ALCHEMY OF HEART 3/5 HAMZA YUSUF
09 APRIL, 2005 BY ADMIN
TO BEGIN WITH, THE REFUSAL TO GIVE WHAT IS NECESSARY EITHER BY SACRED LAW OR BY VIRTUOUS MERIT IS THE ESSENCE OF MISERLINESS THAT IS MENTIONED [AMONG THE DISEASES OF THE HEART].
THE DISEASES AND THEIR CURES
To begin with, the refusal to give what is necessary either by sacred law or by virtuous merit is the essence of miserliness that is mentioned [among the diseases of the heart].
A bakhil is a miser. Bukhlun is miserliness. According to the shaykh, the refusal to give what is necessary either by sacred law or by virtuous merit is at the essence of miserliness. Thus, there are two aspects to bukhl, one that relates to the sacred law (shari'a) and the other to muruÂ’ah (virtuous merit). MuruÂ’ah is an important concept in Arabic, and it comes from the word for "man." Its meaning has connotations of chivalry, manhood, and virtue.
As for the necessities of sacred law, they are such things at zakat, support of one's dependents, and similar rights due to others, such as relieving one in distress.
An example of the first aspect of bukhl that is related to shari'a is failure to give zakat. If you are not giving zakat, you are bakhil by shari'a, and that bukhl is haram (forbidden). The same is true for a man who is not giving support (nafaqat) for his wife and children because men are maintainers and caretakers of women and children. If a man gets divorced, he must pay child support because that is a shari'a right of the mother of his children. Similarly, the shari'a demands that you fulfill the rights of other people and spend on others where the need exists if you have been given the capacity to do so. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, "In their wealth there's a haq (right) to the beggar and to the one who doesn't have money and so his needs are not taken care of." The miser is the one who does not take care of people even though he is able to do so. These examples are rel! ated to shari'a.
Examples of meritorious character are not giving people a hard time over some paltry matter or abandoning nitpicking over trivialities.
Avoiding such things is even more important for a neighbor, a relative, or a wealthy person or when hosting guests or concerning something in which such behavior is simply inappropriate, such as purchasing a shroud. The same is true for one buying a sacrificial animal or purchasing something one wants to donate to the needy.
Not being bakhil by standards of muruÂ’ah (virtuous merit) has to do with not constricting people or making matters difficult for them. The shaykh's example of this is not giving people a hard time over some paltry, insignificant, trivial matter. For instance, if someone owes you ten dollars, and you give him a hard time over it even though you have plenty of money and have no need for it, then you are considered bakhil by the standards of muruÂ’ah, not by shari'a. You have a right to that money by shari'a, but by muru'ah, such an attitude is despicable. The shaykh points out that refraining from such an attitude is even more important when dealing with a neighbor or a relative.
Furthermore, it is even worse to lack virtuous merit if you are wealthy because a wealthy person should have a type of magnanimity, a generosity that allows one to say, "don't worry about it" to others. According to a hadith, there was a wealthy man who had no good actions to his record except that he used to say to his servant when he went to collect money, "If they don't have it, tell them they don't have to worry about it." On the Day of Judgment, Allah says to the angels, "this man was forgiving of people's transgressions against him, and I am more worthy of forgiving transgressions." Thus, Allah says, "if he is going to forgive people for the debts that were owed to him, then I'll forgive him for the debts he owes Me." Having this kind of muru'ah is not insignificant: wealthy people are encouraged to let go of debts they really do not need paid off. If the wealthy see the indebted are having a hard time, they should just say "Bismillah. Don't worry ! about it;" such an attitude is encouraged by the shari'a also.
Similarly, if you are hosting a guest, and your guest spills something on the carpet, you should not say, "Can't you watch yourself a little bit? That's a brand new carpet I have;" saying such a thing is not showing muru'ah. On the contrary, you should try to keep them from feeling bad, saying such things as, "Don't worry about it. I love tea on my carpet. In fact, I heard a proverb that says, 'The best thing for a carpet is spilt tea.'" Obviously, this proverb makes the guest feel good when he spills tea. The point is that you do not show more concern for you carpet than for your guest.
