The topic of envy is a very important one. It is a serious problem that all of us need to cope with. Envy spreads through society like a frightful illness and it is an illness that demands treatment.
Envy is indeed a serious, sometimes fatal illness. It is an ignoble character trait that tears rifts between people, communities, and even nations. A community that is blackened by this loathsome quality is one wherein cooperation and love become virtually unknown. Enmity, hatred, and violence become the order of the day.
Envy occurs when we see some blessing in the hands of another and desire for that blessing to be lost to that person. Muslim scholars have defined this feeling in many ways, but all of their definitions contain this essential meaning – to wish for someone to lose something good that he or she has been blessed with.
Al-Nawawi describes envy in the following way: Envy is to desire for someone who enjoys a blessing to become bereft of it, regardless of whether that blessing is of a religious or worldly nature.
Al-Ghazali writes: As far as envy is concerned, Islamic scholars define it as the hatred of a blessing and the love that the one so blessed by it will become bereft of it.
Envy is something quite prevalent in the world. This is why the Qur’an speaks about it often. Allah says : “Do they envy the people on account of what Allah has given them of His grace?” [ Surah Al-Nisa’ : 54]
We must also not forget the famous story of Joseph (peace be upon him) and his brothers who envied his father’s love for him so much that they cast him into a well.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned against the ill consequences of envy upon the envier, saying: “Beware of envy, for indeed envy consumes one’s good deeds like fire consumes wood.” [ Sunan Abi Dawud (4903)]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned so sternly against envy because of how dangerous and ruinous it is. It can bring us to destruction in both our worldly and spiritual lives.
He also said: “Do not revile nor envy one another. Do not turn away from one another and do not sever ties. Be devotees of Allah and brothers to one another. It is not permissible for a Muslims to shun his brother for more than three days.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhari (6065) and Sahih Muslim (2559)]
Envy is indeed a great and deadly evil. When it strikes, it inevitably leaves destruction in its wake.