My brothers and sisters, what is the difference between ‘expenditure’ and ‘investment’, given that in both cases there is a cash outflow? Expenditure happens when you acquire something which you may enjoy but which deteriorates, diminishes, or depreciates over time. Investment happens when you acquire something that grows and gives you a return over time. If you buy a Tesla car, it is an expenditure. If you buy Tesla shares, it is an investment. Elon Musk bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter for $ 2.9 billion. Why did he do it? What is the value of having the opportunity to call the shots on the most powerful communication channel today? A lot more than $ 2.9 billion, I can tell you. What will that do to his already massive wealth? What will it do to the only real purpose of acquiring wealth, i.e., acquiring power? Incidentally he didn’t buy a gold-plated Cadillac or customized A380.
Why am I talking about all this today? Because the topic of my Khutba is Maximize ROI – Return on Investment. That is what Ramadan is all about.
We are traders in the stock exchange, called ‘Life’. We use money given to us, to invest in stocks that give us the best deals. If we don’t trade, we lose. If we buy losing stocks, we lose. But if we buy stocks that give a high yield, we gain big time. We have time to trade until the bell rings to end the sale for the day. Then we give account.
Have you ever seen an ice seller in India or Africa? The benefit of living in countries that are poor in money but rich in life experiences is that you get to see things that you can’t see for a million dollars in America or Europe. One of those is the sight of an ice seller seen with the eyes of the heart – with wisdom and understanding. Let me describe that for you because that is what our life is. He operates in summer only because that is when people want ice the most. That is also when ice melts the fastest. Every morning he buys a big block of ice from the ice factory, places it on his pushcart on a bed of rice husk, covers it with a white cloth and hits the street. He has only one goal, to sell this ice as fast as he can. You may think that his asset is his block of ice. It isn’t. His asset is only as much of it as he can convert to cash. The rest melts away and drips onto the road. That is why he can’t rest until he sells his ice. This is the story of our lives. We are ice sellers. Our ice is our life, money, energy, effort, whatever. What we transfer to Allahﷻ remains. What we don’t will melt away. Our wealth is not what we have today but what we have that night. Our night is the day we die. Allahﷻ said:
مَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ وَمَا عِندَ ٱللَّهِ بَاقٍ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ صَبَرُوٓا۟ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
Nahl 16: 96 Whatever is with you, will be exhausted, and whatever with Allah (of good deeds) will remain. And those who are patient, We will certainly pay them a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.
Our ice will melt away. Even if we have a whole glacier, it will be gone or left behind. Only what we transfer to Allahﷻ will remain. And He in His Boundless Generosity said, “And those who are patient, We will certainly pay them a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.” Doing good, patiently, consistently, quietly, guarding our Ikhlaas (sincerity), only to please Allahﷻ and then being amazed when He takes the best of what He enabled us to do and rewards us for all that we did, according to that ‘best’.
We judge investment opportunities on two parameters: multiplier and guarantor. This is called Risk-Return Ratio. The Risk-Return Ratio is a measure of return in terms of risk for a specific time period. What is a good risk to return ratio? In many cases, market strategists find the ideal risk/reward ratio for their investments to be approximately 1:3. In simpler language, before investing, you ask two questions: What is the multiplier for the investment and who is guaranteeing that return? It is the combined effect of both factors that decides how good the investment opportunity is. That is the reason why blue-chip company stocks and Government bonds are considered good investments because though the multiplier may be relatively small, the guarantor is solid, and we believe that they can deliver what they promise. Startups usually give a much higher promise of return, but the guarantee is paper-thin. In theory, the best investment is where you get the highest return at zero risk. In the reality of this world, this doesn’t exist because every investment is risky to some extent. The underlying principle in all this is really one, ‘What do you believe?’ And that depends on who you trust. Risk perception is a measure of trust. With that in mind, let us look at an investment opportunity which is zero risk – high return.
مَن جَآءَ بِٱلْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُۥ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَن جَآءَ بِٱلسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰٓ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
An’am 6: 160 Whoever brings a good deed shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit, and whoever brings an evil deed shall have only the recompense of the like thereof, and they will not be wronged.
