Prosperity preachers and Alfas – Part I
Make no mistake about this- Islam does not abhor prosperity. It does not anathemize success. They were indeed multi-millionaires – Khadijah but Khuwaylid, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Uthman bn Affan, Abdul Rahman bn ‘Awf, etc. These companions of the Prophet were women and men of prosperity. They were angels at dusk and horsemen and women at dawn. For them and for you and me, earthly success and prosperity is and should be the norm; bankruptcy is the exception.
In Islam, prosperity lies in hard work and in working hard; success inheres an appreciating the little we have and in knowing that success does not always mean having so much. Prosperity is thus not about the money though money could be part of it. It is a way of life and living not of the way things are. The poor who has little would prosper once he shields his poverty with contentment. The rich endowed with great material means will forever remain poor the moment he begins to compare his wealth with that of his neighbour who has more than he does.
Now where lies the evidence for this discourse? It is there in the Qur’an. Evidence in support of the necessity for believers to strive, to work and prosper is there in the last testament. “Of that which you have been endowed” so says the Almighty’, “seek those pleasures that are eternal, but do not forget your portion of this world” (Qur’an 28: 77).
In other words, the notion of prosperity in Islam is tempered by such virtues as contentment, patience, perseverance, and gratitude. It is a concept that is not a synonym with materialism. Rather, the believer knows that to prosper is to be in a station among many other stations in humanity’s journey to mean. While Muslims are under obligation to encourage one another to work and strive in order to proper, it would be against the kernel of Islamic weltanschauung for them to now turn prosperity to the gospel, to establish mosques where the only message the Imam would preach is materialism.
Brethren, each time he mounts the rostrum he cuts a picture of one who is in full possession of the world. Brethren, each time he holds the microphone to deliver a public sermon, he is quick to tell his audience he has not been commissioned by the Almighty to make people remorseful of their iniquitous ways. Listen to him: “some preachers make you sad by their speeches and sermonettes; I am here to make you happy and merry”. He is the new ‘prosperity preacher’ in town. The essence of worship, he would argue, lies in how materially prosperous the worshipper becomes.
Brethren, I am concerned today by Muslim preachers in our midst, and indeed outside Islam, who have entered into uncanny alliances with the world. I am concerned today with Alfas and a section of the Ulama who engage in mercantilism and invidious rapprochement with occultic powers in order to be up ‘there’ in the world. Make no mistake, dear brother, about the position of Islam in regard to worldly possessions.
Here is what the Almighty says: “Seek, by means of what the Almighty has given you, to attain the abode of the hereafter, while not neglecting your share in this world. Be good to others as the Almighty has been good to you, and do not seek mischief in the land, for He does not love the mischief mongers (Q28: 77). Thus, brother, to be born into the world is to partake of the many opportunities the Almighty has endowed the world with. It means a Muslim should avoid the assumption that Islam celebrates penury and encourages poverty. But what are we saying sister? Is it not true that there in Makkah and Madinah you have in abundance almost everything money can buy? Is it not true that each time you visit the Haram for worship, you are equally invited, after your prayers, to engage in worldly pursuits? Is it not true dear Sister, that each time you pay the Prophet’s mosque a visit, you are beckoned by the world around its catholic precincts to avail yourself of the many opportunities the world offers you?
In other words, dear brother, to have the world in your hands, to be a custodian of a stupendous wealth such that would remind you of Qarun, these do not actually constitute an infraction of the divine will. Wealth, however, becomes a sin when it moves away from your hands to your heart. Please note this one more time: wealth becomes a sin when it ceases to be your servant but your master. When wealth occupies your heart, when it becomes an end in itself not a means towards noble ends, your whole body becomes a cathedral of the faithless. The tragedy in our society today is that it is not only the laity that has become worshippers in the cathedral of the faithless. Rather, some among the clergy, those who supposedly know who and what the Almighty is and stands for, have become ‘ministers’ in the chapel of Satan.
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Afis Oladosu is Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.
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