Why did the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) prefer poverty over affluence?
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) informed us that He preferred poverty so that one could be mindful of Allah Most High all the time. It is obvious that when assailed by hunger, the Self (Nafs) doesn’t desire anything else. All desires are subdued and only the thought of one’s belly remains.
Then when other sources are constrained and one has the absolute certitude that except Allah Most High no one else can help, then the Self will turn to Allah with particular attention and such a connection is established that nothing else can equal it. Anyhow, intentional poverty is an astonishing thing.
Look at the royal servants. When they understand that only the king can grant them such bounties, what kind of attention they give to the king. At every step, they think about the king’s pleasure and fear his displeasure. They think of new ways to flatter the king.
Thus, remembering Allah Most High at times of hunger etc. is a characteristic of Muslims. On the other hand, when the Self is comforted and derives comfort from the pleasures of this world, then a kind of stupor overwhelms the Self. The greater the comfort, the greater the drunkenness.
Just have a look at the condition of the nobles. Very few people among them fulfill even the Obligatory acts of religion. Otherwise, they don’t find time for that even.
This is because when the Self is satiated, it becomes heedless of Allah Most High and His Prophet. For this reason, Allah Most High says:
Thus, the poverty which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) preferred established that it is a strong means of closeness to Allah Most High.
[Excerpted from Maqaasid Ul Islam, Vol. 5]