Craving for the transient worldly goods is contemptible
Source: Ain-al-Hayat, By: Allama Muhammad Baqir Majlisi
There are some people who portray the world as something undesirable and are themselves involved in iniquitous practices. They portray such practices as virtuous and ask people to follow them. Therefore the world that has been censured by the Shariah must be critically studied to ascertain what is good and what is evil.
The meaning attached by people to the world is erroneous. Shunning the world doesn’t mean totally abandoning it and considering it as a sworn enemy. In fact craving for death and praying for death is tantamount to refusing the bounties of Allah. Craving for the transient worldly goods is contemptible. Such people become totally oblivious of the fact of death and keep themselves busy running after worldly benefits and laurels. They think that they have a long life ahead of them and there is still time to crave Allah’s indulgence for the wrongful acts committed by them. They spend their lives acquiring worldly riches and grandeur and commit all the evil acts thinking that they are beneficial for them. Otherwise, the world and the life in the world provide people the opportunity to excel in knowledge and piety. If the world were not there, how the pious people would perform their duty of offering prayers to their Creator!
Imam Zain al Abedeeen (as) says in one of his supplications, “O Allah! Give me more years of life that I spend it in your obedience and prayer! And if this period is to be spent by me in evil (Satanic) deeds, then hasten my death that I don’t become liable to Your Retribution!”
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) says, “O Men! Why don’t you take lesson from your forbears? Consider their deaths to visualize your own demise! This world is a very becoming place for those who take a lesson. This is the place of safety for the wise. How can one hold the world with contempt when it is a kind Warner! It keeps telling man that it is not a place for one to live forever! The day of final journey is nigh! If not today, tomorrow one has to depart from here! One who was rich yesterday, is poor today! He who was healthy then, is weak and sickly now! One who was alive yesterday, is dead and gone today. The world is thus trying to awaken the forgetful man from his sleep!
Similarly all the riches of the world are not contemptible. The contemptible wealth is that which makes one forget Allah and use it for selfish and ignoble purposes. The wealth that is equitably used for personal comforts and also in the way of Allah for the betterment and uplift of one’s fellow beings will make one deserving of the benefits of the Hereafter. This type of acquisition and use of wealth is venerable.”
The Prophet of Islam (S) has said, “Affluence is venerable if it is made the source of achieving piety and righteousness.”
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) was asked by a person, “O son of the Prophet (S)! I have love for the world and its riches! I also wish that people in this world look towards me with respect! “The Imam (as) asked, “Why do you have such a wish?” The man replied, “I have these desires because I want to benefit myself, to benefit my kith and kin, relatives and other needy persons. I have also a strong desire to perform my duty of the Hajj.” The Imam (as) said, “This is not craving for the world! This is your step toward acquiring the benefits of the Hereafter!”
Similarly eating delicious food, wearing expensive garments acquiring valuable artifacts is not only the sign of being worldly, but it also depends on the intentions and the acts of the person who uses such things. Otherwise, Prophet Sulaiman (as)’s monarchy would have been termed worldly. To the contrary what he did was the best for the Hereafter.
In short, everything that keeps one away from Allah and the Hereafter is due to worldly avarice and that which is the cause of nearness to Allah and harbinger of the benefits of the Hereafter is venerable. Every hypocrite act that appears like prayer and devotion is nothing but an act to show off to the people of the world.
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) says that piety is not abdicating one’s wealth and making legitimate (Halal) things taboo (Haram) for oneself. But piety is having more faith in Allah than on one’s own wealth and power. The true piety springs from the knowledge of the Qur’an, the Sunna and acting on them. It is also subject to following the Holy Imams (as) and fulfilling all the duties made mandatory by Allah for his creatures. A pious person has to drive away all worldly desires from his heart and every step he takes must be in consonance with Allah’s dictates!
The Love for Worldly Gains
Generally mendicants surpass others in the avarice for worldly gains. They are definitely not pious persons. It proves the fact that the seekers of the world may not be identifiable from their outward appearances. The pious are those who implicitly follow the norms and tenets of the faith. These may include the entire gamut of activity viz.: prayer (Salat), fasting, trading, marriage, managing a household etc. If these activities are carried out contrary to the norms set by the Faith, then they will be termed contemptible. They are of three types:
(1) Haram: One deserves Allah’s punishment if he perpetuates illegitimate (Haram) acts like offering prayers, intercourse and other worldly acts against the norms of Shariah.
(2) Makrooh: Perpetuating acts that have not been termed Haram by Allah, but are considered Makrooh or undesirable. For example: avarice for wealth, acquiring property more than necessary. These activities divert one’s attention from Allah.
(3) Mubah: This is drawing pleasure from the legitimate blessings bestowed by Allah on the people. This may sometime also fall in the second category if a person tends to the side of excess. Sometimes a person does these acts considering them as an act of prayer and worship. Then, to attain that status, at other times, in his ignorance, a person avoids legitimate and essential activities assuming that he is doing it to please Allah. His acts would be tantamount to innovation (Bidaah), that is a sin!
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) says, “A man of piety is one who removes big desires from his heart. He thanks Allah for His Bounties and abstains from taboo activities.”
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) was asked the meaning of Zuhd (Piety?) by someone. He said, “It is shunning activities that have been termed taboo (Haram) by Allah.”
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) said: Men are of three types: the Zahed (Pious?), Saber (Patient and contented) and the Ragheb (Inclined). Zahed is one for whom the pleasures and pains of this world make no difference. He is not over delighted to receive worldly gains nor is he very sad for the sufferings he undergoes. Saber is one who has worldly desires, but keeps a check over his desires despite achieving worldly gains. The transient nature of the worldly things creates dislike for them in his heart. Ragheb is a person who endeavors to achieve worldly gains without giving a thought to his desires being legitimate or illegitimate. The Ragheb are people who are caught in the whirlpool of the world and keep trying to achieve their ends despite getting drowned in it.
The Prophet of Islam (S) said, “O Abu Dharr! Allah has not ordered hoarding of wealth. He has sent a Revelation asking people to remember Him, talk about Him and spend their lives in His way. He wants to be thanked for the Bounties He has endowed to the people. O Abu Dharr! The wealth and the fame of this world destroy a person. These are two wolves that enter the flock of sheep and devour them overnight! Man keeps sleeping in the search of wealth and self and when he awakes he finds the angel of death calling him. He then realizes that everything has turned topsy turvy? and he will have to go empty handed!”
It is narrated by Abdallah bin Abbas when the coinage was first started, Satan felt very pleased and jumped in joy that he had a tool in his hands to lead men astray.
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) says that three things are the cause of trouble for men
Love for women: This is the sword of the Satan.
Intoxicants: This is the web of the Satan.
Love for Dinar and Dirham: This is the Satan’s arrow.
One who indulges in the love for women, he cannot abstain from taboo actions.
One who takes the intoxicants cannot enter the portals of the Heaven.
One who treats the Dinars and Dirhams as his friends is a creature of the world.
Avarice in accumulating wealth is the worst of traits. A person with this trait will be tyrannical and proud and would commit big sins in his pursuit for wealth. A human being cannot have love for more than one entity. If he has love for amassing wealth, he will not have love for Allah. This, in other words, is called Mammon Worship! The cure for this ailment is that the person rivets his attention towards Allah and broods over the futility and transience of the world. Then the realization will come to him that all the wealth accumulated by him would be of no use. If he spent it in the way of Allah, he would get rewarded in the Hereafter.
He should think that efforts for acquiring knowledge of the Faith and offering prayers to Allah would be for his good in this life and the Hereafter. He should not spend all his time running after acquisition of riches. He should bear in his mind the Retribution for amassing illegitimate riches. Even for the legitimate riches, one will be accountable on the Day of Judgment! If he spent his wealth in the way of Allah, he will get rewarded many times over!
This reward will come to him when he will find himself forlorn and helpless on the Day of Reckoning! The sustenance of man is the responsibility of Allah. Man should trust Him!
