Arguably, one of the most prominent tests in today’s society revolves around consumerism.
We live in a world where we obsess with materialistic statements, whether it is the latest gadget, watching the latest movie, buying the latest clothes, comparing cars with their neighbors’, or decorating our houses.
Prophet Muhammad reminded us to be strangers in this world, as to not get too wrapped into the folds of consumerism and foster a deep love for the dunya without the balance of the akhirah in our hearts.
In the Quran, Allah Almighty tells us that all believers who say that they have faith will be “tested,” and amongst those obvious tests are falling into the seductive arms of the world, while forgetting that an afterlife exists.
For Muslims, new and old, we know one of the Pillars of Faith when coming to Islam, is “Belief in the Day of Judgment.” This concept of an afterlife has always existed in the realm of religion, and in Islam, the Day of Judgment is brought up repeatedly as it marks the beginning of the akhirah, also known as the Hereafter.
Why is it so important to impress on the Hereafter?
Nurturing the love of the Hereafter will help balance out the love for this world in one’s heart. It’s not wrong to love this world, as it’s a place of enjoyment for us. However, when there is no balance, people will begin to seek out this world, like there is no Hereafter, and that is inappropriate for Muslims to vie for.
So how does one repel obsessions of this dunya?
There may be a few ways.
Firstly, Take an Honest Look at Yourself
The obsession with matters of the dunya often happens when comparing one’s self with others, causing materialism to quickly become the nucleus of the soul.
Take an honest look at yourself. Do you really want to satisfy all those desires?
Is it possible that just because you desire something, you will eventually be happy and grateful when you receive whatever it is?
The simple answer is no. Amongst the unhappiest people are those who have plenty. They live on a constant drive to fulfill a never ending materialistic void.
Here is a story to ponder upon.
One of the richest and privileged women of all times was Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh, one of the most powerful men in the course of history.
Asiya need not have lifted a finger, as she was immersed in practically everything and anything she had ever wanted and needed. Yet, she was amongst the unhappiest women to have lived, being married to a barbaric tyrant.
Alhamdulillah, being a woman of virtue, she identified with this unhappiness and was able to trade her prestige and position in this world, for one that was undeniably better in the Akhirah.
She boldly challenged her husband as to her beliefs and was relentlessly tortured in the harsh climate of the desert, giving her a chance to “repent” and resume her position as the Queen of Egypt.
When she refused, Pharaoh ordered for her to be put to death in the most atrocious manner, but due to her faith in Allah – and her strong convictions that her materialistic status would never get her anywhere – she accepted death as it came and Allah removed her soul, leaving her tormented body to be crushed by a huge boulder.
The story of Asiya does not mean that we have to sacrifice absolutely everything in this dunya, but we understand better that materialism may lead us down a grand path of misery, and this wasn’t something Asiya had wanted. In fact, Pharaoh – though a man of power and status – is recognized as one of the biggest losers in the course of history, due to his obsessions with the haunts of the dunya.
Learn to honor yourself as an individual human being, a slave of Allah, in the sea of slaves of Allah who are blessed uniquely and differently from each other. Allah is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem, and will continue to provide for us, no matter what situation we are in.
What you have represents all the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you (and they will be different from the person next door), and how you respond to the same reflects your gratitude towards Allah, and how honest you are about your own journey through this dunya.
Sacrifice is a big theme in the story of Asiya, so sacrificing for the sake of Allah, by giving up materialistic feats that could be detrimental to us, puts us in our place as strangers or tourists in this world.
Take a Look at Those with Less
Just like above, the obsessions with the dunya tend to brew when admiring those who have more.
Another woman who had plenty, but nowhere as near as much as Asiya, was Khadijah – who was a recognized businesswoman and an iconic female member of the Quraysh tribe.
Just like Asiya, Khadijah also had a naturally humble disposition, and even welcomed a man without any wealth to his name into her life as a husband. Her marriage to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a simple one, and she became well-acquainted with his activism work; alleviating the burden from the poor and his efforts in eradicating the economic gap in corrupted Makkah.
She knew how the burdens of his activism and the injustices that he saw drove him close to depression, forcing him to retreat in solitude to the confines of Mount Hira’ in search for answers.
Khadijah therefore, had been well-acquainted with the poor, and after the appointment of her husband, she became an integral part of the poorer community as many of the first Muslims were made up of the poor and oppressed.
As part of her role as the Prophet’s wife, she also gave up a lot of her possessions to benefit from the Hereafter and in a shocking turn of events also fell prey to the 3 year boycott upon the Muslims, in which she took in stride and endured in patience, which eventually led to her silent death.
The story of Khadijah reminds us to be wary of the poor. It is not wrong to be wealthy and successful, but they can also be grand tests if not put in perspective.
Constantly thinking of those who are less fortunate reminds us that blessings come from Allah and to not take them for granted. It is also said that a Muslim’s true wealth lies in what he or she can give away, rather than what he or she can accumulate.
Prophet Muhammad and Lady Khadijah are standing testimony that caring for those who are less fortunate is one of the keys to ultimate success, by removing obsessions of the material dunya for the everlasting Hereafter.
Again, this does not mean that every Muslim needs to give away all of his or her possessions, but caring for the poor makes us extremely sensitive to the hardships around us, and puts our own struggles in perspective. Something we may be complaining about, may be something that someone else is asking for, it therefore benefits us to be on a constant look-out at those who have less, rather than more.
An Honest Look at One’s Relationship with Allah
Seeing and recognizing Allah as the King of the Day of Judgment, alongside being the Most Merciful and Most Kind, it is important to take an honest look at our end of our relationship with Him. Expelling the obsessions with the dunya ultimately involves unconditional obedience to Allah.
We know of the story of Ibrahim who was placed in a very difficult situation, even as a young child.
Growing up and playing with the idols that his father manufactured, Ibrahim knew deep inside that worshipping pieces of wood and cement was not the correct code of conduct.
It is no surprise that Allah then chose Ibrahim as a Prophet, and knowing that Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was a person with faith, Allah Almighty tested him relentlessly, encouraging him to do da’wah to his people – an entire village of pagan worshippers.
Due to his obedience to Allah, he took upon the task of breaking the idols (but one) in the village’s temple, to prove that their gods were false. This led him to incur the wrath of his people, and was tossed into a massive fire as a punishment.
When he emerged alive, by the grace of Allah – the majority of his people decided to believe that he was a magician of sorts and Ibrahim was kicked out of his own home at a very early age.
Despite all these hardships, Ibrahim remained steadfast in his beliefs and would not turn them over to please those who participated in disbelief (kufr), and took it upon himself to travel to nations far and wide, in attempts to spread Allah’s word.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t very successful, only gathering a handful of followers, but never forgoing his faith in Allah. Allah recognized this and called Ibrahim an “ummah of his own,” and “Khalilullah,” – a very close friend of Allah.
Understanding the story of Ibrahim reminds us to not be afraid or ashamed of our faith in a world where shirk still exists. Shirk may not materialize in the form of statues and idols, but money and materialistic haunts take away the Muslim’s love for the akhirah, and channel it towards the piling up of wealth in the dunya.
Releasing one’s self from these obsessions – no matter how difficult – is a testament that we can be Muslims of the middle path, making good use of this dunya, to accumulate points for the akhirah.
Balancing the Dunya and the Akhirah
Consumerism is one of the driving forces of one’s obsession with the dunya over the hereafter. Arguably, it has become a disease in society, that the way people rush for new gadgets, line up for new movies, talk about their cars, renovate their home, and try to keep in the “in crowds” to please people rather than Allah, come close to shirk, especially when there is no check and balance.
The stories of Asiya, Khadijah, and Ibrahim, are amongst those inspirational stories in the Quran and seerah that relay the rewards of giving up this dunya for the akhirah.
While their stories are of the “extreme” cases, it reminds us, that we, as lay Muslims, will also be able – within our capacity – to give up materialism, increase our provisions for the less fortunate, and continue to please Allah, in a world that is riddled with materialistic shirk.