A Life of Trivialities
Brothers and Sisters,
Allah (SWT) states, “Know that the life of this world is but a play, a passing delight, a beautiful show, a cause of boasting among you and quest for more riches and children. It is like the rain that causes the plants to grow, and this gives delight to the sowers. Then it withers, and you can see it turn yellow, and in the end is crumbles into dust. In the life to come there is terrible suffering, as well as Allah’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance. The life of this world is no more than an illusionary pleasure.” (Al-Hadid:20)
اعلموا أنما الحياة الدنيا لعب ولهو وزينة وتفاخر بينكم وتكاثر في الأموال والأولاد كمثل غيث أعجب الكفار نباته ثم يهيج فتراه مصفرا ثم يكونا حطاما وفي الآخرة عذاب شديد ومغفرة من الله ورضوان وما الحياة الدنيا إلا متاع الغرور
In this verse of Surat Al-Hadid, two images are painted for us: one of this life, and one of the life to come.
The first life consists of humans chasing their wants and desires. Allah (SWT) describes them as playing, engrossing themselves in things which are not necessarily prohibited, but that are surely of no benefit. These timewasters include watching television shows or movies that may not contain questionable content, spending hours surfing the internet doing online shopping or reading random blogs, sitting wastefully in the mall or coffee shops, playing videogames, and watching sports games.
This entertainment-addiction develops into an obsession of appearances and boasting as Allah (SWT) mentions in the verse above. This is not limited to how one dresses or the latest gadgets they purchased. This speaks to the general tendency humans develop to value how others perceive them above all else. Every word they say and action they take are carefully compared to the standards and expectations set by others- others who have accomplished little to earn a position of authority in dictating what is right and wrong.
And so, they begin to compete with each other about trivial matters and the real competition for the akhira becomes limited to the seasons of Ramadan or Hajj or, unfortunately, the death of a family member. And even in those instances, humans find ways to compete and boast amongst themselves. Posting a picture with a person whom others perceive as a celebrity or posing in a remote location become admirable accomplishments. Spending hours on social media updating comments and photos take precedence over real life interactions and fulfilling the rights of other human beings.
Allah (SWT) compares this way of life, this chasing of desires, to a farmer waiting for a heavy rain. The farmer toils and tires over a small seed, planting it deep into the earth, hoping for a cloud to rain on it. He becomes anxious and enthusiastic that once the rain comes and the seed matures, he will harvest the most beautiful crop and experience utmost delight, just as a child feels when receiving a new toy. Yet, Allah (SWT) says that this farmer is not able to reap these crops, and they turn yellow before his eyes, and eventually crumble to dust. Similarly, the life of this world crumbles to an end. All things acquired and painstakingly accumulated become nothing at all. The pleasure gained in chasing after the dunya is short-lived and does not lead to happiness. Many humans have accumulated everything one could want from the comforts of this life yet cannot seem to find joy or happiness. Today, those who are perceived to be the elite of society continue to sit in hundreds of hours of therapy and consume tons of anti-depressants attempting to rid themselves of overwhelming feelings of sadness or apathy.
The image of the second life Allah (SWT) illustrates for us is an entirely different one. He (SWT) says, “…In the life to come there is terrible suffering, as well as Allah’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance...”
This second life does not end, whither, nor crumble. It is one of reckoning, accountability, and eternal reward or intense punishment. The playing is over. The painted masks once worn to boast diminish and ugliness is exposed. The real homes are furnished and ready to welcome their eternal inhabitants.
In this verse Allah (SWT) does not direct us to ignore this life, on the contrary, we have a duty to build life on earth. But He (SWT) reminds us to rectify our values and standards and rise above our desires and wants. This type of faith is true and only it can bring about human contentment and happiness.
Ramadan is a time during the year Allah (SWT) has blessed us with to focus our lenses on what really matters. To calibrate our compasses and measure our actions according to the standards Allah (SWT) has provided for us.
May Allah (SWT) grant us an opportunity to fast the month of the Quran. May He (SWT) guide us to rectify our values and make us among those who strive for the life to come.
Sheikh Jamal M. Said
Principal Imam & Director