Be in the World as if you are a Stranger or a Passing Traveller.
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ أَخَذَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِمَنْكِبَيَّ فَقَالَ: كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيبٌ، أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ. وَكَانَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ يَقُولُ إِذَا أَمْسَيْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الصَّبَاحَ، وَإِذَا أَصْبَحْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الْمَسَاءَ، وَخُذْ مِنْ صِحَّتِكَ لِمَرَضِكَ، وَمِنْ حَيَاتِكَ لِمَوْتِكَ
Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said: Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) took hold of my shoulders and said, “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a passing traveller.” And Ibn ‘Umar used to say, “If you survive till the evening, do not expect to live till the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to live till the evening, and take from your health for your sickness, and take from your life for your death.” (Al-Bukhāri, 6416)
This hadeeth contains an encouragement to practice Zuhd concerning this world, such that a person does not yearn for the pomp and glitter of this world. And the meaning of Zuhd is to leave off that which will not benefit you in the Hereafter so that a person has little desire for the worldly pleasures and gain. A person should not be attached to this world making it his sole concern – instead, his care should be for the Hereafter and to attain salvation in the Hereafter.
This does not mean that one should abandon seeking lawful provision and sustenance. He should strive to attain lawful (halāl) earnings that will aid him in the obedience of Allah and coming close to Him. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنهما) said, I heard ‘Umar saying, “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to give me some money, and I would say, “Give it to someone needier than me.” Once he gave me some money, and I said, “Give it to someone needier than me.” Then, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Take it and keep it in your possession and then give it in charity. Take whatever comes to you of this money while you are not keen to have it and you are not asking for it. So take it, but you should not seek to have what you are not given.” (Bukhāri, 7164)
It is praiseworthy and from virtue to spend wealth on oneself and one’s family and those whom you love:
عَنْ جَابِرٍ قَالَ: قَالَ رَجُلٌ: يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، عِنْدِي دِينَارٌ؟ قَالَ: أَنْفِقْهُ عَلَى نَفْسِكَ، قَالَ: عِنْدِي آخَرُ، فَقَالَ: أَنْفِقْهُ عَلَى خَادِمِكَ، أَوْ قَالَ: عَلَى وَلَدِكَ
Jābir (رضي الله عنهما) said that a man said, “Messenger of Allah, I have a dinar.” He said, “Spend it on yourself.” The man said, “I have another.” He said, “Spend it on your servant or on your child.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, no. 750. Al-Albāni declared it to be sahīh li-ghayrihi).
Abu Hurairah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said,
تَصَدَّقُوا. فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ عِنْدِي دِينَارٌ . قَالَ تَصَدَّقْ بِهِ عَلَى نَفْسِكَ. قَالَ عِنْدِي آخَرُ . قَالَ تَصَدَّقْ بِهِ عَلَى زَوْجَتِكَ. قَالَ عِنْدِي آخَرُ . قَالَ تَصَدَّقْ بِهِ عَلَى وَلَدِكَ. قَالَ عِنْدِي آخَرُ . قَالَ تَصَدَّقْ بِهِ عَلَى خَادِمِكَ. قَالَ عِنْدِي آخَرُ . قَالَ أَنْتَ أَبْصَرُ
“Give in charity.” A man said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have a Dinār.” He said: “Spend it on yourself.” He said: “I have another.” He said: “Spend it on your wife.” He said: “I have another.” He said: “Spend it on your child.” He said: “I have another.” He said: “Spend it on your servant.” He said: “I have another.” He said: “You know best what to do with it.” (An-Nasā’ee, no. 2535)
In another narration, Miqdām ibn Ma’di Karib (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “What you feed yourself is a sadaqah for you, what you feed your child a sadaqah for you, what you feed your wife is a sadaqah for you and what you feed your servant is a sadaqah for you.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, no. 82. See As-Saheehah of Al-Albāni, no. 452)
So Zuhd is not to give up working to feed yourself and your family. Zuhd is not roaming the earth begging from the people. Zuhd is not to say I will not marry or have children because these are worldly matters! Instead, Zuhd is to leave off that which will not benefit you in the Hereafter; that a person has little desire for the glitter of this world and expends much effort in pleasing His Lord with dhikr, with worship and righteous deeds.
Also, Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “There are four dinārs: a dinār that you give to a miskeen (a poor person), a dinār that you give to free a slave, a dinār that you spend in the way of Allah and a dinār you spend on your family. The best of these is the one [dinār] you spent on your family.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, no. 751; Muslim, 39)
كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيبٌ
“Stranger” is a term that is well-known – it is a person who is not from the land which he is visiting. And he desires to return to his own land. He is not comfortable in this strange place, and he does not wish to settle there – he awaits the time he can return to his own country. So likewise, a believer in this world is a stranger because this world is not his land. He aims to go to his land and his abode in the Hereafter because that is his real home, everlasting. So, therefore, he is in this world just like a stranger visiting a foreign land.
