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Material Comfort or Spiritual Happiness

 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA


The deaf disciple Hatim Asam tells his teacher Shaikh Shaqiq that he learned Eight principles or Useful Insights by being in his company for 30 years. Here we will dwell on the eighth(last) insight. Explaining the Eighth Insight, Hatim Asam says "I saw everybody is dependent on created things. Some depended on the dirham(silver coin) or the dinar(gold coin) and others on wealth and possessions. Some depended on a craft or vocation while others depended on people like themselves. But after I reflected upon the verse: "And he who puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him, Allah will surely accomplish his purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion." I firmly placed my trust in Allah for He, most certainly, is sufficient for me and the most excellent of those in whom we can trust." 

His teacher Shaikh Shaqiq then said: "May Allah grant you success. Indeed I have looked into the Torah, the Injil (Gospel), the Zabur (Psalms), and the Furqan (Qur’an) and found that these eight principles constitute the essence of that which is contained in these four books. He who acts in accordance with these principles acts in accordance with the teachings contained in these four books."  

"And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. 

And if anyone puts his trust in Allah sufficient is (Allah) for him.

For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily for all things has

Allah appointed a due proportion."… Surah Talaq, 65: 3 (Al-Qur'an) 

And remember Zun-nun(Dhu'n-Nun- Lit. "Lord of the Fish" = Jonah=Yunus), when he departed in wrath(anger): He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness, "There is no god but thou: glory to thee: I was indeed wrong!"   

So We listened to him: and delivered him from distress: and thus do We deliver those who have faith.-Qur'an, Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:87-88

Yet there are men who take for worship others besides God, as equal to God: They love them as they should love God. But those of faith, are overflowing with love for God. If only the unrighteous could see, behold they would see the penalty: that to God belongs all power, and God will strongly enforce the penalty." ( Qur'an, 2:165). 

Imam Al-Ghazzali, in his seminal (creative or original) work "Ihya Ulum Id-Din" says: "Even before accomplishing enlightenment, a person knows that everything attests to the existence of God. But these virtuous feelings of innocence disappear as he begins to mingle with corrupt society, because worldly affairs hinder him from swimming in the vast ocean of insight." 

Separation from the World 

A person with a religious goal cannot brook(tolerate or bear) the standards of worldly life. A worldly lifestyle that consists of seeking pleasure, wealth, fame, and material comforts will inevitably distract one from pursuing any spiritual purpose. Hence the aspirant must separate himself from the world or maintain some detachment from it. Separation from the world can be achieved either by physical isolation in a monastic community (which is forbidden for Muslims) or by living an outwardly ordinary life yet without attachment to its prevailing values. 

The scriptures contain numerous admonitions to avoid conforming to the world and its values. The wise man regards the worldly achievement as an illusion; he keeps his mind free of worldly cares. He does not delight in worldly pleasures, but devotes himself to pursuing his spiritual goal. He lives detached from worldly thoughts and sense impressions. He measures achievement by spiritual progress, rather than by the standards of worldly success. 

The streams of this world are dirty and its springs are turbid. Its window dressing and its show is beautiful but destructive. It is a quickly ending deception, a speedily fading light, a hurrying shade, and a weak and unreliable protection. It is so deceptive that it waits till those who abhor it start taking interest in it, and those who do not know its deception are attracted by it, and are satisfied with it, then it shows scanty regard for them, it snares and captivates them, and tying the rope of death round their necks drags them to their graves. ..Nahajul Balagha, Khutba 86 

Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a traveler…Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 40 

A man came to the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of Allah, direct me to an act, which, if I do it, will cause Allah to love me and people to love me." The Prophet (SAW) said, "Renounce the world and Allah will love you; renounce what people possess and people will love you." Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 31

What is World?

The life of this world can be defined as working, eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying and other related acts of living. Does Islam refrain from these things? Do earth, sky, animals, vegetables, and trees are bad things that a human being should avoid them?

