Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Brother, thanks for your question.
First of all, we would like to say that in principle, indulging in the life of this world without neglecting religious duties is definitely permissible. However, a Muslim must be aware that the more he indulges in this life, the more liable he is and the more his responsibilities will increase.
This should not make us turn away from succeeding in life and achieving goals, but rather it should make us more attentive to the tricks of Satan. In this regard, Ibrahim Al-Nakh`i, a great scholar who died in 96 AH, was asked: “Is the honest trader preferable to you, or the one who spends all his time in worship?” He said: “The honest trader is preferable to me, because he is in jihad.” Satan comes to him through the weighing and measuring and through his dealing, but he is striving against him.
You also mentioned in your question about competing in achieving wealth. In this case, we ought to mention that this kind of competition should never be done for its own sake. However, if it is done for the sake of making Muslims strong and contributing to the achievements of the Muslim Ummah, then it is permissible. Allah the Almighty says in the context of describing the reward of the believers in Paradise, “They are given to drink of a pure wine, sealed, whose seal is musk – for this let (all) those strive who strive for bliss.” (Al-Mutaffifin 83:26) This is the most important type of competitiveness that we should never forget.
Moreover, in order to answer your question fully we would like to shed some light on four fundamental beliefs that will surely help us:
1- The life of this world is transitory.
Imam Al-Ghazali says, “Know that the life of this world is transitory. Its duration is fleeting; it promises eternity but fails in its tryst, you look at it and it seems settled while it is in great motion. It is departing with speed, but the one who looks at it may not feel its movement so he relaxes in it; he will only feel it when it reaches its end. It is like a shadow that moves unperceived; while it is actually moving, it appears to be stationary. You cannot see its movement with the eyes but you can perceive it by inner discernment.” See: Al-Ghazali’s Revitalization of the Sciences of Religion.
This is a key belief that each Muslim must adhere to. The more one’s belief in this principle weakens, the more likely his indulgence in the wealth and luxury of this world will hinder him in the Hereafter.
2- Wealth is a tool that can be either praiseworthy or blameworthy.
Whoever knows the benefit of something and uses it to achieve his aims, has done well and has benefited himself. Wealth is a tool and can be a means to attain a corrupt purpose; and it is that purpose which hinders the person from attaining happiness in the Hereafter and impedes the way to knowledge and achievement. Thus, it is both praiseworthy and blameworthy.” See: Al-Ghazali’s Revitalization of the Sciences of Religion.
Wealth, career and assets are not aims in themselves, but rather tools and means that a Muslim uses for the benefit of this world as well as the Hereafter. If we remember this, wealth will always be in our hands, not our hearts. We will not be desperate for wealth, but rather desperate to please Allah the Almighty with the tools He has given us.
3- While seeking wealth, a Muslim must never forget his religious duties.
Allah the Almighty says in the Glorious Qur’an, “O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children divert you from the remembrance of God, and whoever does that, they are the losers.” (Al-Munafiqun 63:9)
In this verse, Allah the Almighty did not forbid us from seeking wealth or children, but rather He forbade us from allowing them to divert us from remembering Him and being steadfast on the duties that He has asked us to fulfill. While seeking a great career, a Muslim should not forget his duties towards Allah the Almighty, his religion – the Ummah, and of course his family. He should never compromise his religion for the sake of this life. Also, one must not do any impermissible job or fall into any impermissible dealings for the sake of supplying himself and his family with the things they desire. The permissible always leads to opulence and bliss.
4- Wealth is a trust that requires gratitude and sharing.
Allah the Almighty says, “Your wealth and your children are only a temptation, and with God is an immense reward.” (At-Taghabun 64:15)
The word ‘temptation’ in this verse means a ‘test.’ We are given blessings and bounties, but do we thank Allah the Almighty for them? Do we remember Allah the Almighty when we are rich? Or do we only remember Him when we fall into hardships? Do we pay the zakah that we are required to give? Do we help the needy? We are tested through bounties such as wealth, to see whether we will misuse them or use them in the right place and in the right way; whether we will thank Allah the Almighty for them or not, and whether we will give the needy their share or not. In this regard, Imam Al-Hasan Al-Basri says, “Allah the Almighty has mercy upon people to whom the world was a trust, so they paid it back to the One who entrusted them with it, and they departed unburdened.”
If these four cornerstones are well-rooted in a Muslim’s heart and he continuously evaluates himself accordingly, then indulging in the life of this world will not hinder him in the Hereafter, in sha’ Allah.
Allah Almighty knows best.