A believer has the responsibility to be thankful for all the blessings of his Lord, especially for the blessing of faith. Because claiming the ownership of something whose price is not paid is to exert oneself in vain.
The state of those who forget the responsibility of paying the price of the blessing of faith and who are deceived by the temporal pleasures of the world is like the state of a fish which is caught by a hook. The fish only see the bait not the hook hidden in it. Those who forget that the real life is that of the Hereafter cannot escape from falling into the traps of this world.
Every believer feels gratitude to the person who does goodness to him; give thanks and prays for that person. When he gets the opportunity, he wants to respond to his goodness with something better. Even if the given thing is a glass of water, it requires gratitude. It is expressed in a verse:
“And if you would count Allah’s favors, you will not be able to number them; most surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”(16; 18)
Among all of the favors of Allah Faith is the greatest one. Just like every other blessings, the price of the blessing of faith is gratitude, thankfulness, remembrance, sincerity, and piety.
A believer has the responsibility to be thankful for all the blessings of his Lord, especially for the blessing of faith. Because claiming the ownership of something whose price is not paid is only a false claim.
Faith is the greatest Divine blessing. Trials in this world are the measures of checking how much we appreciate the value of this blessing. What is expected from a believer is to protect his faith with patience and submission no matter what the circumstances are. This is at the same time in the position of having this blessing. In fact, it is pointed out in a verse that:
“Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden…”(9; 111)
The time spent in this world is not even equal to a single moment compared to the eternity of the Hereafter; however as a result of the trials in this world, a person’s dwelling place in the Hereafter either becomes Paradise, which is place of endless happiness, or Hell, which is the place of eternal pain and punishment. A servant’s choice between this world and the Hereafter determines the direction of his journey. There cannot be a bigger deception in this life than not choosing the Hereafter.
The friends of Allah, who are enlightened by Divine wisdom, read every single letter of the book of the universe with the eyes of their souls. They comprehend that universe has not been created in vain, it has a goal, and every day takes a page from the calendar of life and takes a person one step closer to his grave. They meditate the answers of the questions such as “What is the meaning and wisdom of life? Why has earth been given for the service of human beings? Where are we coming from and where are we going to?” Thus they spend their lives with elegant, sensitive, and thoughtful souls.
THE SIGN OF THE SOUND HEART
Our Lord points out what we need most on Judgment Day in the following verse:
“The day on which property will not avail, nor sons except him who comes to Allah with a heart free (from evil).” (26; 88-89)
To obtain a sound heart depends on making preparations for the Hereafter before an invitation comes from the grave. In order to achieve this goal, we need to purify our hearts from everything which keeps us away from Allah. And we also need to convert all the blessings of Allah into an instrument which helps us to attain happiness in the Hereafter.
Sufis describes the most significant characteristics of a sound heart as follows:
1. Not to hurt anybody and not to get hurt from anybody; because heart is the place of Divine sight.
2. When there is choice between the works of this world and the Hereafter, to choose always the Hereafter
A believer who reaches at moral perfection with a sound heart knows that Allah is always with him. He feels that he is always under Divine observance and thinks the meaning of the following verses:
“…and He is with you wherever you are; and Allah sees what you do.” (57; 4)
“And certainly We created man, and We know what his mind suggests to him, and We are nearer to him than his life-vein.”(50; 16)
The friends of Allah, who are the at the peak state of piety, remember often the realities of the Hereafter and follow a straight path in their lives. They can give up all the blessings of this world if they have to choose between this world and the Hereafter.
WE DO NOT CHANGE A GOOD DEED OF HEREAFTER FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD
When Moses (a.s) learned that Pharaoh was coming to kill him, he immediately set out for a journey to Midian without taking any food with him. For eight days, he walked deprived of food and water and he was exhausted when he reached the fortresses of Midian. There he helped the daughters of Shuaib (Jethro) (a.s) to water their sheep. Then Moses (a.s) took a rest. He was so helpless that he was praying Allah saying:
“… My Lord! Surely I stand in need of whatever good You may send down to me”(28; 24)
When Jethro (a.s) heard that a gentleman had helped his daughters, he invited him to his house and gave him some food. Even though Moses (a.s) had not had anything to eat, he did not want to eat the food he was offered. And he said Jethro (a.s):
“We are such a family that if we were given the whole world we would not have changed it for a single act of the Hereafter. I did not help you for food but just for the sake of Allah.”
