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Which is Better, the Worldly Life or the Hereafter?


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By Shaykhul-Hadīth, Hadrat Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat dāmat barakātuhum

Who is the Clever One?

Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

The clever one is he who subjugates his nafs and strives for (the success of) that (life) which is after death. (At-Tirmidhī)

A Sahābī once asked Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Who is the cleverest and most far-sighted of the people, O Rasūlullāh?’ Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied:

Those who remember death the most and prepare for it vigorously before it arrives; they are the true clever ones; they have gone away with the nobility of this world and the honour of the Hereafter. (Al-Mu‘jamul-Kabīr)

Temporary World

Such people are the clever ones because they prepare for the life which is eternal and everlasting. To help us better comprehend this, Imām Ghazālī rahimahullāh presents a striking example. He says, ‘If the whole world was filled with corn or chickpea seeds, and a bird was to take one seed after a million years, then another seed after another million years, and it continued to take one seed after every million years in this manner, then a time will come when the seeds will all finish, but the Hereafter will not end; it is everlasting.’

Allāh ta‘ālā is Al-Bāqī (The Eternal); He will never perish.

Everything will perish besides Allāh. (28:88)

Since Allāh ta‘ālā is Eternal, anything we carry out for His Pleasure also becomes eternal, i.e. its reward will be everlasting. Anything associated to us and this world will perish; and anything associated to Allāh ta‘ālā or the Ākhirah will remain forever.

Allāh ta‘ālā states:

What is with you shall perish and what is with Allāh shall remain. (16:96)

The paltry benefits of this world are nothing in comparison to the life Hereafter, both in quality and quantity. Allāh ta‘ālā states:

….But you prefer the worldly life; while the Hereafter is much better and much longer. (87:16-17)

(Remember that) The enjoyment of the worldly life is but trivial in comparison to the Ākhirah. (9:38)

Pleasures of the Dunyā

We should not let the superficial pleasures and enjoyment of this world deceive us and deprive us from the everlasting pleasures of the Hereafter. Every unlawful enjoyment brings with it pain and grief in this world and more in the Hereafter. Due to weakness in our Īmān, we sometimes become envious of the lavish lives of those who freely disobey Allāh ta‘ālā, and stare with desirous eyes at what they have.

What we fail to realise is that we only see them when they are in the public sector, where every person feels the need to project a much decorated and glamourous image of himself. What is hidden behind their smile is known only to them and Allāh ta‘ālā. We do not see what they are going through behind closed doors, during the night or when alone. Similarly, we do not know what is to happen to them in the near future or when they reach old age. Peace and tranquility are taken away from such people and they face much hardship in this very world, and in the Hereafter the fire of Jahannam awaits them. Allāh ta‘ālā states in the Glorious Qur’ān:

Do not let the free roaming of the rejectors in the lands (i.e their affluent lifestyles) deceive you. It is paltry enjoyment; thereafter their abode is Jahannam, and that is a dreadful abode. (3:196-197)

Never stretch your eyes towards (i.e. do not long for) the splendour of the worldly life that We have given to some groups of them (i.e. those who deny Allāh ta‘ālā) to enjoy so that we may test them. And the bounty of your Rabb is much better and more lasting. (20:131)

Despite having all the recourses of pleasure, they are restless and find no peace at heart because true peace and contentment are directly from Allāh ta‘ālā and come only through His remembrance and obedience to Him. Allāh ta‘ālā states in the Glorious Qur’ān:

Behold! Only through the remembrance of Allāh do the hearts find peace. (13:28)

Those who obey Allāh ta‘ālā are granted peace and traquility in this world before the everlasting success of the Hereafter. Allāh ta‘ālā states:

However, those people who fear (the displeasure of) their Rabb (and abstain from disobedience to Him), for them shall be gardens under which rivers flow, where they shall live forever. (This is the) hospitality from Allāh; and what Allāh has with Him is best for the righteous ones. (3:198)

Thus, those who choose the dunyā and make it their sole objective suffer in this world and the next, whilst those who give preference to the Ākhirah by obeying Allāh ta‘ālā and restraining their nafs from unlawful pleasures receive the best of both worlds. They enjoy true peace in this world, and the everlasting and unimaginable pleasures of the Hereafter. Allāh ta‘ālā says in a Hadīth Qudsī:

I have prepared for my pious servants that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard of, and no mind has imagined. (Al-Bukhārī)

Two Choices

We now have two choices. The first choice is that we freely follow our unlawful desires and 'enjoy' the so-called pleasures of this world at the cost of our Hereafter. The second choice is that we sacrifice the paltry unlawful pleasures of this world in order to secure the everlasting bliss of the Hereafter. Which choice will a person of average intellect opt for?

Muftī Muhammad Shafī‘ ‘Uthmānī rahimahullāh who was an ‘Ālim of a very high repute, the author of the well-known tafsīr, Ma‘āriful-Qur’ān, gives a beautiful example to help us understand this choice better. He says, ‘A person is given the choice between two houses; a luxurious palace with all comforts and facilities and a small home with lack of facilities. Then he is told that the palace will remain in his possession for a duration of ten years after which one will have to vacate, whilst the small home is for him to keep permanently. Which of the two will an intellectual person opt for? Surely an intellectual person will understand that choosing the palace will leave him homeless after ten years, whilst the small home despite being far less comfortable will become a permanent residence for him, his wife and his children. Thus, he will give preference to the smaller home.’

It is worth noting that in this example the temporary abode is far better in quality and comfort than the permanent abode, yet a person will still choose the latter. If a person prefers the small home despite having far less facilities and comforts for the sole reason that it is a permanent abode, then why would the faculty of intellect not guide a person to give preference to the Ākhirah which is permanent and far better too?

Will Life become Dry?

Giving preference to the Ākhirah is not to say that our lives will become dry and that we will enjoy no pleasure in the worldly life at all. No. One will continue to enjoy his life by benefitting from the scores of lawful pleasures Allāh ta‘ālā has created. What Allāh ta‘ālā has made permissible is far more in number than what Allāh ta‘ālā has made impermissible. From the items available to eat, the halāl far outweigh the harām. From the things we can wear, see, hear and touch, the halāl are far more than the harām. Thus, a pious Muslim is not deprived of pleasure. We are only asked to refrain from the utterly greedy act of indulging in harām even after Allāh ta‘ālā has granted us so many halāl ways to enjoy.

May Allāh ta‘ālā grant us the tawfīq to make the right choice and give preference to the Ākhirah over this dunyā, and as a result, enjoy a tranquil worldly life and acquire the eternal success and pleasure of the Ākhirah. Āmīn.

© Riyādul Jannah (Vol. 31 No. 1, Jan 2022)

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