Does Islam prohibit earning a living, acquiring of knowledge, business and production, and sexual relationship? Absolutely this is not the case, because God- Almighty has created all of the above things, and in case they were bad, He would not have created them. God-Almighty regards them as His Beautiful Bounties that should be conquered by human beings and should be utilized for their advantages. The wealth and property not only is not reproached (rebuked or blamed) but on the contrary has been introduced as blessing in the Holy Qur'an as follows: "If he leaves wealth, that he bequeath unto parents and near relatives in kindness. - The Qur'an (2:1 80).

Earning a genuine living by lawful means not only has not been reproached, rather has been regarded as one of the best kind of worship. Following is an example:

The Noble Prophet (s.a.w) said: "Worship(Ibadah) consists of seventy acts and the best among them is the act of earning a genuine living through lawful means. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p-78. 

Imam al-Baqir (r.a) has said: "Whoever endeavors sincerely for earning a genuine living (through lawful means); becomes self sufficient in taking care of his expenditures; maintains a reasonably comfortable standard of living for his family; shows benevolence to his neighbors - such a person will meet God-Almighty in the Hereafter, while his face will be shining like the full moon. - al-Kafi, vol.5, p-88. 

Imam al-Sadiq (r.a) said: "Whoever strives for earning a living for his family is tantamount to a warrior engaged in Jihad for the sake of God. - al-Kafi, vol. 5, p-88. 

The Islamic traditions emphasize the importance of work, farming, agriculture, trade, and even marriage. The life styles of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and Khulafa-e-Rashidoon (r.anhum) indicate that they too have worked for earning a living. Ameerul Muminoon (Commander of the Faithful) Imam Ali (r.a.), the leader of the pious, also made endeavors and worked hard for earning a living in his life. Therefore, what is really meant with this reproached (rebuked or blamed) world? In the opinion of some people it is not the world that is reproached (blamed) rather it is the attachment to world that has been strictly condemned. e.g. the Noble Qur'an says:  

"Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring, and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), cattle, and land. That is comfort

of the life of the world. God-Almighty with Him is a more excellent abode. - The Qur'an (3:14). 

The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (r.a) said: "Be careful not to attach yourself from this (transient) world, because love of world is the root of all sins and origin of all catastrophes." - Gharar al-Hukm, p-150. 

Imam al-Sadiq (r.a) said: "Attachment to the world is the basis of all sins and transgressions." Bihar al- Anwar, vol. 3, p-7. 

From these types of traditions it could be inferred that what is condemned is the attachment to these worldly affairs and not the affairs in themselves. Here the question arises whether absolute attachment and love to worldly affairs is condemned and should not a man have any attachment to his wife, children, house, wealth, and food? How could such a thing be expected? Because, the attachment to these affairs is a natural thing for a human being; God-Almighty has incorporated these attachments within his primordial nature, and that is the way human beings have been created by Him. Is it possible for a man not to love his wife and children?

Is it possible not to love clothing, delicious foods, and other beautiful things of this world? If, love of these things was prohibited, God would not have created human being with these tendencies. A human being, in order to keep himself/herself alive, requires these things, and accordingly he/she has been created in such a manner that he/she should feel a natural inclination towards these affairs. Ameerul Muminoon (The Commander of the Faithful) Imam Ali (r.a) said "The human beings are the children of this world and they should not be blamed for loving their mother. "- Nahajul Balaghah, Qasar-33. 

The Islamic traditions recommend that one must love and show affection towards one's spouse and children. The Noble Prophet (SAW) and Khulafa-e-Rashidoon (r.anhum) too had shown affection towards their wives and children. Some of them liked foods and showed interest in them. Therefore, sky, plants, trees, mines (gold, diamonds), animals, and similar other God's Bounties are neither bad nor condemned. Similarly, wife (spouse), children, wealth and property, affection shown towards these things and life of this world, are not only not condemned, rather in some of the traditions, the world even has been praised. Following is the example:

In reply to a person who has condemned the world, (Ameerul Muminoon) the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (r.a.) said: Verily this world is a house of truth for those who look into it deeply and carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods, and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for Hereafter(Aakhirah). It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for friends of God and for angels. It is the place where prophets receive revelations of the Lord. It is the place for virtuous people and saints to do good deeds and to be given rewards for the same; only in this world, they could trade with God s favors and blessings and only while living here they could barter their good deeds, with His Blessings, and rewards. - Nahajul Balaghah, Short Saying No. 130 

Imam al-Baqir (r.a) said: "The world is the best support for the Aakhirah ( Hereafter). - Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p42 7. 

