'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud narrated that God’s Messenger said: "Who among you considers the wealth of his heirs dearer to him than his own wealth?" They replied, "O God’s Messenger! There is none among us but loves his own wealth more." The Prophet said, "So his wealth is whatever he spends (in God's Cause) during his life (on good deeds) while the wealth of his heirs is whatever he leaves after his death." (Bukhari, Riqaq, 12).
Through this Prophetic Tradition, Prophet Muhammad indicates how a person can add value to the wealth they acquire by means of their own effort and which they guard so carefully, adding spiritual value in addition to its material worth. The returns of wealth acquired in the temporary world are also temporary. Eternalizing these returns is in the hands of the possessor of that wealth, and this is a task that can be realized only before this wealth is appropriated by beneficiaries. While it is most natural and valid for a person to bequeath their wealth and possessions to their heirs, it is not within reason for them exert all of their efforts to this end without ever thinking about their own life hereafter. A believer who wishes for their spiritual gains to continue after death, can put at least a portion of their wealth to the service of humanity, by transforming it into sadaqa jariya, or ongoing charity (Abu Dawud, Wasaya, 4). A believer who earns lawful wealth and does it justice by means of giving the prescribed and voluntary purifying alms (zakah and sadaqa) and helping those in need while alive, can transform that wealth into an element contributing to their rewards reserve in their book of record after their death. Being, in the words of the Prophet one of the two things that follow one after death but return (Bukhari, Riqaq, 42), wealth can work to continually increase the deeds that remain with a person after their demise. The Prophetic Tradition in question can be better understood via the Qur’anic verse: “Whatever of good you forward (to your future, eternal life) for your own selves, you will find it with God, better and greater in reward (than all that you have left behind in the world, and much increased in value)” (Al-Muzzammil, 73:20). Because the wealth we “send ahead” is that which we spend for the sake of God, not just thinking of ourselves but in considering others, and whose reward we transfer to our account in the form of a spiritual investment. Affirming that the work of no person, male or female, will be left to waste (Al-‘Imran, 3:195), the Qur’an states that God will receive those who use their wealth such with His eternal favor and munificence in gardens of Paradise.
According to accounts, ‘Umar on one occasion stopped by Madina’s graveyard and, after greeting those buried there, addressed them as follows: “I have news to convey to you. Your wives have married. Your homes have been settled into. Your wealth has been apportioned.” Thereafter a soft voice gave him the following response: “Oh Ibn al-Khattab! There is news from us also. We received the return of what we sent ahead. We gained from that which we spent in the way of God. But we incurred losses on that which we left behind” (Qurtubi, al-Jami li Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2/71). One who believes in eternal life cannot limit themselves to the narrow confines of transitory life. Such a believer is aware that they have not come to this world for play and folly. They are aware that the way of earning eternal life passes through this world, and uses every possible means to this end. While striving to pass the test with their belief, their worship, and their morality, they also invest in the eternal abode with their wealth and possessions. As such, they establish for instance charitable foundations that will carry them to eternity. The thousands of foundations established by our forebears and the charitable funds set up for these are all products of this belief and understanding. Considering everything that would earn the appreciation of the people – from the care of animals to environmental planning, from covering the expenses of students to assisting those in debt, from helping the impoverished marry to providing income to the disabled, and the construction of thousands of structures offered to people’s service, such as caravanserais, baths, bridges, mosques, fountains, and hospices – as the ultimate gain, alongside demonstrating what preparation for eternal life entails, they presented an important example for their own generation. This example continues its function to a certain extent in various spheres today through the foundations and charitable associations established.
In today’s world, where the material returns of everything has gained importance and where calculations are made in accordance with this, the greatest legacy that a believer – who deems God’s pleasure and approval the utmost gain – can bequeath their children is this belief and understanding. The universality of the philosophy of living not just for oneself but for others is contingent upon the efforts exerted to this end and the examples presented therein. The spiritual satisfaction of giving even if little, sharing with others, and giving happiness to the orphan and the down-trodden can only be realized with an education beginning in the home. While showing our children the roads to success in this world and using all the means at our disposal to this end, we should not neglect guiding them in the way of securing the eternal realm. We should show them how much we love them not merely through leaving behind for them the material wealth that we have accumulated, but by enabling them to wholeheartedly embrace, as in the words of Prophet Muhammad, the greatest gift that is good character (Tirmidhi, Birr, 33). Let us teach them that God’s approval and reward is more superior in value to everything else.
The Qur’an states that God likens those who spend their wealth in His way to a grain that sprouts seven ears, with there being a hundred gains in each ear, and that He has promised a grand reward for them (al-Baqara, 2:261). While God – the real Owner and Master of everything asks of us to spend a portion of the wealth that he has bestowed upon us in His cause, He is in actual fact asking of us to spend out of that which He has given to us as a trust. Human beings who have forgotten this reality, thus becoming selfish and appropriating everything for themselves, amass far more than what they need with the belief that their fortune will make them last forever (al-Humazah, 104:2-3), sometimes dying before being able to spend the fortune they spent their life accumulating. In response to the question of which charity was best, Prophet Muhammad referred to “The voluntary purifying alms given when you are healthy, close-fisted, and haunted by a fear of poverty,” further stating: “Do not delay it to the time of approaching death and then say, 'Give so much to such and such, and so much to such and such.' And it has already belonged to such and such (as it is too late)." As such, the Prophet indicates the importance of fulfilling one’s responsibilities before it is too late. Because, again in his words, the wealth that we send ahead, not that which we leave behind is ours, and everyone will naturally love their wealth more than that belonging to others. And it is God Who states that we will not be able to attain goodness and virtue until we spend of what we love in God’s way (Al-‘Imran, 3:92).