As for an unbeliever, his abode is this world because he has no home in the Jannah of the Hereafter. So, for this reason, he becomes attached to this world, and likewise the hypocrite and the weak, negligent Muslim who is deceived by the pomp and glitter of this world. These people do not remind themselves of the Hereafter, and they do not care about it. If you want to know who a person of this world is and who is a person of the Hereafter, then consider his outlook and his stance towards this world. You will find that a believer is not infatuated with this world and he spends that which Allah gives him, on himself, his family, his children, his parents and in charity because all this has within it reward from Allah. He does not revel in his wealth nor boast and show-off. He pays the zakāh willingly and happily, he feeds the poor, he builds Masājid for Allah, spends his wealth to spread useful knowledge, and he remains humble. The unbeliever is the opposite to this, and likewise those weak and feckless Muslims; their concern is the world and staying in it, and do not care about the Hereafter. Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
الدُّنْيَا سِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنِ وَجَنَّةُ الْكَافِرِ
“This world is the prison of the believer and the paradise of the unbeliever.” (Muslim, no. 2956)
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) added in our original narration:
أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ
“…or a passing traveller.” A traveller who is passing by may stop and rest under a tree, but he would not take that tree as his home rather he returns to his journey and he aims to reach his true destination. This is the same for the person who seeks the Hereafter. He treats this world as a staging post or resting station for a limited time only, so it is no more than a path that takes him to the next life. Abdullah said that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was sleeping on a mat, then he stood, and the mat had left marks on his side. We said: “O Messenger of Allah! We could get a bed for you.” He replied:
مَا لِي وَمَا لِلدُّنْيَا مَا أَنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ كَرَاكِبٍ اسْتَظَلَّ تَحْتَ شَجَرَةٍ ثُمَّ رَاحَ وَتَرَكَهَا
“What do I have to do with this world. I am not in this world, but as a rider seeking shade under a tree, then he departs and leaves it behind.” (Tirmidhi, no. 2377) And in a narration, he said, “…like a rider travelling on a scorching day, so he takes shade under a tree for an hour, then he departs and leaves it behind.” (Saheeh, Ahmad, no. 2744, Ibn Hibbān, no. 6352)
Then Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) added a beautiful comment from himself starting with: “If you survive till the evening, do not expect to live till the morning, and if you survive till the morning do not expect to live till the evening…” Meaning that your time in this world is not long so do not delay in performing righteous deeds, rather make haste because you have nothing more than the short time before you. In fact, you should consider that you have nothing more than the time or the hours in which you live just as the poet said: “What has passed has gone, and the future is unknown… And for you is the hour in which you live now.” As for the future, you do not know whether you will reach it or not.
Then Ibn ‘Umar said: “Take from your health for your sickness and take from your life for your death.” That is because the health of a person fluctuates, and he is not always in good health. Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
نِعْمَتَانِ مَغْبُونٌ فِيهِمَا كَثِيرٌ مِنَ النَّاسِ الصِّحَّةُ وَالْفَرَاغُ
“There are two blessings which many of the people squander: Good health and free time.” (Ibn Mājah, no. 4170) So upon a person is to invest in those times that he has good health, youth and free time because these are times of strength and well-being (‘āfiyah) – so use this time in the worship of Allah: Seeking knowledge, Prayer, Fasting, Sadaqah, Hajj, ‘Umrah, caring for parents and so on. That is because we all know that when a person becomes sick, he is not able to exert himself, so he becomes restricted and unable. But Allah rewards him even in that period because of his efforts when he was healthy. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
إِذَا مَرِضَ الْعَبْدُ أَوْ سَافَرَ، كُتِبَ لَهُ مِثْلُ مَا كَانَ يَعْمَلُ مُقِيمًا صَحِيحًا
“When a person falls ill or travels, then he will get the reward similar to that he gets for the good deeds practised at home when in good health.” (Bukhāri, no. 2996) So while he is alive in this world, he should look to the deeds that will save him in the Hereafter because once you die, all your deeds come to an end except three. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَمَلُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ وَعِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ وَوَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ
“When the son of Ādam dies all his deeds come to an end except three: an Ongoing charity that people still benefit from, knowledge he left that is benefitted from and a righteous child who supplicates for him.” (Muslim, no. 1631, Nasā’ee, no. 3651)
We ask that Allah that He make us from those who seek the reward of the Hereafter, and salvation from His punishment through righteous deeds. And that Allah makes us from His true worshippers who seek the Ākhirah because Allah has said:
وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ – 87:17
“And the Hereafter is better and more lasting.”