Imam al-Sadiq (r.a.) said: "Any one who does not like earning a living by lawful means to maintain his prestige, to pay his obligations and to take care of his relatives, then - such a person lacks any merit and goodness. - Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p.72. 

Therefore, what is meant by the condemnation of world and its love and attachment, which is the roots of all evils? From the Qur'anic verses and traditions it could be inferred that, what is condemned is the worldliness and becoming infatuated with it, and not the creatures of the world, its life, and genuine liking of worldly affairs in themselves. Islam, demands people to recognize the world the way it is and then they should appraise its worth accordingly; they should also discover the exalted Divine Goal behind their own creation as well as the world, and should move in that direction. If they acted in this manner - they belong to the Aakhirah (Hereafter), otherwise they belong to the worldly group. 

World's Reality 

What is the reality and nature of world from Islamic point of view?

Islam believes in the existence of two worlds:

The first one is the same material world where we live and is called world. The other one is where we will be transferred after death and is called Aakhirah (Hereafter or the Next World).

Islam believes that the life of a person does not terminate at his demise, rather he will be transferred after death to an eternal abode known as the Next World. Islam regards this world as perishable, transient, and a temporary abode, while considers the Aakhirah (Hereafter or the Next World) as a permanent and eternal abode. 

Man has not came to this world in order to live for a short while and finally to die and be destroyed, rather he has come into this world to achieve self- perfection through acquiring knowledge, good deeds, and training - and to live happily forever in his eternal abode in the Next World. Therefore, the world is like a form land for cultivation of fruits for Hereafter, place for acquiring knowledge, and a place for making arrangements for provisions of a journey.

However, man for the sake of his survival and in order to live in this world has no other choice except to utilize Divine Bounties, which have been created for his consumption. But utilization of these Divine Bounties should be regarded as a mean and not an end in itself. 

The aim of creation of human beings and world was not just to have comfortable luxurious life and to take the maximum advantage of worldly pleasures, rather there was an exalted and superior goal behind it e.g. the nourishment of the Jewel of Humanity (Jowhar-e-Insaniyat) through attaining self-perfection and ascending towards God's Nearness. Following are few examples of Islamic narrations in this matter: 

Ameerul Muminoon (The Commander of the Faithful)Imam Ali (r.a.) said:

"Certainly this world has not been made a place of permanent stay for you. But it has been created as a pathway in order that you may take from it the provision of your (good) actions for the permanent house in Paradise). Be ready for departure from here and keep close your mount for setting off" - Nahajul al Balaghah, Sermon-123. 

And said: "Remember that this world is a thoroughfare, a road upon which people are passing night and day, and the Next-World (Aakhira) is the abode of permanent stay. While, passing along this road make provision for the next where you will reside forever. Do not go with a burden of sins and vices before the One (Almighty Allah), Who knows everything about you. Remove vicious ambitions from your mind before death removes you from your surroundings. Remember, that you are being tried in this world, and are created to be given a permanent residence in the Next World. When a man dies people ask what he has left behind as a legacy, and angels want to know what he has sent forward (good deeds and good words). May God have mercy upon you, send something in advance to the place where you will have to follow; it may be a sort of a deposit with God to be repaid to you on your arrival. Do not leave all of your s behind, it will be a drag upon you. - Nahajul Balaghah, Sermon-203. 