The shaykh also gives the example of buying a funeral shroud. Haggling over the price is inappropriate because the funeral shroud should remind you of death, and you should put things into perspective, forgetting about the ephemeral world. The same advice applies to buying a sacrificial animal. Since you are sacrificing an animal for Allah, you should want to get a good animal and not say, "No, no; thatÂ’s too much." In addition, when purchasing something you wish to donate to needy people, you should desire to get something that is good and not cheap or else bukhl is exhibited in that act. Similarly, trying to get a bargain for something you are going to give as sadaqah for the sake of Allah is bukhl.
E.J. Cullen wrote a brilliant short story about a rummage sale for the church, "How Some People Feel about Jesus." In it, Cullen pointed out that people cared so much about the church that they were going to sell their worst junk to support it with their rummage sales. Muslims may learn from this important idea: it is shocking that some Muslim mosques are also having these rummage sales. You should give the masjid the best things you have, not the worst things or the garbage you wish to get rid of.
Thus, one who makes matters difficult for one whose rights make it clearly inappropriate to do so has indeed torn away the veils of dignity. This is as the majestic and wise guides have stated.
The same goes for one who fulfills his obligations without good cheer or spending from the least of what he possesses.
If you owe someone, such as your neighbor, a right and go to fulfill that right to him but are an unpleasant with him in doing so, then that is inappropriate. Furthermore, the shaykh says that by being unpleasant, you have torn away the veils of your dignity and of your muruÂ’ah, and this is according to the "majestic and wise guides" who are the Â‘ulama. Thus, someone who fulfills his obligations without good cheer falls into this category, such as a man who frowningly or proudly says, "Here's your zakat" to the receiver. The proper way to give zakat is to actually put your hand down, allowing the recipients to take it with their hands above yours. You should give it to them with a smiling face feeling honored to pay your zakat. Indeed, the recipients of your zakat truly are honoring you by helping you to fulfill the haq of Allah.
Thus, by the standards of both shari'a as well as muru'ah, bukhl is considered low in Islam as karam (generosity) is one of the highest qualities of our Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. In fact, it could be said that his karam follows immediately after his rahmah (mercy). "Inna akramakum Â‘inda Allah atqakum: indeed, the most karim of you in the sight of Allah is he who has the most taqwa" (49:13). The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was the most atqa (person with taqwa) of us, so he was the most generous, the noblest. "Karim" means generous and noble, so the Arabs view generosity as nobility. Allah is al-Karim, the Generous. Therefore, it is important to recognize that doing just what the shari'a states is not enough: you should go above and beyond that by showing generosity to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Its root is love of this world for its own sake or just so the self can acquire some of its fleeting pleasures.
The origin of this disease is love of dunya (this ephemeral world). You are bakhil because you love the stuff with which you are bakhil. If you did not love it, then giving it up would be easy: you would just say "bismillah" and give it up. However, when you love something, you want to hold on to it. In Mexican culture, they say kudah, meaning he has no hand to give out; he got cut off at the elbow; he is cheap. Similarly, another word for bakhil is mumsik. "Mumsik" means "constipated"; the idea is that the mumsik is unable to let go of what is actually of beneficial to let go. Thus, if you do not give out from your wealth, it will poison and kill you. You must let it go. For this reason, imsak is miserliness.
Furthermore, the root word for pure gold ('ikyan) is 'iky which is the meconium stool of an infant. Thus, gold is related to feces. In a hadith in the musnad of Imam Ahmad, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Allah has made what comes out of the son of Adam a metaphor for the dunya." Ultimately, the dunya is like that: it is beautiful while it lasts, but in the end, it is what it is.
