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Miserliness (Bukhl)

Miserliness is defined as being parsimonious where one should be generous, just as prodigality, which is its opposite, is defined as being lavish where one should practise frugality. The middle path between these two extremes is sakhd'; this is, being generous when generosity is called for. The Quran, describing the characteristics of the believers, who are also called ibad al-Rahman"or "the slaves of the All-merciful," says:

... who, when they expend, are neither prodigal nor parsimonious, but between that is a just stand. (25:67)

Whereas miserliness (bukhl) is caused by the love of the world, generosity (sakha') is a consequence of zuhd. There are numerous verses and traditions in praise and condemnation of each of these qualities, which we shall leave unmentioned for brevity's sake. The highest degree of generosity is sacrifice, i.e. readiness to give to others what one needs oneself. Describing the believers the Quran says:

... and preferring others above themselves though poverty be their lot ... (59:9)

In order to cure oneself of the disease of miserliness, it is necessary to pay attention to the Quranic verses and traditions in which this vice is condemned, and to meditate about its harmful results. If that proves ineffective, one must force oneself to be generous and liberal, even if such generosity be completely artificial; and this must be continued until generosity becomes one's second nature.

Generosity is necessary when carrying out such obligatory duties (wajibat) as paying khums and zakat, providing for one's wife and children, incurring expenditures for hajj (pilgrimage) and so on. It is also necessary in carrying out the recommended duties (mustahabbat), such as helping the poor, giving presents, giving parties in order to create or solidify ties of friendship or kinship, giving loans, giving more time to debtors in financial hardship, providing clothes and housing for the needy, spending what is necessary to safeguard one's honour or to alleviate injustice, and contributing to expenditures for such public facilities as mosques, bridges, etc.

Adapted from: "Jami' al-Sa'adat" by: "Muhammad Mahdi al-Naraqi"

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