Throughout every moment of our lives, we encounter countless blessings and beauties created for us by Allah: the air we breathe, the varied and impressively lovely sights in nature, the splendid beauty in animals, plants and flowers are all examples of this incontestable fact. They, along with many other wonders of the natural world, all have a powerful impact upon the human soul. Yet there is one important fact about the beauties of this world which needs to be understood by man. As our Lord has revealed in His Book, "the life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion" (Surah Al 'Imran, 185).
The illusory and transitory nature of the life of this world stems from the fact that it is not permanent, that it will one day come to an end. As the Qur'an states, "He Who created death and life to test which of you is best in action" (Surat al-Mulk, 2), Allah has created the Earth and the blessings of the world in order to test man, to separate those who are committed to behaving in a godly manner from those who embrace evil rather than good. Each of us will remain here for only a short time and can only enjoy these blessings for a limited period, according to Allah's will. It is the Hereafter in which people will live their true lives. This is how Allah has revealed in the Qur'an that the Hereafter represents one's true life:
The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The abode of the Hereafter—that is truly Life if they only knew. (Surat al-'Ankabut, 64)
It is therefore a major error for any person to become disproportionately infatuated with the world's transitory blessings during his brief existence in this life. Recalling that the benefits of this world are ultimately worthless, Allah has issued a warning:
... taking the goods of this lower world, and saying, "We will be forgiven." But if similar goods come to them again they still take them. Has not a covenant been made with them in the Book, that they should only say the truth about Allah and have they not studied what is in it? The Final Abode is better for those who guard against evil. Will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-A'raf, 169)
In one of his hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) also set out the difference between Paradise and this world with his characteristic eloquence:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (saas) said, "A place in Paradise as small as a bow is better than all that on which the sun rises and sets (i.e. all the world)." The same hadith is reported in these terms by Anas bin Malik, "A place in Paradise as small as the bow or lash of one of you is better than all the world and whatever is in it." (Bukhari)
As revealed by our Prophet (saas), the blessings in this world are merely miniscule manifestations of the blessings of Paradise. No matter how attractive, impressive and permanent the blessings of the life of this world may appear, we must never forget this important truth which lies behind every single one of them. One must know that becoming caught up in the false adornments of this world—which itself is but a mere deception—will lead to disappointment in this world and a horrible fate in the next. At all times, one must act in accordance with that knowledge.
Allah has promised that He will give "a good life" to those who seek the Hereafter. There, they will experience the true life promised to them in the Qur'an. (Surat an-Nahl, 97) On the other hand, there is a "dark and narrow life" for people in the life of this world:
[Allah said:] "But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one and on the Day of Resurrection We will gather him blind." (Surah Ta Ha, 124)
Believers are aware of these truths revealed in the Qur'an. They know that all that they experience within this world is part of a test set for them by the Lord of the Worlds. For that reason, they feel no great passion for the blessings of this world, which at first glance appear to be so attractive. They instead spend their whole lives in such a way as to attain the Hereafter promised to them. They view Allah's approval as their aim and attach only such value to the life of this world as necessary. Their lives therefore pass pleasantly and their hearts, filled to the brim with love for the Creator, are at peace. On the other hand, those people who are unaware of these truths—or know them but choose to ignore them—generally suffer troubles and unhappiness due to their passionate attachment to a false world.
In this book, we shall be considering—by using examples which may be encountered at any time and any place—the unnecessary sufferings and woes of those who are deceived by the false baubles of this world. We shall also explore ways in which these can be avoided and the trouble-free lives of believers who spend all their energies on attaining the Hereafter, their true abode. Recalling Allah's revelation in the Qur'an, "Anything you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of this world and its finery. What is with Allah is better and longer lasting. So will you not use your intellect?" (Surat al-Qasas, 60), we shall be inviting people to lead lives better suited to the approval of Allah.