He went to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar and said: “O Imam! Solve this difficulty for me! In the market you did that, while in your house you did this.” ‘Abdullah replied to him saying: “What I did in the market was not stinginess, but arose from frugality; it was perfectly reasonable, and to preserve confidence and honesty, which are the basis and spirit of commerce. And what I did by my house arose from the heart’s compassion and the spirit’s perfection. Neither was the first stinginess, nor the second immoderateness.”
Alluding to this, Imam Abu Hanifa said: “There can be no excess in good, just as there is no good in excess.”1 That is to say, just as in good works and benevolence there can no excess or wastefulness – on condition they are for the deserving, so there is no good at all in wastefulness and immoderateness.
Excess and wastefulness lead to greed, and greed has three consequences:
The First is dissatisfaction, and as for dissatisfaction, it destroys endeavour and enthusiasm for work, and causes the dissatisfied person to complain instead of giving thanks, and makes him lazy. Such a person abandons possessions which though few in number are licit,2 and seeks possessions which are illicit and trouble-free. He sacrifices his self-respect on the way, and even his honour.
The Second Consequence of Greed is disappointment and loss. The greedy person drives away what he wishes for, is found disagreeable, and is deprived of assistance and help. He even confirms the saying: “The greedy person is unsuccessful and suffers loss.”3
Greed and contentment have their effects in the animal kingdom in accordance with an extensive law. For instance, the natural contentment of trees needy for sustenance makes their sustenance hasten to them; this shows the huge benefits of contentment. While animals’ running after their sustenance greedily and with difficulty and deficiency demonstrates the great loss of greed.
See, al-Ghazali, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, i, 262; Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vii, 110; al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, v, 454.
Consumers increase and producers decrease as a result of wastefulness and lack of economy. Everyone fixes his eye on the government’s door, and industry, trade, and agriculture, on which social life depend, decrease. And the nation declines and is impoverished.
See, Ibn Qays, Qura al-Dayf, iv, 301; al-Maydani, Majma‘ al-Amthal, i, 214