Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) used a form of stern warning in order to impress on people the horrid nature of the action he is warning against.

One of the stronger forms of warning is that which the Prophet uses in the following Hadith related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Hurayrah who quotes the Prophet as saying: “God shall neither look at three types of people on the Day of Judgment nor cleanse them of sin. They shall also endure grievous suffering. The first is one who has along the road water in excess of his needs, but refuses to give some of it to passersby. The second is one who pledges loyalty to a governor only in the hope of receiving certain gains: if he gets that, he is happy and if he is denied it, he is unhappy. The third is one who sets up his goods in the afternoon and swears by God that he has paid (or offered) for it so much, leading others to believe him. The Prophet then read the Qur’anic verse that says: “Those who barter away their covenant with God and their oaths for a trifling gain will have no share in the life to come. God will neither speak to them, nor cast a look on them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He cleanse them of their sins. Theirs will be a grievous suffering.” (3: 77)

The common denominator that applies to all three types is selfishness and greed. They are all after their own interests, caring little for other people. The first, the one who denies some water to a passerby, is so full of greed that he will not give water, which he has no need for, to one who needs it. He forgets that water is granted to mankind by God. They need it for living and God has set in operation certain laws of nature that ensure that people get water all the time for themselves, their cattle and farmland.

The second type is more common. People often pledge their loyalty to rulers and governors only for their own benefit. They are after certain gains. Unless they get such gains, they are dissatisfied. Their dissatisfaction may go further than thoughts and feelings. It may develop into encouraging rebellion or strife in society. The main factor in all this is the gain one hopes to achieve. It has nothing to do with the ruler being good, just or diligent in serving the community.

An important aspect in the Prophet’s warning is concerned with the need of being true to one’s pledges. If one pledges loyalty to a governor, the pledge should be sincere, free of personal ambitions, and made only to serve the interests of the community. To relate one’s loyalty to what one hopes to receive of personal gains is to make a mockery of one’s pledge. Needless to say, a pledge of loyalty is a very serious matter. Hence, it must never be related to what one hopes to receive from the ruler to whom one has pledged full loyalty.

The third type is again very common. People are eager to sell their goods at a profit. The greater the margin of profit, the happier they are. If the customer tries to get a discount, the seller tries to assure him that the goods are worth more. One way of convincing people that they are not paying too much for their merchandise is to swear by God that the price is right. A trader may swear that he paid for the goods so much and that his profit is so little or very reasonable. Alternatively, he may swear that he was offered more for it. The customer is more likely to believe him when he swears by God. If, however, the truth does not match the oath, and the oath is false, the offense is very serious indeed as it seeks to cite God in support of one’s false claim.

In all these situations, selfish and greedy people earn themselves God’s displeasure that results in God ignoring them on the Day of Judgment when they are destined for grievous suffering.

-by Adil Salahi