Today, I’m going to talk about poverty. Yet, the poverty I speak about today isn’t the apparent kind. You see, before we can begin to speak about a concept, we need a criterion. We need definitions.
In speaking about poverty, we need to understand that there is external poverty and there is internal poverty. And one is far more dangerous than the other, because while one form of poverty determines how we live temporarily, the other form, determines how we live eternally.
Today, I will speak on the latter form. Internal poverty is the poverty of the soul. It describes the unmoved soul. The soul that has been created, but has still failed to realize why. It is the soul that lives a purposeless life. The heart that beats, but has already died. Because while the body cries and bleeds and feels pain from the material world, the soul is untouched by these things. There is only one thing that can cut or stab or impoverish the soul. There is only one thing that can kill it: to deprive it of its’ only true need: to be close to its’ Originator. To be near God.
Spiritual deprivation is the true impoverishment. We can see this, for example, through a prophetic tradition by Imam Muslim. One day the prophet (S.A.W.) asked his companions:
“Do you know who is a poor person is? The companions replied that a poor person is a person who had no money or property. The Prophet (S.A.W.) replied: ‘The poor person from among my ummah is one who will come on the Day of judgment with a good record of prayers and fasts and zakat (Obligatory charity) but also has abused somebody: Slandered someone: Stolen the wealth of another, had killed or beaten someone. Then all the oppressed persons will receive a portion of the aggressors’ good deeds. Should they fall short of his aggression, then the aggrieved person’s sins and faults, will be transferred from them to him, and he will be thrown into the Fire (Hell)!”
In this hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) explains that the true poverty is not one’s lack of wealth in this life. True poverty is standing poor on the Day of Judgment. Despite this Reality, we continue to live this life feeding our bodies, but starving our souls. The sad irony of this focus is that the body we tend to is only temporary, while the soul we neglect is eternal. When a body dies. We cry. But the death of the body is not true death. It’s only the removing of a shell and the movement from one realm to another, Truer realm. We weep for the departing bodies. But our hearts are unmoved by those bodies which are alive, but whose hearts and souls have died because of the alienation from that which gives them life: God.
What impoverishes and kills the heart? It is allowing the heart to love anything as it should only love God. See the heart was created with a very particular nature and for a very particular purpose. When you fail to use any created thing for the purpose for which it was created for, it breaks. It drowns. It starves. It dies.
The heart was created by and for God. The heart was created to know and love God. The heart was created to be given to God. To be filled with God. The heart that is given to or filled by any other thing, suffers the most painful impoverishment and death.
The human heart is like a boat in the ocean of dunya. The boat that allows the oceans water to enter breaks and then drowns. The human heart that allows this dunya to enter, breaks and drowns. And becomes owned. Owned by this life. Owned by our gadgets, our facebook, our jobs, the distractions, the fashion trends, the marketing tools, the money, the power, the status.
The heart that is owned by this life is a prisoner of the worst kind. The heart that is owned by any other master, than the Master of masters, is the weakest of all slaves. That is true oppression. True death.
As human beings we enslave ourselves to different things. Some of us in here are enslaved to money. Some of us have enslaved our hearts to other people. We love them as we should only love Allah. Some of us are enslaved to status or to our careers. I tell you to ask yourselves what do you love most? Most of us in this room will say we love God most. We say this with our tongues. We say this in our minds. But our hearts, our actions, say otherwise.
How do you know? Ask yourself: what is your refuge? When you’re most broken, where do you go? When you’re afraid, where do you hide? When you need, who do you ask? What do you fear most? What do you stay up at night worrying about? Who, what, makes you cry most? What do you think about most? What occupies your mind in salah? Is it really God? Is it really Allah on your mind most? Is it really your fear of standing before Him that makes you cry in your bed? No. Probably not. It’s the person who left you. The money you lost. The career you couldn’t have. The raise you didn’t get.
What are you afraid of most? Just the thought of losing what thing causes you so much anxiety that you feel it physically? Is it your husband, your wife, your money, your job? Is it your image? Is it your figure? What is it?
When you’re given a choice, what do you do? When Allah says to dress and act a certain way, and society says the opposite, which do you choose? Who defines beauty for you? Who defines success? When Allah says interest is haram, but your financial ambitions command otherwise, when societies standard for the size of your house or brand of your car command otherwise…which do you choose? Who defines richness?
Who defines poverty?
What type of poverty are YOU most afraid of?