Envy Is a Dangerous Heart Disease
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday Speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on December 19, 1997)
Envy is a nasty disease of the heart that leads to bad conduct and behavior, all of which are sins and evils.
Envy leads to animosity, evil thinking about others' intentions, backbiting, spreading rumors, lying, turning back on each other's, parting with bad terms, it may also lead the envious person to inflict physical damage with the envied person and even murder may Allah forbid. It is a bad seed for a terrible tree of diseases.
For this reason, the scholars consider it from among the most dangerous, destructive, inner diseases, and the most destructive for deen and worldly life. The Islamic ruling of envy is haram (prohibited); the degree of prohibition differs depending on the sins that result from it.
For this reason, the messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) forbade us in the authentic hadeeth that is reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, "Do not envy one another and do not hate one another, and do not turn your back on one another (in discontent) and be the servants of Allah like brothers."
Allah (S.W.T.) also ordered his prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and all the believers to seek refuge from the evil of the envious person and envy, so He says in surat Al-Falaq, what can be translated as, "Say: ‘I seek refuge with (Allah) the Lord of the day-break," and at the end of the surah He then says, "And from the evil of the envier when he envies."
The definition of Envy: Envy means that you hate a blessing that Allah blessed someone with and like for it to go away, and if you could make it go away, you would do that.
And if you do not hate it and do not like for it to go away but you would like for yourself something similar to it, then this is a possessive desire that leads to competition; both of which are good and commendable.
Sometimes the word Envy is used to tell of the strong possessive desire as mentioned in an authentic hadeeth, reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, "It is not worth it, to envy anyone except in two cases. A man that Allah blessed with money and he spent it righteously, and a man that Allah blessed with knowledge and he implemented it in himself, and has taught it to others."
So, competition in the good avenues is commendable. Allah (S.W.T.), after He mentioned to us the paradise and its everlasting blessings, says in surat Al-Mutaffiffeen, (Verse 26), what can be translated as, "And in this, let the competitors compete."
Allah (S.W.T.) scolded envy and its bad results in the Qur'an in many places, among which:
- Many from the people of the book, after they knew Islam was the truth, envied the believers for the blessing of belief and guidance and wished it could go away from them. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Baqarah, (Verse 109), what can be translated as, "Many of the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) wish that they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their ownselves, even, after the truth has become manifest unto them."
- Also, one who reads the story of Prophet Yousuf (peace be upon him) and his brothers, realizes the danger of envy upon the envious person, and how it blinds his sight and takes away mercy from his heart, and drives him to inflict physical pain on the envied person. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Yousuf, (Verse 8 & 9), what can be translated as, "When they said: Truly, Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we, but we are usbah (a strong group)." Then, they said, "Kill Joseph or cast him out to some other land, so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk." Then, how they deceived their fathers to take Yousuf and throw him in the well, then how they lied to their father that the wolf ate Yousuf, and to reinforce their deceit, they came with fake blood on Yousuf's shirt.
- The Qur'an told us about the first son of Adam who killed his brother because of envy, and it was the first blood letting crime on the face of the earth. He envied him because Allah accepted his brother's sacrifice but did not accept it from him. He (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Ma’eedah, (Verse 27, 28 & 30), what can be translated as, "And (O Muhammad) recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam in truth; when each offered a sacrifice (to Allah), it was accepted from the one but not from the other. The latter said to the former: "I will surely kill you." The former said: "Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are the pious. If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the Alamin." Then Allah said, "So the Nafs (self) of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers."
The medicine of envy: Imam Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, said in his book (Al-Ihya') after a number of pages on envy and its dangers, "Be aware that envy is one of the most dangerous diseases of the hearts, and there is no medicine for the diseases of the heart except with knowledge and deeds.
As to the knowledge that treats the disease of envy is to know without any doubt that envy is dangerous for you in this worldly life and in your deen, and there is no danger from it on the envied person in this life nor in his deen, on the contrary, the envied person will benefit from it.
The fact is envy is dangerous for your deen because with envy, you hated Allah's predestination and hated his blessings that He divided among his servants, and you hated His justice that He established in His world for a wisdom, so you contested that and objected it, and this is against the true oneness and belief. In addition to that, you would have shared with Iblees and the rest of the non-believers with their love for the crises to fall upon the believers and for the blessings to go away from them. These are evils in the heart that eat up the good deeds and erase them like the night erase the day.
And the fact that envy is dangerous upon your worldly life is that because you suffer from your envy in this life and you are tortured by it, and you will always be in sorrows every time you see the blessing of Allah (S.W.T.) on the envied person."
And as to the deeds that would treat envy, you should control yourself, so everything that you did in the process of your envy for someone else like any saying or action, you should now strive to do the opposite; if envy had driven you to say something bad about your envied person, then strive to make your tongue complement him, and if it had driven you to look down upon him, then act with humility and apologize to him, and if it had driven you to stop doing good things for the envied person, you should push yourself to do good things for him.
Then, Imam Al-Ghazali said: "These are the medicines for envy, and they are very effective, but they are bitter on the hearts, but the effectiveness is in the bitter medicine, so whosoever cannot be patient with the bitterness of medicine cannot get the sweetness of the cure."
Remember the story of Abdullah Bin Amru Bnil Oass and the man that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "A man will come up to you from the people of paradise." (He repeated this everyday for three days). The same man came every time, and Abdullah slept at this man's house to find out about what he does to deserve paradise.... Later, Abdullah almost belittled this man's deeds because they are not too much, then he asked about what he does, so the man said, "It is not except what you have seen, but I do not have for any Muslim in my heart any deceit, or envy for good that Allah (S.W.T.) Has blessed him with. Abdullah, then, said: I said to this man: This is what got you to paradise." (Reported by Imam Ahmad with authentic chain of narrators.)