Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 15, 2009

Divine Context: How the Akhirah (Hereafter) Can be Felt in this Dunya (World)

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah


This is a big realization I had a day or two ago while making dhikr. Its a massive paradigm shift I feel I should share. This isn’t another motivational article, rather its something I try to live and practice, so what you read here in sha Allah you can start working towards immediately applying. It is hard to fully express and put into words, so my apologies in that shortcoming.

Take a close look at these Hadith:

Aisha radiallahu anha narrates that they sacrificed a goat. The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam asked, “How much is left of it?” She told him that only the shoulder remained. He remarked, “The whole of it is left except the shoulder.” (Tirmidhi)
(commentary: meaning all of the hasanat from it is now in the Akhirah, except the shoulder)

Burayda radiallahu anhu narrates that Bilal radiallahu anhu went to visit the Messenger of Allah salallahu alayhi wasalam while he was having his afternoon meal. The Messenger of Allah salallahu alayhi wasalam asked, “Food, Bilal?” He replied, “I am fasting, O Messenger of Allah.” The Messenger of Allah salallahu alayhi wasalam said, “We are eating our food and Bilal’s food is being reserved in Paradise. Are you aware, Bilal, that the bones of a fasting person glorify Allah and the angels seek forgiveness for him as long as food is being eaten in his presence?” (Ibn Majja, Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman)

Narrated Abdullah: The Prophet said, “Paradise is nearer to any of you than the Shirak (leather strap) of his shoe, and so is the (Hell) Fire.” Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol 8 No. 495.


Everything should be understood in relation to the Akhirah

These hadith imply something important: nothing in this dunya is really substantial enough to warrant our acknowledgment of its existence, except those things done for Allah. The first hadith is moving and illustrative of this- it implies, what we really have is what we have sent for the akhirah and what we don’t have is anything we haven’t sent yet. In this sense, we have to live for akhirah which is present now here- not just because Jannah and Jahannam are already created but because just as we are given countless blessings from Allah SWT every moment- in the next moment we could die and meet our Lord. So when Allah sends us mercies, we send them back by doing good deeds using those means, and thus partake in an experience that crosses two worlds. If however, we use those means and squander them, as in squandering wealth, we commit a sin because we have taken the nature of Allah’s bounties (coming from Him) and we have wasted them on something unworthy of their divine origin.

“The Day that every soul shall find what it has done of good brought forward, and what it has done of evil, it will wish if there were only a far space between it and that (Day).” (Quran, Chapter 3 verse 30)

I think the above two hadith demonstrate something further, and that is, we should try our utmost to take everything in this dunya and send it to the akhirah, which also means to perform those good deeds as quickly as possible (fastabaqat al-khayrat- hasten to good!) simply because we would be sending all our seconds, minutes, hours and days to the akhirah. Sacrificing our efforts, time, wealth, food, our anger, our ego, our frustrations, our laziness, emotions, intellect and everything else- we should try and send to the akhirah. I like this notion as well, for one other reason- everything we experience now, we will experience in Jannah as well (in sha Allah) but in a more heightened intensity. So that food Bilal will eat in Jannah will be even more delicious, but he knows now the food he avoids on this day of fasting- is ready and waiting for him in Jannah in sha Allah…so in that sense, Jannah will re-live everything (on this day, you fasted so here is the food, and you also gave sadaqa so heres that money, etc. but multiplied to be much more). We should think to ourselves, when we’re lazy to pray, “I should send this laziness to the akhirah and go and pray right now,” and always keep asking ourselves, “What else in this dunya can I send to the akhirah?” I think this line of thinking combines imagination and creativity with worship- you hear of how the Salaf and Awliya find new ways of doing good, being kind and merciful to others or giving nasiha in new ways. I believe the motivation for this is sincerity (ikhlas) because if a person truly desires to do good, they will find a way to do so and use their minds. The wise create more opportunities to perform good deeds, than they find.

The Akhirah is more real and present than the Dunya

Even more than that, if we are pious and have taqwa, the akhirah is felt more acutely in the present, than the dunya is felt, but the reverse is also true: feeling the akhirah more acutely leads to piety and taqwa. Just as the past with its conflict (think Israel-Palestine conflict) and joys (think of a happy elderly couple) is felt today in the present, through memories- so do we have something which is the opposite of “memories”- through our good deeds, we have a way of looking into the future and recalling that future while simultaneously creating and working for that future.