He further said: "Remember, that this world which you covet (desire enviously) so ardently and attempt to acquire so earnestly, and which some times annoys you and some times pleases you so much, is neither your home nor a permanent destination. You have not been created for it, nor invited to it as your resting place. It shall neither remain with you for ever nor will you remain in it eternally. If, it has enticed you with its charms, it has also warned and cautioned you of real dangers lurking in its folds. Take account of the warnings it has given you and do not be seduced or deceived by its allurements. These warnings should desist you from being too greedy or too covetous to possess it. Try, to advance towards the place where you are invited for eternal bliss, and turn your face away from the vicious world. - Nahajul Balaghah, Sermon-173. 


Therefore, as we can see the reality or the nature of the world in these narrations has been described such as: passage, a house of vanity, and deception etc. The human beings have not been created for this rather for the Aakhirah or Hereafter; they have come here to nourish their humanism through knowledge and deeds and to arrange provisions for their eternal journey. 

Bounties are Allah's Grace

According to the Qur'an, bounties are not bestowed on men as a result of any good they do. They are given to them as a grace from God. God is Rahman, which means that He initiates good and gives it gratuitously, and does not wait until people take the initiative of doing something good and only then reward them for it. Bounties, whether they be spiritual or material, are given to men by their Lord out of pure Rahma(Mercy) and Fadl (or grace). If they are grateful the bounties shall be maintained and even increased. But if they commit acts, which express ungratefulness, then He punishes them by withholding from them some, if not all, of His bounties. But if they repent and return, the bounties also return.

This is very well exemplified by the case of Adam. At his creation God put him in the best of conditions. He granted comfort. But when he ate of the forbidden tree, he lost some of this.

The same principle applies to other communities and nations who are often referred to in the Qur'an as qura or ahl al-qura. One can look into the sunan that govern the decline or destruction of ungrateful nations, and then turn to those that govern the survival and ascendancy of grateful ones. Here are some examples of what happens to ungrateful nations.

The people of Saba who lived between two gardens were told to eat of the provision of their Lord and to be grateful to Him. But they turned away and so the flood of Iram was sent to them and in exchange for their two gardens they were given two other gardens bearing bitter fruit, the tamarisk, and here and there a lote tree. Commenting on what happened to them God says," We awarded them because of their ungratefulness. Punish We never save the ingrates" (Qu'ran 34: 17)

We are also told about "a township that dwelt secure and well content, its provision coming to it in abundance from every side, but it disbelieved in God's favors, so God made it taste the garment of death and fear because of what they used to do." (Qu'ran 16:112)

What are the causes of hardship, unhappiness and fall of nations.? 

Decline or destruction is therefore the ultimate and inevitable destiny of any ungrateful nation, any nation which rebels against God and follows the path of immorality. But this ultimate destruction is brought about in accordance with principles. Here are some of them.  

a. Destruction or chastisement does not befall a nation until it is sufficiently warned. This warning can come to them through the medium of a Messenger from God. (Qur'an 27:59; 26:208-209; 7:4-5). A hadith of the Prophet affirms that no nation is destroyed until it admits that it has no one but itself to blame for such destruction. This is confirmed by the following verse:

"That is because thy Lord would never destroy the cities unjustly, while their inhabitants were heedless." (Qu'ran 6: 131)

We may deduce from this Divine principle or Sunna that given two societies, which are equally corrupt and ungrateful, the one, which has been sufficiently warned, will be destroyed before the one, which has not been warned. Hence we see in the stories by bygone nations related in the Qur'an that their destruction and downfall followed their rejection of God's Prophets.

b. Destruction is not immediate; i.e. not every nation is destroyed or caused to fall immediately after it shows signs of ungratefulness. Again this is a result of God's Rahma. He gives gratuitously and in plenty but does not take away immediately.

"But thy Lord is the all-forgiving, full of mercy. If He should take them to task for that they have earned, He would hasten for them the chastisement; but they will have a tryst from which they will find no escape. And those cities, we destroyed them when they did evil and appointed for their destruction a tryst." (Qur'an 18: 58-59)

c. The fall of every nation as we read in the verse above has a definite time, which can neither be deferred nor hastened.

