In the Holy Quran Allah Ta’ala says;

“But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is much better and much more durable.” (87:16-17)

In the verses above, Allah Ta’ala has diagnosed a moral illness that is almost ubiquitous among human beings, and has also guided us about its treatment. Allah Ta’ala says that it is human beings’ fallacy that people keep thinking about the worldly life only, and their only consideration while making all their decisions is how these will affect the betterment, the prosperity and the affluence in this worldly life. And they are so obsessed with this worldly life that they give it preference over the eternal life that is still to come.

Since the time we start growing up, all of our energies are focused on earning more and more. Most people strive to get better education so that they can get a better job and can earn more. We want to become wealthy, to have a bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger bank balance, a higher status in the world, and to be known as someone of high status. All our efforts are focused on achieving things which are limited to this world.

But do we ever pause to take a moment to reflect on how temporary and uncertain this life is for which we spend all our energies and efforts? No one knows whether they will be alive next year, next month, next week, or even next moment. And yet all our efforts are spent on making this temporary life better, while completely neglecting the next life that is going to come after this, and which will be forever.

A person can never be perfectly happy in this world. There is always some worry or sadness associated with happiness. A person may have the best food available, they may be really hungry and looking forward to enjoying its taste, but there may be some worry or anxiety on their mind that may make the food seem tasteless. There is no such thing as perfect bliss in this world.

Allah Ta’ala has created three kinds of worlds. The first is the one in which only happiness and joy exist. There is perfect bliss in this world. There is no worry or anxiety there. That world is Paradise (Jannah).

The second kind of world that Allah Ta’ala has created is a place for sadness and anxiety only. There is only suffering and sorrow in that world. There is no happiness there. That place is Hell (Jahannam). May Allah Ta’ala keep all of us safe from going there. Ameen

The third kind of world Allah Ta’ala has created is this world in which we are living now. In this world happiness and sorrow are intermixed. In it there are times when we experience distress, and there are times we experience happiness and joy. If a person wishes that they only experience joy and happiness, that they do not come across any distress any anxiety, in this world, then they do not understand the true nature of this world, as this is not possible here. When Allah Ta’ala’s most favoured and chosen people, that is the Holy Prophets (Peace be upon them), came into this world, even they had to face huge adversities, a number of them received physical injuries, and many had to go through sorrowful experiences.

If someone should have experienced perfect happiness in this world, nobody would have been more deserving of it than the beloved Prophets (Peace be upon them) of Allah Ta’ala. However, they also experienced extreme suffering and grief. In fact, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said;

“Among people, the Prophets experience the most suffering, and then people who are closest to them.”

So, in nut shell, there is no happiness, no joy, no pleasure, which is perfect in this world. No matter how great a happiness we experience at any given time, it is not going to last forever. It may come to an end in an hour, in a day or in a year, but we know that no happiness here is permanent.

Allah Ta’ala says that the Life Hereafter (Aakhirah) is khair (خیر). Khair means perfect in this regard. It means the pleasures in the Hereafter will be perfect, its blessings will be perfect, and its happiness will be everlasting. Whatever blessings we get there, will be forever.

It is the subject of a Hadith that for example, in this world a person likes a food. They can eat it to a certain amount. But regardless of how much they love that food, there will come a limit after which they cannot eat it eat anymore. After that stage, even if someone gives a person a lot of money, even then after a certain stage they won’t be able to eat anymore. However, in the Hereafter no such limit will come. No matter how much people eat, food will remain as tasty as ever. That is what Allah Ta’ala says that the blessings of Aakhirah will both be better than that of this world, and they will also be everlasting. This world is imperfect, and its pleasures are also temporary. Still people are so ignorant that they spend all their energy, all their effort, in making their temporary life in this world better, and do not make any efforts towards making their permanent life better.

There is no fact in this world more certain, more unanimously agreed, than the fact that every human being is going to die one day. There is no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in this regard. Many people deny the existence of God but no one can deny the certainty of death. All human beings agree on this.

Similarly, all human beings agree on this too that no one knows when they are going to die. Science has evolved so much, human beings have reached the moon, they have invented supercomputers, they have created artificial organs and limbs, but they still cannot say with any degree of certainty at which particular moment a specific human being is going to die. But it is so strange that we know with absolute certainty that we have to die one day, and we also know that our death can come at any time, without any warning, and yet we think so little about our death.

From the time we wake up, to the time we fall sleep, most of our thinking is restricted to earning more money, making our bank balance bigger, getting a bigger house, a better car, a better lifestyle, but in the entire day do we even once think about the fact that we are going to die one day, do we think about what if there is a life after death, and what will we have to face in that life?

When we have to travel somewhere in this world we make plans and preparations for it a long time in advance. We buy tickets, arrange accommodation, and make all sorts of arrangements. On the other hand, we do know that a day will come when we will have to leave this world and travel to the next one. We don’t know when that day will come, we may have to depart on that journey suddenly without any notice. And yet we do not even think about that travel and do not make any preparations for it. We take our loved ones to graveyard and leave them there all the time. We see others taking their loved ones to graveyard. And yet we somehow think this happens only to other people. We do not stop to reflect that one day our loved ones will be taking us to the graveyard and leaving us there.

