The Holy Qur'an is full of stories, which are all meant for us to ponder upon and take lessons from. The stories put in the Qur'an are not just mere stories to read. They are there for benefits to mankind.
The story of Qarun is one of such stories related in the Qur'an. He was a man of great wealth, but was misguided and his wealth did not help him much. He lived at the time of Prophet Musa and was among the people of Musa. Qarun was among those destroyed in the time of Musa just like Pharaoh was . The Qur'an informs us that Qarun was the owner of great possessions. The following verse indicates that Qarun opposed Musa together with Pharaoh:
ﯜ ﯝ ﯞ ﯟ ﯠ ﯡ ﯢ ﯣ ﯤ ﯥ ﯦ ﯧ ﯨ ﯩ ﯪ
And indeed We sent Musa with Our Signs and manifest authority to Pharaoh, Haman and Qarun. But they called (him): "A lying magician." (Ghafir: 23-24)
It should be noted that Qarun, who was with Pharaoh in opposing Musa, was also having a great treasure:
ﮧ ﮨ ﮩ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮﮯ ﮰ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘ ﯙ ﯚ
Verily, Qarun was one of the people of Musa, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures, that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men… (al-Qasas: 76)
The great fortune and status Qarun possessed in Egypt then, made him arrogant and haughty towards his own people and the truth. He refused to accept Musa's message and instead, boasted about his possessions to make the Israelites feel attachment to the life of this world. In fact, his great fortune and status became the envy of some of the people from Musa's tribe. Allah relates this saying:
ﭰ ﭱ ﭲ ﭳ ﭴﭵ ﭶ ﭷ ﭸ ﭹ ﭺ ﭻ ﭼ ﭽ ﭾ ﭿ ﮀ ﮁ ﮂ ﮃ ﮄ
So he went out before his people in his pomp. Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! Verily, he is the owner of a great fortune." (al-Qasas: 79)
The true believers among the children of Israel never felt inclined towards Qarun. On the contrary, they comprehended the pitiful situation he was in, and warned him:
ﯛ ﯜ ﯝ ﯞ ﯟ ﯠﯡ ﯢ ﯣ ﯤ ﯥ ﯦ ﯧ ﯨ ﯩ ﯪ ﯫ ﯬ ﯭﯮ ﯯ ﯰ ﯱ ﯲ ﯳﯴ ﯵ ﯶ ﯷ ﯸ ﯹﯺ ﯻ ﯼ ﯽ ﯾ ﯿﰀ ﰁ ﰂ ﰃ ﰄ ﰅ ﰆ
…When his people said to him, "Do not exalt (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah).Verily, Allah does not like those who exult ( with riches, being ungrateful to Allah). But seek with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the abode of the hereafter, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah does not like the corrupters (mischief-makers)." (al-Qasas: 76-77)
These same people of sound faith gave advise to the members of their own tribe who were inclined to Qarun, and warned them to retain the nobility of a believer in their conduct, and never to prefer the temporary pleasures of this world over the mercy of Allah:
ﭶ ﭷ ﭸ ﭹ ﭺ ﭻ ﭼ ﭽ ﭾ ﭿ ﮀ ﮁ ﮂ ﮃ ﮄ ﮅ ﮆ ﮇ ﮈ ﮉ ﮊ ﮋ ﮌ ﮍ ﮎ ﮏ ﮐ ﮑ ﮒ ﮓ ﮔ ﮕ
...Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! Verily, he is the owner of great fortune. But those who had been given knowledge said, "Woe to you! Allah's reward is better for those who believe and act rightly, and this none except the patient in following the truth shall attain." (al-Qasas: 79-80)
Qarun went astray majorly because of his belief that he was possessed with knowledge. He felt he was superior to other people in his tactics that made him what he was.
ﭑ ﭒ ﭓ ﭔ ﭕ ﭖﭗ ﭘ ﭙ ﭚ ﭛ ﭜ ﭝ ﭞ ﭟ ﭠ ﭡ ﭢ ﭣ ﭤ ﭥ ﭦ ﭧ ﭨﭩ ﭪ ﭫ ﭬ ﭭ ﭮ
He said, "I have only been given it because of the knowledge I have." Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far greater in the amount (of riches) they had gathered? The evildoers will not be questioned about their sins (because Allah knows them well, so they will be punished without being called to account). (al-Qasas: 78)
Nevertheless, in the end, Qarun's arrogance brought him nothing but destruction. He brought great torment upon himself by being ungrateful to Allah, and arrogantly believing that all his possessions were earned of his own accord.
ﮗ ﮘ ﮙ ﮚ ﮛ ﮜ ﮝ ﮞ ﮟ ﮠ ﮡ ﮢ ﮣ ﮤ ﮥ ﮦ ﮧ
So We caused the earth to swallow him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid against Allah, and he was not of those who could save themselves. (al-Qasas: 81)
This was a warning, and an event from which those around him, as well as those to come after, were to draw lessons from.
Those who sympathized with him immediately realized that what they had desired so dearly was actually temporary and ultimately worthless. They recognized that the ways of Qarun was wrong.
ﮩ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮ ﮯ ﮰ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘﯙ ﯚ ﯛ ﯜ ﯝ ﯞ ﯟ ﯠﯡ ﯢ ﯣ ﯤ ﯥ
And those who had desired his position the day before began to say: "It is Allah that expands the provision or restricts it for any of His servants He wills. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the unbelievers are not successful." (al-Qasas: 82)
Ultimately, the prepared end for Pharaoh and Haman, was the same met by Qarun:
ﭑ ﭒ ﭓﭔ ﭕ ﭖ ﭗ ﭘ ﭙ ﭚ ﭛ ﭜ ﭝ ﭞ
And Qarun and Pharaoh and Haman—Musa came to them with the Clear Signs, but they were arrogant on the earth. They could not outstrip Us. (al-'Ankabut: 39)
The story of Qarun is not alone in the history, as in the Qur'an. It clearly illustrates for us that Allah does not bestow his mercy on those who are arrogant because of their wealth and possessions, or who consider themselves to be wiser or more knowledgeable than others. In the Qur'an are so many other examples from other past nations. Many civilizations of the past had attained great success and material wealth. Yet, all these civilizations were erased from the surface of the earth.
ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘ ﯙ ﯚ ﯛ ﯜ ﯝ ﯞ ﯟ ﯠ ﯡ ﯢ
And many a township did We destroy while it was given to wrong-doing, so that it lies in ruins (up to this day), and (many) a deserted well and lofty castle! (al-Hajj: 45)
This story of Qarun teaches us not to be taken by the allure of the temporary riches of this world and of those who possess them. Only two types of possessions one can wish to have like those who possess them: One who possesses knowledge, practices it and teaches it as supposed; and one who has been granted wealth and spends it in the cause of Allah as supposed. Any other apart from these two are not worth the envy and wishing to be like them.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Allah does not look at your forms and possessions, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds." (Muslim)
Most of those who appear to lead a luxuriant and prosperous life, actually live in spiritual deprivation. Each day drifts these people into eternal torment in hell. Allah indicates this situation as follows:
ﭑ ﭒ ﭓ ﭔ ﭕﭖ ﭗ ﭘ ﭙ ﭚ ﭛ ﭜ ﭝ ﭞ ﭟ ﭠ ﭡ ﭢ
Do not let their wealth and children impress you. Verily, Allah wants to punish them with these things in the life of this world, and that their souls shall depart (die) while they are unbelievers. (at-Taubah: 55)
Possessions should not be desired for pleasure and ostentation only. We should know that Allah tests humans with either wealth or poverty. This means that no matter the condition we find ourselves, we are being tried by Allah.
Wealth should be used for the cause of Allah and as prescribed, and not as support for immoralities and prohibited acts and functions. One will surely account for all his wealth. The case of Qarun is indeed a warning for all generations, both past and present.