam, backbiting them, and thinking they are not deserving of Paradise and so forth. When we do or think these things, we are in fact holding our fellow Muslims in contempt, which the Prophet, peace be upon him, has shown us is a sin.

Al-Nawawi argues that no Muslim should ever look down on, or belittle anyone else, and they should never think that they are better than others. They should either assume that others are better than them, or have no opinion on the matter. This is because we have no idea where the final resting place of a human being will be. Even if it is a non-Muslim, Allah may guide them to what is better. If it is a young Muslim, they may have committed less sins than us. If it an elder Muslim, they have been in Islam longer than us. If it is a non-pious Muslim, Allah may guide them to what is better. We do not know the heart or the final end of anyone, so it is not our place to judge or look down upon anyone else. And Allah knows best.

All of a Muslim is inviolable to another Muslim: his blood, his wealth and his honor.”

This is one of the most important messages of Islam with respect to society. Because of this, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, made this same point on several significant occasions in his life, including during his Farewell Pilgrimage. We see this example in the following hadith:

“On the authority of ibn Abbaass: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) delivered a speech to the people on the Day of Sacrifice. He said, “O people, what day is this?” They answered, “The sacred (inviolable) day.” The he said, “What land is this?” They answered, “The sacred land”. Then he said, “What month is this?” They said, “The sacred month.” He said, “Verily, your blood, wealth and honour are inviolable for you as the sacredness of this day of yours in this land of yours in this month of yours.” He repeated this a number of times and then he raised his head and said, “O Allah, have I conveyed the message? O Allah, have I conveyed the message?” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

SubhanAllah, what a powerful message. If these instructions of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, were adhered to, Muslims would live secure and protected lives. The Prophet, peace be upon him, particularly mentioned blood, wealth and honour, because if these were protected, everything else would be secure. There are numerous ahadith in this collection of Imam Al-Nawawi, that give the same message – none of our actions should harm our fellow Muslims. Before we do an action we should ask ourselves firstly whether it is permissible according to the shareeah, and secondly, will it cause any harm to our fellow Muslims? We cannot just concern ourselves with our own happiness and needs, we must also think of others.

Except in cases permitted by law, a Muslim must avoid the shedding of any other Muslim’s blood, or indeed harming them in any way. No Muslim should harm another’s wealth, and we should show respect for our fellow Muslim’s property. If we borrow something, we should take care of it. If we harm another’s property we should compensate them for it. The importance that Islam places on the protection wealth is evident in the shareeah punishment for theft – the removal of the thief’s hand, if certain conditions are met. It is harsh but it emphasises the  importance of safeguarding each other’s wealth. Finally, a person’s honour is to be respected in the same way as their blood and wealth. This means that we must be extremely careful about what we say about other Muslims. Backbiting – speaking truthfully behind another’s back in ways that are displeasing to them – is a violation of honour. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, describes this deed as follows:

“Do not backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it [so do not backbite]. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Hujuraat:12)

When we reflect on the lack of implementation of these principles of safeguarding each other’s blood, wealth and honour, in our communities today, is it any surprise that we lack the sense of brotherhood that occurred amongst the earliest Muslims, who took these teachings very seriously? Not adhering to these principles erodes our sense of trust and community and the concepts of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam.

Let’s reflect on whether we are adhering to these noble principles, and if not, let’s strive to rectify our conduct and seek forgiveness for those we have wronged. Let’s call ourselves to account before we are called to account.

Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 3) [Previously published in 3 Volumes] by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 1247-1308

3 Responses to Hadith 35: Do Not Be Envious

  1. Idris says:

    السلام عليكم
    جزاك اللهُ خيراً
    For this article
    If its possible could you say who wrote it
    جزاك اللهُ خيراً


    • Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu
      The hadith explanations are a summary of the Commentary on the Forty Hadith of An-Nawawi by Jamal al-Din Zarabozo, published in three volumes. You can find the link under the title 40 Hadith listed above inshaAllah.


      • Abdul Aziz hussaini says:

        My name is abdulaaziz Hussain, I am a Nigerian.

        thank you for this widely explanations on jealousy and envy.

        May Allah S.W.T reward u with a longevity life that will help Islam, and then put blessings into it, Ameen.

        May Allah also increase u with a great knowledge that will help Islam. Ameen.

        May Allah reward and bless u with a great family that will help Islam. Ameen.

        wassalamu alaikum.


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