The Abundance of Wealth
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- Abundance diverts you,
- Until you come to the graves.
- Nay, you will soon know,
- Nay, again, you will soon know.
- Nay, would that you knew with a certain knowledge!
- You will certainly see hell;
- Then you will see it with certainty of sight;
- Then on that day you shall certainly be questioned about
This chapter was revealed at Makkah. By consensus of opinion, the
calamity mentioned in the last chapter (Al Qariah)
refers to the Day of Judgement, but in a small measure an example
of it was displayed in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
(sas). However, the intention in this chapter under discussion
is to point out that that frightful occurrence will confront each
individual separately at the time of death as if it were constantly
knocking at the door of each person. Unfortunately, the mad scramble
for wealth and honour in this life and the desire to supersede all
rivals have cast a pall of heedlessness over people. But wise is
the one who keeps this event always fresh in his mind and prepares
himself for it.
The Holy Quran states:
1-2. Abundance (Takathur) diverts you, until you come
to the graves.
Takathur really means vying to outdo one another in the
competition for power and pelf.
And who can deny the fact that, today, whether in the East or the
West, this rivalry for wealth has enveloped the whole world in such
a thick veil of heedlessness that the thought of death never even
crosses the mind of people? And having to stand before Allah and
account for their actions on earth is far from their minds, neither
do their hearts entertain the slightest concern for the next life.
So whoever wasted his life in disregard for religion will have as
the recompense for his deeds the fire of Hell which he was preparing
with his own hands as he became enslaved by the insane passion for
more and more wealth in this life. That is why Allah, Most High,
warns in the next two verses:
3-4. Nay, you will soon know, nay, again, you will soon know.
Here, one will observe that the words You will soon know
are repeated. There is no doubt that in the Holy Prophet’s time
those people who were engrossed in the desire and competition for
abundance of wealth and honour paid no heed whatever to the Prophet’s
message on account of their unmindfulness, so that in this very
world they saw the result of their carelessness in the form of disgrace
and destruction, and defeat and humiliation. This served as a foretaste
of what was to happen after they died and thus the warning hinted
at in the words You will soon know was fulfilled for them
right here in this life. In other words, the repetition of the warning
You will soon come to know was literally fulfilled in their
But these words have a general application, for the repercussion
of this heedlessness is not fully visible in this life and so people
are enmeshed in this mad race for wealth even up to the end of their
lives. Therefore, the real purpose behind the repetition of the
warning is to emphasize and to underline the importance of this
In the Holy Quran, Allah, Most High, is continually enlightening
us on the nature of the life after death and informing us of the
consequences of our deeds. And by means of incontrovertible proofs
and arguments, He presents the picture to us in such a reasonable
and logical manner that the whole affair has reached the point of
certainty. But, lamentably, man remains sunk in the torpor of negligence
as he gives rein to his lust for wealth and honour in this life.
So he hears not and cares not. Nevertheless, the time will certainly
come when he will be so clearly informed of all these things that
he will see the result plainly with his own eyes, but to his regret,
his realization and insight at that time will be useless.
The next three verses deal with the stages in attaining certainty.
5-7. Nay, would that you knew with a certain knowledge! You
will certainly see hell; then you will see it with certainty of
The Holy Quran has given us three stages in acquiring certainty.
Firstly, we can obtain certainty through proof that comes by way
of knowledge or by inference and this is called ‘ilm-ul-yaqin
(literally, the knowledge of certainty).
The second stage is that of witnessing something with our own eyes
and is referred to as ‘ain-ul-yaqin (literally, the eye of
The third stage comes about when we enter into something or when
we experience it ourselves and this stage is called haqq-ul-yaqin
(literally, the truth of certainty) as the Holy Quran mentions
in another verse: Innahu la haqq-ul-yaqin (And certainly
it is the certain Truth - 69:51).
To gain a better appreciation of the above three stages, the analogy
of a fire is eminently suitable. For example, if we see smoke rising
in the distance, then there is evidence that indeed there must be
a fire in that place. This is an example of ‘ilm-ul-yaqin.
But if we go to the location and actually see the fire with
our own eyes, then that is called ‘ain-ul-yaqin. Further
to this, if we enter the fire, so perfect will be our experience
that we will be able to confirm that this indeed is a fire, and
this state is referred to as haqq-ul-yaqin.
Here Allah is telling us that by means of the Holy Quran we
have been given so much proof by way of knowledge concerning
the reward or punishment for our actions that through these we have
reached the limit of certainty through knowledge. In other words,
Allah is telling us that the smoke from the fire has been disclosed
to us in this world so that we may save ourselves from the fire
If man were to benefit from the certainty of knowledge given to
him by way of the Holy Quran, he would not be ignorant of the reward
and punishment for his actions and hence of the punishment associated
with the continuous restless yearning and desire in him, day and
night, for this world’s wealth, status, honour and fame. Otherwise
deep down in his innermost being he would see that burning fire
which turns into black ashes all his most excellent morals and his
But if a person does not make use of this certain guidance and
knowledge, then it is inevitable that after he dies he will see
that fire of Hell with his very eyes (which is the state of ‘ain-ul-yaqin).
But witnessing the fire of Hell at that point will be of no use
to him, for that will be the time of accountability for actions,
and repentance will be of no avail then.
The certainty by means of knowledge which the Holy Quran has given
to us in this world is for us to reform ourselves so that we should
make use of this knowledge and certainty to become conscious and
alert and take remedial action.
