Doing Without the Pleasures of this World

Abu' l-Abbas as-Sa'idi said :

“A man came to the Prophet (saws) and said, 'Oh Messenger of Allah! Guide me to such an action, that when I do it, Allah will love me and the people will love me.  He said, be detached from this world and then Allah will love you and do not be attracted to what people have and then the people will love you''.

related by  Hasan, ibn Majah kitab az-Zuhud  2/1373

This hadith shows that Allah loves those who live simply in this life.  It has been said that if having love for Allah is the best state to be in, then living simply is the best condition to be in.

Living simply means that you should restrain your desire for worldly things in the hope of receiving something better instead.  In order to achieve this more easily you should first realise that the things which people yearn for in this world are infact worthless when compared with what we hope for in the next world.

If we know that what Allah has will remain and that the life to come is better and more lasting, then we realise that this world is really like a piece of ice left out in the sun - it soon melts and vanishes . The akhirah  (after life),  however, essentially never vanishes. The desire one has to exchange this life for the one to come is strengthened by the certainty  that there is no comparison between this life and the next.  

In the Qur'an we find this world and the next world described in the following terms:

"Yes you prefer the life of this world, but the next world is better and  more lasting."               

Qur’an  87:16-17

"You desire the attractions of this world, but Allah desires the next world for you"        

Qur’an 8: 67

And they are happy with the life of this world, but the life of this world is small comfort compared to the next world.

Qur’an 13:26

The hadiths which scorn worldly goods and describe how worthless they are in the sight  of Allah are many:

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (saws) happened to walk through the market place.  Some people were gathered on either side of him.  There he came across a dead goat with very short ears, of which he took hold saying,

 "Who among you would like to have this for a dirham?" They said, "By Allah, not even if it were alive, because its ears are too short; and now it is also dead."  Thereupon the messenger of Allah (saws) said, " By Allah, this world is more insignificant in the sight of Allah than this in your eyes."

Related by Sahih Muslim, Kitab az-Zuhud 18/93

It has been related by Ibn Shaddad al-Fahri that the Prophet (saws) said,

"This world, in comparison with the world to come, is the same as if one of you were to put his finger in the ocean.  Consider how much you would have when you pulled it out.

related by Sahih Muslim Kitab al-jannatu wa Na'imuha,17/191.

It has been related by Ibn Sahl ibn Sa'ad that the Prophet (saws) said,

"Had the world been worth even the wing of a gnat to Allah, He would not have even given a drink of water from it to a kaffir (non-believer)."

Related by Sahih gharib, at-Tirmidhi, Kitab az-Zuhud,  6/611.

Living simply means turning away from the things of this world because they are so worthless.  You  do not bother with them and remain detached from them

Yunus ibn Maisarah said, " Being detached from this world does not mean that you should forbid what Allah has permitted, nor that you should squander money.  Rather, it is a state in which you are more certain of what is in the hand of Allah than you are of what is in your own hands: your state in misfortune is the same as your state at other times; your attitude towards those who quite rightly criticise you and those who quite rightly praise you is the same."

He has explained this in three stages, or stations, all of which are concerned with the heart rather than with physical action.  This is why Abu Sulayman used to say that you should not call anyone a zahid (the one who practices zuhud, someone whose heart is not attached to the pleasures and distractions of this world).

The first stage  is that of a servant who is more certain  of what is in the hand of Allah than he is of what is in his own hands. This stage  arises from a healthy and strong conviction. 

Abu  Hazim az Zahid was asked, "What is your wealth?" he said, "Two kinds of wealth dispel all fear of poverty trust in Allah and not being attached to what people have." He was asked, "Don't you fear poverty?" He said, "How can I fear poverty when my lord owns all that is in the heavens and on the earth and all that is between them and all that is beneath the ground?"

Al-Fudayl said. "The essence of living simply is being content with Allah Mighty and Exalted is he."

He also said, "The one who is content is the one who lives simply, and it is he who is rich."

The one who has attained real faith, who trusts in Allah in all his affairs, and is content with what he provides for him, and remains unattached to the creation, out of fear and hope-and by so doing finds that pursuing worldly gains is not worth while-he attained the benefits of simplicity.  He is the richest of people, even though he may not possess a single thing in the world.

As Omar said, "Death is teacher enough, true faith is wealth enough, and worship is action enough."

