The position considered for stinginess and parsimony in religious texts is menacing and terrifying. Let’s consider some examples:
• In paradise, generosity is embodied in a fruitful tree while parsimony is a tree which grows in hell. Imam Sadegh (A.S.) said:
“Generosity is the name of a tree in paradise which raises the generous person and parsimony is a tree in hell which ties the parsimonious to fire” .
• The messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H.) said:
An abundance of diseases is a sign of ungenerosity .
• Imam Ali (A.S.) considered parsimony to be inclusive of all obscenities and flaws:
“Parsimony includes all flaws and defects and leads man towards all evils” .
• Imam Sadegh (A.S.) said:
“God loves two temperaments: one being good temper and the other generosity, and there are two temperaments disliked by God; one being bad temper and the other stinginess” .
• The messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H.) said reproachfully:
“I swear to God in whose hand is Mohammad’s life, two traits cannot exist in a believer: parsimony and bad temper” .
• Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
“No bad behavior sparks God’s discontent as much as ungenerosity does” .
• The messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H.) said:
النَّظَرُ إِلَى الْبَخِیلِ یُقْسِی الْقَلْب
“Looking at a stingy person hardens one’s heart” .
• In beautiful statement, Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
“The miser is his heirs’ safe” .
Imam Bagher (A.S.) quoted the messenger of Allah about a secret of the Sodomites:
“The Sodomites lived in a place. They were ungenerous in feeding others. This ungenerosity caused a problem in their women’s private parts such that there was no cure for that. As where the Sodomites lived was on the way of caravans, they raped traveling men. Therefore, an evil practice became common among them. Ungenerosity led them towards lechery and hence divine punishment” .
Parsimony has some characteristics. Different features and signs can be associated with parsimony. Considering these features can help people identify their position. Are they generous or ungenerous?
First feature: Parsimony towards oneself
One beautiful verse on charity shares shocking themes in respect to absence of generosity:
هَاأَنتُمْ هَؤُلَاءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنفِقُواْ فىِ سَبِیلِ اللهِ فَمِنکُم مَّن یَبْخَلُ وَ مَن یَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا یَبْخَلُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ وَ اللهُ الْغَنِىُّ وَ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ وَ إِن تَتَوَلَّوْاْ یَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَیْرَکُمْ ثُمَّ لَا یَکُونُواْ أَمْثَالَکُمْ
“Behold, ye are those invited to spend [of your substance] in the Way of Allah: But among you are some that are niggardly. But any who are niggardly are so at the expense of their own souls. But Allah is free of all wants, and it is ye that are needy. If ye turn back [from the Path], He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!” .
First point: The phrase هَاأَنتُمْ means “beware” and it is a warning which signifies an important point. Interestingly, this phrase was rarely used in holy Quran. This phrase was used with respect to ungenerosity.
Second point: The addressee of the mentioned verse is Mohammad’s people or the Muslims. The verse says that Muslims have been summoned to an important task and that’s nothing but charity. Charity’s significance is accentuated when the ending of the verse is taken into account: if you turn away from charity, God will replace you with other people who will not behave as you do. This clearly states that the most important responsibility of the Muslims as the last people on earth is only one thing: helping one another.
Third point: The verse states that some are ungenerous and stingy. They cannot give their possessions away to the poor and the weak. Here, a very shocking and instructive point is brought up:
One who is driven by parsimony harms himself rather than others.
The truth is one who donates, apparently, helps others; however, in fact, he helps himself more than others since the generous person sends plights and miseries away with every charity he makes. Thus, one who donates helps two people; the poor and himself.
One who donates is more in need of charity than the poor is.
God needs nothing while man is all need. People make life difficult for themselves and buy themselves plights with their flaws and mistakes. One very important solution to reduce the troubles and miseries is to be generous. Truth is charity and trouble are related and they interact with each other .
From one door comes a poor and from the other comes trouble. Staying out of troubles depends on supplying the poor.
One who donates for the cause of Allah, in fact, donates for himself and the one who practices stinginess is stingy towards himself. It is as if one goes to the doctor, pays the fee, buys medicine, but does not take it. He has paid for the medicine but has not used it.
