Life under Islamic Purview
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Hussain Madhahiri
Islam categorizes human life into three distinct types:
1. Basic life
2. Comfortable life
3. Affluent life
1. Basic Life
The basic life is one in which a person is self sufficient in terms of food, clothing and shelter. If a person provides these basic requirements for himself and his family, he becomes deserving of rewards from Allah. Later on we shall see that a man who strives hard to provide livelihood for his family and a woman who toils hard at the home to provide comfort to the family deserve a reward equivalent to performing Jihad in the way of Allah.
The person who strives to provide for his family is like the Mujahid who performs Jihad in the way of Allah. Wasail Shia- Vol 12, Page 43
If a person is capable of working for his own upkeep, it is obligatory (wajib) for him to work and not be a burden to others. If a person has the strength to work and provide livelihood to his wife and children but is lazy and neglects his duty, it is prohibited (haram) for him to be lazy and neglectful. The rights of a wife are among the important rights that have been mentioned in Islam. Therefore, if a person is able bodied to earn the essentials of life, then it is crucial and obligatory to acquire these with his own toil. But if a person is disabled, sick or infirm, then it is the responsibility of the Islamic government to provide for his needs. If the Islamic government is unable to do so, then all Muslims are obliged to help all those in need of help.
There is a verse of the Holy Quran which, in the Holy month of Ramadan everyone, particularly the ladies, must bear in mind. The verse reads:
Let him who has abundance, spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah hath given him. Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which He hath given it. Sura al Talaaq 65:07
Quran says that it is essential for every human being that he must take care of his needs and the needs of others within his means. This would mean that if a person has the means of maintaining ten persons, or twenty persons, he should look after them. But if a person cannot maintain ten people, he should be charitable according to his means. He should reduce a morsel from his own iftar and help others with it. Similarly he should give one of his dresses to clothe a needy person. If we ponder upon this verse, we realize that all of us have the means to be charitable. The Prophet of Islam (s) gave a sermon on the last Friday of the month of Shaban and reminded the people that everyone should be concerned about others. They should arrange food for the breaking of the Ramadan fasts. This instruction is especially for those who have the means to do so. One of the listeners of the sermon got up and asked the Prophet (s): “O Prophet of Allah! What should be done by those who don’t have the means to serve food for the breaking of the fasts?” The Prophet (s) said, “Feed others even if it is just with a single dry date or a sip of water!” This tradition should not be taken literally to mean that one should offer a single date for iftar and keep count of the number of dates he has given, and when this number reaches a thousand the person thinks that he has given a thousand iftaris. It means that one should serve his fellow men according to ones means. The person who has the means to help others should do so and the person who cannot help others should do whatever he can. Has Allah provided you with iftar? Yes? Then share this iftar with others to the best of your ability. Self-sacrifice is an altogether different topic which is not a part of our discussion today. Today we are discussing that acquiring the essentials of life is mandatory for everyone according to Islam. It is incorrect for a person to be so immersed in worship that he does not acquire the essentials of life. It is also incorrect that a certain section of the society eats and drinks while the poor have to suffer the pangs of hunger.
2. Comfortable Life
Islam appreciates comfortable life for the people. During the time of the Prophet (s) some people started indulging in a wrong practice. They began to avoid the consumption of good food. It was then that the following verse of the Holy Quran was revealed:
Say: who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for his bondsmen, and the good things of His providing? Surah A’raaf 7:32
O Muslims! Whatever Allah has provided in this world is for you so that your life is pleasant and comfortable! Then, why do you deny good food to yourselves? Why don’t you marry? Why do you choose not to have children?
Allah says that whatever is there in the world is for you. If the unbelievers eat it is also because of you. Actually, it has been created for you. Heaven has also been created for you, but regarding Heaven, the unbelievers will not even be able to smell its fragrance. This verse shows us that Islam desires a comfortable life for everyone, for all mankind. Those who can provide a pleasant life for their families must do so! Those who can contribute to the comfort of the society and their relatives must do so. Islam permits man to live a comfortable existence in the world. .
