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Defeating Greed… Just Six Feet of Land

In high 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”.

Having overheard Pahom’s remarks, the novel continues, the devil thought and thought how he could help the peasant attain the land and in turn have him in his power.

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.

This reminded me of the hadith by our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he narrates:

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 “By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you, but I fear that this world will be opened up with its wealth for you as it was opened to those before you; and you vie with one another over it as they did and eventually it will ruin you as it ruined them” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Defeating Greed

So what exactly is greed?

What are the losses caused by greed?

What can we do to overcome it?

In an extremely materialistic world, it is easy for us to get consumed in it and turn to greed. While we may feel lost, there is hope.

Greed is a strong and selfish desire to have more of something.

It is significant we understand that greed is never satisfied. More often than not, the more we get, the more we want. Material possessions will not protect us; neither in this life nor eternally.

Greed hints softly that we would be happier if we had more money, more things, and more power. In reality it creates discontent and a growing desire to do whatever it takes to gain position and possessions. Sadly, it is a race behind materialism with no end.

When is it Enough?

It can be difficult to know when enough is enough. At one stage or another in this modern world we are all guilty of running the race and wanting to have more to have better. We want to upgrade whatever we have even if we cannot afford it. This may even be how some live all their lives; with higher purchase.

By failing to calculate the future loss we are unable to harness our greed. This sheds light on Mahatma Gandhi’s words “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

We all need to tailor-make our life according to the budget we earn.

In greed we are so busy trying to get what we think we lack that we do not recognize and acknowledge what we already have.

Anas bin Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys. Nothing fills his mouth but the dust (of the grave), yet Allah will accept whoever repents to him.(Al-Bukhari)

My Silkworm

To defeat greed, we need to stop ourselves from acting the moment an egotistical thought comes to our minds. As soon as the thought to grab a desirable object comes to mind we need to stop right there.

This brings to mind a time long ago when my late mother warned me of greed as I ran to her showing her one of my silkworms. The worm had eaten and eaten till it could no longer stomach the leaves, suffocated  and killed itself. The worm had not shared its leaves and the other worms ate from one.

We must determine what our mind is forcing us to do. Once we become aware that we are being greedy, let that thing go. Rather, choose the option that maintains our humility and contentment

The Holy Qur’an reads:

{By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you spend of that which you love} (Aal `Imran 3:92)

While  greed is addictive, we still have free will. We have many choices available for us.

Below are verses from the Qur’an illustrating the extent of greedy behaviour

{Indeed, man is ungrateful to his Lord;

and He is witness to this;

he is truly excessive in his love of wealth. } (Al-`Adiyat 100:6-8)

Ambition and Desire

It is important not to justify our actions by saying that we have no other choice. Realize that we do have further options.

We should not allow the intensity of ‘need’ and the fear underlying it to take over our mind, prevailing over our ability to step back and ask ourselves, what are our options here?

Six Feet of Land

By no means am I against advancement. On the contrary it is significant as Muslims we develop, grow and benefit the Ummah. However there is a thin line between ambition and desire. This must be checked.

Contentment, altruism and generosity are the opposite of greed. As we learn to thank Allah for what we have and freely share it with others, we stop filling the vacuum in our heart with material things.

Remember nobody has ever become poor from giving. By backing off a bit in our appetites we help preserve the rest of Allah’s creation.

So go ahead, renew your intentions, share and reap the rewarding benefits which will clearly outnumber those accumulated through greed.

In the end all we really need is six feet of land.

About Deana Nassar
Deana Nassar is a published writer. As a mother of four, in her home she’s the sole expert on all things related to marriage, children’s psychology, motherhood and creative survival. She loves charity work, reading and writing poetry, and is mostly known for writing articles discussing family and social issues, faith, freedom, and purpose that comes through God. She can be reached at [email protected]