Understanding This Dunia

It is quite difficult to develop a proper understanding of this dunia, our life, and hence develop the right course of action one must take towards it. One sees people engaged in this dunia making it their sole focus while others give it very little or no attention. What is very interesting–also the most correct–understanding of this duania is what was embraced by the companions of the prophet (pbuh). You see them very successful in all aspect of life, in business, building families, in politics, etc. On the other hand, you feel that this dunia represents nothing to them and they are ready to give everything away including their life itself if they had to. What exactly did lead to this understanding and how did they develop it? It is the teachings of the Qur’an and the tradition of the prophet (pbuh), the very same ones we have in our hands.

In the remainder of this post, I will share seven attributes of the dunia that helped the companions of the prophet build a clear picture of it and allowed them to live a successful life. Think of these seven attributes as pieces of a puzzle you are solving or pieces of a mosaic picture you are drawing. Here they are

1- Dunia is so insignificant

The prophet said, “I swear by Allah, this dunia compared to al-akhera is like what you get from the sea with this finger.” [1] (and he showed the index finger). He was also walking with his companions when he saw a dead goat whose ear showed a very well known illness. He went to the goat, grabbed its ear (to indicate that he knew it was sick), and asked his companions, “Who wants to buy this with a dirham?” They answered, “O Messenger of Allah, it is sick and it is dead!” He asked, “How about for free?” They responded, “No way!” The prophet made the point he wanted to make, “By Allah, dunia is less significant to Allah than this to you.” [2]

2- Dunia is so short

No matter how much we live, comparing the time we spend in this life to the overall time we will spend after we die, we really realize that this time is next to zero. The prophet said that the example of the time we spend in this dunia is like “a traveller having a nap under the shade of a tree then he left and resumed his trip.” [3]

3- Dunia is so dangerous

It was during fajr time when the prophet saw many people that he usually did not use to see (read more about the nice story here). At the end of the story he said, “Rejoice and expect what pleases you. By Allah, it is not poverty I fear for you. Rather, I fear for you this dunia when it becomes prosperous as it became to people before you, you compete for it the same way they did, and it will make you perish as it did to them.” [4]

4- Life is NOT Haram

It is permissible and even encouraged to live, work, and enjoy this dunia. The prophet (pbuh) said, “It is better for any of you to take his string, go to the mountain in the morning, collect someone, sell the wood, make living, eat and give in charity than begging people for money and they either give him or deny him” [5] As a matter of fact, no one whatsoever can make permissible things impermissible.

5- What you can gain in this life is in the hands of Allah and you can’t gain more or less

Allah in the Qur’an said clearly, “In the heaven is your provision and that which you are promised. By the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth it is true ….” The young companion, Rabee’ah Ibn Ka’b understood this very much and surprised everyone including the prophet himself in this very nice story.

6- We are entrusted with this Earth

We can’t quit this life and seclude ourselves from it. We have the responsibility of inhabiting this earth and civilize it. Allah in the Qur’an said that prophet Saleh while calling his people said, “He originally created you from earth and asked you to civilize it …”  As a matter of fact, when Allah created our father Adam He told the angels, “I will made a vicegerent in the earth …

7- Life is merely a test

The final attribute that probably concludes and summarizes those attributes is that this life is our bridge to al-Akherah. Our fate will be decided based on how well we make it on this bridge. It is a test that we need to pass successfully to get the reward after we die. Allah said, “It is He who created life and death to test you who is best in deeds” The prophet said, “This dunia is beautiful! Allah has entrusted you with it to see how you do” [6]

The companions of the prophet accepted the responsibility towards this earth and civilized it. They were always mindful of their intention that what they were doing is to score more in the test. They did make wealth and enjoyed the vast permissible aspects of this life. Life never made it to their hearts since its value was next to zero. They did not waste their time given the short period they knew they would have lived. They were so careful not to be slaves of this dunia and not perish competing for it.

These attributes look like contradicting. Nevertheless, they, together, develop a balanced picture about this life and how we should behave in it. In a future post, I will share how we can use each individual attribute (and let the right attribute fire when needed) to solve daily problems and challenges.

[1] Reported in the authentic book of Imam Muslim

[2] Reported in the authentic book of Imam Muslim

[3] Reported by Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal

[4] Reported in the authentic books of Al-Bukhari and Muslim

[5] Reported in the authentic book of Al-Bukhari

[6] Reported in the authentic book of Imam Muslim


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