By Imaam Syed Qutb
Fi Dhilaal al-Qur’aan
“As for man, whenever his Lord tries him with honor and with favors He bestows on him. he says ‘My Lord has honored me.’ But whenever He tries him by stinting his means, then he says ‘My Lord has left me humiliated.’ “ [Qur’an: 89:15-16]
Such is man’s thinking about the various forms of trial Allah may set for him, be it comfort or hardship, wealth or scarcity. Allah may test him with comforts, honor, wealth or position, but he does not relize the probationary nature of what he is given. Rather he considers the gesture as proof that he deserves to be honored by Allah and as evidence that He has chosen him for a special honor. It is a line of thinking which mistakes trial for reward and test for result. It imagines honor in the sight of Allah to be measured by the amount of worldly comforts given to a certain person. Allah also tries man by stinting his means, and man again mistakes trial for reward and imagines the test to be a retribution. He feels that Allah has made him poor in order to humiliate him.
In both situations the human concept is faulty. Wealth and poverty are two forms of a test Allah sets for His servants. A test with abundance reveals whether a man is humble and thankful to his Lord or arrogant and haughty, while a trial of the opposite kind reveals his patient acceptance or his irritability and fretfulness. A man’s reward is given according to what he proves himself to be. What he is given or denied of worldly comforts is not his reward, and a man’s standing in the sight of Allah is in no way related to his possessions, for He gives and denies worldly comforts regardless of whether a man is good or bad. A man devoid of faith cannot comprehend the wisdom behind Allah’s action of giving worldly comforts or denying them. But when his mind is enlightened with faith and truth becomes apparent to him, he realizes the triviality of worldly riches. As he disregards the hollow considerations of wealth and poverty, he feels reassured about his fate and his position in the sight of Allah.
At the time of its revelation, the Qur’an was addressing a kind of people, common to all Ignorant societies, who lost all their relations with a world beyond our present life. Such people adopt this mistaken view about Allah’s granting or denial of wealth, and apply a set of values which reverse all honor to money and social standing. Hence, their craving for wealth is irresistible. It makes them covetous, greedy, and stingy. The Qur’an reveals their true feelings and states that their greed and stinginess are responsible for their inability to understand the true significance of a divine trial by granting wealth or denying it.”