So whoever did not benefit from it and left this world in a state
of negligence on account of his hankering after more and more wealth
will see that Hell which the Holy Quran had been showing him so
clearly in this life and to which he paid no heed. He will see it
with his own eyes with the utmost clarity and certainty in the life
after death. However, it will be of no use then to see it with certainty
of vision for that will not be the occasion for self-reformation
but for giving account.
The last verse of the chapter reads:
8. Then on that day you shall certainly be questioned about
Man is told that before approaching Hell with full certainty, that
is, before actually entering it, he should reflect on all the gifts
and capabilities which were bestowed on him in this life with the
express purpose of allowing him to prepare a heaven for himself
in the next life by the correct use of these God-given resources,
like all his talents and aptitudes, morals, knowledge, intellect
and insight, kindness, emotions, wealth and authority, conscience
and divinely revealed books. All these have been bestowed on him
in this world solely for his guidance, advancement and perfection.
All these are Divine gifts which, if man should use in accordance
with the pleasure of Allah, will become for him the doors through
which he will enter his own heaven.
In other words, these very gifts which by misuse build a hell for
him will by proper application fashion a heaven for him. The abundance
of this very wealth and power which enshroud man in heedlessness
can lead with proper use to man’s becoming the inheritor of material
and spiritual progress and perfection. But there is one indispensable
condition that must be fulfilled – man must seek this abundance
and spend it only for the pleasure of Allah. This same wonderful
God-given intelligence and insight which man, because of his base
selfish passions misuses and so directs himself to bringing pain
and disgrace to mankind, can become the keys to the door of Heaven,
but again, only if he walks along the right path, that is, if he
uses these gifts in order to bring benefit to his fellow human beings.
In short, Allah, Most High, has conferred all conceivable kinds
of resources on His servant in order for him to use them wisely
and so build a Paradise for himself. So great is this Divine love
that Allah has given man a revealed book, that is, the most wonderful
of all gifts, the Holy Quran, which has disclosed to man in the
most vivid manner the consequences of his actions in the next life.
But, unfortunately, man has not benefited from this mercy and so
has prepared his fire with his own hands by disregarding the Holy
Thus it is folly to gloat over an abundance of blessings or wealth
for, in fact, these favours only increase the degree of our responsibility.
“To whom much is given much is required” is a well-known principle
in life. For example, a blind man will not have to account for the
gift of eyesight, as a person with two good eyes will. Similarly,
an indigent person will not be held responsible for wealth as a
rich man will; and so, too, one who has no authority will not be
called upon to answer as one who wields power.
Someone, after twelve years, saw Umar Farooq (ra) in a dream.
He was approaching drenched in perspiration. On inquiring of him
what the matter was, he received this reply from Umar: “Now I am
free from reckoning.”
Once the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) asked Uthman (ra)
to stand before him on a rock on which the sun was beating and tell
him what he (Uthman) had eaten for dinner on the previous night.
Now, Uthman was a wealthy person and had partaken of several dishes
that night. So, standing on the rock, he started to recollect and
speak at the same time for at the back of his mind was the thought
that he must not give a false report to the Holy Prophet. So he
thought deeply while answering. In the meantime, however, his feet
started to burn on the hot stone.
After him, the same question was put to Ali (ra). He stepped
on the rock and gave this brief reply: “Last night I went to bed
hungry,” and then promptly stepped down.
The point the Holy Prophet wanted to make was that the greater
the amount of blessings a person has, the more he has to answer
for, and thus it becomes increasingly difficult for him to give
account for all his endowments.
But we must bear in mind here that this lesson serves only to illustrate
the philosophy of poverty and wealth as it pertains to this life
and that a person’s paucity of God-given gifts is no bar to his
spiritual advancement. All it means is that the person who is less
endowed has fewer questions to answer. This cannot mean that man
is precluded from striving and making effort in this life or from
working for money or from attempting to acquire authority. On the
other hand, it is his duty to work for wealth and try to obtain
power, otherwise what can this du‘a mean: “Our Lord! Grant
us good in this world and good in the Hereafter” except that man
should make progress in this world and partake of its blessing here
and in the Hereafter, too? It is also true that when a man owns
wealth and is in a position of authority he has the opportunity
to do much greater acts of goodness and spread many more blessings
than he would have been able to do if he were in a lesser position.
It is for this reason that wealth has been designated in the Holy
Quran as the bounty of Allah, but remember, it is that wealth
which is spent in order to seek the pleasure of Allah that is meant
here. What is forbidden is the mad competition to increase one’s
wealth which brings in its train a state of negligence thus causing
man to forget the true purpose of his creation, which is the doing
of good deeds and the pursuing of high moral excellence.
If man, therefore, begins to use his God-given
talents merely for the acquisition of worldly wealth and possessions
and honour and renown, and the passion to gain increase in these
things becomes the goal of his life causing him thereby to neglect
the growth and perfection of spiritual values for which purpose
he was created, then it becomes abundantly clear that he has misused
those capabilities which the Almighty has so lavishly bestowed on
him. Therefore, the inevitable result is that he will experience
the torment of Hell and it is an indisputable fact that in such
a condition so raging an inferno blazes within the heart of man
that even if he should possess all the wealth in the world, that
agony will not abate nor become cool. And that is the fire which
the Holy Quran has forbidden man from igniting.