The story of this man and his gardens is recounted in Surah al-Kahf. The man owned 2 gardens and was very rich and arrogant. He had made a habit to always show off to others and even went as far as saying that his gardens will never die. At the same time, he had, a companion who was far more God-fearing and humble who did not harbor such beliefs. It is said that his poorer companion lived in the path of Allah (swt), and contributed most of his assets towards charity, thus living a very simple and frugal existence.
Each of the two gardens produced its fruit and did not fall short thereof in anything. And We caused to gush forth within them a river.
And he entered his garden while he was unjust to himself. He said, “I do not think that this will perish – ever.
Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 33-35
As mentioned before, his wealth and riches made him arrogant and diverted him away from the path of Allah (swt). He took great pride in his abundant crops, financial, and social strength and the respect that he commanded from his peers. He used to spend countless hours in the gardens, admiring his accomplishment, all while being boastful and arrogant: attitudes which Allah (swt) hates.
And he had fruit, so he said to his companion while he was conversing with him, “I am greater than you in wealth and mightier in (numbers of) men.”
Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 34
His boastful attitude also extended to his children, who outnumbered his companion’s. His conceit, in calculating his material accomplishments, made him look down on the poor. His arrogance made him so conceited and he was tied up in his materialistic cocoon that he began to deny the coming of the Day of Judgment. He basically formulated that if the Day of Judgment did arrive, he would be granted an even better garden. He was deceived into thinking that the worldly favors bestowed on him by his Lord was because of his superiority over others, and that it would extend to the Hereafter.
In relation to the arrogant way the rich man strutted proudly in his garden, gloating over his riches, the poor companion recommended a better approach:
“It was better for you to say, when you entered your garden: ‘That which Allah (swt) wills (will come to pass)! There is no power but with Allah (swt)! “
Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 39
He was basically saying that his richer companion should take a step back and acknowledge all his riches as being from Allah (swt). His poorer companion was never bothered by the fact that he was not as rich or bestowed with as many children. He rather accepted this as the qadr (will) of Allah (swt) realizing there was a higher wisdom in this world and in the Hereafter in what Allah (swt) granted or withheld from him. He was also acutely aware of the temporary and fleeting nature of any material accomplishments, and that Allah can bestow or deny in the blink of an eye. Therefore, he continued reminding his friend not to place too much emphasis on his material accumulations, for these were all subject to Allah’s (swt) will.
“If you see me less than you in wealth, and children, it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and will send on it Husban (torment, bolt) from the sky, then it will be a slippery earth. Or the water thereof (of the gardens) becomes deep sunken (underground) so that you will never be able to seek it.”
Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 40
One day, the rich man awoke to find his garden completely ruined. All the years of hard work and cultivation were obliterated overnight, and all his crops were destroyed on their trellises, proving that they were not immune from destruction after all. The fertile grounds were devastated beyond hope of restoration, and the water in the river had been sucked back into the ground. In modern terms, all his investments went up in smoke in an instant, and this spelt his humiliating bankruptcy and financial ruin. It also had widespread effect to his high standing in society, for all those people effectively abandoned him to fend for himself. He realized the error of his ways and regretted his actions, but by then it was too late – Allah (swt) had already decreed his destruction in this world and the next. To his dismay, he found that none of his friends, children, social connections, or in fact anyone, could help him against Allah’s (swt) will. He was even incapable of defending himself against Allah (swt).
And his fruits were encompassed [by ruin], so he began to turn his hands about [in dismay] over what he had spent on it, while it had collapsed upon its trellises, and said, “Oh, I wish I had not associated with my Lord anyone.”
Surah al-Kahf, Ayah 42
This story provides a stern warning against those who wear their wealth with pride and display arrogance to the weak and the poor. It is man’s natural inclination that when Allah (swt) grants him wealth, he attributes it to his own talent, hard work and ability, without acknowledging or attributing any of those to Allah (swt). The Qur’an warns us repeatedly that worldly decorations, such as clothing, riches and even children, are temporary. They are not permanent, and cannot be brought into the hereafter. In fact, when we devote too much importance to these decorations, thinking that they grant us status, they can be a fitnah for us and lead us to our eternal destructions.