Renunciation: The Blueprint

This is the sixth in a series of articles on how to live simply and practice renunciation from the On Demand Course: Living Simply or How to Practice Zuhd in Complex Times

Sahl bin Sa‘d al-Sa‘idi mentions that a man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, guide me to an act that if I do it, Allah will love me and people will love me.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Renounce worldliness and Allah will love you, and renounce what is in the hands of people and people will love you.”

The love of attaining the love of Allah is the pinnacle of religion.

وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَشَدُّ حُبًّۭا لِّلَّهِ ۗ

“While those who believe are greatest in love for Allah” [Quran, 2:165; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

As Imam al-Mundhiri said, “This hadith has the light of the lights of Prophethood.” 

Renounce worldliness means to be unattached to worldliness. Do not be attached to those things that disadvantage you with Allah and Allah will love you.

This is a blueprint of how we make our life choices. Ask yourself: Will this choice be a means to the pleasure of Allah? Will this choice disadvantage me from Allah, distance me from Allah, or be a means of the displeasure of Allah?

For Allah

If you want to go for a walk in the park, for example, do it as a servant of God. Renounce worldliness. Do not just do things for worldly outcomes. Do all that you do for Allah and Allah will love you.

Renounce choosing for merely worldly considerations. If you are thinking of buying new clothes because “I need new clothes”, that is worldliness. It is not sinful worldliness, but you are missing out on doing it for Allah. How do you do it for Allah? One of the key things is gratitude. Can you do it out of gratitude? 

What Allah has blessed you with is a gift from Allah. Also think, “Can I make good intentions out of it?”

 Someone criticized Abu Yusuf, a student of Abu Hanifa: “Why do you dress so well?” He said, “Just as I like my wife to look good for me, I like to look good for my wife.”

Renounce what is in the hands of people and they will love you. Do not be attached to what people do. They will feel that you are competing with them. If you are competing with them they will feel insecure concerning you. But instead, the believer has sincere concern for the good of every person. 

Thinking, “They have this, I do not have this,” will bring you down. It will make you discontent with Allah. 


The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Renouncing worldliness gives rest to the heart and to the body.” 

Instead of the heart being scattered thinking, “I need this, I want this, how come I did not get this? How come I did not get that? They have this, they have that, this, that,” you embrace godliness. 

You have one concern: the good pleasure of Allah. Attaining the worldly is an end that can never be met. Whatever you get, there is more to get. The basis of this worldly life is disappointment, failure and regret. 

Even if you got what you got apparently, you will not be satisfied with it in reality. If you want to see scientific proof of that, read Stumbling upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert. 

If someone wins several million dollars as a prize and someone else gets thrown into maximum security, prison. A year later, two years later, which one is happier? There is no statistical difference between the happiness of the one who won several million dollars and the one who’s in maximum security prison.

That is not what brings happiness. That is not what brings contentment. Rather, it scatters the heart and brings worries, sorrow and regret. It tires the body.

Benefit or Harm

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said:

“This world is green and sweet so whoever takes it with its right Allah blesses it for them.”

Sweet and green means it is pleasing and appealing. Seek it in a manner acceptable to Allah. Use it in a manner acceptable to Allah. That is the basic right concerning anything. 

Its potential is that you seek it in a manner not only acceptable to Allah but in a manner pleasing to Allah. And you use it in a manner pleasing to Allah, which is with true gratitude. You direct it towards the pleasure of Allah with gratitude, you use it for the good of this life and the good of the next, and use it to benefit others. You use it for eternal benefit. 

If you do that, it will be blessed for you. It will be a means of increase for you. If you do not, it will be a source of regret and harm.