When discussing poverty, it’s important to understand that there are two forms of poverty: external and internal. One is significantly more risky than the other in light of the fact that while one oversees our lives momentarily, the other administers our lives until the end of time. Internal poverty is the poverty of the soul; it represents the unmoved soul, the soul that has been produced but has yet to understand why. Prophet rightly said, ‘‘true poverty is not lack of wealth it is standing short of good deeds on the day of judgement.’’
Despite this reality, we continue to live this life feeding our bodies but starving our souls. The tragic irony of this emphasis is that the body we tend to is only transient, while the spirit we ignore is eternal. We mourn for those whose bodies have passed away, but our hearts are unmoved by those whose bodies are still alive but whose hearts and souls have passed away. The heart, you see, was made with a very specific nature and for a very specific reason. Any created thing that is not used for the reason for which it was created will crack, drown, starve, and die. The heart was made by and for God; it was made to love and know God; it was made to be offered to God; it was made to be filled with God. The heart that is given to or filled by any other thing, suffers the most painful impoverishment and death. The human heart is like a boat in the ocean of Dunya; the boat splits and drowns when the ocean water enters. The human heart that allows this dunya to enter also breaks and drowns, and it is taken over, taken over by life, taken over by our gadgets, taken over by Facebook, taken over by our jobs, taken over by distractions, taken over by fashion trends, taken over by marketing tools, taken over by money, influence, and status. The heart that belongs to this life is a worst-case hostage, and the heart that belongs to any other master than the master of masters is the most vulnerable of all slaves. That is true oppression, true death, true poverty, as human beings we enslave ourselves to different things, some of us here are enslaved to money, some of us have enslaved our hearts to other people, we love them as we should only love Allah, some of us are enslaved to status or to our careers. If we all question ourselves, whom we love most? The majority of us reading this will say with their tongues that they love God the most; we say it with our tongues, we say it in our minds, but our hearts and deeds say otherwise. When Allah says interest is forbidden, but your financial goals dictate otherwise? What do you do when society’s expectations for the size of your house or the brand of your car dictate otherwise? Who decides what it means to be rich? Who decides what poverty is? What kind of poverty do you fear the most? The truth is that we choose what we love more; when we love money, we choose that; when we love people more, we choose that; when we love people more, we fill our hearts, we think of them more, and our lives lose focus. We exit the creator’s orbit and join the creation’s orbit, which is painful and unstable. In the orbit of the creation, we rise and fall with the creation’s waves of praise and criticism; the creation sets our expectations for success and failure. The standard for wealth comes from society, and the standard for poverty comes from society, but the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) gives us a different standard. He explains, “True wealth is not the accumulation of many possessions; rather, true wealth is the accumulation of the soul, and how we escape true impoverishment of the soul.”
Remember that sometimes change starts with a fall; instead of cursing the fall, learn from it, breathe it in, and then return stronger, more humble, and more mindful of your need for Him (The Almighty Allah). Deprived is the one who has never witnessed his own desperate need for God; reliant on his own means he forgets that the means, his own soul, and everything else in existence are his creation. Seek God’s help in bringing you back, for when he does, he will rebuild your ship; the heart that you thought was broken for good will be repaired, and what was shattered will be restored. Know that only He can save you, and when He does, beg forgiveness for your sins; feel sorrow but not despair, as Ibn Al Qayyim (RA) says: Shaitaan rejoiced when Adam (AS) came out of heaven, but he did not know that when a driver falls into the sea, he gathers pearls and then rises again. Taubah, repentance, and returning to Allah have a strong and incredible impact.
In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us not to lose faith, saying, “Tell O my servants who have transgressed against their souls, despair not of Allah’s grace,” for Allah forgives all sins because he is forgiving and merciful. But how do we escape the true poverty of having every rival into our hearts, how do we escape the constant bombardment from every direction commanding us to worship other things, commanding us to take idols of the heart and love them as we should only love Him? To escape true poverty, we must be filled with love for Allah, which should be your strongest love. However, you can’t love someone you don’t know; you must get to know him. If you don’t speak to him and ask him questions, you won’t know who He is. And you can’t love anyone you don’t know; remember him all the time, and so this is a call to all those who have been corrupted by the tyranny of the self and imprisoned in the dungeon of the nafs and wishes, a call to all those who have reached the ocean of dunya, fallen into its depths and become entrapped by its roaring waves, rise up, rise up to ascension, to your liberty, rise up and resurrect yourself. Leave your soul’s death behind you; your spirit can still live and be stronger and more pure than it was before. Come back to yourself before it is too late, because many of us think that we can live our lives however we want and then at the time of death just say: La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammadar Rasulullah (SAW). But at the time of death the tongue cannot speak except what the heart commands; whatever is in the hearts will come out. On that day, the impoverished heart will have nothing but worldly love to speak of; if our hearts are drained of Allah throughout our lives, how will they be full of Allah when we die? If our heart is full of love for this life; love of status; love of wealth; love of this creation over the creator, that is what will speak at the time of death; if the heart is full of grudges, envy, and hate, that is what will speak at the time of death.