When we think of a devout Muslim, we may imagine an ascetic who has renounced all worldly possessions to dedicate his/her life solely to worship. There is a tendency to believe that pious people cannot be wealthy because seeking fortune is regarded as unislamic, but that is simply not the case. Some of the prophets mentioned in the Quran were affluent, and while the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, may not have been rich, many of his followers were. The financial contributions of some of these companions helped propel the Islamic movement forward during its most crucial time and beyond.
It is important that when speaking to our children about their lifestyle goals and professional paths, we mention that there is nothing wrong with wanting a financially rewarding career. If their faith is firm and their intentions are right, they can help the Muslim community’s future just like some of the companions supported its past and present.
Among the companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, were those who contributed vastly to charity and to spreading the message of Islam. There were both men and women like Khadijah bint Khuwailid, the wife of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who sacrificed all her wealth in support of her husband and his followers. This article, however, will focus on three companions: Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, and Uthman ibn Affan.
Our Pious Predecessors
The three of these companions had more in common than just being rich and successful; they were all converts to Islam, they were from the first people to embrace Islam, they went on to become leaders of the emerging Muslim ummah, and they were also among the famous ten promised Paradise – the ultimate success.
The Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, said:
“Abu Bakr is in Paradise. Umar is in Paradise. Uthman is in Paradise. Ali is in Paradise. Talhah is in Paradise. Al-Zubayr is in Paradise. Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf is in Paradise. Sa’d is in Paradise. Sa’id is in Paradise. Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah is in Paradise.”
They are all amazing role models for Muslim children (and parents, too!).
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq
The great Khalifa, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, needs little introduction. He is known as the closest companion to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his successor. He was the first man outside of the Prophet’s family to become a Muslim and the first man to assume the leadership role of the Islamic community after the death of the Prophet. Prior to all of this, Abu Bakr, was a popular nobleman and textile merchant in Makkah. His name was Abdullah bin Uthman (Abu Quhafah) ibn Aamir, but he was known by his kunya or nickname, Abu Bakr. Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallaabee said in his book The Biography of Abu Bakr As-Sideeq:
“During the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, Abu Bakr, was a businessman. He would go on business trips to Busrah in Ash-Sham (modern day Syria and surrounding areas) and to other cities, as well… A wealthy man, he would, even prior to the advent of Islam, spend generously on the poor and needy. And if he was not the richest Quraishi businessman, he was one of the most respected of them, having had a reputation for fairness and generosity in his business dealings. As a result of his reputation, profits would come to him, and he did not have to run after profits.” (p. 43)
Having already been an honest and generous man, after Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, embraced Islam, he became a force to be reckoned with. He took the wealth that he accumulated in his family’s textile trade business and used it for the cause of Islam. None of the other companions could surpass him in good deeds and generosity.
Umar ibn al-Khattab reported:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, ordered us to give charity and at the time I had some wealth. I said to myself, ‘Today I will outdo Abu Bakr, if ever there were a day to outdo him.’ I went with half of my wealth to the Prophet and he said, ‘What have you left for your family?’ I said, ‘The same amount.’ Then, Abu Bakr came with everything he had. The Prophet said, ‘O Abu Bakr, what have you left for your family?’ Abu Bakr said, ‘Allah and his messenger.’ I said, ‘By Allah, I will never do better than Abu Bakr.’”
One of the good deeds Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, is best known for is the freeing of slaves. During the first years of the call to Islam, while the believers were still in Makkah, the non-Muslim leaders of Quraish began to torture the weakest in an attempt to have them renounce their faith. Upon witnessing the persecution of slaves that had converted to Islam, Abu Bakr began purchasing the slaves and setting them free. The most famous of these emancipated slaves was Bilal ibn Rabah. According to the companion, Jabir ibn Abdullah, Umar ibn Al-Khattab used to say:
“Abu Bakr is our master, and he emancipated our master,” meaning Bilal.
What we learn from Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, is that he came from a noble family, he ran his family business and became a great merchant, but he also had good morals and unshakeable faith. Abu Bakr knew that his business success came from Allah and he gave back by using his money to help other Muslims. This is a great lesson for those of us who have been blessed with financial stability and for our children who are thinking about what they want to do when they get older. Whatever choice they make, always keep in mind that our wealth and talents are from Allah, and it is up to us to use these in the best way.
Uthman ibn Affan
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, was not only generous with his capital, but also with his wisdom. He embodied the hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:
“None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
As such, he shared news of his conversion with his closest friends and called them to also embrace Islam. Many famous companions became Muslim through the dawah of Abu Bakr, including Uthman ibn Affan.
Uthman ibn Affan ibn Abi al-As, may Allah be pleased with him, inherited his family business, like Abu Bakr, and he was from the respected aristocracy of Quraish. Nicknamed Al Ghani, or the rich, he was known for being extremely wealthy, modest, well-mannered, and eloquent. Uthman was also a cousin of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and was married to two of his daughters – first Ruqayyah, then after her death he married Umm Kulthum. He became the third successor to the leadership of the Muslims after the death of the Prophet, following Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with them. He said of himself close to the end of his life:
“By Allah, I have never wished to change my religion after Allah guided me; I never committed zina either during the Jahiliyyah or in Islam; and I have never killed anyone.”
