Since the early revelations of Quran, there has been a clear distinction between two diametrically opposite systems, policies, or mindsets displayed in two short Quranic constructs: Al-kawthar and Al-takathur.
The first system I will refer to as the system of “kawthar” or unlimited abundance.“We have given you in endless abundance.” [108:1]
In this system, the human beings are autonomous, they own their decisions, and they are in charge of the endless abundance given to them. They are capable of controlling their drives and desires. They use all their abundant potentials and abundant resources to elevate themselves in their journey towards Allah. They are ready to slaughter i.e. sacrifice and transcend any state they reach in order to move into a higher one closer to Allah through prayer. “Therefore, pray to your lord and sacrifice.” [108:2]
The second system I refer to as the system of “takathur” or endless accumulation. In this system, the human beings suffer from the disease of self-sufficiency. They have gained, produced, and accumulated so many things from this world, but they lost control over them. They denied the poor, the orphan, and the needy any help or assistance. “The one who repulses the orphan and encourages not the feeding of the indigent.” [107:2,3]
The people of this system do not share their wealth with others but spend their lifetime piling and counting their wealth. “Who piles up wealth and lays it by.” [104:2]
Such form of endless wealth accumulation diverts them from more serious issues and higher meanings in this life. They do not care about the issues of hunger, disease, and poverty; and the suffering of others does not bother them. “The rivalry for piling up diverts you, until you visit the grave.” [102:1,2]
Although kawthar and takathur share the same linguistic root that means more and more, Quran distinguishes between them as two contrasting paradigms. Kawthar is the object in the form of gifts given to you freely and fully and you are the subject in control. While takathur plays the role of the subject in control of the human being as an object. The critical question before us is: How can the system of “kawthar” or unlimited abundance prevail over the system of “takathur” or unlimited accumulation?
The project of Prophethood was successful at introducing to humankind many institutions that need to work together in order to solve such a complex and complicated equation. Prayer, fasting, and sharing in the form of Zakat and Sadaqa are among the institutions established in order for the system of kawthar to prevail over the system of takathur. Friday prayer is another institution that was introduced in Medina to balance the institution of the market and its tendency to encourage endless accumulation at the expense of higher goals and concerns. “But when they see some bargain or some amusement, they disperse headlong to it, and leave you standing. Say: What comes from Allah is better than any amusement or bargain! And Allah is the best to provide.” [62:11]
The world today in its both sides, the producers and the consumers, is unfortunately following the endless accumulation mindset. All measures are used to divert people especially the youth from the higher meanings of life and creating the emptiness inside them. This emptiness is then filled by satisfying their worldly desires that do not stop. The end product is a miniature human being, unbalanced, and under the control of the world of things. The end product is a beast at its core that needs to be slaughtered and given the freedom to be elevated again. Human beings are given a lot in terms of physical and non-physical capacities to achieve such elevation in their journey towards Allah. “Therefore, pray to your lord and sacrifice.” [108:2]
Quran has its own recipe to face the feeling of emptiness: Put for yourself a higher goal and work hard to fulfill it; and the driving force is our need and desire to actualize the beautiful names of Allah in our life.
“So, when you are free from your immediate task, still labour hard. And to your Lord turn your attention.” [94:7,8]
By Dr Walid Khayr