"Never a nation have we destroyed, but it had an assigned term and no nation outstrips its term or puts it back." (Qur'an 15:4-5)

d. Before a nation is destroyed it might be put to serve hardships that might cause it to repent and return to the right path:

"Corruption has appeared in land and sea, for that men's own hands have earned, that He may let them taste (the consequences of) some part of that which they have done, that haply so they may return (to the right path)." (Qur'an 30:41)

e. Punishment is not meted out for all sins in this world otherwise all people would have been destroyed:

"If God should take men to task for (all) their evil-doing, He would not leave on the earth one creature that crawls." (Qur'an 16:61) . 


What causes the rise of nations and their material and spiritual prosperity?  

Primarily there are the normal human conditions in which all of us should be and in which God loves to see us. God creates everyone of us at the hour of birth with a good nature, the essence of which is the acknowledgment that he or she is the servant of the only one Creator. This acknowledgment constitutes the essence of our humility, and is both the spring and the lifeblood of everything that is good in us: sound reasoning, moral sense, aesthetic taste, brotherly feeling, etc. Moreover God created everything around us for the purpose of serving us(mankind). Our normal state is therefore one of internal happiness and peace of mind which come as a result of a natural acknowledgment of our servitude to God, an acknowledgment which finds justification in the Divine message which is conveyed to us through God's messengers. It is also one of external bliss which is the result of everything being subservient to us and meant for the satisfaction of our needs. Every one of us is born with that internal state of happiness, but alas none of us finds himself/herself in that material comfort. People who passed away before us have changed that internal state- internal state of happiness, but alas none of us finds himself/ herself in that material comfort. Many of those who went before us have changed that internal state in which God created them and have thus caused Him to withhold many of his bounties from the world. But God is too merciful to make the situation a hopeless one. Still the door is open for every group of people who returns to the path of God to enjoy that material bliss.  

Here are some of the kinds of happiness that such a people are promised in the Qur'an.  

A. Material comfort:

"If the people of the towns had but believed and kept from evil surely we should have opened out to them blessings from the sky and from the earth. But they rejected the truth and so we caused them to suffer for their misdeeds." (Qur'an 7:96; 5:66)

B. Spiritual Happiness:

"Whosoever does right, man or woman, and is a believer, We shall cause to live a good life." (Qur'an 16:97)

C. Victory Over Their Enemies:  

To the extent that a people have faith in God and trust in Him, and to the extent that they obey Him, to that extent will He be with them.

"God is with those who believe." (Qur'an 3:68; 22:38; 47:7; 40:51)

And if God defends them and helps them, then nothing can conquer them. (Qur'an 37: 171-173; 2:249) . 


And so long as they keep their covenant with God, they shall always be their own masters and never shall they be subjugated by unbelievers.

"And never will God grant to the unbelievers a way (to triumph) over the believers." (Qur'an 4:141)

"Might belongs to God, to His Messenger, and to the faithful." (Qur'an 63:8)

Nations do not rise and fall haphazardly and without any laws that govern their coming into being and passing away. History is not a single track, which every nation has to tread, whether it likes it, or not. Our social world is governed by its Creator who causes nations to rise or fall, to prosper or suffer, to be victorious or subjugated, in accordance with the moral law of gratitude. 


Why our Du'a is not accepted 


"You know Allah, Yet you do not obey Him, 

You recite the Qur'an, yet you do not act according to it, 

You know Shaitaan (Devil), yet you have agreed with him, 

You proclaim that you love the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alaihi wa 

, yet you abandon his Sunnah

You proclaim your love for Paradise, yet you do not act to gain it, 

You proclaim your fear for the Fire, yet you do not prevent yourselves from sins, 

You say "Indeed death is true", yet you have not prepared for it, 

You engage yourselves with finding faults with others, yet you do not look at your own faults, 

You eat of that which Allah has provided for you, yet you do not thank Him, 

You bury your dead, Yet you do not take a lesson from it."

Ibn 'Umar reported that the Prophet, Peace be upon him, used to supplicate, "O Allah, I seek refuge in You against deprivation of Your bounties, against loosing Your security, against the suddenness of Your wrath, and against everything that might cause Your anger."


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