Dr. As-Sallaabee, who also authored The Biography of Uthman ibn Affan, Dhun Nurayn, wrote:
“Among the evidence which points to the people’s love for Uthman because of this combination of good qualities is the report which says that at the time, an Arab woman would sing to her child a song which speaks of the people’s respect and love for him: ‘By the most Merciful, I love you as much as the Quraish love Uthman.’” (p. 18)
After Uthman ibn Affan became Muslim, he followed in the footsteps of his friend, Abu Bakr, using his wealth to further the cause of Islam. It is recorded that he said:
“Three things have been made dear to me: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and reading Quran.” (Irshad al-Ibadi li Istidad li Yawm il-Maad, p. 88)
The charity of Uthman has had an enduring impact on the Muslim community in many ways. Uthman ibn Affan was among those companions who migrated twice for the sake of Allah – once to Abyssinia and then to Madinah. After the Muslims arrived in Madinah, they found little sources of water there. There was a well called Bir Roomah, owned by a Jewish man who sold its water by the bucket to Muslims, but it was very expensive and a burden for the emerging community. Uthman ibn Affan bought the entire well and donated it for the Muslims to have water. According to Alarabiya News, Uthman ibn Affan’s well, has been a source of water for the citizens of Madinah to this day.
When the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was expanding his masjid in Madinah, it was Uthman ibn Affan who purchased more land to add to the complex. Similarly, he spent his wealth to fund the Muslim army like in the Battle of Tabook. Dr. As-Sallaabee wrote:
“The companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, spent whatever they could afford, and Uthman spent a huge amount that no one else could match.”
Throughout his life, he funded many projects and expeditions and was instrumental in the preservation of the Quran. He is a great example of what it means to use your wealth in the cause of Allah, as Allah says:
“Those who spend their wealth in charity day and night, secretly and openly—their reward is with their Lord, and there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:274)
Abdurrahman ibn Awf
Another companion and friend of Abu Bakr and Uthman, who was an early convert to Islam, was Abdurrahman ibn Awf, may Allah be pleased with him. Although he never became a khalifa, he was appointed by Umar ibn Al-Khattab to be part of the shura and candidate pool for the next Muslim leader. He voluntarily gave up his candidacy, exchanging that to help choose the next khalifa, who ended up being Uthman ibn Affan.
Abdurrahman ibn Awf was the wealthiest of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. He is what you would call nowadays a “self-made” billionaire. In a hadith, he told his story of how he began business in Madinah after the migration:
"When we came to Medina as emigrants, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, established a bond of brotherhood between me and Sad bin Ar-Rabi. Sad bin Ar-Rabi said (to me), 'I am the richest among the Ansar, so I will give you half of my wealth and you may look at my two wives and whichever of the two you may choose I will divorce her, and when she has completed the prescribed period (before marriage) you may marry her.' I (Abdurrahman) replied, ‘I am not in need of all that. Is there any marketplace where trade is practiced?' He replied, ‘The market of Qainuqa.’ Abdurrahman went to that market the following day and brought some dried buttermilk (yogurt) and butter, and then he continued going there regularly…”
Soon he began building his capital through trade and he was very successful. In his book, Men Around the Messenger, Khaalid Muhammad Khaalid wrote, “He was very lucky in his trade to an extent that aroused his amazement. He said ‘If I lift up a stone, I find silver and gold under it’ … What made his trade blessed and successful was his pursuing the halal and his strictly moving away from the haram, or even the doubtful.” (p. 370, 371)
It cannot be emphasized enough that we should share these stories with our children who are amazed at what influencers of today do on social media, while not being aware of the marvels that the companions accomplished in the past. They were not fueled by likes and sponsorships, but by their faith and desire to spread the message of Islam.
Trials of Prosperity and Adversity
Aside from his wealth, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, may Allah be pleased with him, left behind beneficial wisdom. He narrated many ahadith from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He was always grateful to Allah for his good fortune, and recommended gratitude to obtain a greater reward in the Hereafter. At times he would lament that he accumulated such wealth when many of his contemporaries had died in poverty. Thus, he would warn against the trials of greed and hoarding of riches. In one report, he said:
“We were tested with hardship alongside the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and we were patient. Then, we were tested with prosperity afterwards and we were not patient.”
While the majority of us are living comfortable lives, alhamdulillah, we cannot forget those who are less fortunate. When it comes to Islamic teachings, it is not having wealth that is problematic, but how a person spends his/her money. Charity is encouraged while avarice and extravagance are frowned upon because promoting justice and equality is fundamental to our faith. Part of this fairness is fighting against economic disparity by helping the needy and funding beneficial social projects. As believers, we should prepare our offspring to be the next leaders while staying grateful in every situation. A Divine promise is that spending in this manner serves to increase our wealth, not keep us poor. As Allah says in the Quran:
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah is that of a grain that sprouts into seven ears, each bearing one hundred grains. And Allah multiplies ˹the reward even more˺ to whoever He wills. For Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:261)
May Allah be pleased with and bless the companions who sacrificed with their wealth and lives for Islam to reach our hearts. Ameen.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.