The Trap of Being Wealthy and Disbelieved: Overconfident with Akhirah

Recently I stumbled upon few verses when reading the Qur’an. The verses mention there are some people who are wealthy and disbelieved in God, yet are very confident that they will also be rewarded well by God in the hereafter. I am wondering, where does this overconfidence come from? Should not these people be nervous about life in the hereafter after living this world with disbelief in God? These are some of the verses:

  • QS: 18: 35-36: “And he entered his garden, wronging himself, and said, “I think not that this will ever perish. Nor do I think that the Hour is imminent. And if I am brought back to my Lord, I shall surely find something better that thisin the Hereafter.”
  • QS 41: 50: ”And if we make him taste some mercy from Us after hardship has befallen him, surely he will say, “This is mine; I think not that the Hour will come. If I am returned unto my Lord, surely with Him shall I have that which is most beautiful”. So We shall inform those who disbelieved of that which they have done, and We shall cause them to taste of a grave punishment.”

As evident in the verses, there seems two traps here. First, when human beings receive a blessing or mercy from God, they say, This is mine; meaning something they feel they deserve because God is pleased with them; or that they feel there is no end to what they will be given. Second, by believing that they deserve what they receive from God, such individuals also believe that IF there is in fact a return to God, they will be among those who are rewarded, just as they were rewarded in this life.

Hence, there are two major sins that we can learn from these verses: First is pride and refusal to acknowledge God’s mercy. Second is doubt with the hereafter. The wealthy people are disbelieving and sinning through pride and their refusal to acknowledge that his provision comes from God. This delusion points to the moral error of “excessive hope in worldly things”, which entails being heedless of the impermanence of all created things and of one’s own morality. These people, with their great wealth, think that their wealth makes them immortal. Furthermore, the word “If I am brought back”, stress his overall doubt in the Hereafter or resurrection.

As an example, during Prophet era, a Makkan leader and idolater, Al-Ash bin Wa’il (father of Amr bin Ash), owed money to one of the Companion of the Prophet. When resurrection was mentioned to him in conjunction with a request that he repay his debt to the companion, Al-Ash mockingly replied that if he were indeed to be resurrected, he would be resurrected possessing wealth and children so would be able to repay his debt then.

The cause

So what could be the cause of this ironic behavior? I think the overconfident might stem from their belief that their wealth and good fortune belong to them on the basis of his own personal merit, rather than bestowed by God. Furthermore, since they assume that this merit transcends death, they also expect to enjoy wealth and children in the hereafter as well. In the QS 19:77, Allah SWT mentions, “Has you not considered the one who disbelieves in our signs, and says, “I shall be given wealth and children”. Also in QS 104:3: “Who amasses wealth and tallies it; supposing that his wealth makes him immortal

The irony

The verses also show that when these people have wealth, they will be ungrateful to Allah and disbelieving the akhirah, yet ironically, when bad things happen, they will call upon God sincerely. In QS 70:19-21: “Truly man was created anxious. When evil befalls him, impatient. And when good befalls him, withholding (it). So there seems to be pattern that the people were initially tested by Allah hence humbling themselves, yet when Allah gives them fortune, they become ungrateful. Despite this disbelief, what actually will happen in the hereafter is that God will inform them about their disbelief and will call them into account.

Finally, this theme reminds me of the concept of istidraj. Allah SWT mentioned: QS 6:44: “So then they forgot that whereof they had been reminded, We opened unto them the gates of all things, till, as they exulted in what they were given, We seize them suddenly, whereupon they came to despair.”

So here, we find the same pattern: they forgot that whereof they had been reminded; they forgot the lesson they should have learned from their misfortune and hardship, i.e. their utter dependency on God. Furthermore, they thought that they had been blessed and that their actions were therefore fair/good. In a hadits, Rasulullah SAW said, “When you see that God has given much to one of His servant in this world, despite his disobedience, it is only as a temptation”.

 Lessons learned

I think there are several lessons we can learn. First, let’s be aware of pride and overconfident in oneself. It is Allah who has power overall things. All of our achievements are due to him. Second, hereafter is real; we should not have doubt in it like the disbeliever. Third, we should realize that the circumstances that arise are from God and be content with them. We should be content with all that comes from God. Hence, when health and wealth are present, they should be expanded for the sake of seeking gain in the hereafter rather than gain in this life. Fourth, the alteration between hardship and ease should serve to deep our spirituality.

  • Let’s be at the center of the wheel of fortune, i.e. whatever happens in life should not change our belief in Allah. When we are at the top, we should not be too complacent and arrogant. Similarly, when we are at the bottom, we should not be in despair.
  • We need to be detached from adversity and prosperity in this world, avoiding both bitterness and self-satisfaction, and to engender an awareness that the variations of worldly life are merely a Divine test and do not necessarily reflect either Divine pleasure or dissatisfaction.

Finally, the fifth, let’s beware of istidraj/good fortune despite our many sinful actions.