Dunya Versus Akhirah – Who’s the Winner?

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In the story of the blind men and the elephant, each of them was touching different features of the animal and had a different description for what an elephant looked like. Similarly, we humans may have various perceptions about life, based on our knowledge and experiences. However, our knowledge is too limited to grasp the entire concept of life. Our only source for knowing the ultimate truth is the revelation sent by our All-Knowing Creator (swt).

In the Quran, Allah (swt) has repeatedly reminded us about the true nature of this world and the next, so that we may live and act accordingly. Allah (swt) describes the life of this world as ‘deceiving enjoyment’, ‘fleeting pleasure’, ‘play and amusement’, and ‘temporary abode’. Whereas the hereafter is ‘better, eternal, and lasting’.

Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran: “Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.” (Al-Hadeed 57:20)

He says in another Ayah: “…Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world as compared with the hereafter.” (At-Tawbah 9:38)

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Inculcating the Akhirah Attitude in Children

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We are living in times of Fitnah. According to Ibn al-Arabi: “Fitnah means testing, Fitnah means trial, Fitnah means wealth, Fitnah means children, Fitnah means Kufr, Fitnah means differences of opinion among people, and Fitnah means burning with fire.” (Lisan al-Arab by Ibn Manzoor)

It is the responsibility of parents to make their children focused on the Akhirah. When children are referred to as Fitnah in the Quran, it means that the parents are being tested as to how much they can keep their children Akhirah-focused and how far can they keep the Dunya from their hearts.

Before enumerating the techniques that can be helpful in teaching kids about the Hereafter, we have to look into the Marshmallow Experiment conducted on children aged four and five, which they remembered into their young adulthood. The experiment was based on delayed gratification, which is recognized by researchers as a critical skill for prosperity. Basically, the children were offered a small reward in the form of a marshmallow or a cookie and simultaneously offered two rewards if they could wait for a short period. The results indicated that those who could delay gratification due to greater self-control were found to be healthier in adulthood and had better life outcomes.

Examination

On and off, whenever children have their assessments or tests at schools, parents should find an opportunity to talk about Akhirah and the temporary nature of this life. Physical bonding with the child is extremely important; hence, a mother can embrace the child and explain the parable of this life as a test and this world as an examination hall, pointing out that that the Quran and the Sunnah are just like the syllabus to prepare. The attitude of the parent has to be so loving and kind that the children actually believe and trust the parents. If they delay gratification, or do not watch those cartoons or give up on any bad habits, they can be sure that delaying will be worth in the next life.

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Old Enough to Die

Is it Real? III - Shroud of TurinSomeone crossing the street is unaware of the fact that he can be hit by a car and killed, or crippled for life one minute later. Someone who visits the doctor is unaware that his internal organs are riddled with cancer cells. A baby opening its eyes in this world is unaware that it will be taken to Paradise by the angels in a few minutes’ time. Someone sitting quietly in his chair is unaware that he will suffer a heart attack in the very next second. A family returning from dinner at a restaurant and thinking about so many different things are unaware that they are about to have a traffic accident and lose their lives.

Death does not recognize age, position or wealth. If a person’s time has come, absolutely nobody can halt the angels of death; because the angels obey the commands given them by our Lord and will come and take away that person’s soul. Someone who is so proud and boastful, and spends hours thinking about the most unimportant things, is actually entirely helpless. He has no idea that the very next step he takes will see him pass to a very different world in which he will be unable to establish any contact with this one. The things he was so preoccupied with will remain here, while he steps into the eternal life of the hereafter.

“And you at the moment are looking on, But We (i.e. Our angels who take the soul) are nearer to him than you, but you see not.” (Al-Waqiah 56:84-85)

Nobody in the world can know the hour of his death, neither can he postpone it or bring it forward. Allah (swt) has appointed a moment of death in the destiny of every person He creates, and destiny operates down to the tiniest detail at every moment. A person carries on quietly living, goes about his daily business, talks and laughs with his friends and eats and drinks and has fun. Yet, that very day may possibly be his last in this world. After that, all contact with this world will be cut off, and everything to do with the life of this world will be left behind him.

Death does not recognize age, position or wealth. If a person’s time has come, absolutely nobody can halt the angels of death

“Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high! And if some good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if some evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you (O Muhammad(sa)).” Say: “All things are from Allah,” so what is wrong with these people that they fail to understand any word?” (An-Nisa 4:78)

So if everyone is old enough to die, should not people remember death all the time? After all, the angels of death are waiting as we sleep, walk along the road, pre-occupied with work or while we’re talking with our friends; we cannot see or hear them, but they can see us and they record all we do. If the person that died was a believer in life, if he filled his earthly ledger with good deeds, worship, patience and submission to Allah (swt), if he lived and died for Allah (swt), then he will see the angels in all their beauty and will be rewarded with Paradise. There will be no more fear for him, because then he will be one of the people of Paradise with whom Allah (swt) will be well pleased. Insha’Allah.

“They (angels) said: Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise.” (An-Nahl 16:32)

If death is waiting just one step away, then one should not waste a single day, a minute or even a second; every new awakening in the morning is a fine opportunity given to one by Allah (swt) to earn further merit. One must live for His approval on that day too, and adorn it with prayer, worship and good deeds. Everything on that day, from the believer’s smiling face to his humility, from his training of his lower self to the moral values he exhibits at every moment, is of the greatest value because they are all recorded and will earn him merits for the Hereafter. A believer will be rewarded many times over in Paradise for his good deeds in this world. While he spends with fervour and passion in this world, the finest mansions are being prepared from him in Paradise.

The life of this world is literally no longer than a single breath. The best thing to do before that last day comes is to know “that one is always old enough to die” and live in the light of that awareness.

“Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).” (Al-Imran 3:185)