The True Nature of Worldly Existence

From (Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process, and Means by Jamal ad-Din Zarabozo)

Realizing the True Nature of This Worldly Existence
One of the greatest realizations that come from studing teh Quran as well as personal contemplation and reflection concerns the fleeting nature of this life. There is no escaping the fact that everyone shall taste death. It is inevitable. And when it comes, one has to leave behind all of the material goods and wealth of this transient existence.

This worldly life is referred to in Arabic as al-hayaat al-dunyaa. Linguistically, dunya comes from a root meaning both closeness and something despicable or lowly. This world is called dunya for two reasons: First, at the present time, it is closer (adna) to the humans than the Hereafter. Second, it is despicable or abased (daneeah) in comparison to the hereafter. [Muhammad ibn Uthaymeen, Sharh Riyaadh al-Saaliheen: Riyadh Daar al-Watn 1995 vol6 pg6-7]

It is only those who are deceived by the glitter they see around them who become engrossed in this world and desire it till their deaths. When a person realizes the true nature of this world, as taught in the Quran and Sunnah, it becomes very easy for him to become “detached” from this world and to deal with it in the proper way.

The importance of this “Detachment” can be seen in the numerous verses of the Quran in which Allah explains to mankind the reality of this worldly life and warns them about being overcome by glitter. Note the following verses:

“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children. [In reality, it is] like the example of rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the disbelivers. When it dries, you see it turn yellow, and then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion” (al-Hadeed 20).

The fleetin pleasure and diversions of this worldly life mean nothing when one realizes that in the end it is with Allah wherein lies one’s punishment or reward. That final return is the reality of utmost importance.

“And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion. But the home of the hereafter is best for those who fear Allah. So will you not then reason?” (al-Anaam 32).

“And this wolrdly life is not but diversion and amusement. And, indeed, the home of the hereafter, that is the [true and eternal] life, if only they knew” (al-Ankaboot 64)

“And present to them the example of the life of this wolrd: [It is] like rain which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it and [then] it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah is ever perfect in ability over all things. Wealth and children are [but] ardornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better with your Lord and better for [one’s] hope” (al-Kahf 45-46)

The Prophet (Salalahu alayhi wa salam) also give clear warnings and lessons concerning this worldly . For example, Muslim records a hadith that states that the Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) passed by a dead goat which had either very small ears or mutilated ears. The Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) took it and said to his Companions, “Which of you would like to have this for one dirham?” They said, “We do not desire it. What would we use it for?” The Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) again said, “Would you like to have it for your own [free]?” They said, “By Allah, even if it were alive, we would find it defective, since it has small ears; what do you think now that it is dead?” The Messenger of Allah (salalahu alayhi wa salam) thentold them,

“By Allah, the world is more insignificant to Allah than this [dead goat] is to you”

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (salalahu alayhi wa salam) said,

“If this wolrdly life were equivalent in Allah’s sight to even a wing of a mosquito, He would not have given a disbeliever even a drink of water in it.” [Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and others. According to Al-albaani it is sahih]

An unbeliever is an enemy to Allah and the enemy should not be given anything of real value. But the unbeliever is given plenty of this world, implying that a world void of faith and good deeds is of no real value whatsoever.

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (salalahu alayhi wa salam) made it very clear what of this world has any true meaning and importance to it. He stated,

“Certainly, this world is accursed and everything in it is accursed save for the remembrance of Allah, what He likes, the scholar and the student.” [Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and ibn Majah. According to al-albaani it is hasan]

Even though this is what the Quran and what the Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) say about the goods of this worldly life, it is these things that play a strong role in most people’s lives. For many people, their goals are almost completely limited to the thing of this life and they can hardly raise their vision above them to consider the work for the hereafter instead.

It is not a coincidence that some of the most moving early verses of the Quran were reminders of how people are with respect to this world. The disbelievers at the time of the Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) were preoccupied with worldly things like the people today. Hence, Allah said to them,

“The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the mroe serious things), until you visit the graves” (al-Takaathur 1-2) Allah also said,

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter, who piles up wealth and (continuously) counts it, thinking that his wealth would make him last for ever” (al-Humazah 1-3)

However, Allah reminds everyone,

“What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure” (al-Nahl 96). When one considers the true nature of this passing world, as is pointed out in this verse, one is automatically reminded of death and what he has prepared for the hereafter. Karszoon noted that the mroe one gets engrossed in this world and mroe one has wealth, influence and power, the more he is in need of remembering death even more in order that this world not become a great trial for him that he cannot overcome. [Karzoon, vol.1 p463]
In fact, the Messenger of Allah (salalahu alayhi wa salam) put everything in a stark and clear perspective when he stated,

“The food of humans strikes a parable of this wolrdly life: From what comes out of humans [as waste], even after they had seasoned it and added salt to it [and made it very tasty], look at what it ends up as.” [Recorded by ibn Hibbaan. According to Al-albaani it is hasan]
In other words, even though humans work very hard to make the food taste excellent, the food finally results in something that is very disgusting and distasteful. The same thing is true for this world and all of its glitter. It will all end in destruction and waste. [al-Ramli, Mathal p.42-43]

When one thinks of what occurs to him at and after death- his soul leaving his body, his body being washed by others as he has no ability to do it himself, his body being placed in a grave surrounded by worms and creatures, his wealth being distributed among others and so forth- one can recal with pity how much effort he has put into this life and how little he has earend for the hereafter. There is no question that one needs to live and work in this world but one must always keep in mind what are the long-term and true goals. One takes only what he needs from this world while working for the Hereafter. This puts everything in the proper perspective that Allah has summarized in one verse:

“But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the hereafter. But do not forget your portion in this world. Do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land. Allah loves not those who do mischief” (al-Qasas 77).

The Prophet (Salalahu alayhi wa salam) also beautifully expressed this balance when he stated,

[b]“Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a traveler along a path.” [/B][Recorded by al-Bukhari].

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