Envy (al-ghibtah) and (al-hasad) jealousy are seen as two different concepts in Islam, but they are mostly used to mean the same in other fields. While (al-hasad) jealously would refer to the desire that a person feels for the destruction or removal of a blessing that another person has – a destruction which the bearer of this feeling would himself carry out if he had the power to, (al-ghibtah) envy on the other hand is quite different, and refers to wanting such blessings for oneself while not wishing for them to be removed from others. This is what some refers to as a positive and commendable jealousy (al-ghibtah), which is a desire that leads to healthy competition. Competition is not considered blameworthy in general, rather it is considered to be praiseworthy if it is in pursuit of righteousness; Allah Says;
)إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ لَفِي نَعِيمٍ (22) عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنْظُرُونَ (23) تَعْرِفُ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ نَضْرَةَ النَّعِيمِ (24) يُسْقَوْنَ مِنْ رَحِيقٍ مَخْتُومٍ (25) خِتَامُهُ مِسْكٌ وَفِي ذَلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ (26)(
(what means): "Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure. On adorned couches, observing…You will recognize in their faces the radiance of pleasure. They will be given to drink [pure] wine [which was] sealed. The last of it is musk. So for this let the competitors compete.” (Q 83:22-2)
Allah mentions in the Qur'an the envy of the disbelievers, the hypocrites and people in general. Speaking about the disbelievers, Allah Says;
)وَدَّ كَثِيرٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَوْ يَرُدُّونَكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِكُمْ كُفَّارًا حَسَدًا مِنْ عِنْدِ أَنْفُسِهِمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الْحَقُّ فَاعْفُوا وَاصْفَحُوا حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (109)(
(Meaning): “Many of the People of the Scripture wish they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from themselves [even] after the truth has become clear to them…” )Q2:109)
Allah also says;
)أَمْ يَحْسُدُونَ النَّاسَ عَلَى مَا آَتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ فَقَدْ آَتَيْنَا آَلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَآَتَيْنَاهُمْ مُلْكًا عَظِيمًا(
(Meaning): “Or do they envy people for what Allah has given them of His bounty?” (Q4:54).
Envy is an evil disease of the heart that leads to foul conduct and bad behaviour. It leads to animosity, thinking evil of the intentions of others, backbiting, tale bearing, lying, and the abandonment of other Muslims. It may lead its possessor to inflict physical harm on the person whom he envies and can even lead to murder. It is considered to be among the most dangerous and destructive of internal diseases and is the most destructive to a person's religion and worldly life.
The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: "Do not envy one another; do not hate one another; do not turn your back on one another (in discontent); (but) be slaves of Allah as brothers." (Al-Bukhaari & Muslim)
Allah orders the believers to seek refuge from the evil of the envious person and envy in general when He says;
( وَمِنْ شَرِّ حَاسِدٍ إِذَا حَسَدَ)
(Meaning): "And from the evil of the envier when he envies." (Q113:5).
The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) also said: “Indeed envy eats up good deeds just as fire consumes firewood.” (Ahmad).
There are many stories in the Qur'an that highlight the dangers and evils of envy. When we read the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) may Allah exalt his mention and his brothers, we realize the danger of envy, how it blinds, how it snatches mercy away from the heart, and how it drives its possessor to inflict terrible physical pain on the envied person. Allah Says;
)إِذْ قَالُوا لَيُوسُفُ وَأَخُوهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَى أَبِينَا مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّ أَبَانَا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (8) اقْتُلُوا يُوسُفَ أَوِ اطْرَحُوهُ أَرْضًا يَخْلُ لَكُمْ وَجْهُ أَبِيكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ قَوْمًا صَالِحِينَ (9)(
(Meaning): "When they [i.e., the brothers of Yusuf] said: 'Yusuf and his brother are more beloved to our father than we, while we are a clan. Indeed, our father is in clear error. Kill Yusuf or cast him out to [another] land; the countenance [i.e., attention] of your father will [then] be accessible to you, and you will be, after that, righteous people.'" (Q12:8-9).
Another story that shows the danger of envy is the story of Haabeel and Qaabeel: The Qur'an tells us about the first son of Adam (peace be upon him) who murdered his brother out of envy, which constituted the first crime ever in which blood was spilt. He envied him because Allah accepted his brother's sacrifice but not his; Allah says;
)وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آَدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِنْ أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الْآَخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ (27) لَئِنْ بَسَطْتَ إِلَيَّ يَدَكَ لِتَقْتُلَنِي مَا أَنَا بِبَاسِطٍ يَدِيَ إِلَيْكَ لِأَقْتُلَكَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّهَ رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ (28) إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَنْ تَبُوءَ بِإِثْمِي وَإِثْمِكَ فَتَكُونَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ وَذَلِكَ جَزَاءُ الظَّالِمِينَ (29) فَطَوَّعَتْ لَهُ نَفْسُهُ قَتْلَ أَخِيهِ فَقَتَلَهُ فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (30)(
Meaning: "And recite to them the story of Adam's two sons, in truth, when they both offered a sacrifice [to Allah], and it was accepted from one of them but was not accepted from the other. Said [the latter]: 'I will surely kill you.' Said [the former]: 'Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear him]. If you should raise your hand against me to kill me - I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds.'… And his soul permitted to him the murder of his brother, so he killed him and became among the losers." (Q5:27-28 & 30).
The blameworthy type of envy is an unrestricted dislike of the blessings bestowed upon the envied. Therefore, when one despises something, he is hurt and grieved by its very existence, and this becomes a sickness in his heart, to the extent that he derives pleasure from the removal of the blessings from the envied - even if this does not result in any benefit to him except having the pain that was in his soul removed.
This pain is not removed except as a result of the envier continuously monitoring the envied so that he would find relief when the blessing is removed, but it can become more severe, as is the case of the one who is suffering from a physical sickness, in that the blessing, or one similar to it, may return to the envied.
He (peace be upon him) also said: "There should be no envy except in two cases: (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wisdom, and who rules by this and teaches it to the people, and (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property along with the power to spend it in the cause of the Truth."(Al-Bukhari & Muslim).
Ibn `Umar may Allah be pleased with him added to this from his own narration: "(And) a person to whom Allah has given the Quran and who recites it night and day, and a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property from which he gives in charity by night and day."
Envy may occur because of enmity, pride, self-admiration, love of leadership or impurity of the soul. Of these, enmity is the most serious cause, as it leads to malevolence and this, in turn, causes man to thirst for revenge and drives him to gloat over any calamity that may afflict his enemy.
Imam Al-Ghazzaali (may Allah have mercy upon him) said in his book Al-Ihyaa': "Be aware that envy is one of the deadliest diseases of the hearts, and there is no medicine for the diseases of the heart except through knowledge and deeds. The knowledge that will treat the disease of envy is to know, without any doubt, that envy is lethal for a person's worldly life as well as his religion, and that there is no danger from it to the envied person regarding his life or his religion; on the contrary, the envied person will actually benefit from it. The fact is that envy is actually dangerous for the envier's religion because it is through this envy that he hates Allah's predestination and the blessings that He has divided among his slaves; he also hates His justice that He established in His world due to His Wisdom; therefore, the envier contests that and objects to it. This is contrary to belief in the Oneness of Allah. Additionally, the envier would share with Satan and the rest of the disbelievers a love for crises to befall the believers and for blessings to leave them. These evils in the heart devour good deeds and erase them as the night erases the day. The person who suffers from envy in his life is tortured by it, and will always be in sorrow every time he sees the blessings of Allah upon the envied person."