The height of dunya is gold, and the desire to hold on to it is like someone who cannot let go of his waste matter. Zakat is considered the waste matter of your wealth; it purifies your wealth. For this reason, bani Hashim, the family of the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam cannot take zakat. It is the filth of your wealth because everyone who earns money will always have doubtful (shubahat) or prohibited matters (muharramat) in their wealth acquisition: there are always doubtful matters concerning financial transactions, and by giving zakat, you are purifying your wealth. Similarly, when you eat food, there is benefit and harm in your food. Hopefully, the body absorbs the benefit and removes the harm. The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said a du'ah after coming out of the bathroom: "Praise be to the One who has provided me with its delight [the taste of the food] and retained in me ! its benefit [its strength, the energy derived from food] and removed from me its harm." The idea here is much like the idea behind zakat: with it, Allah allows you to remove what is harmful from your wealth. When the bakhil holds on to his wealth, it harms him in the end.
According to Imam Ali, the worst person is the bakhil because in dunya, he is mahrum (deprived), and in akhira, he is mu'adhab (punished). In dunya, he does not even benefit from his wealth. There are several hidden millionaires in America who live middle class lives and have millions of dollars in the bank. These millionaires do not want to spend their money because they want to save it. Such is the nature of a bakhil: he does not benefit from his wealth in the dunya, and then, in the akhira, he is punished for hoarding it. Once, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam asked who was the sayyid of a certain tribe. The tribe's people replied, Jad ibn Qays "illa nastbakhilahu: except he's a little bit of a miser" to which the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam replied, "he cannot be your sayyid" because the sayyid cannot be a miser. He then asked rhetorically, "! ;Is there any disease you know that is worse than miserliness?" The point is that one cannot be a sayyid and a bakhil at the same time.
Hence, the origin of this disease is either love of dunya for its own sake, simply because it is dunya, or because the self wants some benefit from the dunya. However, ibn Hazam would probably say that one of the benefits that the self is trying to secure by hoarding wealth is to alleviate the fear of poverty. The fact that the bakhil has millions in the bank makes him feel good even though he is not benefiting from it. This feeling is assuaging his hala' (anxiety). The amazing thing is that such people never feel good because they are always worried about such things as the stock index, NASDAQ. They pace up and down when the prices are falling, exclaiming, "Oh look at that! What's going to happen? I am only worth six billion now; I was worth 12 billion." There is such a man, and he is 70 years old; even if he set out to spend one million dollars every day for the rest of his life, he would be unable to finish the amount of money he h! as. Bukhl is a deep disease; ultimately, it is a type of worshiping of money. How wretched is the servant of the dinar and the dirham, "trusting in the almighty dollar," as they say. One day, when the stock market crashes, it is gone; and it may be sooner than when we think.
THE CURE TO BUKHL
Treat it by realizing that those who indeed have achieved it [dunya] did so only by exhausting themselves over long periods of time. By doing so, they finally did accumulate the very things they were seeking.
Bukhl's cure is realizing that those who achieved dunya did so by exhausting themselves over a long period of time. Thus, ask yourself how bad you want dunya. If you want it really bad, you have to work for it, and working for it means working day and night while life passes you by. Many people spend a tremendous amount of time at work; they never have time for their families because of dunya. They possess that "I have to keep working and making more and more" mentality. It becomes an obsession. Actual life passes them by, and the experiences of life are lost. People are obsessively searching for wealth and security, and in the end, their lives are over. The shaykh is telling us to look at those people and how they exhausted themselves chasing after the dunya.
Meanwhile, just as they are approaching the heights of its splendor, suddenly, without their permission, death assails them.
Just as they are beginning to get everything they want, suddenly, without their permission, death assails them. Dodi and Diana are good examples of that. People in England were devastated by DianaÂ’s death. They thought, "No, no! She can't die." Her life was the life people wanted: fame, beauty, lineage, and wealth. She "had it all" as the saying goes. She was right at the prime of her life, only 38 years old. Death is not invited in; it comes without invitation. It simply arrives when it is time to go, and it takes the person. All those wealthy people have to die too.
[Treat it also by recognizing] the disdain shown to misers and the hatred people have for them even amongst themselves.
Nobody likes a miser. Even misers do not like each other.
With the same treatment, treat the one whose heart's ailment is love of wealth.
The disease of hub al dunya (love of the ephemeral world) is treated as you treat bukhl. The two diseases are related as we have already seen.