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Happily Ever Akhira: The Dunya

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As the Arabic proverb goes, “what is destined will reach you, even if it be underneath two mountains. What is not destined, will not reach you, even if it be between your two lips!” So let us place our trust in Allah (swt), for “whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him” (65:3).

With the rise of ideals rooted in secularism and capitalism, especially in the Western world, the emphasis on materialism has become more pronounced. Social media especially has enhanced an illusory worldview, where accomplishments are thrust into the limelight while hardships are often ushered into the darkness.

Unfortunately, many Muslims, especially youth, may experience some turmoil due to such idolization of the dunya to a degree that could affect their progress towards the evermore sustaining, everlasting akhira.

As a student, eldest child, and member of a broader community, I often feel the heavy load of expectations resting upon my shoulders. Aunties and uncles (more frequently aunties, I must admit) tend to heavily inquire about one’s education and aspirations with poorly masked scrutiny (as I am sure many can relate to).

Sometimes, one’s progress is based on an otherwise arbitrary cultural rubric of sorts. “Marriage no later than X years of age” or “Education from X esteemed institution on the path to residency in X medical school” to mention a few examples. 

It was during my later years in university that the burden of excelling really reared its unsightly head. Practically every second I was worrying over the future: my career, what others perceived me as, if that perception would change if my career aspirations did not go as planned. I felt so pessimistic at times, to the point that any moment idly spent, my thoughts would return to my perceived tumultuous condition.

And it was during one of those heavy contemplative sessions that I arrived at the horrifying realization that I had, until that very moment, been aimlessly chasing after the temporary, the test, the trial, the lower. Afterall, dunya in Arabic means something of low value, undesirable. How is it that despite the literal essence, the definition, of it being so utterly cheap, do we strive so passionately for this dunya

Allah (swt) states in Surah Al-‘Ankabut 29:64 in the Quran, “The life of this world is only diversion and amusement, whereas the true life is in the Hereafter. If they only knew.” The dunya is not the permanent residence of the believers. It is a test, life is a test, this reality is but a mere test to worship Allah (swt) and follow the teachings of His messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Anything that leads us astray from that objective is a distraction — temporary, especially compared to the infinite nature of the akhira. And if you realize and truly acknowledge that it is Allah (swt) alone who controls all things, it would no longer be appealing — no longer make any sense — to chase after His creation. Afterall, Allah (swt) states in Surah Ad-Dhariyat 51:56 very explicitly that He “did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship” Him. Yet it is His creation we often sacrifice our salat for, our precious time to speak directly to our Creator. It is attachment to this transient dunya that causes us to lose our focus of the ultimate goal and destination, the akhira.

Think about it this way, you have an upcoming college entrance exam for which you have been provided a clear study guide with expectations. However, what happens when you become engrossed in outside hobbies and activities? They may be enjoyable and thus desirable, but they do not ultimately aid in one’s admission to their institution of choice. In fact, the dunya is frequently described as a worthless thing that essentially derives value from adorning itself with worldly desires — riches, status, resources, power — because it knows that one day, it shall be abandoned by every single soul that once inhabited it. Such is the nature of dunya.

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Just imagine, if this dunya is so cheap to Allah (swt), how beautiful may Jannah be? It is important to center ourselves around our purpose in this world — to worship none other than Allah (swt). We must make sure that such devotion is reserved for the One Almighty Allah (swt) and not His creation. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “the world is a prison for the believers and a paradise for the unbeliever.”

We should not get swept up in the tide that carries us to our final destination, for we will indeed drown. This world is but a mirage because everything within it is temporary. One day, you and I will die and leave everything behind as “every soul will taste death” (29:57). Death does not favor the wealthy over the poor, nor the strong over the weak. The materialistic contents of your wealth and power will bear no weight upon death and into the akhira.

Let me pose to you a question: would you ever decorate your hotel room with a television set and furniture? Obviously not. Why is that? The fundamental and intrinsic purpose of such an establishment is to support temporary residence. Afterall, most patrons come not to see the hotel itself, but utilize it as a means to explore the city or meet with loved ones. The stay at the hotel becomes but a blip on the vast radar of the entire trip. Such a perspective should be a salient reminder regarding the quality of this world. 

Though captured in many adages, the sentiment remains that we should view ourselves as travelers in this world, for we have yet to reach our ultimate goal. As such, the dunya is but a means to an end. We should thus focus our time and energy into striving for our desired destination in the akhira — may Allah (swt) grant us paradise Ameen. 

Lastly brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude on an optimistic note. What has been said does not serve to invalidate any joy that one may derive from this world. In fact, Allah (swt) tells us to not neglect our portion of the world (28:77) and Islam supports and advocates for the protection and management of one’s wealth.

However, in that same vein, the enjoyment of the dunya becomes problematic when we elevate it to a position beyond simple resourcefulness and allow it to assume a position where only our Deen should lie. By allocating our flawless Deen in our hearts and the imperfect Dunya in our hands, we prioritize the end rather than the temporary means.

At the end of the day, Allah (swt) is omniscient, The All-Knowing, Al-‘Alim. He knows us better than we know ourselves, for we are His creation. “It could be that you dislike something, when it is good for you; and it could be that you like something when it is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know” (2:216).

Furthermore, as the Arabic proverb goes, “what is destined will reach you, even if it be underneath two mountains. What is not destined, will not reach you, even if it be between your two lips!” So let us place our trust in Allah (swt), for “whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him” (65:3).

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