Obsession and Preoccupation with the Worldly Life

          If we reflect back to our childhood and the old days, we will see one thing standing out: the easy, cheerful and carefree time we used to enjoy.  Move to present day and one wonders what happened to our world.  Now many people seem to be preoccupied and afflicted with worries of all types.  No longer can one enjoy a peaceful life away from anxieties, fears, dreads, and outright panic and stresses.  Modern life is a lot more advanced, but it seems there is a negative side associated with it.  Does Islam have any remedy for that?

Indeed, Islam defined the purpose of this life from the outset, and encouraged the believers to try to fulfill and reach that real goal of life.

Allah -the Exalted- says in Qur’an: {

  1. And I (God) did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me (Alone).
  2. I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that them to feed Me.
  3. Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of Power and Strength} (Surah 51, verses 56-58).

Thus, God declares that the real purpose of this life is to worship Him alone, obey His commands, and believe in all of His true messengers (From Prophet Adam, to Prophet Noah, Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses, Prophet Jesus, to Prophet Muhammad).  Whoever does that then God has promised him a peaceful life in this world and an eternal bliss in Paradise.  But when a human forgets that fact and starts focusing on the worldly life then that peace is lost and new worries and anxieties start developing.

There is a famous proverb that states: ‘Too much bursts the bag’, and if we think about it we see how true this statement is.  Too much food turns out to be bad for health, too much drink can have fatal consequences, and so on.  Excessiveness always leads to negative effects and undesirable consequences.

The same is true for the worldly life.  When we become too engrossed in the world and start forgetting and neglecting the real purpose of life, we are struck with new worries and anxieties that did not afflict us before.  When we give preference to this life over the Hereafter, we start losing faith and peace of mind and soul, thus shattering our sense of tranquility and contentment.  And when we devote our attention and focus to this world and forget the other world, we start losing the real blessings from heavens and must contend with new traits that we didn’t have before like covetousness, greed, rivalry, envy, sadness, depression, and others.

Indeed, Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- warned against this engrossment in the worldly life (dunya) and foretold its dire consequences:

    عن زيد بن ثابت رضي الله عنه قال: سمعتُ رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم يقول: « مَنْ كَانَتِ الدُّنْيَا هَمَّهُ فَرَّقَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ أَمْرَهُ، وَجَعَلَ فَقْرَهُ بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ، وَلَمْ يَأْتِهِ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَا كُتِبَ لَهُ، وَمَنْ كَانَتِ الْآخِرَةُ نِيَّتَهُ جَمَعَ اللَّهُ لَهُ أَمْرَهُ، وَجَعَلَ غِنَاهُ فِي قَلْبِهِ، وَأَتَتْهُ الدُّنْيَا وَهِيَ ‏رَاغِمَةٌ» .  رواه ابن ماجه والطبراني وابن حبان.

   Narrated Zaid Ibn Thabit -may Allah be pleased with him- said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah -prayer and peace be upon him- say: ‘Whose ever concern is the worldly life (dunya), God will separate him from his goal, place poverty before his eyes, and nothing of the worldly life will come to him except what was preordained for him.  And whose ever intention is the Hereafter, God will fulfill his goal, place richness in his heart, and the worldly life (dunya) will come to him unwillingly.’ ”  Related by Ibn Majah, Al-Tabarani, and Ibn Hibban (Authentic narration).

We see the truth of the Divine message of Prophet Muhammad in his many hadith.  This is one of them, how true his words came out to be.

Nowadays, when some people became too engrossed in the world, and forgot everything else, they were struck with a sense of greed and covetousness that is never satisfied.  They work day and night, and still feel the need to work more.  They occupy themselves the whole time, and still feel anxious and are besotted with worries about the future.  They devote their attention and effort to this life, but they end up feeling empty and purposeless at the end of the day. Moreover, their endless worry and anxiety result in new diseases and psychological illnesses that were rare before, like heart disease, depression, nervous breakdowns, and others.

Their condition becomes just like one of the companions of the Prophet described:

    عن أبي الدرداء رضي الله عنه، قال: ( ويل لكل جمَّاع، فاغر فاه كأنه مجنون، يرى ما عند الناس ولا يرى ما عنده، ولو يستطع لوصل الليل بالنهار، ويله من حساب غليظ وعذاب شديد).

   Narrated Abu Ad-Darda’ -may Allah pleased with him- said: “Woe to every collector (of wealth), open-mouthed greedy like a mad person, who regards the possessions of other people and disregards his own, and if he could work continuously all day and night he would have done so; woe to him from severe reckoning and painful punishment (by God).”

While the Muslim is instructed to work for his world and earn a good permissible earning, he is also instructed to make his main focus the Hereafter and the soon to come real life.  While the Muslim should be struggling and working for this life, his attention and focus should be devoted to his Hereafter.  The Muslim should be concerned and preoccupied with following God’s commands as best as possible, and relegate the worldly endeavors to second position.  The Muslim should find some time for this deen (religion) and do his best to fulfill his religious obligations first, and then think of his worldly duties.  Indeed, if this balance is broken, then the peace of mind and soul are shattered with it.  On the other hand, when this order is maintained then God Who is the real Provider, will provide for him both in this world and the Hereafter.  The Muslim must struggle for this world, but he should struggle harder for his other world to come to gain success in both.  And Allah knows best.

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