Shaikh Muhyi’din ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani
The Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him, and grant him contentment) said:
Why, O believer, do I see you envying your neighbor his food and his drink, his clothes, his wife, his home, his enjoyment of his wealth and the blessings of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) and the portion allotted to him? Do you not realize that this is the kind of thing that weakens your faith, causes you to fall from the sight of your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He), and makes you hateful to Him? Have you not heard the tradition handed down from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), according to which Allah (Exalted is He) told him among other things: “The envier is the enemy of My blessing”? Have you not heard that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said: “Envy devours good deeds as fire consumes wood”?
What really makes you envious of him, you poor wretch? Is it his lot or your own? If you envy him his share, which Allah has allotted to him in accordance with His words: “We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world” (43:32), then you are unfair to the man, who is merely enjoying his Lord’s blessing, which He has graciously bestowed upon him and assigned to him by decree, and in which He has given no one else any part or portion. So who could be more unjust, greedier, sillier and less reasonable than you?
If, on the other hand, you envy him your own share, then you betray the utmost ignorance, because your share will not be given to anyone but you, and will not be transferred from you to any other. Far be it from Allah [to do so]! As Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has said:
The Word is not changed with Me; I am no tyrant to the servants. (50:29)
Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is not so unjust to you that He would take away what He has allotted you and give it to someone else! The very idea betrays your ignorance and unfairness to your brother. It would make better sense for you to be envious of the earth, which is a storehouse of treasures and hoards of all kinds of gold and silver and precious stones, amassed by the ancient kings of ‘Aad and Thamud, by Chosroes and Caesar, rather than to envy your neighbor, be he a believer or an immoral type. For whatever he has in his house cannot amount to even a millionth part of what the earth contains.
Your envy of your neighbor invites the following comparison: A man sees a king with all his might, his armies and his entourage, his possession and control of vast estates, from which he collects taxes and exploits the revenue. He sees the king enjoying all kinds of luxuries, pleasures and gratifications, but he does not envy him any of this. Then he sees a dog acting as servant to one of the king’s dogs, standing, squatting, barking, and being given leftovers and scraps of food from the royal kitchen, on which he subsists. The man starts to envy this dog, becomes hostile toward it, wishes death and destruction upon it and wants to take its place, for mean and petty reasons, not in a spirit of asceticism, religious piety and humble contentment. Was there ever a man more foolish, stupid and ignorant?
Furthermore, you poor wretch, if you only knew what a lengthy reckoning your neighbor will have to undergo on the coming Day of Resurrection! If he has not been obedient to Allah in respect of all the benefits He has granted him, if he has not discharged his obligations where these are concerned, by obeying His commandments and observing His prohibitions as they might apply, and using his advantages in support of His service and obedience to Him, how he will wish that he had never been given a single atom of it all, that he had not seen a single blessing on any day ever! Have you not heard the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as they have come down to us in the tradition: “There will be groups of people who will surely be wishing, on the Day of Resurrection, that their flesh might be cut away with scissors, in view of the reward they see given to those who have borne misfortune.”
Your neighbor will therefore come to wish he had been in your place in this world, in view of the lengthy reckoning and interrogation he must undergo, and his having to stand in the heat of the sun for fifty thousand years at the Resurrection, on account of the comfort he enjoyed in this world, while you are at a distance from all this, in the shade of the Throne, eating and drinking, enjoying yourself, cheerful, happy and relaxed, on account of your patient endurance of worldly hardships, constraints, troubles, suffering and poverty, your contentment and readiness to comply with your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) when His plan and decision meant poverty for you and affluence for others, sickness for you and good health for others, hardship for you and ease for others, humiliation for you and honor for others. May Allah include us, and you, among those who bear misfortune with patience, who give thanks for blessings, and who entrust their affairs to the Lord of heaven!