We live in a time where Instagram influencers or YouTubers have reached celebrity status and have gained a lot of wealth through their platforms. Many of us aspire to be like them. And why not? An average person managed to gain fame and wealth through the internet alone. It is not a bad goal to have. However, it does change who we are for the worse – showing off and selfishness – and it makes us focused only on gaining more for this world and not for the hereafter.
What would Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, have done if he were to gain a large amount wealth and fame? Well, in his lifetime, he had. But he lived differently.
The Prophet established a state in Madinah and was its leader for 10 years. He had attracted many people to the message of Islam and soon had expanded his state to the entire Arabian Peninsula (present-day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates). The strong empires of Persia and Rome nearby acknowledged the might of the Muslim Arabs and stayed away from conquering them. That is how much power he had. With this power, he gained more wealth. Yet, even after a long life of poverty, he continued to live humbly.
Here is an example of his life during those times described by one of his closest companions, Umar bin al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. Umar said:
“I entered upon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) when he was (sitting) on a reed mat. I sat down and (saw that) he was wearing a waist wrap, and there was no other barrier between him and the mat but his waist wrap, and the reed mat had made marks on his side. And I saw a handful of barley, nearly a Sa’ (type of measurement), and some acacia leaves, in a corner of the room, and a skin hanging up. My eyes flowed with tears, and he said: ‘Why are you weeping, O son of Khattab?’ I said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, why should I not weep? This mat has made marks on your side, and this is all you have accumulated, I cannot see anything other than what I see (here), while Chosroes (Persian Emperor) and Caesar (Roman Emperor) live among fruits and rivers. You are the Prophet of Allah and His Chosen One, and this is what you have accumulated.’ He said: ‘O son of Khattab, does it not please you (to know) that (these things) are for us in the Hereafter and for them in this world?’ He said: ‘Yes.’” (Sunan ibn Majah, 4153)
He chose to live like this because he knew that this life in this world is temporary; that anything we do to gain more popularity, wealth, status, or even to further entertain ourselves, will all eventually come to an end. Rather, he counseled us to pursue fame and status in Allah’s Eyes. He wanted us to perform good deeds and live humbly on this Earth to gain luxurious homes, cars, jewelry, anything you please, in Paradise.
The more wealth he gained, the more he gave it away to people who needed it. He would give away food, pay people’s debts, or even free slaves from their masters. He kept little for himself and his family.
Here is another example of how much he gave away during this period. The Prophet’s companion, Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, once said,
“There was nothing the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked that would make the one who asked enter Islam, but he gave it. A man came to him and the Messenger gave him all the cattle which was between two mountains. The man returned to his people and said to them, ‘Oh people, enter Islam. Muhammed gives like one who does not fear poverty.’” (Muslim)
He did not fear poverty, rather he embraced it as his lifestyle.
Do you think you can embrace a life simpler than the one you have? Consider the following four suggestions:
1. Consume only what you need.
If your cell phone can complete all the functions you need – calls, texts, internet use – then continue using it for as long as you can even if the next version comes out.
2. Share your blessings.
Put some of it to good use by giving Sadaqa (charity) every Friday at the Masjid, giving a gift to a family member to show appreciation, or buying something for someone in need. There are always numerous ways to share your blessings.
3. Use social media to spread advice and knowledge.
You don’t have to totally do away with social media. Just use it for good. Post authentic Islamic knowledge (with the help of an Islamic teacher) or post on how to develop good habits or skills people can use to improve their lives. Try to avoid making it all about yourself.
4. Pare down your wardrobe.
Make a capsule wardrobe for the warm and cold seasons. A capsule wardrobe only has the clothes you need and wear often. Give all the extra clothes away. Be sure to wash and iron them. The same can be done for shoes.
Let us be humble in the face of popular luxury. Let us aim to gain fame in the Eyes of Allah, and wealth in Paradise, just like the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.