Doing without the life of this world in preference for the Hereafter
Allah (SWT) says (which means) :
|“Whatever is with you will be exhausted, and whatever is with Allah [of good deeds] will remain. “|| |
| ||“And the life of this world is but amusement and play! Verily, the home in the Hereafter, that is the life indeed, if they but knew. “|
|“The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception. |
|“Say: ‘Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is [far] better for him who fears Allah, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly in the very least!'”|
|“Nay, you prefer the life of this world; but the Hereafter is better and more lasting.|
The Qur’an is replete with verses which tell us to do without the life of this world and its fleeting, short-lived pleasures and which encourage us to work for the Hereafter, which is better and more lasting.
Eschewing the transitory pleasures of this life and preferring the Hereafter are by no means inseparable, for only those who forsake the pleasures of this world long for the Hereafter. Ibn Taymeeyah said, “To eschew [the pleasures of this] life is [in fact] to forsake what is of no benefit to the Hereafter.”
The Prophet ﷺ said,
| “By Allah, the life of this world, compared to that in the Hereafter, is but like someone who puts his finger in the sea, so let him see what it brings out.” 
He also said, “The most truthful word ever uttered by a poet is that in which [the poet] Labeed says, Verily, everything apart from Allah is but falsehood’ 
And, “What have I to do with this world ! I am no more in this world than a traveller who sought the shade of a tree then left it and continued [his journey].”
And, “If this world had the value of a mosquito’s wing in the sight of Allah, no disbeliever would have had a drink of water from it. “
And, “Eschew the life of this world and Allah will love you.” 
The Qur’an and the Sunnah both encourage people to eschew this evanescent life and long for the everlasting bliss of the Hereafter. Allah (SWT) says (which means),
|“The description of Paradise which the righteous are promised is that in it are rivers of water, the taste and smell of which are not changed; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and forgiveness from their Lord. “|
|“[It will be said to the true believers]: My worshippers! No fear shall be on you this Day, nor shall you grieve, [you] who believed in Our Signs and were Muslims. Enter Paradise, you and your wives, in happiness. Trays of gold and cups will be passed round them, [there will be] therein all that the one’s inner-selves could desire, all that the eyes could delight in, and therein will you abide forever. And this is the Paradise which you have been made to inherit because of your [good] deeds which you used to do [in the life of the world]. Therein for you will be fruits in plenty, of which you will eat [as you desire]. “|
|“Verily, al-muttaqoon (the pious and righteous) will be in the midst of Gardens and Rivers (paradise). In a seat of truth (Paradise), near the Omnipotent King (Allah, the All-Blessed, the Most High, the Owner of Majesty and Honour). “|
|“Some faces, that Day, will beam (in brightness and beauty) -looking at their Lord. “|
|“[Other] faces, that Day, will be joyful, pleased with their striving [for their good deeds which they did in this world, along with the true faith of Islamic monotheism]. In a High Garden (Paradise), where they shall hear no harmful speech nor falsehood; therein will be a running spring; therein will be thrones [of dignity] raised high, and cups set at hand, and cushions set in rows, and rich carpets [all] spread out. “|
The Prophet ﷺ said,
| “You will see your Lord with your own eyes, just as you see the moon, never tiring of seeing Him.” |
He also said,
| “The space taken up in the Hereafter by something as little as the whip of one of you is better than the whole of this earth and what is on it.”|
He also said,
| “The smallest distance from Paradise is better than all the land over which the sun rises and sets. “|
The life of this world, therefore, is not a place of abode for a Muslim. It is rather a place of testing and trials. The Prophet ﷺ said,
| “This world is the prison of a believer and the paradise of a disbeliever”|
Indeed a Muslim has another abode, of which he is aware and for which he longs. He wants no more of this life than the provisions of good works necessary for completing the journey to his true home and that of Adam (AS) before him. A journey towards Paradise, the width of which is as the width of the Heavens and the Earth. And if this life, with its pleasures and joys, stands as an obstacle on the road to Paradise, the believer will step over it by eschewing it and emptying the heart of any desire for it.
Az-Zuhd is to abandon all that is of no benefit in the Hereafter. It is therefore of utmost importance to forsake this life, which is bound to stand as a barrier between us and the Hereafter. Imam Ahmad said, “Eschewing worldly pleasures (Az-Zuhd) is to shorten the hopes.”
It has also been said that Az-Zuhd is belittling the world and wiping affection for it from the heart.
Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “Those who possess knowledge are in accord that the eschewing of the world means the departure of the heart from the abode of this world to that of the Hereafter.”
He also said, “Desiring the Hereafter can only be achieved by eschewing life of this world; and eschewing life of this world could only be achieved after taking two correct looks. The first is to look at the shortness of life, its quick disappearance and vileness. The second is to look at the Hereafter, its inevitability, eternity, constancy, the excellence and honour of its pleasures and joys, and the difference between it and what is here in this life. Allah (SWT) says (which means),
|“But the Hereafter is better and more lasting.” |
Ibn Al-Qayyim also said, “The servant’s love for this life and his acceptance of it is proportionately related to his slowness and prevarication in obeying Allah and seeking the Hereafter.”
How true are Ibn Al-Qayyim’s words! This is why we have said that eschewing the worldly pleasures and seeking success in the Hereafter are important provisions for a Muslim who seeks to serve his religion, a provision without which there could be no sacrifice or selfless offering of the self required for the victory and superiority of Islam.
Once this provision is lacking, all efforts come to an end. The Qur’an has chided those believers who have taken pleasure in this life, saying (which means),
|“O you who believe! What is the matter with you, that, when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah (Jihad), you cling heavily to the earth? Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world, as compared with the Hereafter. “|
Then Allah promised them the severest punishment if they neglect this duty, saying (which means),
|“If you march not forth, He will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you by another people, and you cannot harm Him at all, and Allah is Able to do all things. “|
Love for the life of this world, the attachment of the heart to it and the striving of the limbs for its sake all deter the servant to fight Jihad in the way of Allah. On the other hand, selling this life for the Hereafter is the catalyst for fighting in the way of Allah,
|“Let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. “|
Indeed, it is the selling of this life for the Hereafter which makes one disdain all the harm one might suffer for the sake of Allah,
|“So decree whatever you desire to decree, for you can only decree (regarding) the life of this world. “|
It is the selling of this life for the Hereafter which enticed Anas bin Nadhir to fight bravely in the Battle of Uhud until he sustained over eighty injuries, before finally falling as a martyr in the way of Allah. He sensed the winds of Paradise near Uhud, so he rushed towards it and Allah honoured him with martyrdom before anyone else.
It is the forsaking of life of this world in preference to the Hereafter which filled the heart of ‘Umair bin Al-Hamam when he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying on the day of the Battle of Badr. “Rise to a Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heavens and the Earth.” He said, “O Messenger of Allah, is Paradise as wide as the heavens and the Earth ?” He ﷺ replied “Yes.” To which he said: “Excellent! Excellent!”. So ﷺ said: “What induced you to say ‘Excellent! Excellent! ” , he said “O Messenger of Allah, I hope to be of its inhabitants.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “You shall be of them!” ‘Umair then produced some dates and started eating them, then he said, “If I were to live for as long as it would take me to eat these dates, it would be too long a life.” He threw the dates to one side and then fought until he was killed.
This is the type of men that we lack today. It is the only type capable of working for Islam. We will never be able to be like these men in their courage, daring and sacrifice unless we become like them in their forsaking of this life in preference to the Hereafter. Books of Hadeeth and Seerah are replete with shining examples of such personalities who have sold this world for the Hereafter. We can only acquire their qualities of bravery, boldness and selfless sacrifice when we follow in their footsteps regarding their eschewing of this world. We will surely fail, however, if we wish to fight Jihad and strive hard for the cause of this religion without employing the ways and means to achieve such a goal and without severing the material ties that hold us down to the earth.
What we mean by eschewing worldly pleasures (Az-Zuhd) is not the forbidding of the permissible and lawful, such as money, food and marriage. Nor does it mean lowering our heads, keeping low profiles and insisting on assuming inferior appearances. The type of Az-Zuhd which we mean is represented in three points:
1. Forsaking what is forbidden
This is an obligation of individual responsibility (Fard ‘Ain) for every single Muslim.
2. Eschewing undesirable things and the peripheral aspects of the legally acceptable things
This type of Az-Zuhd is commendable and necessary for members of the Muslim Jama ‘ah if they wish to prevail in this life. We have little time for such peripherals, besides the fact that they will distract us from firmly adhering to and working for our faith.
3. Eschewing life in general by ‘having it in the hands’ and not making it a preoccupation of the heart
If worldly gains disappear after having enjoyed them, one is not saddened by the loss, nor does one rejoice in making such gains after long having been deprived of them.
1 Surah An-Nahl (16), Ayah 96.
2 Surah AI-‘Ankabut (29), Ayah 64.
3 Surah Ale-Imran (3), Ayah 185.
4 Surah An-Nisa (4), Ayah 77.
5 Surah Al-A’la (87), Ayat 16-17.
6 Muslim and Tirmidhi.
7 Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi.
8 Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah.
10 Ibn Maajah.
11 Surah Muhammad (47), Ayah 15.
12 Surah Az-Zukhruf (43), Ayat 68-73.
13 Surah Al-Qamar (54), Ayat 54-55.
14 Surah Al-Qiyaamah (75), Ayat 22-23.
15 Surah Al-Ghaashiyah (88), Ayat 8-16.
16 Bukhari and Muslim.
20 Surah Al-A’la (87), Ayah 17.
21 Surah At-Taubah (9), Ayah 38.
22 Surah At-Taubah (9), Ayah 39.
23 Surah An-Nisa (4), Ayah 74.
24 Surah Ta-Ha (20), Ayah 72.