Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 188..........Part 2
And do not consume each other's wealth unjustly, nor offer it to men in authority with the intent of seizing unlawfully and knowingly a part of the wealth of others.
(Chapter 2: Verse 188)
Allah wants your actions in this world to be decent and honorable, so you would only feed your family from hard, honest work and from what is rightfully yours. Do not offer yourself or those you love anything that was unlawfully taken from others. Moreover, you should do everything you can to earn a living; do not rely on the generosity of others or government programs because laziness breeds corruption in society. Suppose for example that a person who has the ability to work and earn a living decides to sit home and claim a benefit from the government or a charity. In essence, he or she is stealing from the work of other people in the community. A neighbor or a teenager who sees this person may follow in his or her lead and say: why should I work if I can get my basic living for free? And when everyone starts to rely on others, the life grinds to a halt, and those who do work are overburdened to feed the lazy.
Allah wants you to work in order to fulfill your needs for food, drink, and shelter. He honours your work because it benefits you and benefits the society as a whole. You earn money and those around you benefit from your production and services. When work is valued, everyone strives to attain this honor. But if money is honored -regardless of how it is earned- then corruption spreads throughout the society.
Therefore, it is important that you consider the dignity of your work and the honesty of your actions. A bank robber, for example, puts a lot of effort and work to earn the stolen money, but it is an undignified dishonest work. Stolen goods are the result of unlawful actions. The same applies to extortion, fraud, cheating, dishonesty, betrayal of trust, and cutting corners when producing goods. All these actions are considered unjust by God. He says: “And do not consume each other's wealth unjustly, nor offer it to men in authority with the intent of seizing unlawfully and knowingly a part of the wealth of others”
God is warning us against using the law and against lobbying those in power to justify our wrong doings. In other words, don’t use government laws as an excuse to earn unlawful money. Take for example a government that allows prostitution, grants licenses for gambling, or approves the sale of alcohol. Just because the authorities say that such dealings are lawful does not make them lawful. God is the ultimate authority. There is a difference between civil law and divine law. Corruption spreads in societies when civil law supersedes heavenly values. Those who earn a living from work that is not accepted by God are the ones who consume other’s wealth unjustly and feed their families from unlawful means.
There have been many occasions where a person would come to me and claim that his or her unlawful business is necessary to earn a living. He or she would claim, for example, that they will starve if they do not sell alcohol at their shop. I advise them to rethink their life, and where money actually comes from. Allah is the true provider and He gives without account. You must never think that your work is the only reason for sustenance; you have to look at the true source. If you switch from unlawful work to an honest, lawful one for the sake of Allah, He will not abandon you. More importantly, I advise the wife and kids of a man who insists on earning his living from unlawful means to refuse to eat from what the man brings home. Think about what will happen when a child refuses to eat from what his father unlawfully earn.
Allah –the All Merciful- is well aware of our concerns regarding earning a living. Let’s look at an example: When God prohibited the Polytheists from entering His sacred house in Mecca, there were many Meccans whose earnings and livelihood depended on the large number of visitors who come to Mecca during the Hajj season. In fact, the people of Mecca did most of their annual sales to non-Muslims during the short Hajj season. So when God revealed the prohibition of the Polytheists from entering His house, you could imagine the anxiety of these merchants. How will they earn their living? God says:
O you who believe! Those who associate partners with God are impure. So, after the expiry of this year, let them not approach the Sacred Mosque.
Then, in the very same verse, God immediately addressed the issue on everyone’s mind. He continued:
And should you fear poverty, God will enrich you out of His bounty if He so wills. Surely, God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (9:28)
Thus, never think that unlawful work is the only way available to you to earn a living. We remind anyone who is involved in unlawful work, such as the production and sale of Alcohol, dealing with interest and usury, the production of morally questionable music or videos, that God knows of their plight and says to them: “And should you fear poverty, God will enrich you out of His bounty if He so wills. Surely, God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (9:28) In other words, if you put God first and foremost in your dealings, He –the provider of all good- will enrich you. God says in the 65th chapter:
And whosoever fears God, He will appoint for him a way out, and will provide for him from an unexpected source; God is sufficient for those who put their trust in Him. God achieves His purpose; God has set a due measure for everything. (from 65:2,3)
More importantly, if you earn your wealth unjustly, you risk the ruin of yourself and your family. There are countless examples of unlawful wealth that was spent on health issues and terrible illnesses. Those who take advantage of people and collect bribes often end up in jail or having to pay off others. Women who use their bodies to spread corruption and break up families often end up alone and abandoned by those they truly care about. Every person will ultimately see the evil consequence of his or her sinful deeds. Unfortunately, these sad endings do not get the publicity and media attention that is needed to deter others from making the same terrible choices.
You are probably aware of your neighbors and friends and the source of their income. If anyone in your life is involved in unlawful or corrupt dealings, take the time to give honest and kind advice to him or her. When you give advice out of love and concern for them and their families, you can hopefully help them change their ways.
There is another troubling trend among those who knowingly earn their wealth unlawfully. Some give to charities or build mosques in order to make up for their deed and cleanse the rest of their money. We answer that God is pure and does not accept that which is not pure. So do not try to mask your deeds by giving to charity or by making the Hajj pilgrimage. God is in no need of your worship and charity. He wants you to purify yourself first and make sure that you earn your money honestly and lawfully.