Maulana Sheikh NazimOn Envy

One of Islam’s major goals, which is realised best through following the spiritual path of Sufism, is to make a love-current pass through people’s hearts. When this love passes through hearts it eliminates all envy.

Envy precludes real love, and real love and true religion, likewise, preclude envy. All true religion must instruct its followers how to uproot envy, as it is one of the ego’s worst characteristics - so bad, in fact, that it has been named “the Mother of Sins,” as the first of all sins resulted from envy. That sin, of course, was Satan’s refusal to bow down to Adam when Allah ordered him to do so; and that refusal was a result of Satan’s envying Adam for his having been made the deputy of Allah on earth and the “crown of creation”.

Because of this, every Prophet right down through the ages to the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad, (Peace be upon them all) has denounced envy and warned his followers in the strongest terms to avoid it. They knew, and tried to teach others, the facts about envy; whoever is envious loses his faith. Do you think that a young plant can survive if acid is poured upon its roots instead of water? No, that young plant will be annihilated, and envy is more harmful to faith than acid is to that young plant.

So many sins derive their power from envy. Envy encourages people to harm other people; to kill, to burn, to rob, to loot - that is the fruit of the envy tree. Nowadays you may find envy among learned people even more that among others – among lawyers, architects, merchants, members of parliament, ministers, judges, etc. - and most of all among ladies – now upon hearing me say this, all the ladies are frowning!

People talk and think like this; “You have a car while I have none. You have a good car while mine is an old jalopy. You live in a mansion while I live in this dump. Your wife is beautiful while mine is plain. You are strong and handsome while I am scrawny and ugly.” And even people, like those professionals, who have so much of this world’s enjoyments, envy those possessing still more than they. No greedy person can ever have all that he may want, for he might be the richest but not the handsomest and the handsomest and the richest but not the smartest. Even if he had all that he could want, and personified all that anyone could ever envy, eventually old age would rob him and he would envy those still having youth.

The Prophets, when they came, recognised that it was envy, not the envious people themselves whom they were fighting. The prophets also understood that when people fought against them, it was envy that pushed them to it.

But how, exactly, can one get over his envy? For every illness there is a doctor, a specialist, who knows very well how to deal with that disease - and there are spiritual doctors who can deal with envy. If you follow such people as never carry envy in their hearts, their state may pass through to you too; but if you follow ill people their illness may infect you too.

One must be very, very, careful in searching for a specialist who is capable of removing one’s envy, and giving, instead, of his own state. If you can find such a person, a person who has a really good state to give of, then be as his shadow, always following in his footsteps. If your heart is at peace with a certain person, that peace is a sign that his state is a really good one and that he is suitable for you, but if you feel somehow uneasy and dissatisfied, you must look for another. …. So there is nothing wrong with going from one person who is known as a sheikh to another and yet another until you find your heart’s satisfaction. If an ill person benefits from the treatment of one physician and recovers, he has no need to go on searching for more doctors.

For what reason does envy spread through mankind like wildfire? Love of this life is the reason. Those who love this life envy others their portions of it. This is why the Prophet said, ”Love of this life is the source of every sin.” It is very foolish indeed for believers to carry in their hearts envy of people who devote themselves solely to the pursuit of this life’s pleasers. If one claims to believe in eternal life, in unending paradise and hell, how can he throw himself into hell?

Every believer must know that this world is not for anyone, but for everyone. Once he has understood this wisdom he keeps quiet and keeps himself in peace, far away from disturbances, troubles and problems. He who knows that the world is not for anyone but for everyone will be at peace with himself and will be free of envy. At that time he will no longer ask himself; “Why has that person been given so many things while I have not?”

Asking oneself why others have so much is a rubbish question to ask! That was proven to me once when I went to Tower Bridge to see the Royal treasury. There I saw the place where the robes of the Emperors of the British empire are kept. I asked; ”Where are the Emperors? How is it that they have gone away and left their majestic clothes here?…” People told me; “The Emperors are downstairs, underground - ‘basement flat’”

And so, it is very foolish to be envious and to complain that someone has been given what you have not since, in the final end, what we are quarrelling over will be taken away from them also. No, there is nothing in this life for any one person; this life is for everyone,….. you will use things and then give them to the next in line and to the next and so on. Therefore there is no wisdom in envying anyone for anything. You must be vigilant so as not to kindle that fire in your heart.

There is an Arabic proverb; “Envy is most just. It passes judgement on the one who possesses it and carries out its verdict by killing him”. In other words envy is a killer, he is killed who holds to it.

Perhaps you have a donkey, and so you don’t need to worry about paying high petroleum prices, all you need is straw, and straw is very cheap; and what’s more your donkey will go a long way on a little straw! You will get many miles per bale from your donkey, much cheaper to run that even a Volkswagen, and fewer mechanical problems!

Even if you have only a donkey, you must be proud to ride it down the street instead of riding in a Rolls Royce. You must think that no one has ever been given what you have been given – and it is true.

To think like this is the second important medicine against envy – to be thankful, truly thankful, for having what you have and to prefer it to all else.

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an; ”And very few of My servants are truly thankful.” You can be among the truly thankful only when you prefer your portion, and be it very humble, to all others. This thankfulness is a higher degree of righteousness than patience, for many, many people can be patient. A patient person may still be envious but he just bears with his lot and suffers through it without complaining. He who has attained to real thankfulness of the highest degree truly recognises Allah’s beneficence toward him and is not deluded by the vanishing treasures of people who are destined for ‘basement flats’.

A truly thankful man says; ”What I have been given, no one has ever been given, not even the Prophets.” And this is true, since all of what the Prophets taught has been passed down to us. The knowledge of all Prophets, Saints and good people – all of it He has given into our innermost heart of hearts, where the Greater Universe is to be found; a universe inside of which this whole material creation may disappear for its insignificance, like a pebble in an ocean. To that Universe we must look too find what we have been given, but foolish mankind always looks outside and envies.

Some people may even be so foolish as to look at the treasures which Allah has granted them and yet make no effort to take the keys that open those endless treasures, holding instead to their petty envy. Look to the treasures He Almighty has given you and take them to yourselves.

Allah Almighty says; ”I am the Opener (al Fattah) take the keys to your treasures – approach and take them”.

Instead we prefer to run away from Him. Envy will never leave us alone as long as we run away from our Lord. But he who runs to his Lord will envy no man. Therefore a sign that envy has finally left you is when you find yourself running to your Lord..

He calls us, so answer Him, and don’t look back at this filthy world. Swim no more in dirty envy oceans.

Abridged and edited from Mercy Oceans’ Endless Horizons


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