Ethics 2.3/2.4 The Causes of Poverty in Light of Allah’s Decree and His Obedience, Climate Change, Population Growth and Other Factors

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By Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid


There are many reasons why some countries in the world are affected by poverty. As Muslims, we believe that the primary reason is connected to our relationship with Allah. The stronger one’s bond with Allah, and to His worship, His Religion and showing Him obedience while avoiding sins, the greater blessings and bounties the Muslims attain from Allah so long as they strive to seek the worldly provision in a Halāl manner. Lack of natural resources or natural disasters such as drought and earthquakes lead to harm, hardship and poverty. Other reasons that lead to difficulties and poverty are influenced by people as well such civil war, and foreign companies profiteering from a country’s natural resources so the population does not share in the wealth of the land (which is often not the fault of the government but to foreign pressure and some corrupt elements within the country).

LEDC: A [poor] country lacking sufficient economic development to lift people out of poverty.

MEDC: A [richer] country where economic development allows people to enjoy a comfortable standard of living.

Does Location Matter?

The map shows how a country’s geographical location can affect its wealth. This may be due to climate and also whether it has been blessed by Allāh with natural resources (as Muslims believe). Countries in the Middle East and Central Africa have a very hot and dry climate. This climate normally leads to poverty because people have difficulty in growing crops, feeding themselves and their cattle due to extreme heat and lack of water. However, because some countries have large reserves of oil, they are extremely wealthy. Saudi Arabia has 25% of the world’s oil discovered so far. Saudi Arabia (an MEDC) is separated from Sudan (a LEDC) by a relatively narrow stretch of the Red Sea, yet Sudan is a poor country. However over the last few years, the economy of Sudan has been growing quickly – that is because since 1999, Sudan has been exporting oil – and that has encouraged the growth of light industry and trade with other countries. Sudan has the 17th fastest-growing economy in the world. As a result, infrastructure, such as roads and pipelines, has developed and the country’s rich mineral deposits are being mined and traded. However, China, Malaysia and India each have large stakes in the oil industry. The Sudan National Petroleum Company owns just a 5% stake in the biggest oil company drilling oil in Sudan. Therefore, much of Sudan’s oil wealth goes overseas rather than staying in the country. Despite this growth in Sudan, they’ve suffered a civil war, and they have a harsh climate and regular droughts – all this leaves the people very poor. They can’t get crops to grow in dry and bare soil – and if they grow, they depend on the rain to continue falling. So these economic developments still leave Sudan as an LEDC. The average life expectancy in Sudan is 57 for men and 60 for women. In Saudi Arabia it is 71 for men and 75 for women.

Politics: Both countries are predominantly Muslim, yet Saudi Arabia and Sudan are run in different ways. Saudi Arabia has a stable government that is led by a King (King Salmān Ibn Abdul-Azeez), who oversees a constitution based on Sharee’ah Law. There are no recognised political parties or elections and most of the citizens of Saudi Arabia seem comfortable with this situation.

The government of Sudan is based on the authority of a democratically elected president, but it lacks the stability of Saudi Arabia. For 25 there has raged a civil war between the Muslim Arabised North, and the Christian African South. Two million people died before a peace deal was signed in 2005. In 2011 South Sudan became an independent (Christian-populated) country – which has since started fighting within its borders amongst various South Sudan Christian factions.

Alongside that, the Darfur conflict in western Sudan began in 2003, which has cost over 200,000 lives and 2 million refugees. There have been reports of “ethnic cleansing”. This means the systematic killing and expulsion of one race of people by another, for reasons based purely upon race or nationality.

Note: Ethnic cleansing also took place in the heart of Europe from 1992 to 1995, when hundreds and thousands of Bosnian Muslims were systematically killed, or placed into “concentration” camps where they were tortured, starved and killed by Serbian militias.

Ethnic cleansing: killing or expelling a certain group or race from a country or region.

Race: a group of people with the same ethnic background.

Research activity: Find out where Saudi Arabia and Sudan are in the world. Use an atlas or the internet.

Exam tip: You do not need to have a detailed knowledge of these countries but studying them will help you understand the issues.

Summary: You should now be able to discuss some of the reasons which may cause a country to be rich or poor and understand that whilst some causes are natural, others are caused by people.


  1. Draw a table like this. Research information about the two countries (some you will find above). Then add the facts.
  Saudi Arabia Sudan
Life expectancy    
  1. Find the causes of poverty in this worksheet. List them and decide whether they are natural or caused by people. You may decide that some are both natural and caused by people. Can you think of any other causes of poverty?
  2. Which of these causes do you think results in the greatest poverty? Explain why?

