Salam Dear Sister,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Context is King
At times, Islam presents information about realities in separate texts. If one looks at one of these texts in isolation, it may lead one to an incomplete picture.
For example, the statements of the Prophet that suggest poor people will enter Paradise before the rich may make one think that Islam recommends one to remain poor.
However, we find that the Prophet himself would say,
“O Allah, I seek your refuge from poverty.” [Sahih – An-Nasai]
Islam encourages strength in knowledge, wealth, and health
We are encouraged to seek strength in knowledge, seek Allah’s refuge from poverty for financial strength, and ask Allah for comfort and ease for health, as the Prophet would say:
“O Allah, grant me comfort in my body, comfort in my hearing, comfort in my sight, there is none worthy of worship except you.” [Hasan – Abu Dawud]
Understanding that Islam encourages strength in wealth, how do we then understand the texts that state poor people will enter Paradise before the rich?
Entrance to Paradise is preceded by a session of accountability for wealth- how it was earned and spent as the Prophet said:
The two feet of the son of Adam will not move before his Lord on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about five concerning his life – how he spent it; about his youth – how he took care of it; about his wealth – how he earned it; and where he spent it and about that which he acted upon from the knowledge he acquired. [Hasan – Sahih al-Jami’]
Naturally, the questioning of those with many financial transactions will be longer than those with less wealth.
Islam does not, though, discourage wealth or teach that poor people are guaranteed paradise.
Use Wealth Responsibly
The wealthy person can truly benefit from his wealth and receive a higher position in Paradise if they use it properly. The Prophet alluded to this by saying:
“The rich are in fact the poor on the Day of Resurrection except those who spend their wealth like this, and like this, and like this, to their right, left and back, but such people are few in number.” [Al-Bukhari]
Islam does not just encourage one to be financially strong, but also emphasizes using the wealth responsibly.
Using wealth responsibly allows wealth to become a source of rewards in the hereafter and not a burden.
Likewise, a poor person who is arrogant and commits evil can enter Hell:
“There are three that Allah will not speak to on the Day of Judgment nor purify them:
- An aged person committing adultery
- A lying king
- An arrogant poor person” [Muslim]
We have great examples of wealthy companions who used their wealth responsibly and supported society, among them: Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn Affan, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, Talhah ibn Ubaydullah, Abdullah ibn Umar, etc.
I hope this helps answer your question.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)