Abu Dhar al-Ghifari received 4 pieces of advice from our Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam that he deemed to be the most precious things he had:
1-be straight and do not swerve in your journey towards the akhirah because if you do it is far (or deep) and you will end up keep going (Arabic: like a boat crossing the ocean, if you swerve or mistake a little you will drown and akhira is a deep ocean)
2-take plenty of previsions for this journey (deeds) because it is long and you are going to be there a long time
3-travel light on this journey and do not burden your shoulders with too much to carry for it is a great length to go
4-and be sincere in all your deeds for Allah, because Allah only accepts those deeds which are sincere only for Him

We are in a different type of reality- because, now the desire to do a certain good deed (like fasting) is more real to you, than a human worldly need, (to have your breakfast). This is how the Akhirah becomes part of this dunya and takes it over, and the distinction between the this world and the hereafter is blurred. But based on our degree of taqwa, the weight we give the Akhirah (the glory of Jannah, the torment of Jahannam) in our lives and what we know about the deen, we will either feel the Akhirah as more present or less present.

How its Done

Its a three-way, triangle inter-relationship between: our taqwa, how conscious or aware we are of the Akhirah now, and our understanding of the deen now, which will result in us acting on khayr successfully, and unhesitatingly. Taqwa has the Arabic meaning of the word, “to put something in between,” so taqwa means to put something between you and the sin. People sometimes say, “do not sin” but rather we should say, “leave sin” or “left sin” because this latter phrase implies, in a much more explicit way, we have left the sin and will/can not go back to it; whereas “do not” implies possible capability, “leave” implies inability.

“And a true mahajir (emigrant) is he who abandons all wrongs and sins (Ahmad, Bayhaqi)
(As if you have placed a physical distance between you and the sin and its too far back to journey back to it.

When you have taqwa, you have room in your mind and life for being cognizant and conscious of Allah SWT. Being conscious of the Akhirah is related to being conscious of Allah and being conscious of Allah is related to being conscious of the fact that Allah is also conscious of you. This means, when you think of Allah, you also consider the fact Allah created that thought in your mind, the thought of Allah. And thus, you will also be conscious of what else Allah gave you or hasn’t given you (good or bad things) and what He has commanded of you, which connects with your depth in understanding the deen and the good you can do. Our very thought process and thinking should be active for spiritual good. Its all about constant sacrifice- in all areas to the extent it is mental sacrifice– changing how you think to be focused on the Akhirah, and being such that you were always this way. I think this hadith subtly illustrates the above.

Abu Dharr al-Ghifari radiallahu anhu said that the Prophet of Allah salallahu alayhi wasalam said:
“Indifference towards this world does not mean forbidding what is permitted, or squandering wealth, rather indifference towards this world means not thinking that what you have in your hand is more reliable than what is in Allah’s Hand, and it means feeling that the reward for a calamity that befalls you is greater than that which the calamity made you miss out on.” (daif)
Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 5, Chapters on Zuhd (37), Ch. 1, 4100.
Hisham said: Abu Idris al-Khawlani said: “The likeness of this Hadith compared to other Ahadith is like that of pure gold compared to ordinary gold.”

Helpful Reminders and Strategies:

“Verily those who are al-Muttaqoon [the pious], when an evil thought comes to them from Shaytan, they remember [Allah], and [indeed] they then see [aright].” (Qur’an 7: 201)

1) To remember you are only here for a very short time, when you do this, you contrast your temporary desires with the temporariness of this world and you quickly realize both are little more than balloons which are slowly deflating…while the Akhirah is a balloon that is constantly growing to infinity.
2) To realize your life and everything you experience, really doesn’t belong to you- in reality, you have no claim over it since you aren’t the creator nor ultimate controller over your body, but remember Who is and whatever He sent to you (your sleepiness, your breathing, your silence, your dreams, your sight, even your passing thoughts of slacking a little). He sent all that to you, but your goal is to prefer Allah to everything, and you can do this by averting from everything and turning to Allah constantly.
3) And to remember to be eternal with your good (works and piety and your piety) and it will bring you to eternal good (ease in doing good works and eventually, Jannah).
4) That their is no guarantee as to your good deeds being accepted, so you should perform as many good deeds as possible in the hopes some of them are accepted. And to do so with sincerity.
5) Dhikr on your tongue to help you use everything in your day to remind you of your Lord.

Conclusion:

This discussion I have just touched on above, is an overarching theme of the Quran and Sunnah. In essence, we take every nook and cranny of our life, and send it to the akhirah, so that we live not now for this dunya, but we live for the akhirah (and in a sense, right now, we live in the akhirah because we understand everything in this world only in relation with the Akhirah). This is what I refer to as the Divine Context.

The following clearly illustrate and clarify this theme of those small occurrences, struggles and aspects of our life and show how this theme of maximizing khayr by maximizing the areas of our life where we can apply our ikhlas (sincerity). There are MANY hadith I could use to demonstrate this thread of thought with, but these few will suffice for now.

“Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allaah will call him before all of mankind on the Day of Resurrection, and will let him choose of the Hur al-’Iyn whoever he wants.”
(Reported by Abu Dawud, 4777, and others. It is classified as hasan in Saheeh al-Jaami, 6518).