Climate and water

One of the biggest causes of prosperity and poverty is climate – and it is Allah who creates and controls the climate: the wind, the rain, the heat and the seasons. It is Allah who sends down the rain, and it is He who withholds it from whomever He wills. Rainfall is essential for crops, cattle and humans. If the necessary amount of rain does not fall, then people face problems. And if a drought comes about, crops fail, animals perish and humans die from starvation and thirst. So Muslims are taught to be very grateful to Allāh and continually thank him and glorify him (with worship and acts of obedience) – to constantly seek His blessings and provision. Muslims believe that when one remembers Allāh in times of ease, Allāh does not neglect them, and He aids them in times of hardship – a Muslim should never underestimate the strength of supplication (du’ā) and a Muslim knows that supplication is more effective when a person is pious. Muslim belief: When people worship Allah alone, are pious, grateful, truthful, honest, God-fearing, repentant and adhere to their duties, Allah sends them an abundance of rain, healthy children, cattle and crops – and he gives them riches. When they abandon worship, are disobedience, unjust and dishonest then Allah withholds from them the riches of the earth and they are tried with droughts, starvations, calamities and hardship. Piety leads to blessings, Allah stated:

فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا

يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا

وَيُمْدِدْكُم بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا

مَّا لَكُمْ لَا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقَارًا

وَقَدْ خَلَقَكُمْ أَطْوَارًا

“I (Prophet Noah) said to them: ‘Seek forgiveness from your Lord, Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving. He will send rain to you in abundance. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. What is the matter with you that you do not attribute to Allah due grandeur. While He has created you in stages?’” [Nooh: 10-14]

There are underlying reasons why poverty strikes a nation such as disobedience and ingratitude to Allah. And there are factors that make things difficult such as a naturally harsh environment (e.g., desert regions), mismanagement and shortage of skills. Wealthier Muslims around the world are required to help those in need as well as tackling the underlying reasons that lead to poverty.

Islam recognizes that there are places on earth that are created too dry, or too hot, or very cold, icy and inhospitable, where it is not easy, and can be impossible for humans to live and function in large numbers. Likewise, Islam recognizes that there are lands which are fertile and rich that can support large communities of human beings. If people become complacent, ungrateful, sinful and disobedient or they disbelieve in Allah and His Revelation, He can remove the blessings He bestows upon them and strike them with calamities. Allah protects and give bounty to a nation due to the pious ones that live amongst its people: these pious ones invite others to worship Allah, they enjoin the good and forbid the evil.

Some scientists have suggested that global warming is making matters worse – they suggest that dry regions of the world are getting dryer and wet regions are getting wetter, and they conclude that things could get even worse for the poor and suffering millions in Africa and elsewhere. However, Muslims should be very careful in believing in these notions that suggest that humans can reverse climate change and harsh weather conditions, typhoons, floods and landslides by tinkering with carbon emissions and world energy consumption. From an Islamic perspective, Muslims believe it is Allah who controls the climates of the world, and He sends and removed disasters related to weather such as severe windstorms, drought, floods, hurricanes, etc. The Quranic and Hadeeth literature show that the fertility of lands, the sending down of rain, the growth of fruits and crops are all from the bounties of Allah, controlled by Him. Allah has subjugated aspects of the creation to mankind so they can take benefit from it through irrigation, cultivation, farming, herding of cattle, and so on.

There are some countries in Central and East Africa such as Somalia, Chad and Mali where rainfall is can be scarce at times when it is most needed. These are lands which Allah has created hot, arid and dry. As a result, some areas of the African continent has insufficient rainfall to assist farmers. In those regions, summers are very hot, baking the dry arid land and making it difficult to plant, water and grow crops. More importantly, there is not enough drinking water for people. Because these countries are poor, they do not have the facilities to collect and store water that falls during the rainy season.

So unless rich Muslims give them aid, or these countries become more self-sufficient, the hot and harsh climate will mean that these people will not be able to cope – and their affair is left with Allah, the Almighty. These countries could introduce (if they were able) more efficient irrigation systems to ensure water is not wasted and facilities to store water in the rainy season. In 2006, over 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa faced a food crisis and the figure is rising each year. Muslims all over the world are encouraged through the Quranic texts to help those less fortunate than themselves.

In reality, non-Muslim Western nations only make things worse by forcing these nations to borrow more and more money from Western banks at interests rates that are crippling their economies – and by placing tariffs and embargoes on goods imported from the most fertile lands of in Africa into Europe and North America. It is not in the interest of the Western powers and their elites, and huge multi-national companies that the African nations (and other poor regions of the world) should become self-sufficient and prosperous because they fear that may affect the balance of power and wealth in the world.

