On the authority of Ibn Umar, RadhiAllahu Anhuma, who said: The Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) took hold of my shoulder and said:
“Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a traveller along the path.”
And ibn Umar would say:
“If you survive till late afternoon, do not expect [to be alive in] the morning. If you survive till morning, do not expect [to be alive in] the late afternoon. Take from your health before your sickness and your life before you death.”[Recorded in al-Bukhari]
“Took hold of my shoulder and said…”
The fact that the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, took hold of the shoulder of ibn Umar, demonstrates the importance of what the blessed Prophet was about to tell him. He, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, wanted to be sure that he had ibn Umar’s full attention, and that he would remember what the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, was about to say.
“Be in the World…”
This is one of the most beautiful hadith, because it explains to us so profoundly, how the believer should be in respect to this world. This world is referred to in Arabic as al-dunya, which comes from a root meaning both closeness and something despicable or lowly. This world is therefore called dunya for two reasons – firstly because it is closer to us than the Hereafter at this point in time, and secondly, because it is despicable or abased in comparison to the Hereafter.
This shows us a clear sign that for the believer, our aspirations should not be based in this world. This world is not our real home. We are in fact moving towards another destination, the Hereafter, which will be our permanent home and resting place. We should therefore be careful not to plant our hearts and minds too firmly on this earth, but rather our longing and motives should be for the Hereafter.
The lesson for the believer is that if there is anything in this world that they do not get, it should not have a great effect on their emotions. Our Paradise is not in this world. We do not need to strive for the best car, the best house or the best clothes, because these things are just fleeting, with no permanence. Our home in the Hereafter on the other hand, is for eternity. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, tells us in the Qur’an:
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition to increase wealth and children. [In reality, it is] like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the disbelievers. When it dries and you see it turn yellow, and then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion?”
SubhanAllah. “And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion?” Take a moment to reflect on what Allah is telling us. This life is merely amusement and a diversion. It should be of no value to us, except in as much as it is as path to the Hereafter.
In this respect, Allah tells us:
“Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better for you with your Lord and better for [one’s] hope.”
True value lies in the good deeds that we put forward for the Hereafter. If our goals are for the pleasure of this world, then they are of no benefit to us. In this respect, we should remember that all actions are judged by intention, and that only those acts performed purely for the sake of Allah will be of any benefit to us on Judgement Day, when our eternal abode will be decided.
Lastly, this devastating hadith gives us further pause for reflection. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
“By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you. But I fear that this world will be spread out for you [and given to you in abundance] as it was spread out for the peoples before you, and then you will compete in it as they competed in it and it will destroy you as it destroyed them.”[Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
“…as if you were a stranger…”
Adam and Hawa, peace be upon them, were originally placed in Paradise. After they transgressed, they were expelled, but they and their descendants were promised that if they obeyed Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, they would be returned to their original place in Paradise. Hence the believer’s real home, is Paradise.
Looking to the Hereafter, the believer knows that they are just passing through this world, on their way back to their true home. This hadith shows the believer that they should have one of two attitudes towards this world.
The first is that of a stranger in a strange land. It is a place in which the believer feels that they do not belong. Their heart is not tied to this place, rather it is preoccupied with the Hereafter. They do not spend time entrenching themselves deeply in an environment to which they know they do not belong. They spend their wealth and time in ways that gather what they need to journey to their final abode. Their ultimate desire is to be entered among Allah’s pious servants in the everlasting home of Paradise. For this reason they are not happy unless they feel are working towards this goal.
Although the stranger knows things are not permanent in this life, they must also work and sacrifice for the journey. They must perform obligatory and voluntary deeds for the sake of Allah, care for their families, strive to gain knowledge and teach it to others, enjoin the good and forbid the evil and to care for the poor. All of this is done in the hope that it will earn them an eternal position in the highest place in Paradise. Hence the believer is not a stranger in a negative sense, meaning completely detached from everything, rather they contribute to the good of this world, hoping for the Hereafter.