Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid Caliph, once arranged for an old man in Yemen who had seen the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H&H.P) personally to come to Baghdad and visit him. As the old man was very weak, he was brought on a stretcher. On entering his court, Haroon welcomed and made the Old man sit beside his throne. He then asked him whether he had seen the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H&H.P) personally. The Old man in his weak and lowly voice replied:
“Yes, I used to sit near the pulpit and hear his hadiths (sayings)”.
Harun asked him to describe the main features and appearance of the Prophet and he said:
“The Prophet looked handsome and of sound physique. He had black and curly hair. His face was luminescent. He was fond of perfume and made use of it so much so that his fragrance would remain behind for quite some time wherever he passed”.
Harun then asked whether he remembered any saying of the Prophet. The Old man said that he could still remember one in which he said:
“Man grows old but two qualities in him remain young; greed and far-flung hopes”.
Harun was very happy to meet the Old man and hear from him about the Prophet. He then instructed to his people to present him with a handsome gift of money and return him home to Yemen comfortably. As he was being carried away, the Old man asked to be returned to the Caliph as he had an important matter to discuss with him. On arrival in the court, the Old man said:
“O’ Caliph! Tell me whether this gift of money you gave me was only the first and the last or whether I should come every year to receive a similar gift from you?”
On hearing this, Haroon laughed and said:
“You had rightly quoted the Prophet as saying that the two qualities of greed and long hopes remain young and active even in old age”.
Harun then promised the Old man that he could expect repeated gifts as long as he lived but alas! The greedy Old man was not even destined to enjoy the first gift he had received and died on his way to Yemen.
In order to free oneself from the evil of greed, one should think of the harmful consequences. One should realize that it is the characteristic of animals that are restricted in satisfying their desires. He should train himself to exercise self-control and have the virtue of contentment which enables one to satisfy himself with little and devote more time in the service of his Creator. The instinct of greed should instead be applied for acquiring more knowledge and awareness and for earning more and more of the pleasure of Allah (S.W.T) in obedience to Him.
Imam Baqir (A.S) has compared the greedy with a silk-worm saying:
“The greedy man in his love of the world is like a silk-worm; the more it wraps itself in its cocoon, the less chance it has of escaping from it, until finally it dies of grief”.