The Interesting meaning of "Rich" in Arabic

Before you continue reading this article, I’d like for you to take a minute or two and think about what does it mean to be rich from your point of view?

There’s a high chance that you answered like most people; Owning a lot of something valuable. And you know what, you’re very much correct. For example, Merriam-Webster lists “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth” as the first meaning of “rich”. Similarly lists “having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds” as the first meaning of “rich”. But is this the only meaning?

To understand the next part we need to understand what it means to be rich on a deeper level, well, basically it’s the inverse of “need”, isn’t it? Why do you need money? Because you “need” to buy things to either sustain or improve your life. So theoretically, if all your needs are satisfied without money, you don’t need money anymore, no?

Now let’s see what the Arabic language has to offer in the meaning of rich. lists two meanings for “غني” (the word rich in Arabic) in the usage for describing a rich person.
- A person who owns an abundance of money and wealth.
- A person who owns more than he needs.

Whoa, did you catch that? A person who owns more than he needs. So according to the Arabic language, if you need $100 to cover all your needs in a month, and you work for $110 a month, you are considered rich, similarly if you need $10000 to cover your needs in a month, and you work for $9000 a month, you are not considered rich. Isn’t that interesting?

I originally noticed this reading an interpretation of a verse in the Quran, namely Chapter 93, Verse 8, “And He found you poor and made you rich”. This was describing the state of the prophet Mohammed (PBUH), in which he was a poor person, and god made him rich, but if you have any idea about the prophet (PBUH) he lived and died poor in terms of material posessions, so what did Allah mean in the verse? One of the Muslim scholars listed this in the interpretation of this verse “meaning, ‘you were poor having dependents, so Allah made you wealthy and independent of all others besides Him.' Thus, Allah combined for him the two positions: the one who is poor and patient, and the one who is wealthy and thankful. In the two Sahihs, it has been recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said, «لَيْسَ الْغِنَى عَنْ كَثْرَةِ الْعَرَضِ، وَلَكِنَّ الْغِنَى غِنَى النَّفْس» (Wealth is not determined by the abundance of possessions, but wealth is the richness of the soul.) In Sahih Muslim, it is recorded from Abdullah bin Amr that the Messenger of Allah said, «قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَرُزِقَ كَفَافًا وَقَنَّعَهُ اللهُ بِمَا آتَاه» (Whoever accepts Islam, is provided with his basic needs, and Allah makes him content with what He has given him, then he will be successful.)”

The TL;DR is that Allah has granted him content and took away "the need" for materialistic things, thus not needing much, and in effect needing too little to be "rich".

I find this super interesting to be honest, it does not matter how much money or possessions you own, if you’re not content, your needs will scale with your wealth and you’ll always be wanting more. May Allah grant us ease and content.

What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts, shoot me a message at stash.yazan at, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Till the next one, stay curious 🤙🏼