Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala then criticizes man’s materialistic view of the world. Allah’s judgment is based on divine wisdom and is free from error whereas human judgments are liable to all sorts of errors because man does not see anything beyond the apparent.
Whenever Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala tries man by His generosity and with a life of ease, man says, “My Lord has honored me.” But whenever He tries him by stinting his means, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” Such is man’s thinking about the various forms of trials Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala may set for him, be it comfort or hardship, abundance or scarcity.
Prosperity and calamity are both in reality a test from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. He may test a person by honoring him, giving him comfort, wealth or status and He may also test him by depriving him of these blessings. When man is given wealth and status he considers the gesture as proof that he deserves to be honored by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.
Likewise, if Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala tests him and tries him by curtailing his sustenance, he believes that is because Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is humiliating him. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says, “No,” meaning the matter is not as the man claims. In both situations, man’s judgment is faulty. Wealth and poverty are two forms of a test which Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala sets for His servants. Abundance reveals whether aman is humble and thankful to his Lord or arrogant and haughty, while a trial of theopposite kind reveals his patient acceptance or his irritability and fretfulness.
For indeed Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala gives wealth to those whom He loves as well as those whom He does not love. Similarly, he withholds sustenance from those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. Worldly comforts are by no means a standard of one’s status before Allah. However, a person devoid of faith cannot comprehend the wisdom behind Allah’s action. Abundance or depravity are not the criterion of honor and disgrace, for the real criterion is the moral good and evil.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala then brings our attention to an important matter. When people are given wealth and status they do not fulfill their duties. They do not look after the orphan child who has lost his father and is in need of protection and support. They do not encourage one another to feed the needy and contribute to their general welfare.
When the child’s parents are alive people show their love and attention for the child but when the parents pass away close uncles and relatives neglect him as if they have no responsibility towards him. Instead of caring for the orphan children and widows, people greedily devour their inheritance, and unrestrainedly crave for wealth. This craving for wealth has killed man’s nobility.
In Arabia, the women and children were as a rule deprived of inheritance and the people’s idea in this regard was that the right to inheritance belonged only to those male members who were fit to fight and safeguard the family. Besides, the one who was more powerful and influential among the heirs of the deceased, would annex the whole inheritance without qualms, and usurp the shares of all those who did not have the power to secure their shares. They did not give any importance to the right and duty so that they should honestly render the right to whom it was due as a duty whether he had the power to secure it or not.
The ardent love of wealth, the craving to accumulate it through usury and other means, was a distinctive feature of Makkan society as it is a distinctive feature of all jahiliyyah [ignorant] societies at all times.
These few ayaat do not merely expose the true nature of such an attitude. They also condemn it and urge its discontinuation. Condemnation is evident in the repetition noted in these ayaat, and their rhythm, “You consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether, and you love wealth with immense love.” [89:19-20]