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Discourse 17: Making Use Of The Opportunities We Have While In The Transient World

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ: لاَ تَسُـبُّوا الدُّنْـيَا، فَنِعْمَتْ مَطِيَّةُ الْمُؤْمِنِ فَعَلَيْهَا يَـبْلُغُ الْخَيْرَ، وَ بِهَا يَنْجُو مِنَ الشَرِّ. إِنَّهُ إِذَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ: لَعَنَ اللٌّهُ الدُّنْـيَا، قَالَتِ الدُّنْـيَا: لَعَنَ اللٌّهُ أَعْصَانَا لِرَبِّهِ.

The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “Do not condemn the transient world since it is the thing which the true believer rides on to perform good deeds and which saves him from the evil. Any time a servant says, 'May Allah condemn (when he asks Allah to remove His mercy) from the material world, in reply, the transient world says to him, 'May Allah condemn those of us who disobey our Lord.'”1

The praise and denunciation of the transient world is mentioned in numerous traditions, however the one under discussion is one in which the transient world has been praised!

If one pays close attention, he will see that people usually speak bad things about the material world. For example, they say things like: “O' you cursed time; O' you evil sky” whereas we see that the Prophet (S) has said, “Do not condemn the material world since the true believer uses it is a stead to ride upon through which he is able to reach to all (good) things…”2

When one condemns the transient world, it replies, “May Allah condemn whichever of us who has sinned more against Allah (SwT)! If I (the material world) have performed more sins, may Allah (SwT) condemn me, and if you have performed more sins, then may Allah (SwT) condemn you!”

The discussion in regards to the transient world is extensive, however in summary we can state that the transient world is a place of business and worship for the true friends of Allah (SwT).3 If used in the correct manner, this world becomes a ladder through which we can ascend into the heavens!

However what is important is how we spend our life in the world, since our existence here is only one proverbial hour and thus, we must see how we make use of the things at our disposal. We must be careful of how we make use of our physical strength; how we make use of our intellect; how we make use of our youth since on the Day of Judgment, we will be asked about certain things: our youth, our span of life, our wealth and other key things.4

In this regards, pay attention to the following examples:

1. As it has been narrated, the blow which the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (as) struck on ‘Umar b. ‘Abduwud either on the day of the Battle of Khandaq or the Battle of Ahzab, was greater than the worship of the Jinn and mankind!

In striking this blow, did Imam ‘Ali (as) make use of something which was not from this material world?

At that specific instant in his life, he made use of his sword and the power of his arms, and Islam - which was up until that point, in a state of lamentation, was saved! At that decisive moment of history, his blow was the secret behind the continuation of Islam!

Thus, the transient world in which a person can perform a deed which would be better than the worship of all the Jinn and mankind is not something bad!

2. ‘Abdul Rahman b. Muljim Muradi and Shimr b. Dhil Jawshan also made use of the same transient world, their swords and the physical power which they possessed.

One of them did his deed in the Masjid of Kufa (and killed the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (as)) while the other carried out his act in Karbala (killing Imam Husayn b. ‘Ali (as)). Thus because of their deeds, they became the worst and most unfortunate of people in all of history.
What is the difference between these two examples? The difference lies in the way that these people used the same tool at their disposal - the transient world.

In the short span of a few hours, the martyrs of Kerbala reached to the highest station of nobility possible - both in the transient world and the next life. In addition, we see what Divine blessings were conferred upon them as their actions on that day serve as the foundation for all Islamic movements and revolutions.

Therefore, the transient world is an asset whose worth we must recognize and it would truly be a shame if we did not make use of this great worth and blessing!

If during our youth, we knew and understood the abilities and intelligence which Allah (SwT) had given us, then we would have reached to great heights since the transient world is a collection of various amenities which we can make use of for this world and the next.

