Envy has always been an emotion which has universally been despised. It makes a person resentful, malicious and at times depressed. It does not benefit the envier or the envied. Islamically the Scholars have described jealousy as dislike of the good condition bestowed upon an individual. They have categorised it into two: the first is desiring the blessing to be removed from the individual whereas the second is the desire for a bounty which another has without wanting it to be removed. The first is normally what people tend to experience, this type is completely impermissible.
The second type has been explained by the Prophet “There is no envy except in two cases. A person to whom Allah has given the Quran and he recites night and day, and a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property from which he gives in charity night and day” (Bukhari: 543) (Muslim: 1779) this type of jealousy stems from the desire of wanting closeness with Allah which is commendable and even encouraged as Allah states in the Quran when he lists the bounties and rewards of the Hereafter: “So for this let the competitors compete.” (82:26) This form of competition was a prevalent factor in the lives of the companions, even the likes of Umar would try to compete with Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with them both) in matters of religion.
The first type is the jealousy that most people are afflicted with, it is indeed destructive and useless. It has led many people to ruin as Allah states in regards to envy: “Many of the People of the Scripture wish they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from themselves [even] after the truth has become clear to them.” (2:109) This verse is evidence for the negative effects of envy, it has caused many people to reject the message of Islam. If they did not have this trait within themselves then they would have been guided to the truth. This envy which was in their hearts’ created enmity for The Prophet and his Companions.
Allah also praises the Ansar (Helpers) for their selflessness and their lack of envy: “entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to them, and prefer those Muhajirin over themselves, even though they themselves are poor. In fact those who are saved from the greediness of hearts, are the ones who will achieve true success.” (59:9) Here the Helpers were praised because of their lofty spiritual state, they did not posses any jealousy or greed for the fellow brothers. But, what can be said of us? Indeed we are the complete opposite to our Predecessors, we find jealousy in our hearts for any bounty Allah has bestowed upon our brother or sister.
You may find yourself asking ‘Can jealousy really be that bad?’ well the Quran tells us about the story of the first murder in history. The incident of Habil (Able) and of Qabil (Cain): “And his soul permitted to him the murder of his brother, so he killed him and became among the losers.” (5:30) Verily these are the evil consequences of envy! That can even make a brother kill a brother. Even in this day and age we see that envy drives people to commit the foulest of deeds. They become completely deaf to reason and blind to reality. In fact Allah has counselled us to seek protection from the envier: “Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak… And from the evil of an envier when he envies.” (113: 1-5)
The Prophet of Allah states: “Do not envy each other, do not hate each other, do not oppose each other, and do not cut relations, rather be Servants of Allah as brothers” (Bukhari) (Muslim) If the Muslims were to act upon the commands of their Prophet then what problems would their be in the Ummah? We would not see the fighting or animosity which is widespread today. Disgraced are those to do not follow their Prophet.
The Prophet has informed us of the reality of jealousy: “Jealousy eats away at good deeds, just as fire eats away at firewood” (Abu Dawud) (Ibn Majah) You could be the greatest worshiper of your time, you can devote your whole life to pleasing Allah, if however, you are a person who is an envier all your good deeds will be ashes. Pray to Allah that he removes this from your heart, if you find yourself envying another person remember that Allah has said: “Are they jealous of the favors that God has done to some people?” (4:54) When it comes to certain blessings and bounties, do not look at the Receiver, rather look at the Bestower of the bounties. And know there is a special wisdom in Allah giving them to that person and not you. It could very well be; that which you are coveting destroys you.
May Allah give us the understanding to act upon what has been mentioned. May he save us from envy and the envier. May he grant us success in this life and the Hereafter.