Wealth or Knowledge...?
Once a group of ten men approached Ali Bin Abi Thalib (RA) and enquired : “May we ask you a question?” “You may ask as many you want”, replied Ali (RA). “Well, we want 10 different answers for the same question” demanded the group. And our question is “What is better– knowledge or wealth?” Known for his revering wisdom and prodigious memory, Ali (RA) replied without a second thought:
ONE: Knowledge is the heritage of Prophets, whereas wealth is heritage of Pharaohs. Hence knowledge is superior to wealth.
TWO: The wealthy will have numerous enemies, while the learned will have only friends. Therefore knowledge is beneficial than wealth.
THREE: The owner will have to guard his wealth, whereas knowledge will guard its holder and thus, knowledge is indeed better than wealth.
FOUR: Knowledge increases with sharing while wealth decreases. As such, knowledge is predominant over wealth.
FIVE: A learned man will be generous, while a rich man tend to be miserly. Hence knowledge is better for those who are heedful.
SIX: Wealth is always in the danger of being stolen, but knowledge can never be. Therefore knowledge is the prevailing asset.
SEVEN: With the elapse of time, knowledge accumulates in depth and dimension. Hoarded coins get rusty or cease to be legal tender. Thus, knowledge is the powerful possession.
EIGHT: You cannot keep count of knowledge because it is boundless but you can keep count of wealth because it is limited. Therefore, knowledge wins over wealth.
NINE: Knowledge illuminates minds, wheres wealth tarnishes it. Light can never be equal to darkness. Thus, knowledge is better than wealth.
TEN: Knowledge induces the humanity in us and that is why our Prophets pledged to Allah, “We worship Thee as we are Thy servants”, while wealth engendered vanity in Pharaoh and Nimrod which made them claim godhead.
Source: Incident mentioned in Hilyat’ul Awliya wa Tabaqatul Asfiya by Imam Abu Na’im al-Asfahani (R)