God's vicegerent on Earth:
By Dr. Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef
When a believer tries to acquire vast riches, his efforts will remain within what serves God's cause unless he aims at self-glorification, tries to spread corruption or resorts to forbidden means to earn his income.
When people avoid forbidden intentions and means, whatever they do could serve God's cause, and what serves it is an act of worship, for which people may expect God's reward.
By nature, man loves what is good and beneficial. In some verses of the Qur'an, the term "good" means money.
God has included wealth and children among the reward He promises His servants in order to encourage them to believe in Him and to be God-fearing. But God also describes wealth and children as being the "adornments of this world's life", which means that His promise to believers is not confined to the reward He gives in the life to come. He also promises His good servants something in this life, so as to enhance their motivation. Islam works with human nature, without opposing it.
The Prophet Noah mentions what he promised his people if they would only believe. Relating this promise in the Qur'an, God says: "I called on them openly; and I preached to them in public; and I spoke to them secretly, in private; saying: 'Ask your Lord to forgive you your sins, for He is indeed all-forgiving! He will shower upon you heavenly blessings in abundance, and will aid you with much wealth and children, and will bestow on you gardens and running waters'." (71: 8-12)
This means that had Noah's people believed and sought God's forgiveness, He would have forgiven them and sent them rain in abundance, to transform their land into gardens and running waters. He would have also given them much wealth and children. All this would have given them a life of plenty and strength. Had any of this been disliked by God, He would not have promised it to people in reward for believing and praying for forgiveness of their past sins.
While affluence is, in itself, a means of test, it imposes on those who are affluent certain duties: to thank God for it, and to refrain from using it as a means of self-glorification, or in sinful actions, or to spread corruption on Earth. God says in the Qur'an: "If they keep firmly to the right path, we shall certainly give them abundant water, so as to test them by this means. For, he who shall turn away from the remembrance of his Lord, him will He cause to undergo most grievous suffering." (72: 16-17)
When people are genuinely grateful for the blessings God has given them, He grants them an immediate reward, which is an increase of His favors: "Your Lord made this (promise) known: 'If you are grateful (to Me), I shall most certainly give you more and more; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment will be severe indeed'." (14: 7) He indeed promises greater provisions as a reward for following a course of action based on piety and God-fearing: "To everyone who is God-fearing, He (always) grants a way out (of unhappiness), and provides for him in a manner beyond all expectation." (65: 2-3)
God also states that the good and pious believers pray Him for favors in both the life of this world and the life to come. They do not see what may be enjoyed in this present life something mundane that is unbecoming for a believer to pray for: "Among them are such as pray, 'Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from suffering through the fire'." (2: 201)
A major element of being grateful to God for His favors is that believers should use these favors to improve their prospects in the life to come. This means that they use God's favors for good works and in ways that facilitate obedience to God. However, believers are urged not to neglect their portions in this life.
That is also God's gift. When believers move away from showing off, boasting of their position, using their wealth in vain glory, or to indulge in grave sin, and other forms of corruption, their share of this life will not use up all their wealth, if they are rich: "Seek, by means of what God has granted you, (the good of) the life to come, without forgetting your own rightful share in this world, and do good (to others) as God has done good to you, and do not seek to spread corruption on Earth. Surely, God does not love those who spread corruption!" (28: 77)
This life wants God-fearing people to seek it, so that some of them would be rich business people, highly skilled professionals, reputable scientists and serious artists. This life is tired of the fact that unscrupulous people seek its riches, while good people turn away from it. It wants to see honest businessmen who neither cheat nor resort to monopoly and similar wicked means to push up prices. It needs rich people who do not use their wealth to spread corruption or to look at other human beings with contempt. It looks for the human being who realizes the nature of the role assigned to him as he is placed in charge of the Earth. Such a person provides the role model for others, showing them what it means to fulfill man's vicegerency on Earth: a vicegerency given the task to work and build, without arrogance, corruption, cheating or indulgence in sin.
The advocates of God's faith should understand the importance of this fact so that they could help God-fearing people in their efforts to overcome their reluctance to seek a good life of plenty on Earth. Such people need to correct their misconception which implies that riches and pleasures are unbecoming of a good believer, despite the fact that people are naturally desirous of them, and that life needs both to be set on an even keel. Indeed God includes both in His reward to attract people to faith and piety. The advocates of Islam should draw people's attention to the benefits God may grant them in plenty in this life, if they would believe, seek God's forgiveness of their sins and follow a God-fearing path. When people realize this, they are better motivated to accept the faith, and will after that have a strong motive to do good.
Some believers may think lightly of committing a sin, because they hope that they will eventually receive God's forgiveness. But few of them are prepared to lose some of what God has allotted to them of sustenance, if that would be the punishment of a sin they may commit. This fear of loss may provide a person with a strong motive to steer away from what is forbidden. The Prophet says: "Nothing increases a person's life span except goodly actions, and nothing averts fate except supplication. People may be deprived of some sustenance as a result of a sin they may commit." (Related by Ibn Majah).
The question of motive in the life of Muslims today should receive greater attention. That would help Muslims to throw away their shackles which impede the fulfillment of their role in this life. That is a role that makes Muslims feel compassionate toward other people, offer them the good they have, enjoy their portion of the life of this world, increase their strength and become an example to be followed by others.