Relative to money, there are two cultures prevailing in our society—money for the sake of man and man for the sake of money. The Qur’an rejects the concept of man for the sake of money, subscribing to the other concept that money is for the sake of man. In the chapter Al-Takathur (Greed for More and More) the Qur’an has this to say: You were obsessed by greed for more and more till you reached the grave. (102: 1-2)
According to the Qur’anic concept, money or material goods are only meant to fulfill man’s needs. Money is not a goal in itself. Money can fulfill the physical requirements of man, but man is more than a physical entity. Man is an intellectual being, and as such can find fulfillment in pursuing some alternative goal that is higher than that of money.
What is that higher goal for a man? It is intellectual development; it is to unfold the spiritual nature of his personality; it is to enhance his mental capacity. All these things are superior to man’s physical being. When a man takes money as something which will fulfill his needs, he remains on the right path. He can travel along the road of life smoothly and successfully. But when he takes money as his supreme goal, he goes astray. For both men and women, money-oriented thinking is the greatest source of distraction from the right path.
Man is greater than money. A man should live for a higher purpose and he should use the money solely as his material base for constructive activity. Money is certainly useful for man, but it is certainly a wrong option if he focuses on the acquisition and hoarding of money as the principal ends in his life. Money gives you material comfort, but it cannot give you wisdom and learning. The best course is for you to live as a seeker of truth, wisdom, learning, and ultimately a goal that is elevated. That is the only right way of life for man. It is true that money does effectively render material assistance. In that sense, it is a good helper. But it is not a good leader. A money-obsessed man is like one who has made money his leader. Money which is commensurate with needs is good, but excess money is bad. Save yourself from greed and then you will be able to save yourself from being overly money-minded. Money is very helpful in some respects, for example, when it is used to acquire knowledge or to establish a library or a college. There are many such activities which need money. Indeed, without money, it is very difficult to have a successful life on this earth.
Money has both its plus points and its minus points. One plus point of money is that it provides a good material source for worthwhile objectives, while a minus point is that its possession can be like taking an overdose of sleeping pills. And an overdose of sleeping pills sometimes kills the person who takes them. Money for the sake of money is bad, but money for the sake of some higher purpose is good; money as a necessity is good, but the money culture per se is a disaster. The money culture reduces a man to the animal level.