بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ لِلَّهِ ,نَحْمَدُهُ ,وَنَسْتَعِينُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُهُ , وَنَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ شُرُور أَنْفُسِنَا وَمِنْسَيِّئَاتِ أَعْمَالِنَا ,مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللهُ فَلَا مُضِلَّ لَهُ , وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَا هَادِيَ لَهُ , وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ

Verily, all praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His assistance and we ask for His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Him from the evils of our selves. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. Whoever He misguides, none can guide. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.

وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ

Wainnahu lihubbi alkhayri lashadeedun.

And indeed he is, in love of wealth, intense.

(Surah Al-Adiyat, Quran 100:8)

All praises are due to Allah (swt), the one that has blessed us with so much. The one that has blessed us with Imaan, with belief. The one that has blessed us with a roof over our heads, with food in our bellies. The one that has blessed us with work. The one that has blessed us with family, with friends, with community. May Allah (swt) continues to bless us. May Allah (swt) help us to make use of our blessings in the best of ways. Ameen.

External vs. Internal Aspirations

Now that we are in a new year, people have not only set their resolutions, but they have hopefully gotten started on executing on those resolutions. As I mentioned last year, the most common new year’s resolutions for Americans are:

  1. To make more money.
  2. To be more fit
  3. To be more organized.

These are the top three resolutions that people have. I’d like to talk about that first resolution today, which is to make more money. There are generally two types of aspirations and motivations that people have.

  • The first aspiration is external aspiration. Psychologists say an external aspiration has to do with wealth (i.e. making more money, having a more expensive house, a nicer car, a nicer phone, and so on).
  • The second external aspiration is fame. “I want to be famous. I want to get 100 likes on Instagram. I want my name to be everywhere.” That’s another external aspiration.
  • The third external aspiration is image, the way we want people to see us. The fashion that we follow, the way we dress, the country club we vote. Do we have a house? Do we have an apartment? How are we viewed in society? These are all external aspirations.

Then you have internal aspirations. What are internal aspirations? Internal aspirations focus on what’s on the inside.

  • So, that has to do with having meaningful relationships. Meaningful, deep relationships, and not just superficial acquaintances on Facebook, right? Everyone has 1,000 Facebook friends. But are they really your friends? So meaningful relations.
  • Another internal aspiration is personal growth. Wanting to learn new things, learn new skills. Wanting to improve yourself spiritually, become closer to Allah (swt), increase the amount of Quran that you read, your salah, your prayer, your charity, and so on.
  • And thirdly, community contribution– wanting to see society getting better.

So there are two types of aspirations. One is external (wealth, fame, and image) and the other one is internal (your relationships, your community, and your personal growth).

According to psychologist Tim Kasara, people who place a high priority on materialistic values and goals, end up consuming more products and incurring more debt. They have lower quality interpersonal relationships, they act in more ecologically destructive ways, and they report lower personal and physical wellbeing. Essentially, when someone is more materialistic, they become more unhappy. So this idea that more money will make you happier is not true after a certain point. Once you have a certain amount of money to live a stable and secure life, past that point, more money does not lead to more happiness.

If your goal to make more money is to provide a future for your children, to invest in your relationships, in order to seek personal growth, in order to focus on those internal aspirations, to improve your community, then that is great. That will make you happier. That will improve you. That will better you. But if the seeking of money is simply for more wealth, for the next nicest thing, for fame or for image, then that will lead us to unhappiness. It’s important to realize that.

We live in a consumerist country. If people aren’t spending money and buying things that they do not need, then the economy is going to crash. So when everyone is doing their Christmas shopping, I have to go to because even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I have to save the economy. And I also have to save $10 on airpods, right? So, this whole country is based on consumerism, around people wanting to spend money. Islam criticizes that and that’s what I wanted to talk about today.

If we look at the trends today, we find that people generally want to own less and they want to rent more. Some of it is because of the higher cost of living. There’s also definitely more “software as a service” (instead of owning the software, you subscribe to the software, owning less, renting more.) Friend circles are getting tighter. People are getting lonelier. Marriage is getting delayed. People are having less children. So what does Islam have to say about these things?

