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Envy

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Envy or al-Ḥasad, (Arabic:الحَسَد) is wishing the destruction of what people have. It is among negative attributes and moral vices.

The term al-Hasad and its derivatives have been mentioned in four verses of the Holy Qur'an and many hadiths have been narrated criticizing it, mentioning its causes and its signs. According to the Hadith of Raf', envy would not have punishment if not revealed.

Imam al-Sadiq (a) said: "Be careful not to envy others, because the envy is the root of kufr (disbelief)".

al-Kafi, vol.8, p.8

Terminology and Usage

"Hasad" (envy) is wishing the destruction of what people have. Some exegetes of the Holy Qur'an have said that "Hasad" originally means rubbing something on something else so that it is scratched. Some lexicographers have regarded its origin to be "Hasdal" meaning "mite"; and the way it burrows into the skin of humans and drinks the blood, envy does the same to one's soul.

Envy is considered an extreme level of the behavior of the one who enjoys misery of people. Based on one definition, envy is wishing destruction of what others have and wishing to have them for himself. However, in a more accurate definition, it is defined as wishing destruction of what others have, even with, it is accompanied with attempts for their destruction. Since scholars of ethics have mentioned different levels for it and it seems that these definitions refer to different levels of envy. The concept of Ghibta (wishing to have what one has) is connected with envy, but there are differences between them; for example, one wishful to have what another has, does not wish for the destruction of that, and only wishes to have that as well. Thus, Ghibta is not a bad characteristic.

In the Holy Qur'an

The word Hasad (envy) and its derivatives have been mentioned four times in the Holy Qur'an: in Sura al-Baqara, verse 109, "Many of the People of the Book are eager to turn you into unbelievers after your faith, out of their inner envy,…". In Sura al-Nisa', verse 54, envy has been mentioned as well. The message in this verse, according to its context and the opinions of commentators, is about some Jews contemporary with the Prophet (s) who were envious about the glory of Islam and increase of its followers.

Also, some other verses without containing the word Hasad or its derivatives refer to the concept of envy. For example, in the verse 32 of Sura al-Nisa', believers are ordered to be content with what God has given to them and not to ask for what He has given to others. The teaching of this verse is that anyone who is not as ordered in this verse, will be subject to envy. Becoming sad about others' happiness and becoming happy for others' sadness mentioned in verse 120 of Sura Al 'Imran is associated with the concept of envy. The envy of the brothers of Joseph (a), their intense hatred towards him in reaction to Jacob's (a) excessive love for Joseph (a) and the Holy Qur'an's insistence on satanic nature of this behavior can be understood from verse 8 of Sura Yusuf.

In some Qur'anic usages, the word "Baghy" (wrong doing) implies the meaning of envy and according to al-Suyuti, in Tamimi dialect, "Baghy" means envy. Fakhr al-Razi has mentioned some of such usages and it seems that they also can be counted among the verses referring to envy.

In Hadiths

Many hadiths have criticized envy and mentioned its origins and causes. In a famous hadith, the effect of this bad characteristic on destroying good deeds has been resembled to the effect of fire on woods. According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), envy is among bad characteristics which no one is safe from. In a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), envy is mentioned among the three issues which no prophet or other people are safe from; however, a believer would never have any envy-driven behavior and would not let envy influence on his actions. In another hadith, envy is mentioned as the first sin committed in the skies by Satan and on the earth by Cain.

Removing Envy from the Believers

According to the Hadith of Raf', one of the blessings of God towards the believers is ignoring their sins of envy. In the interpretations for this hadith, with regards to the great condemnation of envy in Islamic culture, they have said that by "envy" here in this hadith, envy at the level of heart is meant which is not revealed in actions and thus does not have any punishment.

Difference between Ghibta and Envy (hasad)

The concept of Ghibta (wishing to have what another person has) is connected with envy. Its difference with envy is that, one wishful to have what another has, would not wish for the destruction of that, and only wishes to have that privilege as well. Contrary to Hasad, Ghibta is a good characteristic. Especially, in narrations Ghibta has been mentioned among characteristics of a believer and Hasad as a characteristic of hypocrites. Al-Ghazzali has insisted that these two concepts are used interchangeably and has mentioned an example of that in a hadith.

Connection between Evil Eye and Envy

Evil eye has a close connection with envy. In some hadiths, this connection has been mentioned and commentators consider verse 5 of the Sura al-Falaq, in which the envy of envious people has been mentioned with regards to this connection.

Envy in the Views of al-Ghazzali

Al-Ghazzali lists seven causes for envy: enmity and hatred, self-love, pride and conceit, showing astonishment in others' achievements, having fear about losing one's achievements, having love for superiority and fame, and malignity of the soul.

He also noted another point: basically, envy has roots in the heart and is a characteristic of the heart. This spiritual attribute is sometimes seen in one's speaking or behavior, when the person commits an offense and needs to ask forgiveness from the one who has been targeted for envy. However, sometimes envy remains at the level of heart, and the person has only committed a sin in front of God. If the person truly regards envy at the heart wrong and reprimands himself in the heart, he has actually done his duty against it; and one's duty against it does not seem to be more than that, unless one plunges himself in God's mercy to become free from any attention towards other than Him.

Methods to Remedy Envy

Following al-Ghazzali, scholars of ethics have mentioned two scientific and practical methods for envy. Ibn 'Arabi regards envy an essential characteristic, annihilation of which is impossible. It seems that a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a) in which envy is introduced as mixed with human's blood and flesh points to this essentiality.

According to a mystical viewpoint, when passing through the ten stations of accounting on the Day of Judgment, human being will be asked about envy at the eighth station and if the person has not committed it, he will pass to the ninth station and becomes closer to God.

In Arabic and Persian Proverbs

Some teachings about envy can be found in Arabic and Persian proverbs, such as "If there is no envious person, the world will become paradise", "the envious never reaches comfort" and "kindness towards the servant is humiliation for the envious."

References

  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from حسد in Farsi WikiShia.