Surah al-Maidah (The Table) 5: Ayah 100
“(O Prophet Muhammad) say to them: ‘The evil (khabeeth) and the good (tayyib) are not equal, even though the abundance of the evil things might make you pleased with them. (So) beware of disobeying Allah, O people of understanding, so that you may attain success.”
This verse outlines for us a standard of evaluation quite distinct from the standards used by the superficial people. For such people, for instance, a hundred dollars are worth more than five dollars, since a hundred is more than a five. But, according to this verse, if those hundred dollars have been earned through corrupt means, entailing the disobedience of God (such as by stealing, usurping the wealth of orphans or the weak, selling Haram or forbidden things, or through Riba or interest), the entire amount becomes unclean.
On the other hand, if a person earns five dollars while obeying God, then this amount is clean and honourable; and anything which is unclean, whatever its quantity, cannot be worth more than that which is clean. A drop of perfume is more valuable than a heap of filth; a just ruler is more worthy of obedience and allegiance than a thousand evil, corrupt, and tyrannical leaders of the nations; a young boy or girl who spends his or her youth remembering Allah, helping others physically and spiritually, studying hard, calling others for the establishment of good, peace, and justice in the world, and helping others stay away from evil, is far more productive and dignified than hundreds of superficial youth surrounded by and subservient to their own desires, devoid of any higher purpose in life, driven by the latest fad and fashion, and who are consumers of whatever the media wants them to know, see, and buy! Surely they can’t be equal!
Yusuf Ali (may Allah have mercy on his soul) writes: “People often judge by quantity rather than quality. They are dazzled by numbers: their hearts are captured by what they see everywhere around them. But the people of understanding and depth judge by a different standard. They know that good and bad things are not to be lumped together, and carefully choose the best, which may be scarcest, and avoid the bad, though evil may meet them at every step,” such as through ads, media, peer pressure, cultural practices, etc.
It is interesting to note the following incidence, related by Imam al-Shafi’ee (may Allah have mercy on his soul), in this connection: When ‘Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (a renowned righteous and just Caliph from Umayyad dynasty) cancelled all the tyrannous taxes and returned the wealth and property that had been misappropriated by the rulers before him, one of his governors wrote to him and complained that by annulling taxes and returning the wealth to their owners, ‘Umar had emptied the state treasury. Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (may Allah be pleased with him) wrote back to him this verse: “The evil and the good are not equal, even though the abundance of the evil things might make you pleased with them.”
“Tafseer Ishraq Al-Ma’ani” – Syed Iqbal Zaheer
“Towards Understanding the Quran” – Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi