Reality of the World

(Keywords: Reality of the Worldly life, Dunya, Hereafter, Akhirah, Example of the worldly life, Parable of the worldly life, Eternal Life, Transient World, Journey of Life, fitnah of dunya, adornment of the world, Life after death, Resurrection, Day of Judgment, Paradise, Obedience to God)


قال الله عز وجل: { وَيَوْمَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ كَأَن لَّمْ يَلْبَثُواْ إِلاَّ سَاعَةً مِّنَ النَّهَارِ يَتَعَارَفُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ قَدْ خَسِرَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِلِقَآءِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانُواْ مُهْتَدِينَ} سورة يونس 45 .

God -the Exalted- says: { And on the Day when He shall gather them together, (on the Day of Judgment it will be) as if they had not stayed (in the life of this world) but an hour of a day. They will recognize each other. Ruined indeed will be those who denied the meeting with God and were not guided} (Surah 10, verse 45).

عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « يُؤْتَى بِأَنْعَمِ أَهْلِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَيُصْبَغُ فِي النَّارِ صَبْغَةً، ثُمَّ يُقَالُ: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ هَلْ رَأَيْتَ خَيْرًا قَطُّ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ نَعِيمٌ قَطُّ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ، وَيُؤْتَى بِأَشَدِّ النَّاسِ بُؤْسًا فِي الدُّنْيَا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيُصْبَغُ صَبْغَةً فِي الْجَنَّةِ فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ هَلْ رَأَيْتَ بُؤْسًا قَطُّ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ شِدَّةٌ قَطُّ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ مَا مَرَّ بِي بُؤْسٌ قَطُّ وَلَا رَأَيْتُ شِدَّةً قَطُّ». رواه مسلم. ـ

       Narrated Anas Ibn Malik -may God be pleased with him- that the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- said:

A person among the people of Hell who had led a life of ease and plenty in the world would be brought forth on the Day of Judgment and dipped only once in Hell.  Then he would be asked: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever experience any comfort in your life? Did you ever get any material blessing in the worldly life?’  He would reply: ‘By God, no, my Lord [i.e., after what he has seen in Hell].

And then a person among the people of Paradise who had led the most miserable life in the world would be brought forth and dipped only once in Paradise.  Then he would be asked: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever experience any misery in your life? Did you ever have any hardship in the worldly life?’  He would reply: ‘By God, no, my Lord, never did I experience any misery or face any hardship [i.e., after what he has seen in Paradise].’ ”  Related by Imam Muslim.



Many people look at this world and behave as if this world is their only and lasting living place.  They work hard for this world; they collect money for it, they build houses in it, they gather various possessions for it, they look for comforts in it, and they endeavor to attain longevity in it.  But sooner or later death will overtake each one of us, and all that we accumulated and worked so hard for would be left behind.  Then after death, no matter how long we live, the whole worldly life would seem like a speck in a vast desert, like a little drop in a big ocean, or like a small dot in an entire volume.

But as stated in the verse above, people will perceive this worldly life (dunya) on the Day of Judgment as Only one day, even shorter as only one morning, and even much shorter than that: as only one hour.  Indeed, if we compare this life to the Hereafter, then it would be a lot shorter than that.

The life span of a person nowadays lasts at most 100 years, while the Hereafter or Akhirah is endless, limitless, infinite; it is eternal.  Moreover, in terms of length, one day of the Hereafter equals one thousand years of this life.  God the Almighty Says:

قال الله عز وجل: { وَإِنَّ يَوْمًا عِندَ رَبِّكَ كَأَلْفِ سَنَةٍ مِّمَّا تَعُدُّونَ} سورة الحج 47. ـ

قال مجاهد: ( من أيام الآخرة). ـ


God -the Exalted- says: { And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count} (Surah 22, verse 47).

The Scholar Mujahid said: “That is, one of the days of the Hereafter (equals one thousand years of this world).”

Thus, one day of this life is 1/365,000 or 0.0000027 of a day in the Hereafter, but considering the length of this world and the Hereafter then this difference is even more minuscule.  The entirety of this life is insignificant compared to the Hereafter.



    God the Almighty draws our attention to the reality of the worldly life and reminds us of the importance of the Hereafter.  God the Almighty states in the verse above that this worldly life is only temporary and short, while the Hereafter is everlasting and is the real life that should be sought.  The Prophet -prayer and peace be upon him- showed us by example the importance of the Hereafter compared to this worldly life.  His major concern was the Hereafter.  Yes, he did take care of his worldly needs, but he always gave preference to the Hereafter over the worldly life (dunya).

The son of Adam only looks at the near future, forgetting to plan for what comes after that.  While the sensible person always plans for what comes in the distant future.  In another verse God the Almighty says:

   قال الله عز وجل: { بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا * وَالْآَخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى * إِنَّ هَذَا لَفِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَى * صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى} سورة الأعلى 16-19. ـ

    God -the Exalted- says: { Rather, you prefer the life of this world;

  1. Although the Hereafter is better and more lasting.
  2. Verily, this is in the former Scriptures.
  3. 19. The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses} (Surah 87, verses 16-19).


Thus the Muslim is encouraged to look beyond this worldly life to what comes after it.  The Muslim should consider his life after death.  Since life after death continues forever while this life is only temporary, then the Muslim should give preference to that longer life over this short life, and should prepare for it with piety and good deeds.


                Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- gave us a beautiful example of this life.  He mentioned that the worldly life (dunya) is like a journey and we the travelers.

‏  وعن ‏عبد الله بن عمر رضي الله عنهما قال: ( أَخَذَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم ‏بِمَنْكِبِي، فَقَالَ: ‏«‏ كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيبٌ أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ» ).  رواه البخاري وأحمد والترمذي وابن ماجه. ـ

      Narrated Abdul-Allah Ibn Omar -may God be pleased with them- said: “The Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- took hold of my shoulder and said:Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.’ ”   Related by Al-Bukhari, Ahmad, Al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah.


Thus, Prophet Muhammad likened this life to a journey or travelling that we all have to undertake.  There is a starting point, which is birth, and there is an ending point which is death.  The example of the life in between is like a journey or travel.

In this parable, the worldly life is the journey, and the Hereafter is the final destination.  The worldly life is temporary and transient just like traveling, while the Hereafter is ever-lasting and our real abode and living place.  


      In another hadith or narration, Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- elaborated on this parable.

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما أنَّ رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم دَخَلَ عليهِ عُمَرُ، وهُوَ على حَصِيرٍ قَدْ أَثَّرَ فِي جَنْبِهِ، فقال: يَا نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ، لَوْ اتَّخَذْتَ فِرَاشًا أَوْثَرَ مِنْ هَذَا، فقال: « مَا لِي وَلِلدُّنْيَا؟ مَا مَثَلِي وَمَثَلُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا كَرَاكِبٍ سَارَ فِي يَوْمٍ صَائِفٍ، فَاسْتَظَلَّ تَحْتَ شَجَرَةٍ سَاعَةً مِنْ نَهَارٍ، ثُمَّ رَاحَ وَتَرَكَهَا». رواه أحمد وابن حبان والبيهقي، وإسناده صحيح. ـ

     Narrated Ibn Abbas -may God be pleased with them- said: “Omar Ibn Al-Khattab went in to see the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- and found him lying on a thread mat that left imprints on his side.  Omar asked: ‘O Messenger of God, why do you not get a softer bed than this?’  The Prophet -prayer and peace be upon him- replied: ‘What do I have to do with the worldly life?  The example of me and the worldly life is only that of a traveler traveling on a hot summer day, so he took shelter under a tree for an hour in the afternoon, and then left and resumed his journey.’ ”  Related by Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and Al-Beihaqi with right authentic narration.

       The Prophet referred to the same time frame mentioned in the verse: one hour.  This entire life would seem like one hour on the Day of Judgment.  Only then would this life appear like the short journey it is, while now it seems to stretch forever.

But indeed, the reality of life is that it is only a journey to the Hereafter.  The journey starts from birth and ends with death. 

The journey takes us through a long meandering road with many pitfalls and traps.  But we are given clear instructions about the direction we should take.  The path is straight, but there are some turns and forks in the road that can mislead the traveler. 

