The Subject of Envy in the Hadiths

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

Now we will take a look at the words of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on the topic of envy (hasad).

Anas ibn Malik reported that when among the Companions one day the Messenger of God said, “The man who is about to come in is deserving of Heaven.” Just then, an Ansari man with water dripping from his beard from his ablutions came in, holding his shoes in his left hand. The next day, the Prophet said the same thing. Then the same man came in. On the third day the Prophet said this a third time and the same man entered again.

When the Prophet left, ‘Abdullah ibn Amr went to the Ansari man and asked if he could stay at his house for a few days. After his stay he said this about what he had seen: “I was in his house for three nights. But I did not see him get up at night to pray. I heard him mention God whenever he woke up, until the morning prayer time. And he never spoke of anything but good the entire time. After three days I was starting to think he did not do anything special (enough to deserve such commendation of the Prophet). I asked him, ‘God’s Messenger told us three times, “The man who is about to come in is deserving of Heaven,” and each time you came in. I wanted to stay with you to see what good deeds you are doing. But I have not seen anything out of the ordinary. What is it that elevates you to the level the Prophet talked about?’ The man said, ‘I do only what you have seen.’ So, I turned around to leave, but as I was leaving, he called, ‘But I should add, I never hold any enmity or hatred towards any Muslim in my heart. Thanks to the goodness of God I have never harboured envy toward anyone.’” On hearing this, ‘Abdullah said, “Ah! This is what has lifted you to such a high degree.” [Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3/166]

According to Zubayr, the Prophet said, “The sicknesses of ancient societies have spread to you: envy and hatred. These can denude you of your religion and your faith. By God Almighty, Who holds my soul in His hand, you cannot enter Heaven without having faith. And you cannot have faith without loving each other. Shall I tell you something that will help you to love each other? Spread the peace greeting amongst yourselves.” [Tirmidhi, Sifat al-Kiyama, 57, 2512]

Another hadith from Ibn Mas’ud reports that the Prophet said, “It is not permissible to envy anyone except in two cases: one who makes a judgment with wisdom that has been given to them by God and who teaches this wisdom to others; one who spends their Godgiven material possessions in the Way of God.” [Bukhari, Ilm, 15; Muslim, Salat al-Musafirin, 268, 816]

Anas also narrated the following hadith from God’s Messenger: “Envy inevitably eats up blessings and good, just as fire consumes wood. Charity (sadaqa) covers errors, just as water puts out fire. The daily prayers are the Light of the believer. And fasting will protect you from the Flame (of Hell).” [Tirmidhi, Salat, 433; Nasai, Bay’at, 35]

Yet another narration of the Prophet relays these words: “The believer has four enemies: another believer who harbors envy; a hypocrite who is in a rage; Satan, who diverts them from the right path; the disbeliever who attacks them.” [Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, 5/373; Kanz al-Ummal, 1, 146]

Abu Said al-Khudri also transmitted a hadith in which Gabriel came to the Messenger of God and said, “O Muhammad, are you sick?” and when he said yes, the angel read this prayer: “I invoke the name of God for you, against all sicknesses that pain you, against all evil souls and against envious eyes. In the name of God, I pray that God may heal you.” [Muslim, Salaam, 40, 2186]

We can come to the following conclusions from this hadith:

a. One of the most important factors indicating whether a person will be admitted to Heaven—since it is a sign and manifestation of perfect faith—is a heart and soul free of resentment toward others and envy for material and non-material blessings.

b. Even if one cannot completely eliminate feelings of resentment toward someone, one must strive to treat them with fairness and consideration, never doing wrong to them, and containing the feelings so they do not overflow their boundaries.

c. It is essential to try to protect oneself from this mischievous inclination, recalling that it can cancel out and destroy one’s good deeds “just as fire destroys wood.”

d. One who believes in God, the Prophets, the Scriptures, and the pillars of faith sincerely should remember that it is not right for a believer to resent or hate others because they have been blessed with material or spiritual riches. To do so is to resent God Almighty’s decision and judgment. A person who recognizes this malice in themselves should realize that their faith is in danger and take measures to clean and protect their heart from the damage this can cause.

e. When someone else looks or acts hatefully toward us, and if we think we have been affected by it or even made ill by it, it is best to take refuge in God Almighty and pray to Him for protection, health, and healing.

In short, hasad is one of the most serious spiritual illnesses that can infect the human breast. Spiritual ills can only be cured by knowledge and action. In order to cure this malice, it is critical to be aware of the dangers that it poses to one’s faith and to the world; knowledge is the first line of defence. In order to want to be free of envy, one must truly understand the full import of it.

To harbour spite and resentment means that a person has set themselves against the will and decision of God, and that they are ungrateful for what He has apportioned them. Moreover, harbouring such ill feelings is paramount to refusing to believe that there is hidden wisdom behind these decisions; this in turn goes against tawhid, overturning it, and threatening basic faith. As Bediüzzaman Said Nursi said, “Whoever criticizes Divine Determination is striking their head against an anvil on which it will break (i.e., by criticizing it, one only hurts oneself) and whoever objects to Divine Mercy will be deprived of mercy.” [Nursi, Mektubat, 2, 471]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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