Rate of return is 1:10 i.e., 1000%. And the guarantor is Allahﷻ, who controls everything and whose treasures are boundless. But this being a statement from Allahﷻ, it is not restricted to 1000%. He says about those who invest with Him and in His cause:
مَّثَلُ ٱلَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنۢبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِى كُلِّ سُنۢبُلَةٍ مِّا۟ئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَٱللَّهُ يُضَـٰعِفُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَٱللَّهُ وَٰسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Baqara 2: 261 The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.
Rate of return is 1:700 i.e., 70,000%. If you can’t do the numbers, I don’t blame you. But the return is not restricted to that, because our Rabb gives without counting in keeping with His Majesty and Grace. But what is the catch?
Do we believe? Do we really believe that Allahﷻ will give what He promised? My brothers and sisters, it is really as simple as that. Do we believe that we will die, be resurrected, and then be rewarded as Allahﷻ promised? Do we really believe in the promises of Allahﷻ? That also explains why we don’t take Allahﷻ’s declaration of war seriously. We don’t believe in Allahﷻ’s promises and so we don’t believe in His warnings. What we forget is that reality is independent of belief. What is real, will happen, no matter what anyone wants to believe or not. Question to ask ourselves is, “If I don’t believe in Allahﷻ’s promises or warnings, then do we believe in Allahﷻ?” This is not a riddle or trick question. This is the hard, harsh, reality which we will face one day. The reward of believing in the Unperceivable (Al-Ghayb) is to witness it one day and know that it was the truth. But today we must believe without Perceiving and give evidence of that by investing in His promise. That is the essence of Tawakkul. To take risk.
The Sahaba took risk because they trusted Allahﷻ. What is the meaning of even using the word ‘risk’, with respect to Allahﷻ? They didn’t take risk. They understood that there is no risk when the guarantor is Allahﷻ. We hesitate because to us, this material world is real and the Aakhira is unreal. That is the deception of Shaytaan. Allahﷻ warned us about this and said:
ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ يَعِدُكُمُ ٱلْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِٱلْفَحْشَآءِ وَٱللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا وَٱللَّهُ وَٰسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Baqara 2: 268 Shaytaan threatens you with poverty and orders you to commit Fahsha (evil, shameful deeds) whereas Allah promises you Forgiveness from Himself and Bounty, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.
Allahﷻ told us what to do about Shaytaan’s deceptions. He said:
إِنَّ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَٱتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا إِنَّمَا يَدْعُوا۟ حِزْبَهُۥ لِيَكُونُوا۟ مِنْ أَصْحَـٰبِ ٱلسَّعِيرِ
Fatir 35: 6 Surely, Shaytaan is your enemy, so take (treat) him as an enemy. He only invites his Hizb (followers) that they may become the dwellers of the blazing Fire.
But what do you say about those, who instead of treating Shaytaan as their enemy, treat Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ as their enemies? I mean those who deal in interest and thereby accept a declaration of war from Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ. What do you call those you are at war with? Let us ask ourselves who our enemy is; Shaytaan or Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ. And then let us change our lives, starting right now because we don’t know when we will be called to Allahﷻ. It will be too late to change then.
Let us see how those who knew this deal, invested their assets.
During the time of Rasoolullahﷺ there was a young orphan who wanted to build a wall around his house. But a palm tree that belonged to his neighbor Abu Lubabah (R) was in the way. The wall could not be built unless the tree was either removed or added to the child’s property. The boy went to Abu Lubabah (R) and requested him to give him the tree so that he could have the wall built. Abu Lubaba (R) refused. The boy then asked him to sell the tree to him. Abu Lubaba (R) refused again. The boy was helpless and angry and said: “By Allah, I am going to complain to Rasoolullahﷺ!” He went to the masjid and complained to Rasoolullahﷺ and told him the whole story. Rasoolullahﷺ asked, “Where is Abu Lubaba? Call Abu Lubaba!”
When Abu Lubaba (R) came, Rasoolullahﷺ asked told him, “Give the tree to this boy. He is an orphan.” Abu Lubaba (R) said, “No Ya Rasoolullahﷺ, it is my Haq.” Rasoolullahﷺ said to him, “Then sell it to him.” Abu Lubaba (R) replied, “No, it is mine.” Hearing this, tears came into the eyes of the boy as he felt that he would not be able to get the tree. Seeing his tears Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Sell me the tree and I will guarantee you a tree in Jannah.” Abu Lubaba (R) said, “I don’t want it”, and left the masjid.
