We continue our series on the habits of unhappy people with another culmination of the previous habits we had discussed. Stinginess is a disease which makes the sufferer worried, unhappy, fearful and cowardly. Stinginess and cowardice always come together because the stingy cannot make a decision freely or justly. He is always hesitant and calculative in spending.
What is stinginess?
Stinginess is a high degree of reluctance to spend, especially for the path of Allah. The stingy calculate everything up to the last penny and there is no generosity in his manner.
Extravagance is prohibited in Islam, and there is nothing wrong in prudent spending which achieves the best value for your money. Stinginess however, is withholding because of lack of generosity and the fear of spending.
The stingy cannot transact easily. When they visit designer stores, they do not bargain, but with the needy and weak in the markets, they bargain so fiercely that it borders on oppression and abuse to the seller. They cannot give tips easily. They are egotistical over their maids, the needy and the cause for sabeelillah. They clam up or argue when asked to spend for goodness, but spend lavishly for weddings and other public occasions in order to show off.
If asked to spend money on charity, orphanages, support the message of Islam or finance the weak and needy, they will not be able to. Any such spending, if it happens, would be with the highest degree of reluctance; and a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of assets they own.
Some people splurge on themselves and their friends, go on vacations and buy nice cars, but are still stingy. There is no contradiction: you will find that some stingy people spend to boast and to garner praise. They spend for rivalry in the material, to remind others their of wealth and to elevate their status in dunia.
Stinginess v Wealth
The desire and aim of a stingy person is to accumulate and gain. The stingy, because already infused with the bad qualities of envy and discontentment, is convinced that he is lacking money, and is terrified to spend. Generosity causes him misery and spending is a monumental task.
Being poor or rich is unrelated to stinginess. I know a high flying professional who had no dependents or family obligations. Her annual salary was in the 6 figures in US Dollars. Yet she slept on the sofa because she refused even spend money on a bed. Her guests were told not to flush the toilet unless it had been used two or three times first. However, she always appeared in public decked in expensive diamonds. Not surprisingly, she was miserable with life in general.
I was once invited to a private club, exclusively reserved for the elite and multi millionaires, in Upper Manhattan, New York. I knew the maître-d personally. He pointed out one of the patrons, who was the wealthiest man in Manhattan, and one of the richest men in the United States. He would travel from his main office in downtown New Yorkto scrutinize the lunch menu. He would enquire about everything on the menu and the daily special but would always order the same dish: onion soup with extra crackers. The maître-d told me that his behaviour was well known, because he had been doing the same thing for 25 years and was too tight fisted to spend money on even a sandwich.
On the other hand, I once visited a taxi driver in Syria who used to own a restaurant but had fallen on hard times. He was so touched by my visit that he disappeared for a while and returned with silver jewellery as a gift. This item was more than he could afford, yet he gave it with an open heart, even though his own clothes were in tatters.
If you were to compare him and the other two people mentioned above, he was by far the happiest person, even though he lived in squalid conditions and was dirt poor.
A despised trait
Stinginess is despised by human beings, but more worryingly, it is hated by Allah.
“Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. Who are stingy and enjoin upon [other] people stinginess and conceal what Allah has given them of His bounty – and We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment – And [also] those who spend of their wealth to be seen by the people and believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day. And he to whom Satan is a companion – then evil is he as a companion.“(Chapter An-Nisa, verse 36-38)
And let not those who [greedily] withhold what Allah has given them of His bounty ever think that it is better for them. Rather, it is worse for them. Their necks will be encircled by what they withheld on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted. (Ali Imran 3:180)
Here you are – those invited to spend in the cause of Allah – but among you are those who withhold [out of greed]. And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. (Muhammad, 47:38)
These are just some of the multitude of verses in the Qur’an, which warn us of the perils of not spending. Similarly, there are plenty of ahadeeth on this issue.
The early Muslims used to say that the stingy person will never find someone to love him. He always worries, guards his wealth, and is anxious about any deficiency. The stingy person has a package of the worst characteristics on earth:
1. Possessing a bad character, making him very difficult to live with
2. He is greedy, jealous and selfish
3. He always has evil thoughts and assumes the worst of others
4. He will never know how to fulfil the rights of others.
Stingy people are very difficult to deal with. They are hard on themselves and on others. They do not know what ease or mercy mean. They live and die in misery. Their traits repel most good people, and therefore the stingy person is always in the worst company.
Unfortunately, we have never met a stingy person who realises he is stingy! The stingy person is so blind that he always believes that he is exceedingly generous, and will even lament what a fool he is for being so generous.
Stinginess indicates lack of faith in Allah. You will never find a sincere believer who is stingy. The quality of Allah SWT is generosity. The higher the belief, the more one loves to spend.
Imam Shafi’ee used to advise that the food of the generous is a cure and the food of a stingy person is a disease. Usually, when a stingy person serves food, it is with the cheapest ingredients, the worst cut of meat and the most miniscule portions. It does not matter if he is rich or poor, the quality and quantity are so meagre. What barakah is there in food which is given with reluctance and ill-will, and not in the spirit of generosity and sharing? Early scholars used to advise against accepting the invitation of a stingy person.