On every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.
Part 13: Is Gratitude for Wealth Superior or Patience in the Face of Poverty?
This question is built on another question over which the scholars differ (among themselves), and it is whether gratitude for affluence is superior or patience in face of poverty? The scholars, diverge on this question into four positions.
First, among them are those who abstain from answering it due to conflicting traditions (or reports narrated from the Prophet or the Companions). They say that Abu Hanifah abstained (from taking a legal position) concerning the children of polytheists due to the conflicting traditions in regard to them; therefore he is to be followed, and we abstain from answering this question due also to conflicting traditions.
Second, among them are those who say, “both are alike,” and they refer as proof to the Prophet’s statement, “The eater who is grateful is like the hungry who is patient,” [Related by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah], and because Allah praised, by His statement in His book, two servants, and He called each of the two, “a truly excellent servant for he was devoutly repentant,” one of whom was bestowed favors and he gave thanks, and he was Sulayman, on whom be peace; (thus) Allah says, “And We gave Dawud Sulayman, a truly excellent servant, for he was devoutly repentant” [Al-Quran, surah Sad, verse 30]. The other was put to the test and he showed patience, and he was Ayyub, (thus) Allah says, “We did indeed find him to be patient, a truly excellent servant, for he was devoutly repentant” [Al-Quran, surah Sad, verse 44]. And therefore we know that the two are alike.
Third, among them are those who say, “Gratitude for prosperity is superior due to the Prophet’s statement, “‘All praise be to Allah is the price for every favor'” [Muslim and Tirmidhi both narrated with similar import]. And the Prophet says, “If the whole world became a morsel and a servant ate it and said, ‘All praise be to Allah,’ that which he brought would be better than that which was brought to him” [Narrated by al-Haythami], that is, due to what this phrase contains of praise of Allah Most High.
It is clear from the first hadith that gratitude is by praising Allah, and that is better than patience, as this is proved by the statement of Allah, “Work, clan of Dawud, gratefully” [Al-Quran, surah Saba’, verse 13]. This (attitude of gratefulness) applies comprehensively to all acts of obedience. Without a doubt, what encompasses all acts of obedience and prevents (oneself) from the various types of iniquities, as well as restrains (oneself) from formally indulging in them (or openly indulging in them), such is the highest of ranks, and this station is not found in having patience in the face of poverty.
Fourth, the accepted legal position according to us (al-Shaybani) is that patience in the face of poverty is superior for the Prophet says, “Patience is half of faith” [Narrated by Abu Nu’aym in al-Hilyah, and al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad]. He, also says, “Patience in relation to faith is on the station of the head in relation to the body” [Al-Suyuti in al-Jami’ al-Saghir, Abu Ghuddah concludes that it is actually among the sayings of Ali].
Also there is in patience the meaning of tribulation, and patience in the face of tribulation is superior to gratitude for favors, and this applies too all kinds of tribulations. Indeed, patience in enduring the pain of illness is greater in reward than gratitude for bodily health.
Likewise, patience in enduring blindness is superior to thankfulness for eyesight, for the Prophet says in what he related from his Lord, ‘Whoever whose two noble things (his two eyes) I took away but he show patience enduring it, then there is no reward for him with me except the garden” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi], or He said, “the Garden and the Vision.”
This reward is for his loss of eyesight, and this means that for the believer there is reward for affliction in itself, for the Prophet says, “The believer is recompensed in everything, even in enduring the thorn that pricked him in his foot” [Narrated by Muslim].
The proof of this is that Ma’iz (a companion), when he felt the impact of the sting of the stone, he ran away, and that was a kind of confusion from him (or unsettledness i.e., having second thoughts, about his confession of adultery). Yet, despite that, the Messenger of Allah, said in regard to him, “He has most surely repented with a repentance such that if his repentance were to be divided among all the people of the earth it would have sufficed for them” [Narrated by Muslim]. Thus we know that in affliction itself for a believer there is a reward, and in having patience enduring it there is also a reward.
As for affluence in itself there is no reward in it, but only reward for gratitude over it, and so that by which reward is attained in two respects is higher than that by which reward is attained in one respect only. Just as there is in gratitude for affluence praise of Allah Most High, so too in patience in enduring affliction, due to the statement of Allah, “Those who say, when calamity afflicts them, “We belong to God, and to God we return” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 156].
A story was told of a rich man and a poor man debating over this issue. The rich man said, “The rich man who is grateful is superior, for Allah borrows from the rich, as He, says, ‘Who will lend Allah a loan of good, which Allah will multiply for him greatly? And Allah both takes and grants, restricts and expands; and to Allah you will be returned” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 245]. The poor man said, “However, Allah borrows from the rich for the sake of the poor, and sometimes loans are taken from both the beloved and the non-beloved, but loans are never taken except for the sake of he beloved.”
He makes it clear that the rich is in need of the poor, whereas the poor is not in need of the rich, because it is incumbent on the rich to pay wealth’s due. If all the poor were to concord down to the last man to decline accepting anything from that (payment), they would not be forced to accept it, and they would be praised, according to the Law, for refusing to accept; whereas it would not be possible for the rich to free themselves from what is incumbent upon them, and Allah brings to the poor what suffices them in con-mensuration with what He has guaranteed for them.
From this it is clear that it is the rich who are in need of the poor, while the poor is not in need of them, in contradiction to what is thought by he who considers the apparent without scrutinizing the (inner) meaning. Therefore it becomes obvious by what have established that the poor who is patient is superior to the rich who is grateful, though in each there is good.