Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmathullahi wa Barakaathuhu.
It is when Allah (SWT) gives fortunes to someone whereby Allah (SWT) is not pleased with him. This is what’s called istidraj. Rasullulah (SAW) said :
“When you see Allah (SWT) gives good fortunes to his slaves who are always committing sins (disobedient), know that the person is being given istidraj by Allah (SWT).” (At-Tabrani, Ahmad and Al-Baihaqi)
However, those disobedient people who keep on committing sins are clueless. They think that they received the fortunes because God is with them and they feel that God is kind to them in spite of their wrongdoings. Then again the people who know that we must follow the footsteps of Rasullulah (SAW) and hold on tight to Islam in order to obtain happiness in this dunya (world) and akhira (afterlife), are still doubtful.
Why is it that people who pray 5 times a day, who wake up in the middle of the night to offer tahajjud, who fast not only in the month of Ramadhan, but also on Monday, Thursday and other voluntary fasting, live an ordinary life… some are even living in difficulties. Why? And how about the people who never pray in their whole life, nor fasting, yet they are living a prosperous and affluent life? Their houses are conspicuously built, their expensive cars are parked from end to end and they have a lot of money in the bank.
When asked if they are not afraid of death? They would say mockingly; ‘hey, others would die as well, if we go to hell, we’d all go together in multitudes. So what!’ How arrogant they are…
Even Rasullulah (SAW) who ascended to heaven and had a personal audience with Allah (SWT) was never proud in his life. Prophet Solomon (AS), despite his great dominion that subdued all creations both in the seen and the unseen worlds, was never arrogant! Prophet Joseph (AS), being the most handsome man ever created and Prophet David (AS) with his most beautiful angelic voice, never had a speck of pride in their hearts. When the time and the moment came, they still bowed and prostrated themselves praying before Allah (SWT), many times in tears.
Men with “istidraj” – Men who forget their lowly origin. Despite indulging in sins, they feel that Allah (SWT) love them. They look with disdain at people who practice religion. “He goes to the mosque every day and night, but he can’t afford to buy even a bicycle, whereas I go the nightclubs driving my expensive car. There is no need to practice religion, fortunes will still come like the rains. If he reduces his time worshipping he would be able to become rich like me,” he said arrogantly. In reality, sometimes Allah (SWT) gives a lot of fortune to someone in order to destroy that person.
Rasullulah (SAW) said:
“When Allah (SWT) intends to finish off a termite, He would make that insect flies with its wings.” (Kitab NasaibulIbad)
Termites stay quiet under the rocks or crawl beneath the dead leaves while they do not have the wings, but when Allah wants to end their lives He gives them wings. Then they would turn into winged termites (alate). When they have acquired the blessings (wings), the winged termites would fly and try to resist the fire. Likewise, when a human being acquires good fortunes, he would try to resist Allah swt.
We have the Pharaoh (Firaun) as a proof. His riches was beyond measure, he was never sick, not even a sneeze because Allah gave him the blessings of good health. Other people got sick many times, but not Firaun, other people died, but he still never showed any sign that he was going to die, until the feeling of arrogance and pride came into him and straight away claimed himself God. But it was with that “blessings” that Allah destroyed him.
King Namrud tried to burn Prophet Ibrahim (AS) who was termed khalilullah (Friend of Allah), still Allah (SWT) gave him status and great kingdom. It made him more and more arrogant and in the end he met his death in a humiliating way. He was killed simply by a mosquito that entered him through his nostril.
No human today can match Qarun in terms of his richness. The key to the warehouse that stored his wealth alone, had to be carried by 40 camels. In the end, due to his arrogance he was swallowed beneath the earth together with all his wealth. So if we are rich, don’t be swollen with pride and think that Allah loves us… Qarun was even richer but he was destroyed in the end.
Therefore if we reflect and examine properly, we will find the answers to all the questions that have been lingering in our minds. How could people who disobey Allah seem to be happy and triumphant? Why do people who deny Allah live comfortably and prosperously. The answer is that; those comforts and prosperities that Allah imparts on them are not something that He’s pleased with. In truth they are meant to destroy them. What is the point of living without Allah’s pleasure?
However if we see rich people practice religion and use expensive cars to go to mosques, don’t say that it is istidraj. We see our friend got promotion at work and call it istidraj. We see people in high position and status, and say that it is istidraj. DON’T! People who use his good fortunes for goodness, for worshipping Allah are not istidraj (meaning, we should not let ourselves reject wealth at the same time).
A hadith that needs to be mentioned here is;
Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated, Rasulullah (SAW) said:
“Charity does not decrease wealth.” (Muslim)
This applies to both the believers and the disbelievers. The more we give away our wealth for charity the more rizq we get in return (note: the subject of rizq is very encompassing, it is not limited to material wealth only but it includes everything beneficial to humans, eg. good health, happy marriage, stress-free life, etc.). When this happen to non-muslims who are generous and not arrogant, it is not istidraj; it is the good that Allah pays them with in this world as per another hadith, but that was just it… since they disbelieve in Allah, the benefits do not extend to the hereafter.
From Anas bin Malik (RA) reported the Prophet (SAW) said:
“Verily Allah (SWT) does not diminish the welfare of the believers. He will be paid in this world and rewarded in the hereafter. On the other hand, the disbelievers will be given livelihood and welfare in accordance with what they work for in this world. When it comes to the hereafter there will be no more good to be rewarded for them.” (Sahih Muslim)
If we want to be safe, we should have the understandings and live by certain principles.
It is not wealth that we are looking for and it is not poverty either. The purpose of life is to seek Allah’s pleasure. How can we determine if the good fortunes we receive please Allah? One can recognize the real blessings when he shows gratitude to Allah upon the gifts. If he uses them in the right way for the purpose of goodness and it makes him more sincere in his commitment to Allah, then all the gifts he received is a real blessing from Allah that He’s pleased with. When the purpose of life is to seek Allah’s pleasure, undoubtedly we will be safe in this dunya (world) and akhira (hereafter).