Jethro (a.s) was pleased to hear these words and told Moses (a.s):
“This is not for your help; it is because you are a guest in our home.” Then Moses (a.s) accepted their offer.
This is monumental example of the manifestation of faith in the Hereafter. It is the intuition of not to change an act of the Hereafter in return for a worldly benefit even facing death out of hunger.
Another example of this understanding was narrated by Wasilah b. Aska.
It was during the days when we were going to Battle of Tabuk. Because I had neither wealth nor a ride to join the army, so I proclaimed the Medinans as follows:
“Who would take me on his ride in return for my share from the war booty?”
An old Ansari accepted my offer provided that we were going to take turns in riding. We set out for the journey. Allah the Almighty bestowed upon us some war booty and I had my share from it. I took it to the old Ansari; but he told me:
“You can take your camels and go.” Even though I told him: “But this was our agreement and these camels are yours”
He said: “My dear friend! Take your booty. I did not want your material wealth, I just wanted to help you for to get part of your spiritual reward and for the sake of Allah.” (Abū Dāvūd, Jihād, 113/2676)
Thus that pious Ansari preferred getting rewarded in the Hereafter to having several camels, which were one of the most valuable worldly possessions of that time. He showed the subtlety of acting for the sake of Allah instead of choosing a great worldly gain.
When one of the friends of Allah was asked if he had lived any incident which had affected him very much, he narrated the following incident:
“Once I lost my money bag in Mecca. I was in need of help. I was waiting money from Basra; but, it was late. I needed a haircut so I went to a barbershop and told the barber:
“I don’t have any money. Would you cut my hair for the sake of Allah?”
The barber was busy with another customer at the time. He showed me the empty seat next to the customer and said: “Please sit in here.” He left his customer waiting and began to cut my hair. When the other customer protested, the barber said:
“I am sorry but I am cutting your hair for money; but I will cut this gentleman’s hair for the sake of Allah. For me, Allah’s contentment always comes first. And servants cannot give anything to match Allah’s contentment.” And after the haircut, the barber also gave me some money and said:
“I am sorry but I can only afford this much. Take these for your urgent needs.”
A few days later I received the money I was waiting from Basra. I took a bag of gold to the barber. But he did not take the money saying:
“I can never take these. I helped you for the sake of Allah and nothing can pay the price of an action performed for the sake of Allah. “
I asked his permission and left, but never forgot him. And I pray for that barber every night for the last forty years.”
These are virtuous examples of preferring afterlife over this world. This is such an excellent behavior that shallow intellects, which do not see any difference between licit and illicit, cannot understand. This is the real cleverness if looked from the angle of friendship to Allah.
WHO IS THE REAL INTELLIGENT?
Reason and logic requires changing small, simple, and temporary benefits with great and ever-lasting benefits. Allah the Almighty states that:
“And this world’s life is naught but a play and an idle sport and certainly the abode of the hereafter is better for those who guard (against evil); do you not then understand?”(6; 32)
In a saying of the Prophet (pbuh), the real intelligent people are depicted as follows:
“An intelligent person is the one who questions his inner self and gets ready for the afterlife; while the foolish person is the one who follows the desires of his inner self and still expect goodness from Allah.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 25/2459)
Therefore a person’s intelligence is measured by the above-mentioned standards. A sound intellect requires preferring the everlasting over the temporal.
The Messenger of Allah says that:
“The state of world next to the Hereafter is like submerging someone’s finger into sea water and taking it out. The comparison of the world to the Hereafter is similar to the comparison of the sea to whatever his finger picks from the sea.”(Hakim, Mustadrak, 4/319)
Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) told themselves when the polytheists tortured them during the Meccan period:
“We endure all kinds of tortures in order to be servants to our Lord; while unbelievers who rebel against Allah the Almighty live in comfort. They enjoy all the benefits of this world.” Then our Lord commanded the believers to prefer the more propitious one or the Hereafter as follows:
“Let it not deceive you that those who disbelieve go to and fro in the cities fearlessly. But as to those who are careful of (their duty to) their Lord, they shall have gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding in them; an entertainment from their Lord, and that which is with Allah is best for the righteous.” (3; 196-198)
Therefore when we look at all the comfort and pleasures of this world from the perspective of afterlife, we see how small they are. If there were any value of this world in the presence of Allah the Almighty, He would have let His messengers and friends live forever comfortably in palaces; whereas He showed His righteous servants the real face of this world and directed their hearts towards the Hereafter:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) expressed:
“I do not have any connection with this world. My example is that of a traveler who after walking, stops under the shadow of a tree for a while to rest, and after sitting a while continues on his way.”(Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 44)
The lifestyles of the Companions who were raised under the discipline of the Prophet (pbuh) are incomparable examples for us. Their yearning for the Hereafter and desires for martyrdom are legendary examples for us.
The hearts of the young companions who carried the letters of the Prophet (pbuh) were filled with faith and love for the Prophet; they gave up everything related to this world. They were so loyal to the Prophet that they would fearlessly, even under the most dangerous circumstances, exclaim,:
“O Messenger of Allah! You do whatever and however you wish. Command us. We are with you. By Allah, if you walk into a sea, we will walk with you and none of us will stay back…” (Ibn Hisham, II, 253-254)
One day during his caliphate, Omar (r.a) met Habbab b. Arat (r.a), who was one of the first Muslims and told him:
“Can you tell me the tortures you had to endure?”
Habbab said to him:
“O commander of the believers! Look at my back.” When Omar (r.a) looked at his back, he was horrified to see such badly wounded and bruised. Habbab continued to his words:
“Unbelievers used to burn a fire and force us to lie on it. The fire would die down by melting fat from our bodies.” (Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, II, 115)
In the early days of Islam, polytheists did all kinds of torture to the believers but they always kept their faith; because, the power of their faith was diminishing their pain.
Contrary to contemporary people’s concern and desire of long life, generation of the companions’ greatest desire was honorably die and go to the Hereafter with a sound heart.
One day Ibn Mas’ud (r.a) told to his friends from the tabi’in generation:
“You try fasting more, praying more, and doing more good deeds that the companions of the Prophet (pbuh); but they were better than you are.”
When they asked how this was possible, Ibn Mas’id (r.a) replied:
“They were more ascetic towards this world and more devoted to the Hereafter.” (Hakim, Mustadrak, 4/135)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) expresses in some of his sayings that “O Allah! There is no life worth living except the life of the Hereafter…” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 1)
We have to engrave this principle into our hearts as the followers of the Prophet (pbuh). Whenever we receive worldly blessings, we should say that there is no life worth living except the life of the Hereafter and be grateful to the real owner of these blessings. We should stay away from heedlessness, caprice, and corruption. Those who do not show such sensitivity are warned by Divine message as follows:
“Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence for whom He pleases; and they rejoice in this world’s life, and this world’s life is nothing compared with the Hereafter but a temporary enjoyment.” (13; 26)
As believers, we should also be patient, should not lose our resolution and psychological balance and say “Dear Lord! There is no life worth living except the life of the Hereafter” when we face a problem and trouble in this world. We should always take refuge to Allah and live a peaceful life by understanding the meaning of the following verse:
“…The materials of this world are nil, while the Hereafter is far better for the righteous…”(4; 77)
The shortness of the life in this world, which is thought to be permanent, is expressed in a verse as follows:
“On the day that they see it, it will be as though they had not tarried but the latter part of a day or the early part of it.”(79; 46)
This is why the most wisely thing to do in this world is to manifest a good servitude to Allah the Almighty. However, just like all the other blessings, the value of the blessing of life is usually not known before it is lost.
In order to point this reality, our predecessors planted cypress trees in the cemeteries, which remind us the mortality of this world. Since cypress trees do not defoliate, it represents the eternity of the Hereafter.
Lokman Hakim’s following advice is very remarkable in regards to conscience of the Hereafter:
“Dear son! Sacrifice your world in order to gain your afterlife, so you can gain both of them. But never give up your Hereafter for the sake of this world, and then you would lose them both.”
As a matter of fact this world and the Hereafter are like two sides of a scale. When you put more weight on one of them, the other side rises. Every believer who has a sound intellect should incline towards the Hereafter; because those who are deceived by the temporal pleasures of this world lose the love and thought of afterlife. On the contrary, when the love for the Hereafter settles in a heart, the love for this world disappears.
THE CURE FOR THE HARDNESS OF HEART
On the basis of many spiritual problems, unrest, and hardness of heart lies forgetting the Hereafter and falling into concerns about this world. Many poor people torture themselves to become rich; and many wealthy torture themselves with the ambition to earn more. People lust for the temporal pleasures of this world without thinking about what is the source of them. It should not be forgotten that contentment is the real wealth.
The Prophet (pbuh) states that:
“Allah places wealth in to the hearts of those who aspire to the Hereafter and puts their business in order. World surrenders and comes after them. Allah places poverty into the heart of those who aim to have this world and disrupts their business. In the end, they cannot have more than their share in this world.”(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 30/2465)
Here is the prophetic cure for the relief of heart and peace of mind…
When the Prophet (pbuh) is asked the meaning of the word “expand” in the verse “Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He expands his breast for Islam…” (6; 125), he said that:
“When light goes into a heart, chest opens and expands for it.” When he (pbuh) was asked if there were any signs of this expansion, he replied:
“Yes, there are. To turn one’s face away from this world, which is the place of deception, and to the Hereafter, or the eternal life, and get ready for death before it comes.”(Ghazālī, Iḥyā, IV, 406-7)
In another tradition, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says that:
“Allah the Almighty subjects the person who prefers this world over the Hereafter to three afflictions: unceasing worry placed in his heart; poverty, which he cannot get rid of; and insatiable greed.”(Ghazālī, Ihyā, IV, 411)
FAULT IS NOT IN THE WORLD BUT IN THOSE WHO ARE DECEIVED BY IT
Allah the Most High puts worldly benefits in front of us as trials in this world. The state of those who are deceived by the temporal pleasures of this world is like the state of the fish caught by the hook. The fish is deceived by the bait, but it does not see the hidden hook. Those who forget that the real life is the life of the Hereafter cannot escape from falling into the traps of this world.
Passing these Divine trials successfully depends on seeing the actual side of the worldly benefits and comprehending “the secret of these trials.” In order to achieve this level of intuition, it is required to be aware of the traps of this world and to prefer the Hereafter over such worldly desires, like wealth, carnal desires, and fame.
In this regard, our Lord warns us in the following verses:
“Nay! You prefer the life of this world, while the hereafter is better and more lasting.”(87; 16-17)
“…you desire the frail goods of this world, while Allah desires (for you) the hereafter; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.”(8; 67)
Wealth earned in this world accompanies its owner until he is buried. The only apparent possession that a person can take to the grave is his shroud, even though the shroud does not depart with the soul. However, his faith and deeds will come with him into the grave, and remain with his soul. This is why believers should not be deceived by the temporal desires of this world.
Dhul Qarnain (a.s), who, according to a narration, ruled the world, made the following last will before his death:
“Wash and enshroud my body. Then put me into a casket; but leave my arms outside the coffin. Let my servants come behind my coffin. Load my treasures on to mules. Thus let the people know that even though I had a great worldly wealth, I am leaving this world without any worldly possessions; all my possessions and servants will stay on this world and they are not coming with me. Thus let nobody get deceived by this mortal world.”
Scholars explained this last will as follows:
“…The entire world was under my rule. I had endless treasures; but worldly blessings are not permanent. Just as you see, I am leaving this world empty handed. Worldly wealth stays in this world. Therefore be busy with deeds which will be useful in the Hereafter.”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) gave us the following wise advice:
“…I advise you the following five characteristics, by which Allah will complete your good attributes:
Do not collect things that you cannot eat;
Do not construct buildings in which you will not live;
Do not fight over things which you will abandon tomorrow;
Fear Allah, whom you will be returned and before whom you will be gathered;
Be prepared for the place to which you will go and stay forever.”(Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-Ummal, no: 1363)
In short, it is useless to blame this world at the last breath. A person would only waste his life by running after the mortal blessings of this world and not following a righteous life. What a sad situation it is to forget the eternal future and to be deceived by temporal desires! We should think about the fact that there is no time or place to run from death; it is impossible to return to the dunya, or world, after death; and there is no shelter to take refuge from the severity of Judgment Day.
May Allah the Almighty make us like those who protect their sincerity, from those who have intuition and understanding, and from those who are righteous! May He enable us to see the reality of this world and the afterlife! And May He bless us with the strength to choose the Hereafter always over this world!