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Understanding the Concept of Saving

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By Shaykh Su’ood ash-Shuraym
18 Muharram 1440h (28 September 2018)

All praise is due to Allaah. He is the One who restores life to the deceased. His light fills the heavens and the earths. He has complete knowledge of the past, present, and the future. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allaah alone, without any partner. He is the One to whom we must devote all glorification, prayers, and righteous deeds. I further bear witness that Muhammad is Allaah’s worshipping servant and Messenger. He called people to Allaah using sound guidance and clear evidences. Allaah granted him concise and articulate speech. By way of his message, Allaah united those who were divided. He conveyed his Lord’s message, fulfilled all that was entrusted to him, and continued to worship his Lord until he departed from this world. O Allaah, grant Your commendation and protection to him, as well as to his immaculate family, his wives who were the mothers of the Mu’mineen, his noble Companions who steadfastly followed his religion, and all who continue to follow their path.

My dear audience, observe Taqwaa of your Lord as He rightfully deserves, steadfastly adhere to His religion, and realize that a person without Taqwaa is like a body without a soul. When someone desires to attain guidance from Allaah, Allaah guides that person to observe Taqwaa (i.e. fulfil Allaah’s commands and avoid His prohibitions). Allaah said, “As for those who accept Allaah’s guidance, He increases them in guidance and directs them to the deeds which would protect them from punishment.”

Servants of Allaah, people give utmost interest to the sources of their livelihood and provision. It is an interest that occupies a large portion of their thinking throughout each day and night. It is an interest that can lead people to become quite distressed and also greedy. The extent of people’s concern about their livelihood can make them either lazy or diligent, greedy or content, negligent or excessive, complacent or reliant upon Allaah while pursuing necessary means. People may fail to bear in mind that blessings in this world do not remain permanently. The circumstances of life fluctuate between difficulty and ease, adversity and prosperity, bitter and sweet. It is impossible for things to always remain one way. Our Lord told us,

“Allaah is the One who created you from an initial stage of weakness. He decreed that after weakness you would have strength then, after that strength, would come weakness and old age.”

Not only that, people may lack a correct concept of provision and how to go about seeking it. They may not call to mind the fact that Allaah – our Almighty Lord who provides for all of us – instructed us to seek out His provision, earn a living, and pursue the means necessary to bring about balance in people’s economies and livelihoods. Among those means is saving for the future.

Servants of Allaah, the term “savings” refers to the portion of a person’s earnings that remains after taking care of all expenses. Servants of Allaah, having savings is a very important economic principle that ensures the stability of livelihood and finances at both the individual and societal levels. Changes in life are inevitable and this is a reality that Allaah has decreed. Thus, exercising caution and being prepared are qualities that Islaam’s teachings encourage in order to protect people from financial difficulties which may drive them to steal or engage in usury – both of which are major sins – or to ask of others, beg, or constantly be in debt.

Servants of Allaah, having savings comes from a combination of two factors: one is being convinced that saving is a necessity, and the other is spending in a manner that fosters saving.

May Allaah grant all of you His protection. Being convinced that saving is a necessity comes about by properly understanding the texts of Islaam which establish that having savings is prescribed by Islaam, vital for people, and necessary for an economy to operate. The soundness of a person’s living depends on how balanced he is in spending on himself and his dependents.

As for spending in a manner that fosters saving, it lies at the core of being successful in having savings. It comes about from a person distinguishing between essentials and non-essentials in life, according to the five rulings of Islaam, and then basing his spending on that. The five rulings of Islaam being referred to are: waajib (obligatory), muharram (prohibited), mustahabb (encouraged, but not obligatory), makrooh (discouraged, but not prohibited), and mubaah (permissible).