Second feature: Sign of disbelief and hypocrisy
One of the signs of disbelief is ungenerosity. Unbelievers have refused to donate due to their extreme attachment to properties and possessions. Their most favorite is wealth and they are ungenerous:
إِنَّ الَّذِینَ ءَامَنُواْ وَ عَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَیْرُ مَمْنُونٍپ
“For those who believe and work deeds of righteousness is a reward that will never fail”
This holy verse emphasizes that those who do not believe in the Hereafter and eternity and who do not donate, they favor wealth above everything else; heresy led them towards ungenerosity; and they neither donate from their wealth nor from their knowledge.
One of the features of the hypocrites is that they do not want good things for others. While in critical situations, they leave those in need alone, they work little and talk much, while in difficulty, they are the most timid of people, while in peace, they are the most demanding; rebukes an discouragement are their practice; and finally, they are greedy and stingy:
“Covetous over you”
Third Feature: Permanent Sorrow
Man has various feelings. These feelings are divided into bitter and sweet ones. One of the divine traditions is that people’s behavior influences their feelings, and people’s states are based on their thoughts and practices. If people display good conduct, naturally, they will have a soft and sweet feeling. Otherwise, bitter states await them.
Ungenerosity and stinginess are among the inappropriate behaviors displayed by some. Such people must expect undesirable consequences. One of the bitter states the miser will experience is the feeling of sorrow. The miser will suffer from a bitter sorrow in the world and a burning fire in the Hereafter. As said by the messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H.):
وَ صَاحِبُ الْبُخْلِ یَقِفُ حَزِینٌ، شَرَابُهُ الْحَمِیمُ وَ الْغِسْلِین، تَهْوِی بِهِ النَّارُ إِلَى سِجِّینٍ
“The ungenerous person is always sorrowful, and fire draws him towards hell; his drinks are very warm and stinking beverages” .
Fourth Feature: Refrain from Consulting
Religious leaders provided tips on conditions of consulting. One of the people whom should not be consulted is the ungenerous person. Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
لَا تُدْخِلَنَّ فِی مَشُورَتِکَ بَخِیلًا یَخْذُلُکَ عَنِ الْفَضْلِ وَ یَعِدُکَ الْفَقْر
“Do not consult the ungenerous as they will make you deviated from generosity and frighten you from poverty”
People need consultations on different issues. Consultant should have some features. One of the features is not to be parsimonious and to be generous. If one chooses a parsimonious consultant, he will suffer from two problems; one is that he will distance from generosity. A consultant who is ungenerous cannot recommend anything other than ungenerosity. A parsimonious person offers nothing but parsimony. One who is unfamiliar with generosity and knows nothing about helping and assistance cannot give advices. Therefore, a miser’s companion will become a miser.
The other problem of consulting a parsimonious person is that it will lead one towards poverty. A parsimonious person thinks miserly and nothing comes out of an ungenerous mind but poverty. Rather than being an external issue, poverty is associated with mind and thought. A poor person cannot advise big because he has a limited thought.
A small mind recommends small things and a big mind recommends big ones.
Messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H.) provided Imam Ali (A.S.) with some recommendations. One is that consulting a stingy person is not recommended since it will distance one from the ambitious goals.
لَا تُشَاوِرَنَّ الْبَخِیلَ فَإِنَّهُ یَقْصُرُ بِکَ عَنْ غَایَتِک
“Do not consult a parsimonious person; it will prevent you from achieving your goal” .
Fifth Feature: Maintaining Distance
Religious leaders warned believers against companionship with stingy people. Muslims have to stay away from the parsimonious. If such recommendations and warnings are put into practice, the stingy will be, naturally, secluded and left alone. This mechanism can be an example and a lesson for the ethical offenders.
Parsimony will lead people towards seclusion, reduce communications, and leave one with nothing but loneliness. Bad behavior brings in evil incidents, and the undesirable events will punish people. If we assume that there is no judge and court in a society, the universe will itself discipline men. One who chooses the dark path will pay the penalty and one who moves towards heavens and beauties will pay the costs.
Stepping in the dark road incurs penalty, and moving towards beauties incurs costs.
Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
إِیَّاکَ وَ مُصَادَقَةَ الْبَخِیلِ
“Refrain from companionship with the stingy” .
Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
الْبُخْلُ یُوجِبُ الْبَغْضَاءَ
“Parsimony incurs enmity” .
Parsimony brings in nothing but enmity, and wherever a stingy person treads he will promote enmity and hatred. Evidently, where hatred is preached, distances are lengthened and people are farther from each other. Naturally, people do not like a stingy person, keep distance from him and seclude him. Imam Ali (A.S.) referred to the humiliation of the stingy:
الْبُخْلُ یُذِلُّ مُصَاحِبَهُ
“Parsimony humiliates the parsimonious” .
Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
إِیَّاکُمْ وَ الْبُخْلَ فَإِنَّ الْبَخِیلَ یَمْقَتُهُ الْغَرِیبُ وَ یَنْفُرُ مِنْهُ الْقَرِیبُ
“Beware of the stingy; strangers consider him enemy and friends distance from him” .
Sixth feature: End of the Era
At the end of the world and before the advent of the promised Mahdi, some events occur. Religious leaders have talked much about such events and warned against them. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) is the first person warning against the terrifying occurrence of the Apocalypse. Governments do not last but by murder and violence. Affection is only developed through fulfilling sensual desires, and the rich spend time while boasting and being ungenerous.
"وَ لَا الْغِنَىَّ إِلَّا بِالْفَخْرِ وَ الْبُخْل
“The rich spend time boasting and being ungenerous” .
Seventh feature: Parsimony and Shi’a
Can a Shiite be stingy? Can one be parsimonious and a follower of Imam Ali at the same time? Isn’t generosity one of the distinctive characteristics of Imam Ali (A.S.)?
Undoubtedly, one of the distinctive characteristics of Imam Ali (A.S.) is generosity. This trait was common among all infallible descendants of him. It should be, naturally, visible in his followers as well. Thus, one cannot claim to be a shi’a and, at the same time, be parsimonious. Imam Sadegh (A.S.) said about the three features of Shi’as:
“There is no one parsimonious among Shi’as”.
Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“Accumulating wealth cannot be realized through ungenerosity” .
Ali Ibn Shuaib said once we came to Imam Reza (A.S.) and asked his holiness about the best lives. Imam replied:
“The best lives belong to those who share their lives with others (donate). The worst lives belong to those who do not share their lives with others. O Ali! The worst people are those who do not donate and hurt themselves and others” .
5. Following sensualities
People have many desires. Those who follow their sensualities and base their behavior on them will face problems in their social relationships. Healthy social interactions depend on a pure inner self and ignoring the sensualities.
Imam Reza (A.S.) believed that real men do not follow their sensualities and employ their internal forces in order to obtain God’s consent. If one experiences difficulty or humiliation for this cause, God will compensate for the difficulties with continuous blessing .
Ibn Hassan al-Reza (A.S.) prevented following desires and said:
إِیَّاکَ وَ الْمُرْتَقَى الصَّعْبَ إِذَا کَانَ مُنْحَدَرُهُ وَعْراً- وَ إِیَّاکَ أَنْ تُتْبِعَ النَّفْسَ هَوَاهَا فَإِنَّ فِی هَوَاهَا رَدَاهَا
“Avoid a ladder which is easy to climb. Do not fulfill the desires of a rebellious soul since this will lead to its destruction”
Imam Reza (A.S.) established a relationship between sins and bitter calamities :
“If one commits a sin, a disaster will befell”
Imam Reza (A.S.) said about the necessity to refrain from sins and desires:
مَنِ اجْتَنَبَ مَا وَعَدَ اللهُ عَلَیْهِ النَّارَ کَفَّرَ عَنْهُ سَیِّئَاتِهِ إِذَا کَانَ مُؤْمِنا
“One who refrains from doing what God promised hell for, while he is a believer, God will wash away his sins” .
In short, Islam emphasizes on the evolution of societies. Developments and reforms in a society are nothing but forging social relations to achieve desired perfection. To this end, kindness, optimism, asceticism, honesty, patience, sacrifice, and forgiveness play major roles, and the believer must avoid aggressiveness, lying, bothering, ungenerosity, and fulfilling sensual desires, and practice piety.
In Islamic thought, worldly life is an introduction to the hereafter. One should take into account the spiritual and otherworldly issues while establishing relationships in this world. In the case of there is any contradiction, one should give priority to God’ consent over that of people. Islam is intertwined with independence, dignity, and self-esteem. Religious social system is based upon piety. The most important and useful criteria in establishing healthy relationships can be found in this remark by Imam Reza (A.S.) :
Choose for yourself what you would choose for others, and do not choose for others what you would not choose for yourself.