Wealth is not such a thing that one can put complete trust in! Pitiable fact is that those who accumulated vast wealth have left everything behind and departed for the other world empty handed! Such persons neglected preparation for the Hereafter. They have a heavy burden on their necks. Contrary to these, the persons who spent their lives in Allah’s love and prepared for the Hereafter, had always been happy and contented during their lives in this world and have departed contentedly for the Hereafter!
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) said, “One who has faith in the Day of Resurrection will not strive to accumulate wealth.” He further said, “Once Bani Israel faced a severe famine. People started eating the cadavers of their own men. One day, a person dug up a grave. A tablet was retrieved by the man from the grave. It was inscribed on the tablet that he was a certain prophet (S) and that his grave would be dug up by a Nubian. The tablet also had inscribed on it, ‘O people! Be informed that whatever I sent ahead of me, I got rewarded for it! My efforts at prayers have been answered! Whatever I left behind has gone waste!”
Prophet ‘Isa (as) said: Wealth is the ailment of the faith and the learned are its healers. If you find a healer suffering from the same ailment, then don’t consider him righteous! A learned person who has avarice for wealth, should not be trusted. One should understand that when such a person cannot benefit himself, how could he be of benefit to others.
The Futile Beliefs of the World
The evil effects of the love for the world are more severe than that of the love for wealth and riches. This love remains latent within the person. Some wrongly believe that they don’t have this failing in them. But on deep reflection one realizes that this trait is engrained in their natures.
In fact this defect is the root of all the defects in a person. This involves a person in grave difficulties. A person becomes selfish and he starts liking sycophancy. The faith in Allah’s Greatness diminishes in his heart Trust on the worldly things strengthens and goes to the extent of making a person infidel. The only remedy for this is that a person must turn his attention towards Allah and should understand that the ultimate profit or loss from any activity rests with the Almighty’s Wish. The benefits derived from the world by any person are transient. They will dissipate fast. They should take lesson from the lives of those who ruled the world for a while and death brought them Retribution for all the power and pelf enjoyed by them. In contrast to this, knowledge and action of a righteous person remain in perpetuity.
Someone asked Imam Zain ul Abedeen (as), “O Master! What action is most valuable in the eyes of Allah?”
The Imam (as) replied, “After the obedience of the Prophet (S) and the Imams (as), the most valuable act of a person in the eyes of Allah is his aversion to the world!”
The first sin ever committed by a creature has been pride. It was Satan’s pride that made him refrain from prostrating to Adam (as) and thereby rendering himself an infidel.
The second sin ever was avarice. Adam (as) and Hawwa (as) committed this sin by eating the forbidden fruit. This has created the instinct of avarice in the progeny of Adam (as).
The third sin was jealousy that was first perpetrated by Qabeel. Feeling jealous of his brother Habeel, he assassinated him.
Now the sin of desire for women commenced. This extended to love for power, love for comforts, love of evil thoughts, love of superiority over others, love for wealth and riches. All these seven evil instincts in man have their root in the love for the world. The prophets (as) and wise men have condemned these instincts in man.
The worldliness is of two distinct types. The first type of worldliness limits one to be contented with what one achieves. The second type of worldliness is because of the instinct of greed and avarice in the person. This worldliness is abhorrent. Man should keep away from pride, avarice and jealousy. Pride is only for the Creator, man has to be humble and down-to-earth. Because of the humility of man, he has been endowed with the wealth and immeasurable bounties of the Earth! Allah has made the earth the repository of invaluable jewels. He has made man from the very soil of the Earth! He has given the singular privilege to the man that He ordered the Angels to prostrate to Adam (as)!
The fire, which had the instinct of rebelliousness was used by Allah to create Satan. Therefore man must necessarily be humble and docile for the very reason that he has been made from the soil!
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) has said that a polite person should not look for a vantage place when he attends a meeting. He should always try to be in a place that is slightly lower than his own status in the society. He should take precedence over others in greeting them. If he is better informed in any matter, he should abstain from giving an impression that he is more knowledgeable. He should avoid debate to prove his own point of view.