The Holy Prophet ﷺ said;

“Remember the thing that kills all pleasures, that is death, frequently.”

Through this Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ is educating us that our primary illness is that we are neglectful of the Aakhirah (Hereafter). If we were mindful of the Hereafter, and we started worrying about what would happen to us when we get there, then our behaviour would be very different from what it is now. All the crimes, the lawlessness, the corruption, stem from our fixation with this life, and being completely neglectful of the next one. We are prepared to do anything, usurp other people’s property, waste other people’s rights, unduly take what belongs to others, just because we want to make our lot in this life better. We do not even think about what consequences of these actions we would have to face in the next life.

The Holy Prophet ﷺ evoked that thinking in Muslims. The accounts we read in Seerah (life of the Holy Prophet ﷺ) about the peace and tranquility prevalent in areas governed by Muslims at the time, and about the peace of heart enjoyed by Muslims then, were the direct results of this belief of having to account for all their actions in front of Allah Ta’ala on the day of Aakhirah (Hereafter). When a person firmly believes that after this life there will be another life in which they will have to account for all their actions, and on the basis of the outcome of that assessment they will be sent to Heaven or Hell, then that belief has a huge impact on their action and they try to please Allah Ta’ala with everything they do.

Once Hazrat Abdullah ibn Omar Razi Allah Anhu was travelling outside of Medinah Munawwarah with some of his companions. They passed a shepherd who was herding some goats and was fasting. Just to test him, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Omar (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) asked him, “Would you please sell us a goat? We will pay you and also give you some meat so that you can do Iftar with it.” He replied, “These goats are not mine. They belong to my master.” Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Omar RAA said, “You can just tell him that one of the goats went missing.” As soon as he heard this the shepherd raised his finger towards the sky and said, “Where did Allah go?”, and walked away.

This is the fear of accountability after death that a shepherd herding goats in the solitude of a jungle is also fully aware that he will to present himself before Allah Ta’ala one day and what he does in this life will have great impact on what will happen to him in the next one. And that he may earn some money defrauding his master but it will lead to a much greater loss in the Hereafter.

Hazrat Farooq Azam (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) used to patrol the city at night to keep an eye on what people were doing. One day early morning he heard a mother and daughter talking. The mother was saying to her daughter, “Milk the cow, and then because our cow is not giving much milk these days add some water to it.” The daughter said, “But mother, the Amir (Caliph) of Muslims has issued a decree that no one should add water to milk.”

The mother said, “Yes I know that the Caliph has issued that edict but he is not here. If you add some water to the milk he won’t know about it.” The Daughter said, “Mother. You are right. He is not here and he will not learn about it. But the One who is above him is watching and He will know about it. How can I do it then?”

Hazrat Omar RAA listened to this whole exchange between mother and daughter. In the morning he found out who the girl was and got his son married to her. Hazrat Omar ibn Abdul Aziz (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) who is also known as Omar the 2nd was born from the lineage of this couple.

This is the type of thought process which develops as a result of knowing that the Hereafter (Aakhirah) is better and everlasting. When this thought becomes firmly embedded in a person’s mind, it stops them from advancing towards any sin, any corruption. Then the person advances towards those actions which make Allah Ta’ala happy and refrains from those which displease Allah Ta’ala.

This is the true message of the verse of the Holy Quran recited in the beginning that all our efforts are focused on making our present life better. We need to spend some time on reflecting about that we see so many people dying and being buried, one day the same is going to happen to me. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has told us in detail about what will happen to us in our grave. And what is going to happen when we will be ordered to leave our grave and present ourselves before Allah Ta’ala? The Holy Quran and Ahadith are full of detail about what is going to happen to us in the Hereafter. But we do not take out any time during the day to think about any of this.

The question is how can we conquer this preoccupation we have with this temporary life, and how can we change our thinking so that the preoccupation about the life after death becomes predominant in our minds? How can we develop the same level of preoccupation with what will happen to us in the Hereafter that was driving the actions of the shepherd who refused to sell his master’s goat, or the girl who refused to mix water in milk?

There is only one way of developing that preoccupation with the Hereafter, and that is that we adopt the companionship (Suhbat) of those who have already developed this worry about the Hereafter, this fear of having to account for all their own actions in this world in front of Allah Ta’ala one day.

It was this companionship (Suhbat) which had transformed the Holy Companions (Sahabah) of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. These were the same people who, before the advent of Islam, were killing each other for trivial matters. History reports about wars going on between tribes of Arabs before the dawn of Islam for decades, over chicken, cattle and water wells. But once they started benefitting from the companionship of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, their love of their material possessions subsided to such an extent that they left all their belongings, their possessions, their wealth, in Makkah Mukarramah to migrate to Medinah Munawwarah to be in the company of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.

