This is the fourth 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.
Most people in this world are worldly. That is just the nature of life and the test of life. How do you become steadfast? By making devotion to Allah happen in your life. Have some devotion to Allah at the beginning of the day, towards the end of the day and throughout the day. Particularly, of course, the obligatory prayers.
Glorify the praises of your Lord. That is what prayer is. Make time to do other devotional worship, like the mid-morning prayer (Duha), for example. When you have a major decision to make at work, at least make dua (supplication). Recite the Fatiha.
Glorify Allah (Subhan Allah). If you ask, ask Allah. If you seek assistance, seek Allah’s assistance. That is how the scholars lived. Imam Bukhari did a complete purification (ablution or the major bath) and prayed two units before judging every Hadith that he put into his sound collection.
“Be mindful of Allah and He’ll be mindful of you,” the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a young Ibn Abbas when he was 10 or 11 years old. “Remain mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah.”
There is a contentment in this life. This is only found by putting Allah first, seeing everything else as a means, and judging, “Is this a means towards the pleasure of Allah or not?”
Then Allah says:
وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِۦٓ أَزْوَٰجًۭا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌۭ وَأَبْقَىٰ
“Nor let your eyes linger over what We have given whole classes of them to enjoy: the blossoming flower of the fleeting life of this paltry world, that We may try them therein; And the final provision of your Lord is better and more lasting.” [Quran, 20:131; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
A flower may look beautiful, but how long does a flower last? if you pluck the flower, it lasts a few days. Even flowers in a pot are seasonal. How long will they remain in bloom? Do they remain in bloom for the entirety of one season? No.
Lower Your Gaze
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is described in the works of Shama’il: When he left his home, he would lower his gaze, except from that which is of concern to him.
People were of concern to him (Allah bless him and give him peace). He would be the first to greet people. He would be the first to be concerned about people. As for the mere worldly, he lowered his gaze from them.
It is mentioned about Sufyan Thawri that he was walking with his students down the road. They passed by some fancy homes and some of his students started looking up. He said, “Lower your gazes for it is only gazes such as these that result in waste such as that.”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “The most wasteful of spending is what is spent on mud and water.” Meaning on mere buildings. Unless there is some benefit, some purpose, some good intentions driving it.
This worldly attainment, Allah has granted some of them as a trial for them. The trial in it is will you ascribe the good to Allah? Will you have gratitude to Allah? Will you make these things a means to the good and the good pleasure of Allah or will it instead turn you from Allah towards sin, heedlessness, and disregard for Allah in the next life? Allah says:
ٱللَّهُ لَطِیفُۢ بِعِبَادِهِۦ یَرۡزُقُ مَن یَشَاۤءُۖ وَهُوَ ٱلۡقَوِیُّ ٱلۡعَزِیزُ
“Allah is the Subtly Loving-kind in Blessings to His servants; He provides for whomever He wills; And He is the Insuperable of Might, the Invincible.” [Quran, 42:19; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
Some may be tested in this life by being only granted a little.
مَن كَانَ یُرِیدُ حَرۡثَ ٱلۡـَٔاخِرَةِ نَزِدۡ لَهُۥ فِی حَرۡثِهِۦۖ وَمَن كَانَ یُرِیدُ حَرۡثَ ٱلدُّنۡیَا نُؤۡتِهِۦ مِنۡهَا وَمَا لَهُۥ فِی ٱلۡـَٔاخِرَةِ مِن نَّصِیبٍ
“Whoever strives hard for the yield of the next world, We shall increase for him in his tillage; And whoever strives hard but for the yield of this world, We shall give him somewhat of it, but he shall have no share in the next.” [Quran, 42:20; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
The scholars say, “This life is a harvest ground for the hereafter.” What seeds are you planting in this life? If all you seek is worldly gain, you will get something or the other of it. But, that is all you will get.
Whoever you are, however you are, whether you are a “good” Muslim, a struggling Muslim, or you see yourself as a bad Muslim, strong Muslim, weak Muslim, whoever seeks the harvest of the hereafter. Allah shall grant them of it. Whatever you sought, you will be granted, but, whatever you sought is only a little of what is there in the hereafter.
How much should you be seeking of the hereafter? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) tells us, “Ask Allah from His generosity.” Allah says:
مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍۢ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِى كِتَـٰبٍۢ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَآ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ يَسِيرٌۭ
لِّكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا۟ عَلَىٰ مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا۟ بِمَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍۢ فَخُورٍ
“No calamity ever strikes on earth or in yourselves, but is written in a primal record the whole time before We bring it with flawless wisdom forth; Verily all that is easy for Allah. So that you may not grieve in loss for whatever you miss, or exult over what He has bestowed you; And Allah loves no haughty braggart” [Quran, 57:22-23; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
Difficulties and distresses will happen in this life. That is destined by Allah. There is wisdom in it. because that is how Allah has created this life:
ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلْمَوْتَ وَٱلْحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًۭا ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْغَفُورُ
“Who created death and life to try you as to which of you is finest in works” [Quran, 67:2; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
Seek Your Lord
Do not cause the tests and trials of life to turn away from your purpose. All the difficulties and tests that befall you, were recorded by Allah for you. Why? So you do not become attached to anything in this life. So that you may not be regretful about the things you missed out on, nor that you rejoice excessively about what you attained. Reflect on life.
Anything anyone ever got will end. Every difficulty and test will fall. Do not become moved by the difficulties and do not become swayed by the pleasing things. If everything were easy, people would accumulate the worldly. Not just wealth, but status and other things, and one would become haughty and arrogant.
Allah sends us these blows. Do not let the blows cause you to despair and do not let the good things cause you to rejoice excessively. Rather, be humble and seek your Lord.