Be forewarned against envy which is the sickness of any nation: People were prevented by their envy towards those favored by Allah from submitting to them. Further, they assaulted them, disobeying Allah in their regard, objecting to His will, violating His limits, so Cain killed his brother Able, Jacob's brothers expelled their brother, Joseph, and nations rebelled against their prophets and divinely-appointed guides out of their envy towards them, oppressing them… and so and so forth, until the end of the list of mankind's numerous tragedies.
Envy is a fire ignited by Satan among the losers, the deprived, those whose souls are weak, whose horizons are narrow, especially if a gathering entity gets them together with those whom they envy through a link such as that of the one and the same tribe, city, creed, class, or place of work. This fire is increased by need, bewilderment and emptiness with which many who live in foreign lands are afflicted.
Allah Almighty has denounced this strongly in this verse: "…Or do they envy mankind for what Allah has given them of His bounty? But We had already given the people of Abraham the Book and wisdom, and conferred a great kingdom on them. (Qur'an, 4:54-55).
Many statements by the Infallible Ones (peace be upon them) have warned about it, as we read in the authenticated narration of Muhammed ibn Muslim who quotes Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) as saying, "A man may commit the smallest sin, and thus commits an act of disbelief; envy consumes faith just like fire consumes firewood,”[i] and there are many such statements.
Allah, Praise and Exaltation belong to Him, has divided sustenance among His servants, blessing them with His blessings as He pleases, not as they please; so, envy is rebellion against Him, and an objection to His judgment. In a tradition narrated by Dawood al-Raqqi, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "Allah Almighty said this to Moses son of Amram (Imran): 'O son of Amram! Do not envy people for what I have granted them out of My favor; do not [even] look at it, and do not desire it, for an envious person is one who is angry with My blessing, opposing how I divided [My favors] among My servants. Anyone who is like that is not of Me, and I am not of him.”[ii]
There are, however, two precautions in this regard:
Firstly: Envy harms the envious person: He remains psycho-logically tormented, burning inwardly, sensing disappointment and loss. The Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "I have never seen an unjust person more similar to the ill-treated than the envious person: He keeps sighing, his heart wandering, his grief does not part with him.”[iii] He (peace be upon him) has also said, "Suffices you for a sign of an envious person is that he is grieved when you are pleased. “[iv] Rather, his envy may drag him into perdition in the life of this world and in the Hereafter, for it may blind his vision and mind, so he forgets the ties of brotherhood and of faith, loses his balance and goes to extremes in harming the one whom he envies, trying to assault him, as the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) has said, "The envious one is swift in leaping, slow in turning (to think about his actions).”[v] He does not care about bearing the crime originating from envy no matter how serious it may be, as took place when Cain killed Able and when Joseph was thrown into the well by his brothers, and such examples are numerous among people. He may even fail in his attempt which turns into a calamity against him, causing him to lose this life and the Hereafter. There are numerous incidents which, for the sake of brevity, cannot be accommodated here.
Secondly: It is a cause for repulsion, division and hostility. This harms people as a whole and harms you – dear readers who are now living in foreign lands – because you are people who most need companionship, harmony, unity and solidarity.
So, the envious person should suppress his outrage, control his nerves, hold himself accountable and pay attention to the following:
(1) The existence of a blessing with his brother in kinship or in faith, or one who shares with him the same country, for example, is better than its existence with a stranger. So, why should he envy him while not envying the stranger? If he wants to envy everyone, what should he do, where does he end, how will his condition be and how will he settle his affair?!
(2) Allah, the most Praised One, the most Exalted, does not equal people in the distribution of His blessings. The envious person may have a blessing which the person he envies does not have. Some people may have wealth or power while having no children or a suitable wife, or they may be afflicted with diseases or other visible or invisible calamities, or the opposite. The envious person may have a blessing which he does not accept to replace with one owned by the person whom he envies. Rather, if he ponders and discerns, he most likely does not accept that Allah Almighty would make him similar to the one whom he envies in all the blessings and afflictions which he knows and which he does not.
(3) Since the blessing enjoyed by the envied person came from Allah Almighty, this means that His gate is wide open for those willing to plead to Him, His good things made available for those who seek them. He is the most generous of those sought for their generosity, the most merciful of those who show mercy. So, let him plead for His favors instead of being unhappy about blessings that his companion possesses. This refers to the concept ghibta - i.e. wishing to receive the blessings which others have without wishing them to be deprived of them -, as Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says: "A believer does ghibta but does not envy, while the hypocrite envies but does not do ghibta."[vi]
If Allah Almighty does not respond to his plea quickly, this is not due to the Almighty being miserly, but this haste may not be good for him as stated in thesupplication of al-Iftitah : “Perhaps what is slow to reach me may be better for me due to Your knowledge of the outcome of matters.” Texts from the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) have stressed the above. They also emphasized that Allah Almighty may store for the pleading person what is better than that which He did not haste to respond to.
One should have fear of Allah, the most Praised and Exalted One, and accept His decree and surrender to Him: "And He (always) prepares a way out for those who fear Allah. And He provides for him from (sources) which he can never imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, Allah suffices him, for Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: Truly, Allah has appointed a due proportion for all things” (Qur'an, 65:2-3).
The same applies in things other than envy which lead to hatred and bad manners and contemptible norms of behavior such as unduly stubborn persistence, insistence on a viewpoint in a futile way, interfering in others' affairs against their will, entering into any matter which is of no concern to him, in addition to other ill manners which he will often face when socializing with people. You should reject it in order to avoid problems and serious repercussions.
In fact some of these acts have been prohibited, such as slander, backbiting, cheating, revelation of his brothers’ secrets which they entrusted to him, arrogance, conceit, oppression and other such bad norms of conduct some of which may later be discussed. They are recognized by any wise and intelligent person, by anyone who is religious and has faith, and by one who knows the rules of social interaction and is experienced in it. We plead to Allah, Praise to Him, to support you to attain whatever strengthens your companionship and inter-relations; surely He is the most Merciful.
[i] Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 11, p. 292.
[ii] Ibid., Vol. 11, p. 293.
[iii] Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 70, p. 256; Mustadrak Al-Wasaail, Vol. 12, p. 17.
[vi]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 11, p. 293.