When a person bears all of that in mind and acts in accordance with it, the financial facets of his life would be set in order based on three foundations: sound personal spending, giving to others appropriately, and saving for the future. All of these are mentioned in the statement of Allaah, the Most Majestic,

“You may eat from the fruits of the crops when they ripen, you must give the obligatory charity which is due from them on the day of their harvest, and you must not be wasteful or extravagant. Indeed, Allaah does not love those who overstep His bounds by wastefulness and extravagance.”1 Personal spending is understood from the portion “you may eat from the fruits of the crops.” Giving to others is understood from the portion “you must give the obligatory charity which is due from them on the day of their harvest.” Saving for the future is understood from the portion “you must not be wasteful or extravagant.” Therefore, servants of Allaah, what do you think the state of a society would be if its individuals properly understood this comprehensive system? Do you think it would be in need, unstable, or ensnared by poverty? Most certainly not. When an individual sows the seeds of pursuing the necessary means prescribed by Islaam, he will reap the fruits of balance and stability, and he would not be negligent or excessive. Spending according to one’s own needs, supporting others who are in need, and saving as a precaution for times of need are three elements of financial balance for individuals and entire societies. The Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) mentioned them together in his statement, “Eat, feed others, and store some.” This was collected by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.

Unbalanced allocation of finances among essentials and non-essentials is undoubtedly a direct cause of amassing debts by individuals, who are the building blocks of society, and those debts will eventually become unbearable. This is why sound economic development does not aim to achieve any objective that lacks proper distribution of wealth, or proper savings. Having a correct concept of savings is an essential foundation in taking precautionary measures related to finances and livelihood, since savings provide a means for safeguarding individuals as well as the entire society. Those who understand the concept of savings would give importance to retaining a portion of their income as a means of alleviating potential financial burdens that may arise in the event of any unforeseen adversity. There is no doubt that doing so demonstrates prudence, proficiency in managing finances, and the ability to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials during critical situations that may come knocking on one’s door from time to time. A person’s livelihood will remain out of order so long as it fails to balance between spending, giving, and saving. Allaah’s wisdom is evident in the fact that His directives prescribe giving only a portion of one’s wealth. He said,

“Spend from what Allaah has provided you with.” That means spend some of it. Allaah did not say spend all of what He has provided you with. This clearly brings out the ideas of both spending and saving.

From the standpoints of Islaam, common sense, and reality around us, it can be readily understood that when a person spends only a portion of his earnings, he would be less likely to find himself in need than someone who does otherwise. ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) would sell the dates harvested from the orchards of Banee an-Nadeer and he would store enough to cover his family’s needs for a year. This was collected by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.2 Some of the Salaf (foremost generations of Islaam) commented that this Hadeeth shows it is permissible to save enough for the coming year and that does not mean a person is complacently hoping to live for a long time. Preparing oneself for times of need is encouraged by both Islaam and common sense.

Servants of Allaah, the concept of saving prescribed for us by Allaah, and prescribed by His Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection), reflects proper balance at the individual and societal levels. It is a system of integrity and it draws that from the fact that it is part of Islaam’s teachings. Islaam is a religion of ease, not difficulty. It is a religion that fosters an economy that is fair, and does not cause or reciprocate harm. It is a religion that does not criticize saving unless it turns into hoarding commodities to satisfy the greed of specific individuals, cause harm to people, and withhold the rights due to Allaah and to His servants from the wealth that Allaah Himself provided. Allaah said,

“People of eemaan, among the people of prior scriptures there are many worshippers and learned individuals who unlawfully consume the wealth of others and obstruct people from Allaah’s path. As for those who hoard gold and silver, and do not spend from that in Allaah’s path, then convey to them tidings of a painful torment.”

When compared to any system that human beings have devised to organize their livelihood and solve crises which may affect them, the teachings of Islaam contain directives that are better, safer, wiser, and provide more lasting results. In the Qur’aan, Allaah informed us about the unique balance He prescribed for His servants. This can be found in the narrative about the Prophet Yoosuf (may Allaah grant him continued protection) when he explained the dream in which the ruler of the land saw seven cows. Yoosuf said in his explanation,

“For seven consecutive years, you are to be diligent in planting crops so that you have a large yield. You are to leave the grains which you reap in their ears and store them away in that manner, except for a small amount which you may allocate for consumption. After those seven fertile years, seven difficult years will come and exhaust what you had previously stored in preparation for them, except a little of what you had stored away as seeds to sow in the future. Then, after that will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press grapes, olives, and other foods they use.”