If the human keeps on going straight, then he will reach his destination and achieve success.  But if he takes any turns on the road and ventures to another path, then he will go astray and may be lost.  He will not reach his destination but rather may be ruined and destroyed.


       The path of this journey is not simple, but full of dangers and traps.  There are many misleading attractions on the path of this journey.  The human is told to try to reach the final destination without delay.  But on the way, there are many tempting stop-overs, there are some beautiful places that tempt the traveler to stay and postpone his journey, there are attractive evil places that call the traveler to them and tempt him to abandon his journey, and there are devils and evil people on the way trying to mislead any passerby and try to direct him to other dangerous paths.

Indeed, the worldly life is only a passage or pathway to the Hereafter.  Every human is set on the right path from birth (fitrah), and is given instructions to avoid sins and follow the commands of God.  We are asked to try to reach the final destination through good deeds and avoiding sins.   We are warned of evil, sins and temptations.  God the Exalted says:

قال الله عز وجل: { وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ} سورة الأنعام 153. ـ

God -the Exalted- also says: { And verily, this is My Straight path, so follow it and do not follow (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His path; thus does God command you, that you may become righteous} Surah 6, verse 153.



    Yet despite these clear instructions and many guidelines, there are generally three types of travelers in this world:

1)  Some travelers just ignore the instructions completely, and pay no attention to the warning and precautionary signs, so they never reach the final destination, not even close to it.  They are lost on the road, but they try to enjoy their short stay on the road.  They disregard the commands of God and indulge in all kinds of sins.  They stray from the Straight Path and choose other misleading paths, preferring temporary pleasures on the road over the eternal bliss promised at the end of the road.  They try to enjoy their stay at the stop-over.  But how can one enjoy a small stop-over, no matter how beautiful and enjoyable the stay.  It will always be deficient and nothing compared to the final eternal destination!

2) Some other travelers continue on their journey, but deliberately take few wrong turns here and there, trying to explore other paths, thus delaying their real journey.  These are the general Muslims who commit sins.  Sometimes they repent and resume their journey, but sometimes they get involved with sins and forget their real destination.  Upon their death, the distance to their final destination is measured and they are judged accordingly.

3) But few hardy travelers stay focused on the road, trying their best not to stray, and they reach very close to the end.  These are the pious and righteous people.  They concentrate on the final destination and not on the stop-overs in between.  It is true they stop to get supplies and rest but they try to reach their destination without being distracted by the temptations on the road.  They refrain from sins and wrongful acts on the road and rather focus on reaching their final destination.  Once they reach their final destination, then they will enjoy all the pleasures they want.

     Then, one day this journey would come to an end for all, and the results would be announced before all.  On that Day, the travelers would clearly see the consequences of their actions and get the recompense of their deeds and devotion. 

Each person would be grouped in one of three categories:

1)   The first group that ignored the instructions and chose to enjoy the temptations and sins on the road would not reach the final destination and would end up in Hell-Fire.

2)   The second group who chose to follow the instructions but took some wrong turns and followed their self-desires; however, they tried to get back on the road once they realized its perilous end, would be punished first (unless God forgives them) and then let to enter Paradise.

3)   The third group who followed the instructions as best as they could and were not distracted by the temptations on the road, would get the great reward of the pleasure of their Lord and Paradise where they would get anything they wish for.  They stayed focused on the road and worked hard for their final destination, so now they savor the fruits of their endeavor and enjoy the bliss of the mercy of their Lord.



      Then, this is a beautiful and real example of the worldly life (dunya) and its long journey.  The Muslim should reflect upon this epic journey and consider it carefully.  This world is not a purposeless place or a place where only desires are sought; rather this world is a journey and a passage to the real destination that comes after it. Thus, the Muslim must make a map of this path and travel carefully.  He should not be distracted by attractions and temptations he sees on the road, he should avoid the dangers he sees around him, he should beware of perilous roads and dangerous zones, and he should stay clear of misleading turns and forks but should keep forging straight ahead until he reaches his goal.  Those who get distracted by temptations on the road may not reach their goal, then their journey would end in ruin and Hell.  While those who focus on their final destination and reach its end will find success and Paradise waiting for them.  And God knows best.