“. . . when they are angry, they forgive.” [al-Shuraa 42:47]

Abu Hurayrah radiallahu anhu narrates the Messenger of Allah salallahu alayhi wasalam said:
“Should I not point to you to that which Allah wipes away sin through and by which He raises one numerous ranks?” They said: “Do tell us Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Making wudhu completely when its disliked (commentary: such as when its cold), and much walking (taking many steps) to mosques, and waiting from one prayer to the next. And that is fortitude, that indeed is fortitude.”
(Muslim)

The one who initiates the salam is free of pride (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman)
(commentary: meaning the first person to say salam is free of pride simply because proud people expect others to give them salams and not the reverse)

Love of this world is the origin of all sin (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman)

The first to be called to Paradise on the Day of Judgment will be those who praised Allah during times of prosperity and adversity. (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman)

Imam Malik narrates: Eesa alayhi salam walked by a stall full of pigs and said, “As salam alaykum” to the pigs. And his disciples said to him, “How can you say salam to a bunch of pigs?” He said: “So I can train my tongue to always say good.”

Lan tanalu al-birru hat-ta tunfiqu mim-ma tuhibun
By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; and whatever thing you spend, Allah surely knows it. (Quran 3:92)

In-na salati wa nusooki, wa mahya wa mammati, lillah
Ibrahim alayhi salam: My prayer, my ritual, my life and my death are solely for Allah
(Quran 6:162)

Imam Abu Dawud (or Imam at-Tirmidhi, sorry, I only recall the gist of this story) who compiled the Hadith Sunan was once busy on his way somewhere (I believe in a marketplace?) and he heard someone sneeze and say, “Alhamdulillah.” He reached his destination and quickly ran back to that person only to say, “Yarahamukullah,” and the man replied with the usual reply of “Yehdukumullah wa yaslah behlukum.” It was said because of this incident, “This is the Imam who is always searching for Jannah, even in a sneeze!”

It is important to understand much of what has been said must be internalized. Writing this down was difficult because it is hard to convey this attitude. This is because in a sense, it represents underlying goal (you could use the word, “maqasid”) and thinking of tazkya- its very broad and I have only touched on a small bit of it; To get an understanding that most of these Hadith and Ayahs, represent the same line of thinking and approach to constantly take notice of ignored aspects of our lives where we can perform khayr, to sacrifice in ways we haven’t before, and to do so sincerely for Allah. It is absolutely tantamount to understand this does not represent fancy rhetoric or a motivational speech, but a very mentality, spirit and frame of mind- it requires one to constantly be thinking about the above. The Helpful Reminders and Strategies mentioned above will help with this greatly, but its important to keep learning about Hadith and Ayahs which follow a similar pattern as mentioned above.

I am not the first to make these discoveries. The following narrations will perhaps better explain what I am trying to get at here.

Abdullah ibn Abdurrahman ibn Yazid ibn Jabir said: “My uncle told me that Ata’ al-Khurasani used to say: ‘I do not advise you about your worldly affairs, for you are striving after them, but I do advise you with regard to the Hereafter. So take your provision (good deeds) in this world for the Hereafter, look at this world as something that you have left, for I swear by Allah that you will leave it behind you, make death as something that you have tasted, for I swear that you will taste it, and look at the Hereafter as something you have been to, for I swear that you will be taken to it, as it is the abode of all people. Any person who sets out on a journey takes all the necessary provisions with him; so whoever takes the necessary supplies for his journey will be delighted, and whoever does not do so will be disappointed, because if he feels thirsty, he will not find water to quench his thrist. The journey of this world is ephemeral and the most intelligent person is he who gets himself ready (worships Allah and does righteous deeds) for a permanent journey (i.e. the Hereafter). (Ibn al-Jawzi, “Sifat as-Safwah”: 1/694)

Abdurrahman ibn Yazid reported that Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said: “You take more time in your prayers and you exert much more effort than the Companions of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam), yet they are better than you. He was asked: “How?” He (radiallahu anhu) said: “They were ascetic and look forward to Akhira more than you.” (Ibn al-Jawzi, “Sifat as-Safwah”: 1/420)

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


Responses

  1. Masha’Allah thanks for sharing

  2. yep, that’s the proper way of thinking, or seeing the world.. thank you.

  3. […] Neurology/Neuroscience (related to tazkiya, tasawwuf, how to keep steadfast on good and how to understand the quality of good thought, related to ideas of “khatira” (passing ideas coming from Allah) and Quranic discussion of “nasiya” in Surah al-Alaq, study of human consciousness compared with metaphors of “heart” and “soul” in Islam, jahiliyyah and ignorance related to correlation in intelligence or contemplation, tadabbur, tafakkur, muraqabah, creativity in performing good deeds or creating harm, the manifestation of “spiritual openings” or “lights” An example of this sort of thinking is in my previous post Divine Context: How the Akhirah (Hereafter) Can be Felt in this Dunya (World) […]

  4. Alhamdulilah it rly enlightens the heart. Thank u for posting it we should rly be doing things for our akhira not for this perishable duniya


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