Greed in Our Society


Greed is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.

A keen environmentalist made a poignant observation when she said, “the most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young men in war, but don’t have the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful”. I wonder why? Is it because they don’t like to criticise their voters? Is it because they would be bigots – after all, look at the waste in government departments or in their private lives.

Greedy and Wasteful Society

Whatever the reason is for the silence of the politicians about our greedy and wasteful society, what is keeping the religious leaders quiet? Why aren’t the doctors telling patients gluttony is bad? Why don’t teachers and social engineers teach about the harm of being greedy and wasteful? There seems to be a denial of this deep malaise in society. How long can we keep our heads buried under the sand? When will someone stand up to this cardinal human vice of greed?

We all need to be challenged. I think I know why – it’s painful, too painful to live a simple austere and frugal life. We are sunk in materialism and consumerism, it’s our way of life, we are affluent and can afford it, therefore we must have it and have it at any price. We have lost self-control and self-mastery. The Islamic teaching that, “Whoever is able to protect himself from greed will be successful” (At-Taghabun: 16) is a pertinent reminder to us all. A true Muslim is generous and not greedy.

How Do We Overcome Greed

One way to overcome this is by volunteering. There are millions of people who volunteer every year. They do invaluable service to the community. Our deen also expects us always to be willing to freely give our time, money, talent and skills for the good of others. The volunteer is the true ‘mujahid’. Working hard to fulfil someone’s need, advise or serve in some other way. The volunteer is self-sacrificing, as he or she helps for example a struggling student with their schoolwork or provides a shelter for the homeless or collects money to help the victims of natural disasters. Volunteering is precious in Allah’s sight it is highly valued. The volunteer is actually living and acting on the Divine attributes of generosity, kindness, patience and forgiveness. Four names of Allah: Al-Karim, Ar-Rahman, As-Saboor, and Al-Ghafoor.

Conditions for Volunteering

I hope that this reminder on volunteering will encourage us to take on some work in the community. Remember the beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The person who merely directs others to good work will be rewarded like the actual doer”. However, there are three conditions for volunteering:

  1. Ikhlas (sincerity)
  2. Working only for the Divine pleasure and no other motive
  3. Being gentle and patient when things get difficult

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘On every Muslim, there is a compulsory alms (zakah). The people asked, ‘If one has nothing?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘He should work with his hands so that he may benefit himself and give in charity.’ They said, ‘If he cannot work or does not work?’. He (peace be upon him) replied, ‘Then he should help the oppressed unhappy person (by word or action or both).’ They said, ‘If he does not do it?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘Then he should enjoin what is good.’ They said, ‘If he does not do that?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘Then he should refrain from doing evil, for that will be considered a charity for him’ (Bukhari).

The hadith above declares volunteering as another form of charity. If you can give your money for the sake of Allah in any cause, why not invest your time?

3 reasons why you should be volunteering:

1. Invest in your Deen: Rather than something that takes seconds like donating money, invest your time. Remember, you get out of it what you put in.

2. Be the change you wish to see: What are you waiting for? Rather than wondering where your money went after you clicked the Donate button, the results are in front of you.

3. Social Productivity: Get out there and prove by example what being a productive Muslim is all about.