Population growth

According to biased and indoctrinated scientists, who are educated in Western universities and institutions funded by their governments and huge multinational companies, another cause of poverty is population growth in countries that cannot afford to feed the extra mouths. This however is a false notion, since the world has enough farmland, resources, water, cattle, fish and wild game to support entire nations and continents. The European colonialist powers spent many centuries (400 to 500 years) conquering Asia, Africa, the Far East, the Americas and elsewhere, and they stripped the natural resources of those conquered lands – then they took the natural resources, wealth and humans (as slaves), and built their industrial revolution on that plundered wealth on the back of wealth and human resource they pillaged unjustly from others. Today, when those nations wish to build their economies, strengthen their independence, increase their populations, and build their defences in order to make their nations strong, they are prevented through international treaties related to health and social engineering, goods embargos, tariffs, climate-control measures, etc. Then they are told that they are poor because their nations have too many mouths to feed!

The reality, however, is that the African continent and other regions across Allah’s world have enough land, fertile pastures, animals, mineral wealth, oil, gas, iron ore, copper, gold and silver, etc., to feed employ and their nations. And it is Allah who gives from His bounty to whom He wills as a test to see how they will conduct themselves with the blessings He bestows –– and it Allah who withholds as He Wills to test them; will they turn to Him in repentance, seek His forgiveness, and worship Him alone? So that He may change their condition to one of plentiful prosperity?  Most Western countries have a decreasing population. However, in poor countries, the populations seem to be increasing, and many of those countries are Muslim nations. Muslims, as a rule, are not allowed to use contraception out of fear of not being able to provide for their children.

They learn from the Quran that Allah will enrich them from Himself from the ways and means that He provides. Population control measures are not from the Islamically legislated means to remove poverty – this is proven by the fact that there is sufficient food and resources in the world to feed the poor many times over daily! Added to that is the reality that large populations are a tremendous resource for a nation. Countries with large populations are quite often the wealthiest and have the fastest-growing economies.

Hardship can strike any nation and the underlying causes must be considered. Muslims believe that everything occurs by the Decree of Allah.

Islam teaches that poor people must be helped with da’wah to Allah and His worship –– and through education, providing practical skills to the workers, giving in charity, improving infrastructure and better health care. In this way, the poor are not neglected, and the wealth of the rich is purified in the sight of Allāh through the giving of charity.

Muslims (and other communities) have large families because the family unit helps each other, supports one another, feeds each other and they care for their elders –– this is care from the cradle to the grave, and all praise is for Allah. Death of young children is higher in poorer countries due to poverty, sicknesses and disease. So Muslims have a duty to help the poor, even if they are non-Muslims. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Give charity to people of other Religions.” (Shaikh Al-Albānī said it was an authentic Hadīth, in As-Saheehah). The figures that relate to the rate of death in children is called the infant mortality rate. It is higher in poorer countries.

Aid is to help or assist people in need – a very important aspect of Islam. People usually do this by donating directly to poor people, or through Zakat to Muslim governments or to recognised charities.

Sadaqah: is the Arabic/Islamic term for charity.

Some of the causes of poverty:

  1. Sins and disobedience – the more sinful a people, they greater the likelihood of poverty and calamities. When people turn to Allah in obedience and worship, He grants them blessings and bounties.
  2. Climate: too hot, too dry, arid, etc.
  3. Unstable governments where wars, infighting, rebellion and corruption have led to poverty and fear.
  4. Location: lack of resources – Allah enriches certain nations more than others as a test of their piety and gratitude. This of course can be reversed at the Will of Allah – the Arabian Peninsula was seen as a poor region of the world until Allah blessed them with the discovery of oil under their deserts, whereupon they became the wealthiest of nations on earth.
  5. Economics: where most of people are very poor and it takes a feat of collective effort to lift them out of poverty: A Muslim must not just watch and do nothing as others suffer.
  6. Population growth – this is not seen Islamically as a cause of poverty. Indeed, in most nations, a large population is seen as an immense resource that can be mobilized to enrich a nation.

The Quran states: “Allah does not change the good blessings that He bestows upon a people until they change what is within themselves.” So, people continue to be granted bounties from Allah so long as they are righteous and striving to do good and seek His forgiveness.


Next time you visit a supermarket, spend a few minutes carefully looking at where the fruits and vegetables come from. Write a list. Try to look at items that are not in season, e.g. strawberries in winter.

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the noble Prophet, his family, his companions and all who truly follow him.

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