There’s a few verses which speak to materialism and speak to having this uncontrolled pursuit of wealth. We need to remind ourselves- not to feel guilty about earning money, and not to feel guilty about earning wealth. But understanding how we can use that in a positive way, and what Allah (swt) tells us to watch out for and what are the cliffs that we can fall over? What are the things that we have to be careful of when pursuing wealth? Because again, that is the number one New Year’s resolution that people have in America.

Wealth is a Test

So the first thing I’ll talk about today that the Quran tells us with regards to wealth, is in Surah Al-Fajr, where Allah says –

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

Faamma alinsanu itha ma ibtalahu rabbuhu faakramahu wanaAAAAamahu fayaqoolu rabbee akramani

And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.”

(Surah Al-Fajr, Quran 89:15)

As for when Allah (swt) tests a person. Usually when you think of a test, what do you think of? You think of a calamity. You think of a challenge. “My parents are going through a divorce. I lost a loved one. I lost my job. I didn’t get into the college that I wanted to get into.” You think of, “that’s a test from Allah.” But what if Allah say you’re the first person, not the second one, the first one. He said, as for when Allah tests a person, فَأَكْرَمَهُAnd is generous to him and honors him. وَنَعَّمَهُ He gives him blessing after blessing. Then, he says, فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ – my Lord has honored me. My Lord has been good to me. But Allah describes that as a test. Then in next verse, He says,

وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ

Waamma itha ma ibtalahu faqadara AAalayhi rizqahu fayaqoolu rabbee ahanani

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.”

(Surah Al-Fajr, Quran 89:16)

When Allah tests him again and restricts that same wealth and provision, فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ – he says, “my Lord has abandoned me. My Lord has dishonored me. My Lord has left me to rot.” So when he is getting the money, he’s getting the promotion, he’s getting the car, he’s getting the house, he’s getting the nice things. He says, “my Lord has blessed me so much. I am so happy with my Lord.” When all those things go away, he says “my Lord has dishonored me. My Lord has left me to rot.” Allah criticizes this mentality. This was the mentality of Pharaoh. This was the mentality of Quraysh. This is the mentality of our President. There are people who say the President was chosen by God, because he has so much power and so much wealth. That’s a mainstream belief in America today, that he is chosen by God. Maybe not amongst us all, but that is the idea.

The Quraysh told the Prophet (pbuh), “if Allah has blessed us here, then He will bless us in the if the hereafter exists.” But in fact the Quran tells us that this wealth is a test and is not something that is inevitable, or honor or dishonor. Having wealth does not mean that God is on your side. Otherwise God is on Jeff Bezos’s side, right?

Having wealth is a test.

  • What are you going to do with it?
  • How are you going to earn it?
  • Are you going to cut corners?
  • Are you going to be ethical?
  • Are you going to have strong principles that guide you in how you earn that wealth and how you spend that wealth?

So the first key concept is: do we look at wealth as a sign of righteousness, or do we look at it as a test from Allah (swt)?

Wealth is a Means

The second thing about wealth Allah (swt) mentions, is that wealth is a means. It’s not an end in and of itself. Some Muslims have the idea that wealth is bad and someone who does not pursue wealth is pure. The separation between deen and dunya- that there are those who pursue the deen and they are pure, and they do not have wealth. And there are those who pursue dunya and they are impure, and they pursue wealth. They are wealthy, and they are impure as result. But the Quran doesn’t say that, Quran actually goes as far as to call wealth good: al-khair.

Allah says,

وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ

Wainnahu lihubbi alkhayri lashadeedun.

And indeed he is, in love of wealth, intense.

(Surah Al-Adiyat, Quran 100:8)

Now there’s two things being said here. It’s actually powerful if you think about it. Man’s love of wealth is intense, and Allah criticizes man’s love for wealth. But at the same time, Allah uses the word خَيْرٌِ for wealth. خَيْرٌِ in Arabic means good. So that wealth can be used as a means of good or it can be used as a means for evil. It is simply a tool. So how have we utilized our wealth? Have we used it as a means for good? Have we used it as a means for evil? Or has it simply been indifferent and neutral, not used for anything too beneficial?

So that becomes a question. Are we pursuing wealth as an end? “I just need to have more money because I want more money.” Or do I pursue wealth because I have some other goal in mind? Something I want to do. Some impact I want to have. Some legacy I want to leave behind. Something that will be a sadaqa jariyah, a continuous charity for me. Something that I can leave behind for my community and for my society.

Those Who Compete

The third thing the Quran says about wealth, and this is an important one. In Surah At-Takathur, Allah criticizes those who compete. أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ – destruction will be upon you, if you compete. Or rather competition has destroyed you. The competition in wanting- “Oh, he has a 2018, I have to get a 2019. He has a BMW, I have to get a Mercedes. He has a Ferrari, I have to get a Lamborghini.” Right? That competition, Allah criticizes that and says,

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

Alhakumu alttakathuru

competition will destroy you.

حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

Hatta zurtumu almaqabira

Until you visit the graves

(Surah At-Takathur, Quran 102:1-2)

They have two meanings- until you go to the graves and you reflect and you realize where you’re going, where you’re headed, and you realize that it’s all temporary, and you stop. The other meaning is that you will continue competing. And you will never remind yourself until you’re in the grave. And that’s when it will stop. And so be careful with that as another pitfall of wealth.

Is it wrong to have nice things, to have nice clothes, to have a nice car? The Prophet (pbuh) said that one of the blessings of Allah was a good mount (a camel or horse) in those days. That’s a blessing of Allah (swt). But what’s more important is the intention behind it.

In one of the hadith, Prophet (pbuh) criticized those who wear clothing for fame. Pursuing, so that people look at them. One man said to the Prophet (pbuh), “what if a person only likes that his clothes are nice and that his scent is nice?” And the Prophet (pbuh) said, “as long as it is not out of arrogance.” So to have nice clothes and to have that nice perfume, that was the luxury of those days. That was okay. But what was dangerous was the intention behind it. That was more important.

Wealth is Temporary

The fourth thing that the Quran tells us about wealth

ذَٰلِكَ مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا

thalika mataAAu alhayati alddunya

Such are the possessions of this world’s life;

(Surah Ali ‘Imran, Quran 3:14)

That at the end of the day this wealth is temporary. It’s limited by our time on this earth. So how are we using this wealth to better society, to better our relationships, to invest in our akhirah, to invest in our personal growth? How are we using it? We have to ask ourselves that. Because this wealth, my brothers and sisters, is temporary. This world is temporary. I don’t need to remind you. Just last week, we had two janazahs and guess how old they were? One was 24 and one was 33. SubhanAllah. The father was there. I said “what happened?” The father said, “he fell asleep and he didn’t wake up.” That was it.

This life is temporary. I don’t mean to make you sad or gloomy or pessimistic or cynical. But rather to realize that, yes, we are pursuing. Yes, we are ambitious. Yes, we want a better job and we want the promotion. But why do we want it? What is our intention behind it? Yes, we can have nice things for ourselves. But we should also focus. We should always have that balance because that is what the Prophet (pbuh) taught us. That is what Allah (swt) teaches us in the Quran. So I ask Allah that He helps us to make the most of our wealth and helps us to earn it and to spend it in the best of ways. Ameen.

أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

I say what you have heard and I seek forgiveness from Allah for me and you from every sin.

Pursuing Internal Aspirations

So going back to our aspirations and motivations that I mentioned at the beginning of this khutbah, that psychologists say there are two main types of aspirations:

  1. External – where you pursue wealth, fame, and image
  2. Internal – where you pursue meaningful relationships, personal growth, and the betterment of society.

So how can we pursue those last three? How can we pursue those internal aspirations? How can we make sure that we have deeper relationships this year? How can we make sure that we have a better relationship with our family, parents, with children and children with parents? How can we make sure that going into the next year will be better than it was last year? How can we make sure of that? How can we be sure? How can we invest in these things, and make these our resolutions just as much as the next promotion and the next so on and so on? So remember that. For many people, it’s enough to realize that the pursuit of wealth, image, and other superficial things, leads to unhappiness. This is in statistics, surveys, and in the Quran. What more do we need?

1. So, first just realize that Shaytan might whisper to you and make you think that it will lead to happiness, but in fact, it will not.

2. The second thing we need to do is we need to teach our children about consumer culture. Facebook ads, Google ads, and Amazon ads, etc. You know what the purpose of ads is? The more ads that we see in our life, the more materialistic we become, the more we want things. Make sense, doesn’t it? So how can we educate the next generation about consumer culture? If Kylie Jenner is posing with something on her Instagram page, it’s not because she wants to genuinely and sincerely recommend this product that will be good for you? No, that’s because she makes a million dollars for every post that she makes, right? It has nothing to do with what’s good for you, or what you produce, and so on. So being aware of consumer culture, that’s very important.

3. Number three, it’s important to clarify our values. One of our values is that wealth should be in our hands, but not in our hearts. It should not affect our intention. And that’s difficult. It’s not easy. We ask Allah to protect our hearts.

4. Another thing that we should do is to emphasize our relationships. One advice that my teachers always used to give me. I think it applies to everyone and this was in a group of imams, scholars, and so on. He said, “You should always have those people in your life who, when they call, that you always pick up.” You should always have those people. College students pay attention. Even adults can use this advice. No matter how big you get. No matter how many millions and billions you make. Even Jeff Bezos, even Bill Gates, need those people who when they call, they pick up. Don’t let it go to voicemail. You don’t decline it and say you do it later after you finish Netflix. Right? You don’t defer. You don’t decline. If you don’t have those people, then you need to seek those people. If you used to have those people, then you need to make amends, and gain them back. Because they will be what grounds you. They will keep you on earth when your head’s up in the sky.

5. The other thing that we can do is to model behaviors and actions that make the world a better place. Our children are watching us. What we talk about, what we watch, what we hear. They’re watching everything. They’re learning everything from us. If they see that we are really interested in the next car, the next house, the next promotion, all the material pursuit. That is what they will do. They will remember that. So how can you be the best role model for your children?

6. And finally, we have to face our fears head on. What will happen if you don’t buy that new car? What will really happen? What will happen if you don’t have that nice country club admission? What will happen if you go for a smaller house instead of a bigger house? Are you afraid that people will judge you or people will think a certain way about you? And if they will, then how valuable is it, to have people in your life who judge you in that way? Who judge you based on the things that you have, and not on who you are and what you represent?

So I ask Allah (swt) that He makes this year a fruitful year for us. I ask Allah (swt) that He gives us رِزْقًا حَلَاً طَیِّباً pure, permissible halal provision. I ask Allah (swt) that He accepts our dua’s and He accepts our requests. I ask Allah (swt) that He makes our dreams come true. I ask Allah (swt) that if anyone is in need of a job, ya Allah, give them the best job. I ask Allah (swt) that if anyone is in need of marriage, that Allah gives them the best spouse. And that if anyone wants children, ya Allah give them the best children. I ask Allah (swt) that He gives us good in this life and in the next life.

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

I ask Allah (swt) that He gathers us together into paradise, into the highest tiers of Paradise. I ask Allah (swt) that He forgives those that we have lost, that He has mercy on those that we have lost, that He gives patience to the families of those that we have lost. I ask Allah (swt) that He has mercy on our parents, as they had for us when we were children. I ask Allah (swt) that He forgives our parents if they have passed. I ask Allah (swt) that He gives the ability to improve our relationship with our parents as they are still alive. I ask Allah (swt) that He accepts our good deeds and forgives our shortcomings. Ameen.

عِبَادَ اللّهِ  إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ  يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.

اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا

 وَأَقِمِ الصّلَاة

Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein.  And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.

And, establish the prayer.

Which internal aspiration do you intend to invest in? Share in the comments below!

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