The Danger with Envy

To every invention there is always a beginning. The strength of the building’s foundation determines its success. First we have to determine the location, then the surroundings, the materials, and then lay down that first brick.

I was going to the beach using the interstate as I noticed the massive structures reflecting the hot sun on their glass windows. Some were tall and sharp, while others were a collection of shapes and sizes. I knew that they resided in the downtown area since the suburban life here does not include the city’s humdrums except for downtown. I entered to find stunning architecture – with the best of my knowledge of that word – with shops decorated with intricate details and office buildings looming around every corner. But then there were the mediocre shops in which a homeless man or two was waiting for the unexpected The further we went from the looming towers, the shabbier the surroundings became until there was nothing left. Upon reflecting, I realized that there was a lesson to be learnt.

We can make the Eiffel tower of our time or build another one, quite different in nature. Without the night beauty and the day glory, without any picturesque view. We can build the tower of Envy. Equally powerful but without that sweet taste. And it all can start with one brick.

Some scholars hold envy (hasad) to be the root of all diseases. It is interesting to note that it was the first cause of disobedience to God when shaytan refused to bow down to Adam. Nothing prevented him from doing so except his envy.* As Muslims, the greatest concern should be that upon allowing envy to lay its foundation in our hearts, we inhabit a characteristic of one of the most wretched creatures, Satan.* It is a crippling factor leading us to believe that the one who is being envied is harmed, while we ourselves are its greatest victims. With every thought, we are damaging our souls, the greatest gift from God which is to be returned sooner than we think.

How is envy inhabited? When one desires the loss of another’s blessing.* And it is further manifested when one wants to covet another’s blessing. That desired blessing can be of various sizes and magnitudes, but its just one brick that starts it all. From wanting another’s car, to envying another nation, we can find its roots taking place in the youngest of hearts. There is one little piece of information that we fail to realize. That blessing that you have your eyes on was given to that person by Allah (SWT) . He in His Wisdom gifted the person with that blessing and only that person was well suited. Allah (SWT) , in His Wisdom, did not find you suitable for it might render you crippled. We must not question Allah (SWT) but always shield our eyes and our hearts from allowing hasad to uncoil. As it is widely said, be careful what you wish for.

*Yusef, Hamza. Purification of the Heart. Starlatch, 2004