In Islam there is No Distinction between Rich and Poor
Islam prohibits its followers from making money the sole focus of their life. When money and things become the criterion for judging someone’s character and status, the ones wealthy are considered high and noble and the poor ones are considered unworthy and low.
In this Ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is addressing the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam and warning him not to develop these characteristics. He says,
The word tatrudi [تَطْرُدِ] is from the root letters ta-ra-dal and it means “to push or throw someone far away from oneself,” thinking it to be filthy or insignificant. It’s to repel someone harshly.
During all times, people caught in the maze of worldly life have been practicing class distinction of rich and poor openly or under a thousand guises whereby they would assign all virtues to the rich and influential and condemn the poor as low-life.
Prophet Nuh `alayhi salaam too was criticized for allowing poor people to sit in his company. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala narrates this incident in Surah Ash-Shu`ara. The people of Nuh `alayhi salaam said,
Meaning that if he wished them to hear his message, he should first turn those poor people out of his company. It could also mean, “How can we follow you when those following you are lowly people?”
Prophet Nuh `alayhi salaam replied in his wise prophetic diction,
Meaning, “I do not know what they do (which could help him decide their societal status). The reality of everyone’s deeds is known to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. Therefore, their accountability is the responsibility of none but Allah’s (Who is aware of everyone and everything).”
By saying so, Prophet Nuh `alayhi salaam made the ignorant and arrogant people see the truth. One cannot stamp the rich as noble and poor as wretched just because they don’t possess enough wealth. Money is not the criterion for virtues and vices. It’s deeds and morals.
The same incident was repeated in Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam’s time. Ibn Katheer reports from Ibn Jareer: Some chiefs of disbelievers from the tribe of Quraysh – Utbah, Shaybah, ibn Rabi`ah, Mut`im ibn `Adiyy, Harith ibn Nawfal and others – came to the Prophet’s uncle Abi Talib and said that one of the issues that stopped them from listening to and accepting what his nephew Muhammad (sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam) told them was that people who surrounded him were either their slaves who were set free by them or people who were at their mercy. They could not attend his sittings with such lowly people around him. They told Abi Talib to convey to his nephew to ask the slaves and lowly people to leave his gathering when the “rich” and so-called “noble” people arrived. Then they would come attend his gatherings and think about what he is preaching.
When Prophet’s uncle reported this to the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam, the Prophet momentarily thought that perhaps he should try this for a few days. Since the slaves loved the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam it was hoped that they would understand and vacate their space for the rich.
Thereupon, this ayah was revealed in which Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala emphatically prohibits the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam from doing anything like that. He was told not to repel those who call upon Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala in the morning and evening. Calling upon Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala means making du`a, doing dhikr, or even worshiping Him.
The word ghadati [غَدَاةِ] is from the root letters ghayn-dal-wau and it means “early part of morning or first part of the day”. Ashiyi [عَشِىّ] on the other hand means “evening or later part of the day”. These are the two times when we are advised to remember Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. These are also the times when the shift of the angels is changed. The angels that descended in the morning ascend back to the sky, and a new shift of angels replaces them in the evening. This can also mean the two times of obligatory prayers. There are some prayers that lie in the first half of the morning starting from pre-dawn. And others that are performed near or after sunset.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala said in Surah al-Kahf Ayah 28,
Meaning I will accept your supplication. The ones who sincerely worship their Lord or obey His commands seek nothing but His pleasure. They want to please Allah and be eligible to see His Face in the Hereafter.
The poor people though low in financial status were keen to hear the commands of their Lord, to obey Him, worship Him and invoke Him in times of distress and relief. If the arrogant people find it dishonorable to attend the gatherings of the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam because of the presence of poor people then there is no responsibility on the Prophet for hisab. Hisab here means accountability before Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala when we will all be asked if we conveyed the Message of Allah to others.
Why did the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam thought about considering temporary ban on poor people from attending his gatherings or assigning different time slots for the rich and poor? It so happens that sometimes people tell us, “I will only listen to you if you stop talking to such and such person.” Since we believe we are responsible for others’ guidance and feel a sense of inner guilt if someone deviates from the path, we begin wondering that perhaps we should temporarily do what the other person is asking us to do in the hope that they will listen to us too.
But what guarantee do we have that they will listen to us after doing what they want us to do? Every person is responsible for himself. Everyone should fear their own standing before Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. The righteous people should not be repelled to please non-righteous people. If someone does that then he’d be doing injustice.
– We learn the prohibition of leaving the company of the righteous people or sending those away who want to sincerely learn the Deen.
– We learn the importance of being in the company of the righteous people and staying away from those who are heedless and arrogant. Emaan is the most important thing every other thing can change. It is the most beloved quality in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.
– Sometimes we keep different time slots for the rich and the poor in order to save ourselves from embarrassment. People like sitting with those who are high in status, who dress up nicely, who are eloquent etc. a person who looks down at others who are lesser than him, does not have emaan. The only quality that attracts one to another is emaan. While selecting a spouse, Islam tells us to look for the one who has emaan and is righteous. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala addresses people in the Qur’an as, “O those who believers”. A person should not shun others because of their worldly status.
– A person is not going to be held accountable for the deeds of others. Every person is responsible for him.
– We learn how much the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam was eager about calling everyone to the right path.
– Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala commanded the Prophet to be with the righteous people. Sometimes we confidently sit in all types of gatherings and meet all kinds of people stating it won’t affect our emaan. We find ourselves stronger than the traps of Shaytan. We are weak. Our emaan is a precious thing. We cannot put it at risk. Therefore, we should stay away from all such gatherings and deeds that can ruin our emaan.
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