In regards to the tradition under discussion, there is a sentence which the late Sayyid al-Razi has narrates:

يَقُولُونَ الزَّمَانَ بِهِ فَسَادٌ                     فَهُمْ فَسَدُوا وَ مَا فَسَدَ الزَّمَانَ

“They (the people) say that the time period (which they are living in) has become corrupt. Rather, it is they themselves who have become corrupt, as the time has not become corrupt!”

In other words, people are saying that the transient world has become very bad whereas it is not the world itself that has become bad, rather, it is us who have not made good use of it! The sun shines; the moon reflects the sun's light; the rain falls; the Earth continues to produce its bounties; the person's heart continues to work, etc… - these are all not bad things! Rather it is humanity who misuses these things.

Therefore, the reason why the transient world is denounced by people is because they have used in an incorrect manner.

The sword is something bad if it is placed in the hands of Ibne Muljim, however it is good if it is in the hands of Imam ‘Ali (as).

In summary, it is the assets, goals, and outcomes of the material world which are the most important things to keep in mind.5

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, pg. 187
  • 2. How beautifully has Nasir Khusrow put it, when he said:

    نكوهش مكن چرخ نيلوفرى رابرون                                                                       كن زسر باد خيره سرى را
    برى دان ز اَفعال چرخ برين را                                                                        نشايد نكوهش، ز دانش برى را
    چو تو خود كنى اختر خويش را بد                                                                 مدار از فلك چشم نيك اخترى را
    به چهره شدن چون پرى كى توانى؟                                                                  به افعال ماننده شو مر پرى را
    اگر تو زآموختن سر نتابى                                                                                بجويد سر تو همى سرورى را
    بسوزند چوب درختان بى بر                                                                      سزا خود همين است مر بى برى را
    درخت تو گر بار دانش بگيرد                                                                            به زير آورى چرخ نيلوفرى را

  • 3. In Nahj al-Balagha we read that Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (as) told a person who had dedicated his entire life to worship and had thrown the transient world behind his back that, “You have made an error. For those who are aware and spiritually awake, this material world is a great asset!” 
    After this, he began to explain this issue in the following manner by saying that the world is a “متجر أولياء اللٌّه” or a place of transactions for the intimate friends of Allah (SwT).

    In another tradition, the transient world has been compared to field (of the next life) which crops are grown on. However in the tradition mentioned above, we see that the world has been compared to a place of business transactions in which a person has been given many resources and equity from Allah (SwT) and a place in which he is able to sell his goods for the highest price and in return for this commodity of no worth, he has been given the great blessings of Paradise.

    Principally, the phrase of, “this world being a place of business transactions” and that too a business transaction which carries with it a great return, has been used in order to stimulate one of the most important motivations within a person - the motivation towards profit and of the removal of loss from since this Divine Transaction is not only one in which there is profit, rather, it is one which also keeps away the “عذاب أليم” or perpetual punishment from the person. (Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 24, pg. 92)

  • 4. In a tradition narrated from Ibne Abbas, we read that the Noble Prophet (S) said:

    لا تَزُولُ قَدَمَ الْعَبْدِ حَتّى يُسْأَلَ عَنْ أَرْبَعَةِ: عَنْ عُمْرِهِ فِيمَا أََفْنَاهُ؟ وَ عَنْ مَالِهِ مِنْ أَيْنَ جَمَعَهُ وَ فِيمَا أَنْفَقَهُ؟ وَ عَنْ عَمَلِهِ مَاذَا عَمِلَ بِهِ؟ وَ عَنْ حُبِّنَا أَهْلِ الْبَيْتِ؟

    “On the Day of Judgment, no servant shall move from where he is until he is asked about four things: his life and how he spent it; his wealth and how he earned it and where he spent it; his actions and what he did and about love for us, the Ahlul Bayt.” (Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 27, pg. 13)

  • 5. In the words of Mawlawi:

    تيغ دادن در كف زنگى مست                                                                       به كه آيد علم، نادان را به دست
    علم و مال و منصب و جان و قران                                                                       فتنه آرد در كف بد گوهران

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