Home Insights and Teachings The conflict between the human value and the materialistic value

The conflict between the human value and the materialistic value

By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Translated by Manal Samhat 

Allah, the Most Exalted, has treated several concepts and human and social ideas through the methodology of dialogue in several verses of the Glorious Quran, like in His saying: "And set forth to them a parable of two men; for one of them We made two gardens of grape vines, and in the midst of them We made cornfield. Both these gardens yielded their fruits, and failed not aught thereof, and We caused a river to gush forth in their midst" (18:32-33).

Before we elaborate on the characteristics of the Quranic dialogue, we point out to the parable that Allah, the most Exalted, has given about the two men, who each had his own perspective of life; one of them considers that money is everything since it provides the value which elevates man's position, and according to his claim, he who owns money, owns everything and deserves all blessings from Allah, this is if Allah does exist in his perception. While he who has no money, has no value, neither in this world nor in the Hereafter. The other man regards money as a means to fulfill his needs, because being close to Allah is not attained by the possession of money, but rather through knowledge, faith, piety and Jihad.

The first pattern of thinking is on the wrong track, because he who thinks this way, lives unmindful of the other world (the Hereafter) and of the events that may occur and deprive him of everything he has. He thinks himself immortal through his money and positions, and looks at people arrogantly for he evaluates them by their money and fortune. As for the other, he evaluates people in terms of their knowledge, perception, and faith, since money does not grant humanity to the human being. It is the intellect, knowledge, faith, and openness to Allah, the most Exalted, that enrich humanity.

Allah, the most Exalted, uses this parable to introduce us to the real value of money and that a man cannot make it a basis for this world and the Hereafter. Some parables in the Glorious Quran, as in the clause "And set forth to them a parable", are set to illustrate the idea and make it easier to understand in a way that links the moral issue to the materialistic one. Thus, we attempt to understand the moral side at the level of the idea through the factual side at the level of reality; then we derive from reality the idea that we are supposed to carry in our consciousness. In an explication of the two aforementioned verses, every clause means as follows: "Two men; for one of them We made two gardens of grape vines", Allah has granted him two gardens of grapes; "And We surrounded them both with palms", and there are palms bordering the two gardens; "and in the midst of them We made cornfield", and the plantation carries various kinds of delicious fruits; "Both these gardens yielded their fruits", each garden abounds in mellow fruits that are ready to be eaten; "and failed not aught thereof", Allah has not deprived it of anything, so it was a beautiful garden flowing with greenness and tasty fruits; "and We caused a river to gush forth in their midst", Allah has created a river that quenches the thirst of the land to revive and renew it.

The dialogue begins here; "And he possessed much wealth; so he said to his companion, while he disputed with him" i.e. his companion could be a relative, neighbor, or a friend who possesses nothing, then he said to him haughtily: "I have greater wealth than you" i.e., I am the one who has the loads of money and consequently, the highest value, "and am mightier in followers" (18:34), i.e. I have children, friends, and partisans, so what is your value in comparison to me? You do not have the money I have, and you do not enjoy the support of the people who resort to me, so how can you compare your significance and position to mine?

This gives us an idea about the man who is proud of his money and who disrespects the others for he sees that his position goes up with the abundance of his money and popularity and that his personality shines through them. Here we can say that money is not a part of you for it is not your mind or your heart; money is not something attributed to you so that it would be your entire will, even the people supporting you are not you; everyone has his independent existence. They do not glorify you if you are small within yourself. The money and the people around you are all separate entities, which cannot be considered a part of you. What elevates you is your reason, knowledge, experience, and faith, and this is what the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s.), said: "The value of a man lies in what he is skilled at".

By this materialistic insolent logic, the arrogant rich has started his dialogue with his rational faithful poor companion whose convictions differ from his, yet he did not feel weak in front of him and did not get frustrated or lower himself, but remained steadfast and strong in his religion and will. One of them boasts relying on arrogance, self-conceit and adherence to what is perishable, while the other depends on the voice of reason and faith, as in the clause: "His companion said to him while disputing with him: Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you from dust, then from a small seed, then He made you a perfect man?" (18:37).

How different they are! One man talks to the other about money, position, and dignitary, staring at the dust, and the other talks to him in the logic of fear of God staring at the sky not caring a bit for the materialistic gains of the earth, "Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you from dust", you boast of yourself but go back to your origin; you are just a handful of dust which is not worth anything, you are like this soil on which you put your feet, "from a small seed, then He made you a perfect man". Allah has created you after the dust turned into food and the food turned into blood and the blood turned into a sperm, which passed in several stages until you became a man.

Allah has created you, since you cannot create yourself and you do not determine your own fate. Moreover, He granted you all what you own, so where is your greatness? Is it in your materialistic body or in those who surround you? You disbelieve in Allah and behave arrogantly with His believers, imagining that you are immortal, "but as for me, He, Allah, is my Lord, and I do not associate anyone with my Lord" (18:38). This is what you think; whereas I believe that Allah is my God and I sense His greatness and how near to Him I am. I realize His grandness, grace and signs. You look at your money by which you are totally overwhelmed engaged transforming it into a god to obey; however, I lift my head up to Allah that I do not associate anyone with.

If you were a rational sober-minded man, your logic would be totally different from what you are saying, "And wherefore did you not say when you entered your garden: It is as Allah has pleased, there is no power save in Allah?" When you enter your garden, you should thank Allah, the most Exalted, for what He has granted you, as in His saying: "His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, so it is". Therefore, you ought to remember the power of Allah that blessed you with these graces instead of considering that your power stems from yourself and not from Allah.

This point represents a great educational logic, since it warns the one who is engaged in materialistic pleasures, forgetting all about his God; whereas, when he feels strong and obtains the materialistic elements of force, he has to link that to Allah for He is the only One Who gives power and money and the One Who denies them. Therefore, man ought not to be arrogant and he should humble himself to Allah Who created him and gave him power. Accordingly, the expression "there is no power but with Almighty Allah" reveals to the human being that his power and potentials are from Allah.

Hence, the believer disagreed with the other man, and said: "If you consider me to be inferior to you in wealth and children" (18:39). In other words, it is true that you see me lesser than you because you have more money and children, and I do not possess what you possess on the materialistic side, but I trust in Allah even if I have less money, children and gardens "Then maybe my Lord will give me what is better than your garden, and send on it a thunderbolt from heaven". Thus, my God can bless me like He blessed you and can give me more than what He gave you. As for your gardens, they could become bleak with no plants or fruits by a storm, or a cold or hot wave, or any other unnatural weather phenomenon, "so that it shall become even ground without plant"; or its water sinks down and dries up to become useless, "Or its waters should sink down into the ground so that you are unable to find it" (18:41).

An excerpt from the book "Min 'Urfan-el-Quran"