Eradicating the Vice of Greed
“And you will most certainly find them the greediest of men for life than even those who are polytheist; every one of them loves that he should be granted a life of thousand years”. (The Holy Quraan 2:96)
This verse points to the greedy nature of some people who wish to live long even up to a thousand years. They are those who either do not understand or do not believe in life after death. As such they are lacking in Islamic belief in second life after death and tend to be more greedy in this worldly life.
Greed is a condition, which makes man dissatisfied with whatever he possesses and makes him covet for yet more and more. Greed is one of the worst of destructive vices and is not limited to worldly possessions but also includes indulgences such as contact with women and other worldly pleasures. Moreover, disputes between individuals, wars between tribes or countries mainly arise out of greed to dominate others.
Imam al-Baqir(as) has compared the greedy with a silk-worm saying,
“The greedy man in his love of the world is like a silk-worm; the more it wraps itself in its cocoon, the less chance it has of escaping from it, until finally it dies of grief”.
A greedy person who is engrossed in earning more and more of worldly wealth even at the expense of his own dignity, family welfare or personal health eventually dies of grief.
GREED IN OLD AGE
The Holy Prophet (saw) has said,
“As man grows in age, two of his characteristics become young; greed and far-flung hopes”.
Haroon ar-Rasheed, the Abbasid Caliph, once arranged for an old man in Yemen who had seen the Holy Prophet (saw) personally to come to Baghdad and visit him. As the old man was very weak, he was brought on a stretcher. On entering his court, Haroon welcomed and made the Old man sit besides his throne. He then asked him whether he had seen the Holy Prophet (saw) personally. The Old man in his weak and lowly voice replied,
“Yes, I used to sit near the pulpit and hear his ahadith (sayings)”.
Haroon asked him to describe the main features and appearance of the Prophet and he said,
“The Prophet looked handsome and of sound physique. He had black and curly hair. His face was luminescent. He was fond of perfume and made use of it so much so that his fragrance would remain behind for quite sometime wherever he passed”.
Haroon then asked whether he remembered any saying of the Prophet. The Old man said that he could still remember one in which he said,
“Man grows old but two qualities in him remain young; greed and far-flung hopes”.
Haroon was very happy to meet the Old man and hear from him about the Prophet. He then instructed to his people to present him with a handsome gift of money and return him home to Yemen comfortably. As he was being carried away, the Old man asked to be returned to the Caliph as he had an important matter to discuss with him. On arrival in the court, the Old man said,
“O’Caliph! Tell me whether this gift of money you gave me was only the first and the last or whether I should come every year to receive a similar gift from you?”
On hearing this, Haroon laughed and said,
“You had rightly quoted the Prophet as saying that the two qualities of greed and long hopes remain young and active even in old age”.
Haroon then promised the Old man that he could expect repeated gifts as long as he lived but alas! The greedy Old man was not even destined to enjoy the first gift he had received and died on his way to Yemen.
In order to free oneself from the evil of greed, one should think of the harmful consequences. One should realize that it is the characteristic of animals who are restricted in satisfying their desires. He should train himself to exercise self-control and have the virtue of contentment which enables one to satisfy himself with little and devote more time in the service of his Creator. The instinct of greed should instead be applied for acquiring more knowledge and awareness and for earning more and more of the pleasure of Allah (SWT) in obedience to Him.