When the Muslims migrated from Makkah Mukarramah to Medinah Munawwarah, the Ansar (original residents of Medinah) said to them, “you are our brothers. We will split our lands. You take half of it and we will keep the other half.’ The Muhajirin (migrants) said, “No! We won’ take your lands like that. However, we will work hard on your lands, and we will split the produce.” This shows how they had completely lost their love for material wealth.

Once the Sahabah (Holy Companions) (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with them) were engaged in Jihad. At that time someone recited a Hadith that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,

“If a person martyrs themselves in the way of Allah Ta’ala, Allah Ta’ala grants them a high status in Paradise (Jannah).”

A Sahabi asked, “Did you hear this Hadith directly from the Holy Prophet ﷺ?” The other Sahabi said, “Yes I did, my ears heard it, and my heart remembered it.” The first Sahabi said, “Then it is Hara’am for me to stay away from Jihad.” He picked up his sword and entered the army of the enemy. He got shot in the chest with an arrow. The first words he said upon seeing blood flowing out of his chest were, “I swear by the Master of the Ka’abah. I succeeded today.”

These were the same people who, before embracing Islam, were completely in love with this material world, but once they benefitted from the Suhbat (companionship) of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, the love of the Hereafter (Aakhirah) completely took over their hearts and minds.

It is narrated in the Holy Quran that when Hazrat Musa (Peace Be Upon Him) invited the Pharaoh to Iman (faith) he showed him a miracle. When he put his staff on ground, as per Allah Ta’ala’s commandment, it turned into a snake. Pharaoh believed it to be a trick of magic so he gathered sorcerers from all around the country to defeat Hazrat Musa’s (AS) magic. When the sorcerers came they first asked,

“…Will there be a sure reward for us, if we are the victorious?” (26:41)

The Pharaoh replied,
“…Yes, and of course, you will then be among the closer ones.” (26:42)

When the time of the competition came and the sorcerers put their sticks and ropes on the ground, they turned into snakes and started crawling. Allah Ta’ala then commanded Hazrat Musa (Moses) (Peace Be Upon Him) through Wahy (Divine Revelation) to put his staff on the ground. The staff turned into a python and started swallowing all the snakes created by the sorcerers till it swallowed them all. The sorcerers were experts at magic. They realized that what Hazrat Musa AS had done was not magic. If it was magic the sorcerers would have prevailed. It dawned upon them Hazrat Musa AS was truly a Prophet sent by Allah Ta’ala, and what he had performed was a miracle from Allah Ta’ala. They immediately exclaimed;

“We have (now) believed in the Lord of Harun and Musa.” (20:70)

The Pharaoh was watching all this. He said in anger,

“…You have believed in him before I permit you. This man is in fact your master who has taught you the magic. So I will certainly cut off your hands and your legs from opposite sides, and will crucify you on the trunks of palm- trees, and you shall know whose punishment, out of us, is more severe and more lasting.” (20:71)

These were the same sorcerers who a few minutes ago were negotiating with Pharaoh what rewards would they get and were willing to use their magic against Hazrat Musa (Moses) Peace be upon him. And within a few minutes their hearts have changed so much that not only they don’t care about any rewards anymore, but even though the Pharaoh is threatening to nail them to the cross and to cut their hands and feet off, they still reply,

“…We will never prefer you over the clear signs that have come to us, and over Him who has created us. So, decide whatever you have to decide. You will decide only for this worldly life. We have put our faith in our Lord, so that He forgives us for our sins and for the magic you compelled us to perform. And Allah is the Best and Everlasting.” (20:72-73)

What brought about this transformation that the same people who were demanding rewards a few minutes ago are now prepared to be nailed to the cross? The Iman (faith) in their hearts, along with the Companionship of Hazrat Musa AS brought about this transformation.

When a person acquires the companionship of a pious person after first developing Iman (faith) in their heart, it changes their feelings and priorities. The love of the material world subsides and the concern for the Hereafter takes precedence over everything else. A human being truly becomes a human being only after their love for the Hereafter becomes stronger than their love for this material world. As long as they are only preoccupied with improving their lot in this world, a human being really functions at the level of an animal. It is because they will be prepared to do whatever it takes to increase their own wealth, whether it means depriving others of their livelihood, stealing from others, or starving them to death.

There is no other way of becoming a true human than that a person keeps reminding themselves that they are going to die one day, that after they die they will be brought back to life on the Day of Judgment, and that on that day they will be held accountable for all the actions they have performed in this world. And this thought process can only be attained through the companionship (suhbat) of those who have already developed this preoccupation with the Hereafter (Aakhirah). The only way of learning Deen (religion) properly is adopting the companionship (suhbat) of those who have love of Allah Ta’ala, and these are the very people who are always mindful before every action that one day they will to have to account for these actions before Allah Ta’ala. May Allah Ta’ala also grant us this preoccupation with the Hereafter. (Ameen)

May Allah Ta’ala help us understand the reality of this material world, make preoccupation with the Hereafter predominant in our minds, save us from the rat race in which we have immersed ourselves, and make us reap the benefits of the companionship of Allah’s friends.

وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين