What is The Wisdom Behind God’s Creation of People Rich and Poor?
God has bestowed upon some people material wealth and comfort, status and prestige, and upon others poverty, misery, and affliction.
Does this mean that God prefers those who are wealthy, or that those who are poor deserve to be so?
Such questions should be asked only if one sincerely desires to learn the Divine reasoning behind such differences. To question the Divine decree in any other manner is sinful.
God bestows material wealth and poverty upon whom and as He pleases. For example, wealth may be inherited within a family so that those who were poor become better off. Certain abilities or personal traits, such as intelligence, shrewdness, and acumen in the management of wealth, are inherited genetically. And yet we see individuals who are just as capable, but whose circumstances deny them the opportunity to use their abilities.
Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that God bestows the goods of this world upon whom He pleases, but knowledge upon those who petition Him for it. This hadith, although possessing a defective transmission is, nevertheless, a most significant one. Clearly, material possessions should not be seen as necessarily good in themselves. God sometimes bestows material security and happiness upon those who petition Him for such things, but sometimes He does not.
There is good in what He bestows, whether it be wealth or poverty. For faithful individuals who do good deeds and are generous with what they have been given, wealth is a means of good.
If, however, they have weak faith and stray from the path of right action and charity, wealth becomes a means of evil. For example, if such people use their wealth to buy worldly things to satisfy temptations or to boast to others, or to do or purchase harmful things, their wealth is clearly a means of evil.
Similarly, if such people have abandoned the path of right action, poverty may be a means of unbelief, for it might cause them to rebel, inwardly or outwardly, against God’s decree. Whoever does not wholly submit to God will find that his or her wealth will become a means of distress, a severe and demanding test:
Know that your children and your worldly goods are but a trial and a temptation, and that God’s reward is great (8:28).
We should recall here another saying of the Prophet: “Among you are such people that if they raise their hands and swear by God, He grants them whatever they desire and never makes them swear falsely.”
We must understand something here: Poverty in itself is not good; rather, poverty disciplines (and causes one to triumph over) the worldly self (nafs) and sets its sight upon eternal life. Poverty may allow some people to achieve that state of mind. But in others, it can engender inner distress, rancor, and ingratitude toward God, which is the root of unbelief. Similarly, material wealth and security may delude some people into feelings of pride and self-esteem, which cause them to neglect the needs of their fellow human beings and their debt to God. Their own arrogance and ingratitude are likewise a root of unbelief.
The surest way for a believer, therefore, is to understand that God gives something to perfect that individual in the best way. Whatever the circumstances, believers should strive to improve the welfare of their fellow human beings, and to trust completely in the All-Mighty, All-Merciful. The best attitude to display in this world, which is no more than a halting-place on the way to our everlasting destination, is well expressed in this brief poem:
I accept, my Lord, whatever comes to me from You,
For whatever comes to me from You is for my good.
Whether a robe of honor comes or a shroud,
Whether a sharp thorn or a sweet, fresh rose,
If it comes with Your blessing, it is my good that comes.
By M. Fethullah Gulen