Miserliness, Stinginess and Envy

The exegetes said regarding the ayah: “And whoever is saved from the stinginess of his self…” (al-Hashr 59:9) it is to not take something that Allah has prohibited and to not refuse something that Allah has commanded to be paid. Stinginess commands the opposite of what Allah and His Messenger command. Allah prohibits oppression and orders good deeds, and stinginess orders oppression and prohibit good deeds.

Abdul Rahman ibn Awf, may Allah be pleased with him, used to circumambulate the Kabah often and during the stay on Arafah would say: ‘Oh Allah, save me from the stinginess of my ‘self‘. He was asked about that, so he said: ‘When I am saved from stinginess of my ‘self‘, I am saved from oppression, miserliness and severing ties of kinship’. It was also transmitted from Ibn Masud: ‘Indeed I fear that I will be destroyed’. Someone said: ‘By what?’ He said: ‘I heard Allah saying: “And whoever is saved from the stinginess of his self…” (al-Hashr 59:9) while I am a stingy man. I can barely let anything go from my hands’. So he said: ‘That is not the stinginess that Allah mentions in the Qur’an. Stinginess is only that you consume the wealth of your brother oppressively and miserliness. And what an evil thing is miserliness.’

Allah exalted is He, has mentioned ‘stinginess‘ in the context of envy and selflessness in the ayah: ”And [al-Ansar] do not find in their chests a need for what [al-Muhajirun] were given and they prefer them over themselves even though they are in poverty.” (al-Hashr 59:9) then He said: “And whoever is saved from the stinginess of his self, then those, they are successful.” So whoever is saved from the stinginess of his self is not envious and hateful towards the one he envies. The basis of envy is the hatred towards the one envied.

Stinginess can be in a man along with free, a strong desire for wealth, hate for another and oppression of him, as Allah, exalted is He, stated: “And Allah knows those who stay behind among you and say to their brothers ‘Come to us’. And they do not come to the fiercest part of the battle except a few in indignation towards you…” up to: “…stingy at any good. Those do not believe. Thus Allah has frustrated their efforts.” (al-Ahzab 33: 18-19)

So their stinginess with the Believers and anything good includes disliking and hating them. Hating any good demands evil, and hating people demands oppressing and severing ties with them, as with envy. For indeed envy demands that a person envy the other through oppressing the one envied and severing ties with him as with the sons of Adam and the brothers of Yusuf.

So envy and stinginess include hatred and dislike and they both pose as an obstacle to the obligatory and an oppression of that person. Indeed the act originates in him from hatred in contrast with whims, which originate from fancy. A person fancies something then follows it and does it, and his aim in that is a non existent order, and the non-existent has no benefit. However the objective [envy] is a matter with an existent order, so its command is obeyed. Ibn Masud, may Allah be pleased with him, made miserliness outside of stinginess and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made stinginess demand miserliness.

There are those who say the stinginess and miserliness are the same as Ibn Jarir said: ‘Stinginess in the Arabic language is miserliness and an obstacle to blessings from wealth.’ And it is not as he said, rather what the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, and Ibn Masud, may Allah be pleased with him, said has more of a right to followed for indeed the miserly are miserly with wealth out of love for what they are able to obtain of enjoyment and comfort in it. He cannot be truly delighted with it or comfortable, rather his self becomes tight from spending and it dislikes that to the point that he dislikes to spend on himself from it despite having a large amount of wealth. And this is despite his enjoyment in gathering wealth and his love of seeing it. There is no real enjoyment here as a basis, rather he dislikes to do any good for anyone to the point that even if someone else wished to give something, he dislikes that. It is out of hatred for any good, not for the one giving and not for the one being given, rather our of hatred for any good whatsoever. To hate and envy the one giving and the one given is stinginess and this is that which absolutely demands miserliness, although every instance is miserly, though not every instance of miserliness is stinginess.

Al-Khattabi said: ‘Stinginess is more serious in posing as an obstacle than miserliness. Miserliness is only one out of the various issues and characteristics of things. Stinginess is general, so it is like the description required for a person with respect to natural disposition and innate character.’

Al-Khattabi related about some of them: ‘Miserliness is to begrudge people with wealth, and stinginess is to begrudge with wealth and goodness.’ And it is said stinginess is to be stingy about someones else doing good for others and miserliness is to be miserly about doing good for others. Those who follow desires and their whims love that and wish for it so they follow their fancies and wishes without knowledge. They do not look to see whether that benefits or harms them in the end.

Gardens of Purification by Ibn Taymiyyah Pages 68-72