Then there are people who accumulate wealth for its own sake. Islam disapproves of this tendency too. As stated in the Quran:1
That is: Those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, are given the tidings of a painful punishment. On the day when that gold and silver shall be heated in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith and it shall be said to them, this is what you treasured up for yourselves and for the benefit of your families, and had deprived the general public of their benefit…
The last part of the verse, ‘so now taste what you used to treasure up’ refers to the gold and silver that did not give any benefit to the general public. God says that on the day of judgement this gold and silver is returned to you. But since gold and silver are of no use in the afterlife, it only ‘brands their foreheads and their sides and their backs’. In this way they find out how sinful it was to withhold wealth from the benefit of mankind.
Although this example does not literally relate to the misuse of wealth, withholding of wealth is akin to misusing it since that prevents wealth from benefitting mankind at large. In effect, therefore, hoarding or misusing wealth amount to the same thing, i.e., denying its use for productive purposes.
Islam categorically rejects all motives that lead to excessive hoarding of wealth. Since the foundation of every action is its motive, no Muslim can accumulate so much wealth that it becomes a hindrance for human development. For example, some people spend millions on the upkeep of race horses and gambling. However, according to Islamic teachings, a Muslim may keep a horse for riding, but not for racing.
Because Islam rejects all such motives, it also eliminates the need to accumulate excessive wealth. The urge to make more and more money comes about when one tries to emulate others who have enriched themselves or who spend huge amounts on extravagances such as horse racing, or when one seeks to accumulate wealth for their own sake. Since Islam demands of us that we curb all such temptations, the urge to earn beyond a reasonable amount dies away.
The teachings that I have expounded above are by way of exhortations. However, mere sermon or admonition may not stop people with weaker dispositions from accumulating wealth beyond prescribed limits. Thus, the Islamic shariah — whose implementation is the government’s responsibility — contains specific provisions against wealth accumulation beyond its proper limits. These provisions are listed below.
1 Surah at-Taubah, 9:34–35, (publishers)