The portion that says “planting crops” reflects working, earning, and diligently pursuing permissible means to supply the marketplace with goods so that all would be able to benefit, each according to his need; and so that complacency, laziness, and unemployment would be minimized. People find results when they strive, and they reap what they sow.

The portion that says “You are to leave the grains which you reap in their ears and store them away in that manner, except for a small amount which you may allocate for consumption” shows how to handle current consumption, which relates to what is produced at present; as well as the need to plan for subsequent consumption, which relates to saving for a future that is uncertain and may hold various difficulties. Not everything produced is to be consumed immediately. It is careless and reckless to immediately consume everything produced, and doing so reflects shortsightedness, inattentiveness, and a lack of caution. In contrast, taking necessary precautions reflects sensibility and farsightedness which no individual or society can do without when planning for unforeseen circumstances and sudden crises.

The manner of saving that Allaah prescribed for people guarantees – with Allaah’s assistance – that provision would not be lost, and would not be diminished by debts which force people to turn to others.

Do not ever think that provision comes suddenly or as a coincidence, without taking the steps necessary to attain it. Things do not work that way. Rather, you must earn, consume, give to others, save some, and protect yourself from being a burden upon others.

May Allaah bless us all by the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and allow us to glean benefit from the aayaat, admonition, and wisdom they contain. I say this much and I implore Allaah to forgive me, you, and all Muslim men and women for every sin and misdeed. Thus, seek forgiveness from Allaah and repent to Him, as my Lord is certainly the Most Forgiving, the Bestower of mercy.

All praise and gratitude are due to Allaah for His guidance, kindness, and blessings. May Allaah grant His commendation and protection to His Messenger who called people to do all that pleases Allaah.

Servants of Allaah, continue to observe taqwaa of Allaah, and realize that everything which Allaah prescribed is best for His servants in this world and the hereafter. The prescribed manner of saving eliminates extravagance and wastefulness, both of which are prohibited. The prescribed manner of saving also eliminates greed that leads to hoarding, as well as monopolization that causes harm and exploitation.

Servants of Allaah, you must also realize that saving does not contradict depending on Allaah and placing full trust in Him. The One who instructed His servants to place full trust in Him is the same One who prescribed saving for them. The One who told them,

“In the heavens is your provision and what you were promised” is the same One who spread out the Earth for them and told them that they are free to travel throughout all parts of the world and to eat from the wholesome provisions that He granted them.

There is no doubt that when people save in the correct manner, and when doing so becomes prevalent among them, they would have a reserve from which they can seek assistance – after seeking Allaah’s assistance first and foremost – when adversities strike, and from which all of them can benefit so as to fill gaps in their finances and be protected from having to ask of others. Allaah, the Most Majestic, said,

“Those present when a dying person is dictating a will must feel the same fear for the dependents of the dying person as they fear for their own if they themselves had left vulnerable young ones behind. Thus, they must observe taqwaa of Allaah and advise the dying person to do what is correct and fair.” This aayah has to do with those who dictate a will on their deathbeds which deprives their dependents and, instead, gives much to others.

In addition, when Sa’d ibn Abee Waqqaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) wanted to will two-thirds of his property to other than his family members who would inherit him, the Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) told him, “For you to leave your inheritors well-off is certainly better than for you to leave them poor and having to beg of others.” This was collected by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.

Similarly, when Ka’b ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said, “As part of my repentance, I will give all of my property as charity to Allaah and His Messenger,” the Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) told him, “Keep some of your property. That would be better for you.” This was collected by al-Bukhaaree.

Servants of Allaah, this is the perspective from which Islaam views saving. It is a perspective that is rich in balance and comprehensiveness. It is a perspective filled with ease, care, and caution. This should come as no surprise, since it is part of the religion that Allaah prescribed. He said,

“There is no religion that could be better than the disposition and religion that Allaah implanted within the souls of all people. Therefore, adhere to it and say, ‘We humbly obey Allaah and worship Him alone’.” Allaah also said,

“Who could ever be better than Allaah in passing judgment for a people who are certain that Allaah’s judgment is the truth?

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