Abu Dhada (R) was a witness to this whole incident. He went to Rasoolullahﷺ and said, “Ya Rasoolullahﷺ if I get that tree for you, will I get what you promised Abu Lubaba?” Rasoolullahﷺ replied, “Yes.”
Abu Dahda (R) ran out of the masjid in search of Abu Lubaba (R). He found him in the market. He stopped him and said, “Abu Lubaba, sell me your tree.” Abu Lubaba was surprised and irritated. He said to him, “I didn’t sell it Rasoolullahﷺ. Why would I sell it to you?” Abu Dahda (R) said to him, “What do you know about me?” Abu Lubaba said, “I know what everyone knows about you that you have the most valuable orchard in Madina with 600 bearing date palms, your house and a well of sweet water in it and your orchard is fenced all around.”
Abu Dahda (RA) said, “That’s right. Now tell me, if I ask you to sell me your tree; one tree, in exchange for my orchard, house and well, will you agree?”
Abu Lubaba (R) was astonished. “Are you out of your mind?” he exclaimed. “No”, said Abu Dahda (R), “I am serious. If you agree, all these people will be our witnesses.” A crowd had gathered around the two Sahaba, listening to this amazing conversation. Abu Lubaba (R) said, “If you are serious, then I accept your offer. You can have that one tree in exchange for your orchard and all that it contains. Let the people be witness.” “Let the people be witness”, said Abu Dahda (R).
Abu Dahda (R) then went to his orchard which he had just sold to Abu Lubaba (R) and standing outside the gate, called to his wife. “Ya Umm Dahda, come out with the children. We are leaving here.” She came out and asked, “Why are we leaving?” He replied, “I sold this garden to Rasoolullahﷺ.” She asked, “For how much?” He replied, “For one tree in Jannah.” She exclaimed, “SubhanAllah, what a bargain! What a bargain!” Then as they were all leaving, one of her small children, picked up a date and put it in his mouth. Umm Dahda put her finger into his mouth and took out the date and said, “Habeebi, this is not ours now. We sold this to Rasoolullahﷺ for a tree in Jannah.”
This blessed family then went to the masjid and Abu Dahda (R) said to the boy, “Go, the tree is yours.” The boy was delighted and thanked him and left. Abu Dahda (R) then went to Rasoolullahﷺ and told him what he had done and asked, “Ya Rasoolullahﷺ, do I have my tree in Jannah?”
Rasoolullahﷺ replied, “Ya Aba Dahda, I promised you one tree. But your Rabb showed me your Jannah and He filled it with trees for you.”
Nice story of course. But the question I ask myself and ask you to ask yourself is, “If I were in the place of Abu Dahda (R), would I give up all my assets and literally become homeless with my family for one tree in Jannah?” I remind myself and you that the purpose of these stories is not entertainment or to weep some tears and marvel at the Imaan (faith) of the Sahaba but to try to emulate them so that we may be with them when we meet Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ promised this, so it is not my wishful thinking.
وَٱلسَّـٰبِقُونَ ٱلْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ ٱلْمُهَـٰجِرِينَ وَٱلْأَنصَارِ وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَـٰنٍ رَّضِىَ ٱللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا۟ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّـٰتٍ تَجْرِى تَحْتَهَا ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرُ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدًا ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ
Tawba 9: 100 And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Jannah), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.
Today we are not called upon to do what the Sahaba did. But the opportunity to earn the pleasure of Allahﷻ and His reward is still the same. Therefore, when we have the opportunity to spend for the cause of Allahﷻ, don’t ask, “What can I afford? How much should I spend?” Ask, “How much should I invest in my Aakhira? How much do I want from Allahﷻ?” I advise myself and you, give until it hurts. And when it hurts, give more until Shaytaan runs away. Give, knowing that it hurts only when we don’t have enough faith in the promises of Allahﷻ. That is the diagnostic tool. It hurts if faith is weak. Otherwise, it is great fun. You search for opportunities to give, like the Sahaba used to do because you know that you are building your own assets and investing with someone whose promise is true.
Remember we are ice sellers. We can’t keep a fire along with our ice block. It is a matter of transferring our assets from our banks and safes to Allahﷻ. And then collecting the return on our investment when we meet Him. On that day either we will be called to account, or we will be given the account of our investment. The choice is ours. Let us choose wisely because the meeting is sure and inevitable. How that will be, is in our own hands.