Of prosperity-preachers and materialism
Brethren, each time he mounts the rostrum he cuts a picture of one who is in full possession of the world. Brethren, each time he holds the microphone to deliver a public sermon, he is quick to tell his audience he has not been commissioned by the Almighty to make people remorseful of their iniquitous ways. Listen to him: “some preachers make you sad by their speeches and sermonettes; I am here to make you happy and merry”. He is the new ‘prosperity preacher’ in town. The essence of worship, he would argue, lies in how materially prosperous the worshipper becomes.
Brethren, I am concerned today by Muslim preachers in our midst, and indeed outside Islam, who have entered into uncanny alliances with the world. I am concerned today with Alfas and a section of the Ulama who engage in mercantilism and invidious rapprochement with occultic powers in order to be up ‘there’ in the world. Make no mistake, dear brother, about the position of Islam in regard to worldly possessions. Here is what the Almighty says: “Seek, by means of what the Almighty has given you, to attain the abode of the hereafter, while not neglecting your share in this world. Be good to others as the Almighty has been good to you, and do not seek mischief in the land, for He does not love the mischief mongers (Q28: 77).
Thus, brother, to be born into the world is to partake of the many opportunities the Almighty has endowed the world with. It means a Muslim should avoid the assumption that Islam celebrates penury and encourages poverty. But what are we saying sister? Is it not true that there in Makkah and Madinah you have in abundance almost everything money can buy? Is it not true that each time you visit the Haram for worship, you are equally invited, after your prayers, to engage in worldly pursuits? Is it not true dear Sister, that each time you pay the Prophet’s mosque a visit, you are beckoned by the world around its catholic precincts to avail yourself of the many opportunities the world offers you?
In other words, dear brother, to have the world in your hands, to be a custodian of a stupendous wealth such that would remind you of Qarun, these do not actually constitute an infraction of the divine will. Wealth however becomes a sin when it moves away from your hands to your heart. Please note this one more time: wealth becomes a sin when it ceases to be your servant but your master. When wealth occupies your heart, when it becomes an end in itself not a means towards noble ends, your whole body becomes a cathedral of the faithless. The tragedy in our society today is that it is not only the laity that has become worshippers in the cathedral of the faithless. Rather, some among the clergy, those who supposedly know who and what the Almighty is and stands for, have become ‘ministers’ in the chapel of Satan.
Brethren, one of such ‘Alfas’ is the heir of a Shaykh who transited to the great beyond a couple of years ago. Brethren, the day the Shaykh died, he left behind a ‘big’ estate which comprised a room and parlour, a library stocked with rare collections in Arabic-Islamic scholarship and a wardrobe full of garments that were popular in the mid-fifties. The Shaykh died and left no bank account. But today his heir now has an estate. He has close to forty houses all around our cities. He has millions of naira in different accounts in our banks. Yet, he refers to himself as an Almajir- a pauper. Yes he is poor. He is poor at heart. Those who are poor at heart would never find contentment in life. Their contentment is suspended till the day they shall bid the world bye.
Sister! It was a brother who, in a text message, initially expressed his concern on the evils that these Alfas are wrecking on our society and their corrosive impacts on the spiritual capital of the Ummah. But why would you not be concerned when an Alfa tells you that he knows the magic that can make a millionaire out of you overnight? How would you not be concerned when you are told that one of the rituals you would engage in is to hold on to your groin each time you stand up in prayer to the Almighty? How would you not be concerned when you hear an Alfa address an audience saying that once you do the above, a Jinn would be assigned to you and its task would be to bring millions of naira to you every passing day? Brethren, when shall our society destroy the cathedral of money? When shall we stop our patronage of these prosperity-preachers?
It was in the course of my academic work that I chanced upon the statement of Shaykh Mahmud Ahmed in which he equally laments how the modern society has become hostage to money. According to him, in any society in which success is measured in terms of money “our native propensity towards emulation takes on a pecuniary twist.” We cultivate the manners of the rich. We indulge in social frivolities and keep pace with the changing styles. We aspire for “conspicuous leisure” and feel elated with the practice of “conspicuous waste”. Now if “conspicuous leisure” is the pinnacle of our attainment and “conspicuous waste” the ultimate end of culture, the best way to attain both is to join the rank of bond holders.
Brethren, one ‘good’ thing that is happening now is that there are no differences between our billionaires and our prosperity-preachers anymore. All of them now live in closed and encased mansions. Remember that such mansions are not in anyway different from our prison yards and detention camps. To be in public prison is to be in forceful isolation and confinement; to live among millionaires and billionaires today is to be in detention by choice!
Thus brother you and I have a decision to take – either a life of sanity, one in which you would be in peace and at peace with yourself, your neighbour, the world and your creator; or a life of excessive material accumulation and become a priest in the chapel of Shaytan. Rabiah al-Adawiyyah was asked about what she saw when she visited hell. She responded saying: “there is no fire in hell; all the occupiers would bring their hell with them on the day of resurrection.” (08122465111 for text messages only).
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