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The Standard of Living of a Muslim
Social Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The standard of living which a Muslim should maintain is an issue about which the Ummah has generally remained divided into two groups: The first group holds that this standard should be the minimum possible so that a person has just enough bread and butter to survive in this ‘filthy’ world, while the second one is of the view that as long as a person pays zakat, he can amass as much wealth and riches as he likes. In our humble estimation, the truth lies in between these two extreme opinions. Islam neither directs its followers to practise ascetism nor does it bid them to accumulate as much wealth as they like.

According to the Qur’ān and Sunnah, a common Muslim citizen should earn his living as one of the targets in life, yet in this pursuit he should not forget the life of the next world: just as he tries to surpass others in wordly gains, he should also try to surpass them in attaining a higher place in the Hereafter. While refraining from wasting and excessive spending, he can maintain his standard of living according to the wealth the Almighty blesses him. However, after fulfilling his present and future requirements, personal as well as business ones, he must consider the rest of his wealth as the share of the society. Consequently, the Qur’ān has made it clear that if a person while remaining indifferent to the needs of the society keeps even a penny with himself, then this would be hoarding wealth---something which shall lead him to the raging fire of Hell in the Hereafter:

“Give glad tidings of a grievous doom to those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah. On the Day when their gold and silver shall be smelted in the flames of Hell and their foreheads, their flanks and their backs will be branded with them. These are the riches which you hoarded. Now taste of what you used to hoard.” (9:34-35)

This is the standard of living which Islam requires of a common Muslim. However, it has given special directives in this regard for the other two categories of people which generally exist in an Islamic society viz. (1) religious scholars who take up the job of Da’wah1 , (2) government officials like the head of state and his representatives. Before we elaborate on the injunctions concerning these two categories, it must be realized that the two have a key role to play in a society. Keeping in view these important roles, Islam has imposed additional constraints upon their pattern of living to nurture and develop certain fundamental values in a society. We now examine both these categories separately.

Religious scholars who take up the job of inzār and Islamic propagation in accordance with verse 122 of Sūrah Taubah2 have been urged to consider their duty as a full-time mission. They should primarily focus all their efforts and energies in disseminating the Message of Allah, and vocational activities should be their secondary goals. In fact, in this regard it is not even their responsibility to make efforts to earn a livelihood: The Almighty has taken it upon Himself to provide them. The Qur’ān says:

“We do not require of you to make efforts for your living; We shall provide you3.” (20:132)

The ulema should content themselves with whatever the Almighty provides them. However, if they find time after fulfilling the requirements of their mission, earning a livelihood is not a forbidden venture for them. Moreover, if the Almighty blesses them with opulence, they should not lead a life of luxury. They should not leave estates and properties behind them; their only legacy should be that of intellect and character. They must maintain a moderate standard of living and spend in the way of Allah whatever remains after their current requirements are met---leaving the future ones to the Almighty. Those who are at the helm of affairs of an Islamic State must bring their standard of living equal to that of a common man. The Prophet (sws) and all the Rightly Guided Caliphs strictly adhered to this practice which can be termed as a Sunnat-i-Thaaabitah4. It is a historically proven fact that as long as the Prophet (sws) remained in Mecca, his life was that of a Daai’-i-Haq5, but as soon as he migrated to Medina as its undisputed ruler, he changed his life-style and adopted the living standards of a common man. After him, the four Khulafaa-i-Raashideen followed his footsteps, and more than fifty years later when Umar Bin Abdul Aziz became the khaleefah, the world once again witnessed one of the richest persons of that period turning overnight into a king who was probably poorer than the poorest of his citizens. Consequently, in an Islamic State, an office in the government is not a privilege but a place of selfless service. Naturally, if the standard of living of government officials has to be maintained at this level, only people who intend to unconditionally serve the nation, will present themselves for this job.

These are the directives of Islam which pertain to the life-style of a Muslim. It has divided the people of an Islamic society into three distinct categories, and laid down in black and white the code each must follow. It is clear from this division that Islam wants to evolve a society in which instead of wealth and affluence, greed and selfishness, deception and meanness, the basic values are piety and honesty, competence and expertise, hardwork and dedication. It grants intellect and wisdom the honour and integrity they truly deserve, and makes the rulers of an Islamic State its ‘public servants’.









1. ie, inzār and the propagation of Islam.

2. “It was not possible for all the believers to undertake [this job]. So why did not a few from every group among them come forward to gain sound knowledge in religion, and warn the people of their [respective] nations, when they returned to them that they may also take head.” (9:122)

3. Although the Prophet (sws) has been addressed in this verse, yet all those who succeed the Prophet (sws) in his mission of da’wah, by analogy, are also its addressees.

4. The established customs of the Prophet (sws) which were passed on as religion to the Muslim Ummah by a vast majority of the Companions of the Prophet (sws) through their practical consensus or perpetual adherence to such customs.

5. One who takes up the task of Da’wah.

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