Amassing of wealth

This question comes from Our Dialogue: Q&A on Islam.
This Q&A contains more than 700 questions, arranged alphabetically. This is the 33rd question in this series.

Q33 :Surah 'TAUBA' - " As for those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend the same in the service of Allah's cause, give them the tidings of painful sufferings. A day will certainly come when these shall be heated up in the fire of hell and their foreheads, sides and backs shall be branded with them. They will be told : "This is what you have stored up for yourselves; taste, then, what you have hoarded." (Surah 9; Verses 35-36 ) Commentary by Sayyid Qutb.

A33 : There is no doubt that Islam does not like the amassing of wealth or using it solely for one's enjoyment or for leading a luxurious life. Indeed, all Islamic legislation in matters of finance are geared towards a fair distribution of wealth. There is no virtue, from the Islamic point of view, in the amassing of great wealth and passing it on from father to son in order to perpetuate a family's strong financial position in society. In the past, it was traditional in certain societies that the eldest son of a family was the single heir of all its wealth. Other children received only what their father assigned to them, if any. It is still the case in most non-Muslim societies that a man is free to bequeath by will whatever portion of his wealth to whomever he chooses. Islam, on the other hand, has a fine and detailed system of inheritance which ensures the division of the father's wealth fairly among his heirs. None of the heirs may receive anything above the share. What the Qur'anic verse speaks about and warns against is the hoarding up of gold and silver, or money in general. Therefore, it is extremely important to know what is meant by "hoarding" in order to avoid the fate of woeful suffering which this verse speaks of. Within this text, the question arises whether being rich is permissible in Islam or not. There is nothing in Qur'anic verse which can be construed as forbidding the ownership of much money, or, more plainly, being rich. Some of the Prophet's companions were rich and we do not find any Hadith which tells them to get rid of their riches. Indeed, the Prophet received donations from such people and thanked them for their generosity. The clearest example is that of Usman who was one of the wealthiest people in Arabia. At the time when the Prophet called on his companions to donate generously for the mobilization of an army to fight Byzantine Empire, Usman came up with a donation which pleased the Prophet immensely. The Prophet was speaking on the pulpit when Usman offered one hundred horses with all the equipment necessary for a horseman to have on such a campaign. The Prophet accepted and prayed for Usman. As the Prophet went one step down, Usman told him that he was donating another one hundred equipped horses. The Prophet again prayed for him and went another step down. At this point, Usman increased his donation to three hundred horses. The Prophet stopped and signed with his finger to the right and left and prayed for Usman and said his famous statement : "Nothing that Usman may do in future will harm him." This means that Usman would be forgiven any slip or mistake that he might do subsequent to such a great donation which amounted to the equipment of full army by the standards of the time. There were other companions of the Prophet who were rich indeed, notably, Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf, who was one of the ten companions of the Prophet given the happiest news of all : certain admission to heaven. There is nothing wrong from the Islamic point of view in being rich, provided that one makes the right use of one's riches. Furthermore, to be rich is not synonymous with hoarding up of money, whether it is for the modern currency type or silver and gold. The two are different. What does, then, constitute hoarding? According to eminent scholars and commentators of the Qur'an, the payment of zakah makes all the difference. If one pays the zakah of his wealth on time, this payment serves as purification of the money and ensures that he is not included among those threatened by this verse. Al-Bukhari relates on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Umar that "this warning was applicable before legislation of zakah. When zakah was made a duty, Allah made it serve as purification of money." Abdullah Ibn Umar is further reported to have said : "The wealth from which zakah is paid is not hoarded, even if it is stored under seven layers of earth. What is in a person's hands is hoarded if he does not pay zakah for it." It is certainly the case that zakah is spent to serve the cause of Allah. This is true when zakah is paid to the poor and the needy, or to any other class of beneficiaries, not merely when it is paid to finance a campaign of jihad.
Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )