Envy is justified in regard to two types
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Envy is justified in regard to two types of persons only: a man whom Allah has given knowledge of the Qur’an, and so he recites it during the night and during the day; and a man whom Allah has given wealth and so he spends from it during the night and during the day.”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
We benefit from the above Hadith the prominence and merit of reciting the Qur’an.
Envy in the Hadith means “Ghibtah” the equivalent of which does not exist in English language. What it means is that you wish to enjoy things which others have, such as wealth and knowledge, without wishing that they should be deprived of them to your exclusive benefit.
Envy is a corrosive disease of moral nature which snatches away man’s peace of mind. It means resentment at the condition of a man enjoying some Divine favour, and to wish it to be finished. It is forbidden because it wipes out one’s good deeds.
But there is no harm in being enviable of somebody. It has some positive connotation in the sense that you admire Allah’s Blessing over a person and wish to be favoured with it too. This Hadith interprets envy as a “Ghibtah” but not in the absolute sense because it is condemnable.
This Hadith, however, points out in unambiguous terms the excellence of a rich man who not only spends the Gifts of Allah on his own person but also allocates a portion of it to the poor and the needy as well as to the propagation of religion. It further throws light on the excellence of a man who is well-grounded in Islamic knowledge and suggests solutions to people’s problems in the light of the Qur’an and the Hadith and also imparts the religious knowledge to others. Everybody should aspire, apart from affluence, for an excessive fervour of spending in the way of Allah.
Moreover, the quest of Islamic disciplines and their underlying rationale should remain at the centre of his heart, so that he may inherit the legacy of the Prophets (peace be upon them all), doing full justice to it as well. None can do it but with the Blessing of Allah.
And Allah knows best!