Ibn Masud said, "True belief is not trying to please people by doing things which would bring Allah's displeasure on you, and not envying anyone for what Allah has given him. For Allah's provision is not attracted simply by a mans being careful, nor is it deflected by another mans malice. Allah, with his justice, omniscience and wisdom, has made delight and joy the companions of faith and contentment, and  despair and sorrow the companions of distrust and dissatisfaction."

The second stage  is that of a servant who, if he is afflicted by some misfortune-like the death of a child, or the loss of wealth or goods-desires the reward for his accepting the loss more than his recovering what has been lost.  This is also a consequence of having complete trust.  Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "Whoever lives simply in this world finds misfortune easy to endure." Some of our predecessors used to say, "If it were not for the misfortunes of this world, we would arrive in the next world completely destitute."

The Third stage is that of a servant who regards praise and criticism equally. If the world occupies a place of importance in his heart then he would prefer praise to blame which in turn might make him abandon much good for fear of being censured, and do many bad things in his quest for praise.  This means that in his heart no other people's opinions about him  are important .  What is important to him-is his love of the truth and his earning Allah's good pleasure.

Ibn Musad  said, "True faith is not trying to please other people by doing things which are displeasing to Allah. "Allah has praised those who fight in his way, without worrying about the opinions of others. Al Hasan Said,  "The person who lives simply is the one who finds it in his heart to say that someone else has surpassed him in it."  Imam Ahmed, I believe, was once asked whether a wealthy man could live simply. He said, "Yes, if he is not pleased when his wealth increases nor sad when it decreases, then he can."

Ibrahim ibn Adham said, "There are 3 types of zuhud, or doing without, the first is as a result of having to do so, the second of praiseworthy action, and the third of being careful. avoiding haram (forbidden) things is obligatory, avoiding things which are halal (allowed)  may be praiseworthy, and avoiding things which are doubtful is prudent."

Any person who exchanges the things of this world is doing for the next world without something in this life and so we can call him a zahid, but doing without can also involve enjoying something in this world at the expense  of the next world, in this case it is something in the akhirah with which one is doing without.

A righteous man was once told, "You do without much more than I do." the man replied. "It is you who are more extreme in this, for I deny myself things in a life which will not last and whose rewards are uncertain, while you have denied yourself the akhirah.  No one could be more extreme in their doing without than this."

Normally, however, when we speak of zuhud we mean that we deny ourselves some of the pleasures of this world rather than those of the next world.  However, it is only possible to abstain from things to which you have access. This is why Bin al Mubarak , when someone said to him ,"Oh Zahid ", " The real zahid is Umar ibn Abdul- Aziz, for he rejected the tremendous pleasures and riches of this world that were placed at his feet, where as I have very little to give up."

Al-Hassan al-Basri said, " I have known people and kept company with groups who neither rejoiced when the things of this world came to them, nor grieved when they lost anything in this world. The  life of this world was more insignificant to them than dust. One of them might live for  a year or for sixty years without ever having  a garment that would cover him , and without ever having anything that would come between him and ground , and without ever having any food that he could ask to be prepared for him in his own home."

When night came, they would be on their feet, with their foreheads against the earth , tears rolling down their cheeks , secretly calling on Allah to save them on the Day of Judgement.  If they did something good, they never stopped being grateful for it, and were always asking Allah to accept it.  If they did something bad they would be saddened by it, and would keep asking Allah to forgive them for it.  By Allah, they were not safe from wrong actions, and were saved only by their constant turning in repentance.  May Allah be pleased with them and grant them mercy.

There are three stages of zuhud.

The first stage is to withdraw from the life of this world, even though you  may still have a great desire for it and your heart is still drawn towards it . The self  is still pre-occupied with the world, even though you struggle with it and restrain it.

The second stage is to acquire detachment from this world and to do without it in order to obtain your reward for doing without.  Here, it is your doing without which pre-occupies you.  This is the state of the person who gives away a dollar in order to obtain 2 dollars.

The Third stage is that of the one who willingly puts the world to one side without even a thought for what he has abandoned. This is the one who has exchanged a fragment of broken pottery for a jewel.

Or is it like someone who, seeking to gain entrance to see the king, maybe prevented by a dog at the gate by throwing  the dog a scrap it is distracted, and this makes it possible for him to gain entrance to the kings audience chamber.  Shaytan is like that dog, standing at the gates of Allah.  He tries to prevent people entering them even though the gates are wide open and the world is just a scrap that you can toss aside without a second thought.

Reference: The Purification of the Soul, compiled from the works of: Ibn Rajab al-hanbali, Ibn al-Quayyin al-Jawziyya, and Abu Hamid al- Gazali.

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