By Babatunde Jose
Radix malorum est cupiditas: “greed is the root of evil”.
“Beware of greed, for it was only greed that destroyed those before you. It commanded them to be miserly and they did so. It commanded them to sever their family ties and they did so. It commanded them to behave wickedly and they did so.” Source: Sunan Abu Dāwūd 1698
“Thou wilt indeed find them, of all people, most greedy of life, even more than the idolaters: Each one of them wishes he could be given a life of a thousand years: But the grant of such life will not save him from (due) punishment. For Allah sees well all that they do.” (Quran 2: 96)
Greed is an extreme or excessive desire for resources, especially for property such as money, real estate, or other symbols of wealth. A greedy person is covetous, acquisitive, grasping, avaricious and mean; having or showing a strong desire for, especially material possessions. Covetousness will simply imply an inordinate desire often for another’s possessions. Greed (Latin: avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, is like lust and gluttony, a sin of desire.
However, greed (as seen in religious terms) is applied to an artificial, rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions. Their inability to empathize, their lack of genuine interest in the ideas and feelings of others, and their unwillingness to take personal responsibility for their behavior and actions makes them very difficult people to be with. They are never satisfied. Greedy people look at the world as a zero-sum game.
Fear, insecurity, anxiety, tendency to betray or harm others and arrogance are the results of greed. Greed is rightly called a deadly sin because it kills the possibility of a proper human relation to the Creator.
In Luke 12:15 we read; “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” According to the Bible, the seven deadly sins are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, which are also contrary to the seven heavenly virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat, to consume).
Plutomania: is defined medically as excessive or abnormal desire for wealth.
The root cause of greed is thinking of ourselves in isolation from others or as members of elite peer groups that define what we should want. We are members of larger communities with many kinds of people, on whom we depend and who depend on us.
This is where the attitudinal disposition of our leaders comes in. They are a race of men from another planet. They are an embodiment of the 7 deadly sins and make no regrets about it. They are gluttonous, rapacious and will stop at nothing to convert the commonwealth to their personal property.
What is enough for one to lead a happy life? This question can be answered in many different ways. In fact, the variety in answers is something that can be appreciated. Nonetheless, Islam has made it very simple by emphasizing the connection between one’s wishes and desires and serving Allah. Allah has given human beings the full right to strive and achieve what they can from what He has allowed, and in our history we have examples of people who had tremendous amounts of wealth and enjoyed its benefits. But when the time came, they did not hesitate for even a moment to sacrifice it all in the way of Allah. Such an act of devotion though is only possible when a Muslim understands that real happiness is in pleasing Allah and the only thing worth being greedy over is success in the Hereafter. Hence Allah says in Sura Al-Layl: But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient, And gives the lie to the Best, We will indeed make smooth for him the Path to Misery; Nor will his wealth profit him when he falls headlong (into the Pit). Verily We take upon Ourselves to guide, And verily unto Us (belong) the End and the Beginning. (Quran 92:8-13)
It is not just the greed of wealth and power that has resulted in the oppression of our Ummah; it is also the greed for life. This greed spread in the name of individualism and presents us with a choice where the value of our own selves is sized up against the value of others. So if one can save or benefit themselves, even if that comes at the expense of their brothers and sisters, then that is a fair choice to make.
Rasulallah said: “…and Allah will take the fear of you from the breasts (hearts) of your enemy and cast al-wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is al-wahn?” He replied, “Love of the world and dislike of death.”
This need for the material over the divine has taken over most all societies. We are primarily a brand and class-conscious people. The greed that leads to needing to achieve a certain material standard unfortunately even pushes some Muslims to the Haram.
Some Muslims adopt cultural practices that involve extremely extravagant wedding celebrations where there is pride in spending the most money and outdoing others in their wedding spending. There is a greed in attaining possessions but then another type of greed that seeks status, attention and the outdoing of others even if that is through sometimes unconscionable means.
We must remember that it is also greed that brought certain peoples to disobey Allah. Greed is selfish excessive or uncontrolled desire for possession, especially when this denies the same goods to others.
Imam Hassan Mujtaba said: “The annihilation of people lies in three things: Arrogance, Greed and Envy. Arrogance causes destruction of the religion and because of it Shaitan (Satan) was cursed, and Greed is the enemy of one’s soul, and because of it Adam was expelled from Paradise, and Envy is the guide to wickedness, and because of it Qabil (Cain) killed Habil (Abel) – the two sons of Prophet Adam.”
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir said: “In his love for the world, the greedy is like the silkworm: the more it wraps in its cocoon, the less it has of escaping from it, until it dies of grief.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: “If son of Adam were to possess two valleys of gold and silver, he would long for a third. Son of Adam, your stomach is but an ocean or a valley that cannot be filled in with anything except dust.”
Greed enslaves man and causes him grief. The greedy cares only for collecting fortunes without stopping at any limit. Whenever he achieves a goal, he works for achieving another and, so, he becomes the slave of avidity until death strikes him.
In school we studied a novel on defeating greed by Tolstoy called “How Much Land does a Man Need?” According to the peasant Pahom “Our only trouble is that we haven’t land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself”. In a continuous mission to find the ‘more’ that would be land enough, Pahom dies. His servant picked up the spade, dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his toes was all he needed. A GREAT LESSON TO ALL: The Bible said: “. . . nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:10
The Army Chief who embezzles the vote meant to procure arms and ammunition for the defenders of our territory will in the end get only six feet of land. The same goes for the Air and Naval Chiefs who are led by greed to criminal atavism. What then can one say of the Oil minister who stole so much money that could fund a luxury space travel to Venus with a stopover at the International Space Station but will eventually return and end up in her own portion of ‘standard’ 6 feet? That, my brothers and sisters, is the end of greed. It answers the question: How much land does a man need?
Good men too will not get a bigger portion of land. Six feet is all they will get; except that they will inherit the kingdom. Our big Uncle Dr Bolaji Kuti, who succeeded my late father as the Administrator of the Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Estate died last week, I went to his house to sign the condolence register only to find the place empty except the gateman who brought the book out for me to sign; Hmmmm! Baale’le ku ile d’ahoro! My uncle had already received his portion of 6 feet at the Vault and Gardens. Our friend and brother Senator Alhaji Munir Muse also passed on during the week and has since received his own portion. It confirms verse 2:156 of the Quran; Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, a phrase meaning “Verily we belong to God, and verily to Him do we return.”
We pray that Allah obliterate the transgressions of the departed, forgive their sins and grant them Jannatul Firdous.
Barka Juma’at and Happy Weekend