IT IS A marvelous thing, indeed, if a man with a wife and children keeps his religion intact when his earnings have become restricted and tight. The likeness of most such men is that of water that is flowing forth. Then a barrier is set up to stop it. The water pressure builds until, over time, it bursts the barrier. This is the likeness of a man who is responsible for a wife and children when his earnings become constrained but when household needs keep coming and he becomes unable to acquire wealth in a ḥalâl (lawful) way –who then gives himself license to acquire it through dubious routes. Should his religion further weaken, he stretches his hand out to what is ḥarâm (unlawful). Now, the believer, when he realizes that he is not able to earn, strives to avoid marriage. And should he marry and have children, he strives not to overspend on his children and to be satisfied by little.
As for those who have no means of income, such as scholars and ascetics, it is very difficult for them to be saved [from moral decline] if the governing powers do not fund them and the masses of people do not take care of them. If such a person finds himself with many children, then he is not safe from the evil that an ignorant person would fall into.
So whoever of these people is able to earn by copying books and selling, and the like, then let him do so as much as he can and reduce his spending and be satisfied with little. Regarding those of them who give themselves license to take money from an unjust authority, this is forbidden, because he is, in effect, taking money from an oppressor or a wrongdoer, while claiming that he is an ascetic.
As many of these scholars who have wealth, they should strive to protect it and make it grow. For there is not left among people those who give wealth generously, nor those who give out loans. Moreover, the masses of people –rather all of the people– have become as if they worship wealth. So he who is able to keep his wealth is able to keep his religion.
Therefore, pay no attention to the advice of the ignorant who command the people [of scholarship] to give away wealth, for this is not its time. And know that if distress is not avoided, knowledge will not be gained. Nor will one be able to perform good works. Nor will one be able to busy oneself in thinking of the greatness of Allah.
Those who came before us did not have such anguish, mostly because they had a yearly salary from the [State] Treasury, which was given to them and which would suffice their needs for the year, with some left over. Others were free of this worry because they had wealth with which they did business, like Saᶜîd ibn Al-Musayyib, Sufyân, and Ibn Al-Mubârak.
Of his wealth, Sufyân said:
If it weren’t for you, they would have disrespected me.
Once, ᶜAbdullâ ibn Al-Mubârak lost some of his goods. So he wept, saying:
This was what was holding my religion.
In the past, the scholars found peace of mind in the munificence of their brothers. Nor did their brothers expect from them anything in return. In time, the generosity of the people dwindled. Yet there was still enough wealth gifted for the scholars to make it.
In our times, all the hands have closed in around themselves, to the point that there are few that give, even the Zakat! So how can scholars and ascetics have the peace of mind to do their work when they are busy day and night thinking how they can earn?
For this reason, scholars increasingly take wealth from dubious sources. Yet remember how those scholars –when they have gathered where they should not have– have been brought down, have been diminished, and have lost both their religion and their worldly goods. Remember also those true scholars like Aḥmad and Bishr. The days that were hard for them have vanished into the past, and favorable mention has remained for them.
Let him who wants to protect his wealth lighten his load as much as possible. Moreover, let him reduce his spending as much as possible. And when he feels the need to spend, let him be as patient as possible. Let him remind himself, moreover, that it is not worth acquiring—at the price of his religion—what ultimately shall disappear.
Finally, know that Allah, Transcendent and Resplendent, has said:
And whoever fears Allah, He shall make for him a way out [of every difficulty]. Moreover, he shall provide for him from where he has never conceived. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:2-3]