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Imaam Ahmad, an-Nasaa'i, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh report the hadeeth of Ka'b ibn Maalik al-Ansaari (raa), from the Prophet (saaws) that he said: "Two hungry wolves let loose among sheep are not more harmful then a person craving after wealth and status is to his Deen (Religion)." at- Tirmidhee said, "It is hasan saheeh."
It is also reported from the Prophet (saaws) from the hadeeth of Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbaas, Abu Hurairah, Usamaah ibn Zayd, Jaabir, Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree and `Aasim ibn `Adiyy al-Ansaree, radiyAllahu `anhum `ajma`een
The wording of the hadeeth of Jaabir (raa) is: "Two ravenous wolves which spend the night amongst sheep whose shepherd is absent, will not cause more havoc for the people than will love of status and wealth to a Believer's Deen."
In the hadeeth of Ibn Abbaas (raa), there occurs, "love of wealth" in place of "craving..." This is a very great similitude given to us by the Prophet (saaws) to show how the Deen of the Muslims is corrupted by craving after wealth and worldly status, and that the damage caused to the Deen by it will not be less than the damage caused by two hungry and ravenous wolves which spend the night amongst sheep whose shepherd is absent - so that they feast on them and massacre them.
As is obvious none but a small number of these sheep would escape from the havoc caused by these hungry wolves - and the Prophet (saaws) informed us that a person's craving after wealth and status does not cause less harm than these two hungry wolves amongst the sheep. Rather, either it will be the same or worse. So this shows that hardly any of a Muslim's Deen remains secure if he craves after wealth and status in this world - just as hardly any of the sheep will be saved from hungry wolves. So this great similitude contains a severe warning against the evil of craving after wealth and status in the world.
Craving for Wealth
The first type of craving for wealth is that a person has extreme love for wealth and also relentlessly exerts efforts to attain it - via means which are lawful - being excessive in that, striving hard and making painstaking efforts and toiling in order to attain it. It has been reported that this hadeeth was in response to the appearance of some elements of this, as at-Tabaraani reports from `Aasim ibn `Adiyy (raa) who said,‘I bought a hundred shares from the shares of Khaybar and that reached the Prophet (saaws) so he said, "Two ravenous wolves remaining amongst sheep whose owner has lost them will not be more harmful than a Muslim's seeking after wealth and status to his Deen."'
There is nothing more to chasing after wealth than the wastage of a person's noble life for that which has no value. Instead he could have earned a high rank (in Paradise) and everlasting bliss, but he lost this due to his craving after provision - which had already been assured to him and allotted to him, and it was not possible for anything to come to him except what was decreed for him - then on top of this he does not benefit from that, but rather abandons it and leaves it for someone else.
He departs from that and leaves it behind so that he will be the one held accountable for it, yet someone else benefits from it. So in reality he is only gathering it, yet someone else benefits from it. So in reality he is only gathering it for someone who will not praise him for that, whilst he himself goes on to One who will not excuse him for that - this itself would indeed be enough to show the blameworthiness of this craving.
The person who has this craving wastes his valuable time and engages himself in that which is of no benefit to himself - in journeying and exposing himself to dangers in order to amass that which will only benefit someone else, so it is as is said: "So one who spends his days in gathering wealth - Out of fear of poverty - then he has achieved only poverty."
It was said to a wise man, "So and so has amassed wealth," so he said, "Then has he amassed days in which to spend it?" It was said, "No" So he said, "Then he has amassed nothing!"
Ibn Mas'ood (raa), said, "Certain faith (yaqeen) is that you do not make the people happy by angering Allah, and that you do not envy anyone for that which Allah has provided, and that you do not blame anyone for something which Allah has not given you - since provision will not be brought on by a person's craving after it, nor will it be repelled by a person's disliking it. Indeed Allah through His Justice has made joy and happiness dependent upon having certain faith and contentment, and He has made worries and sorrow spring from doubt and displeasure." One of the Salaf (predecessors) said: "Since decree (qadr) is a reality then craving is futile. Since treachery exists in people's characters then trusting everybody is to expose oneself to humiliation. Since death awaits everybody, then being satisfied with this world is foolishness."
‘Abdul-Waahid ibn Zayd used to swear by Allah that a person's craving after this world was more fearful to him than his worst enemy. He also used to say, "O my brothers! Do not grow up craving after his riches and increase in earnings or wealth, rather look upon him with the eye of one of who detests that he is preoccupying himself with that which will cause his ruin tomorrow in the Place of Return - and is proud with that." He also used to say, "Craving is of two types: Craving which is an affliction and craving which is beneficial. As for the craving which is beneficial, then it is one's desire for that which is obedience to Allah, and as for the craving which is an affliction - then it is a person's craving after this world."
Craving after this world torments a person, he is preoccupied and does not attain joy or pleasure whilst amassing - since he is preoccupied. He does not find time - due to his love of this world - for the Hereafter, and is preoccupied with that which will perish and forgets that which will abide and remain.
In this regard a person said, "Do not envy a brother who craves after riches - rather look upon him with aversion. Indeed the one who craves is preoccupied with his Wealth from having any happiness due to his belongings."
Someone else said in this regard: "O gatherer and miserly one being watched closely by time - which is wondering which of its doors it should be close. You have gathered wealth, but think have you gathered for it - O gatherer of wealth - days in which you can spend it. Wealth is hoarded away with you for those who will inherit it - The wealth is not yours except on the day when you spend it. Satisfaction is for the one who settles in its neighbourhood - And in its shade he finds no worries to disturb him."
A wise person wrote to a brother of his who desired this world: "To proceed, you have become one who craves after this world. It will serve you whilst taking you away from it with accidents, illnesses, calamities and infirmity. It is as if you have not seen one who craves being prevented from what he desires, nor one who shuns this world's granted provision, nor one who died despite having great wealth, nor one who is fully satisfied in this world with a small amount."
A Bedouin rebuked a brother of his for covetousness, saying, "O my brother you are a seeker and one sought. You are being sought by One whom you cannot escape, and you are seeking that for which you have been sufficed. O brother, it is as if you have not seen one who craves being prevented, nor one who shuns the world being granted provision."
A wise man said, "The people who have the greatest degree of restlessness are the envious, those who have the greatest degree of happiness are the contented. Those who persevere most through suffering are those who are covetous. Those who have the simplest and most pleasant life are those who most strongly refuse this world. The one who will suffer the greatest regret is the scholar whose actions contradict his knowledge."