Discourse 9: The Relationship Between Religion And The Material World

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدِ الْخُدْريِّ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللٌّه يَقُولُ عِنْدَ مُنْصَرِفِهِ مِنْ أُحُدٍ وَ النَّاسُ يُحْدِقُونَ بِهِ وَ قَدْ أَسْـنَدَ ظَهْرَهُ إِلـى طَلْحَةَ: أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، أَقْبِلُوا عَلى مَا كُلِّفْـتُمُوهُ مِنْ إِصْلاَحِ آخِرَتِكُم، وَ أَعْرِضُوا عَمَّا ضُمِنَ لَكُمْ مِنْ دُنْـيَاكُمْ، وَ لاَ تَسْتَعْمِلُوا جَوَارِحِ غُذِيَتْ بِنِعْمَتِهِ فِي التَّعَرُّضِ لِسَخَطِهِ بِنِقْمَتِهِ، وَ اجْعَلُوا شُغْلَكُمْ فِي الْتِمَاسِ مَغْفِرَتِهِ…

It has been narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that he said, “When the Messenger of Allah (S) was returning back from Uhud, (at one point) he was leaning against talhah with throngs of people around both of them.

At this point, I heard him say ‘O’ people! Engage in those actions which form your primary responsibility for the improvement of your next life; turn away (do not keep yourself busy) from those things which have been guaranteed to you for the life of this world (your sustenance); do not make use of the body parts which have been given to you as a blessing in the way of sins and against the laws (of Allah); make your primary task (in this world) that of seeking the forgiveness (of Allah for your sins).’”1

As we know, any tradition which we read are quotations from statements made at a specific time in history and the depth of the meaning of the traditions differ when we keep in mind the instances in which they were spoken.

The situation that arose after the Battle of Uhud was particular to that instance in time. The Muslims had lost many dear ones - such as Hamza, the Leader of the Martyrs and the Prophet (S) himself had many injuries on his body and even his teeth had been shattered in this war! According to one tradition from Imam ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (‘a), the Prophet (S) had over ninety injuries on his body!

In summary, the situation at that time was very tense and critical and thus the Prophet (S) not only had to bestow a sense of hope (for the future) upon the people, but he also had to calm them down. In addition to all of this, he also had to strengthen their spiritual foundations and prepare them to accept the loss they had just incurred.

At such a sensitive time, the Prophet (S) gave the Muslims four commandments which would not only act as a source of tranquility for their hearts, but would also make the path to removing the tension for the losses suffered at Uhud clear to them, and would assist them in their future victories.

The essence of the words spoken by the Prophet (S) contained in these commandments are in relation to the religion and material world: “Perform those things which are your primary and principal responsibilities…”

As we know, people have one set of responsibilities which are their primary ones, however they also have others which are their secondary duties. The main responsibility is the reformation of the next life, while the secondary program is the maintainence of one’s life in this transient world which has been guaranteed by Allah (SwT).

In relation to this, the Noble Qur’an tells us:

وَ مَا مِنْ دَآبَّةٍ فِي الأََرْضِ إِلاَّ عَلى اللٌّهِ رِزْقُهَا وَ يَعْلَمُ مُسْتَقَرَّهَا وَ مُسْتَوْدَعَهَا كُلٌّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ

“There is no moving creature on Earth but its sustenance depends on Allah and He knows the time and place of its resting and its temporary repository (of goods). All of this is in a manifest book.” (11:6).

On the other hand, we do not have a single verse in the Qur’an in relation to the next life which has given us a guarantee that everyone would be assured of entering into Paradise!

From one point of view, Islam tells us that we should not busy ourselves with the life of this world and in reality, we have been commanded to spend most of our time in the remembrance of the next life.

Naturally, within one’s self, there is something which pulls him towards the material world while the various spiritual dimensions seek to pull him towards the next life - however these forces are very weak. Thus, in relation to the material world, people are like robots, chasing things of the temporal world, while in relation to the next life, it is like the machine is moving rapidly around them which they can not catch up with!

Therefore, ‘neglecting’ the transient world does not mean that Islam wants people to be lazy, poor and not prosper in the economic spheres of life - no this is definitely not the case! The natural instinct of the human being is that he gravitates towards the material world and thus we see that the greatest teacher of humanity, the Noble Prophet of Islam (S), has told us that there must be a balance in both arenas!

After this commandment, the Noble Prophet (S) then makes a statement, seeking to appeal to our sentiments and says, “Are you not ashamed that you are making use of the blessings of Allah (SwT) and are performing sins with the things which He has granted you?” In other words, as they say, you eat the salt but you end up breaking the salt-shaker!

Would it not be considered rude if one went to a person’s house, ate his food, and then began to insult the host!?

Without doubt, if a person was only to remember the following line at the time of moving close to sinning, he would definitely stop himself: “All the power and energy lies solely with Allah (SwT).”

In conclusion, the Prophet (S) states that, “Seek forgiveness from Allah (SwT) and struggle to attain closeness to Him through obedience. Expend all of your ambitions in this regards so that you are able to become His servant.”

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, pg. 182.