Islam has a very effective economic system. It is a pity that while there is plenty of water in the cistern, we, the Muslims, remain thirsty! Islam has a wonderful law called the ‘Qanoone Mawasaat’ or the law of mutual cooperation. Under this law the Muslims are required to cooperate and help each other. But we have forgotten this law. Many a time the Prophet (s) used to express his regret from the pulpit that his Umma would ignore the Law of Mawasaat after him. All Muslims must lead comfortable lives. One who deprives himself of a comfortable life, on purpose, is committing a forbidden act according to the Holy Quran. Shunning comforts of life is tantamount to being stubborn. Man should avoid being stubborn and mould his life according to the norms laid down by the Holy Quran. He should not be a slave to his own whims and fancies. He must refer to the examples set by the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a.s.) as his role models for life.
We see that the widows dress in black for the rest of their lives. Quran says that this is a wrong attitude. Such a thing has not been prescribed by the Quran; people have made it up themselves. Some widows refuse to consider marriage. If someone mentions that she should have a husband, she becomes upset. The Quran says that it is wrong for her to become upset. This is a type of stubbornness, and is against the teachings of the Quran and the infallible Imams. We see eligible young men avoiding matrimony. We see that a young girl rejects the proposals that are made to her saying that there is no hurry. Have they asked their sexual instinct whether there is any hurry or not? Ask those hormones that circulate in your blood whether there should be hurry or delay. Ask the Holy Prophet whether you should marry or delay marriage, in your present condition. The Prophet of Islam (s) has said, “Marriage is my Sunnat and one who avoids my sunnat is not from me.”
The girl who prefers to remain a spinster and the young widow who refuses remarriage and the man who remains a bachelor are, according to the Islamic Shariah, not (good) Muslims. Here I would like to say a word of advice to the young men and women that you should not impose your desires and your thoughts on Islam. Instead you must find out what Islam prescribes, you should find out what the Holy Prophet and the Infallible Imams have said, you should find out what your Marja and those who know about Islam say. Acting in matters of Islamic Shariah according to your own inclinations is a grave sin. If someone perpetrates innovations in the matters of Islam, all muslims and especially the erudite scholars are required to raise their voices against such acts. A tradition says that if wrong thoughts or wrong beliefs begin to circulate in the ummat, it is necessary for the erudite scholars to protest. If they do not do so, Allah’s curse will be on them.
3. Luxurious Life
A life of luxury and lavishness is not desirable in Islam. Islam condemns such life when its practitioners adopt it. Islam condemns becoming a slave to fashion, heavy use of products of beautification, expensively decorated homes and wearing of designer and expensive dresses. Islam does not want people to have big desires. Do not desire for more and more. When you have a wife, you should not desire another wife. Spend enough to live in comfort. Quran condemns the expensive way of life in strong terms:
And when We would want to destroy a township We sent commandments to its folk who live at ease, and afterwards they commit abomination therein, and so the word (of doom) hath effect for it, and We annihilate it with complete annihilation. Sura Bani Israel 17:16
The Holy Quran says that if a community indulges in a life of luxury, then it will certainly get destroyed. This type of life encourages them to indulge in forbidden acts. The above verse pertains to the way of life of communities. But we are now quoting verses from Sura al Waqiah that deal with the way of life of individuals:
And those on the left hand: What of those on the left hand? In scorching wind and scalding water And shadow of black smoke, Neither cool nor refreshing, Lo! Heretofore they were effete with luxury . Sura al Waqiah 41-45
The Holy Quran says that the people on the left are very ashamed. Who are these people? They are the ones who are facing retribution of the Hellfire. They are those who indulged in sin after sin! Then Quran asks: Why do people indulge in sin after sin? It is extravagance, and indulging in luxury that drag a person towards sin. This is the reason that the Holy Quran has ordained:
Eat and drink but don’t waste. Sura A’raaf 7:31