What Does Az-Zuhd Mean?
Az-Zuhd is, "The opposite of being eager and concerned about the dunya (the life of this world)." Further, Ibn al-Qayyim said, "Az-Zuhd, in the Arabic language, the language of Islam, entails abandoning a matter while despising it and while belittling its significance, so that one will exchange it for what is more significant."
The Muslim ancestors who set good examples in the application of Islam have various opinions with regards to the meaning of az-Zuhd. Ibn al-Qayyim for example said, "I heard Shaykh ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah say, 'Az-Zuhd entails abandoning what does not bring about benefit in the Hereafter. Al-Wara' (abandoning a part of the permissible for fear of falling into the impermissible) entails abandoning what you fear its consequences in the Hereafter.' " Then, Ibn al-Qayyim commented, "This statement is one of the best and most comprehensive definitions of az-zuhd and al-wara'."
In addition, Sufyan ath-Thawri said, "Az-Zuhd in this dunya entails having a short hope (or avoiding having hopes that one will live long), not by wearing the thick clothes or wearing the garment (as some people who observe fake zuhd think is a part of az-zuhd)."
Imam az-Zuhri also said that Az-Zuhd, "Entails avoiding thanking Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala only for the halal, and avoiding being patient only with the haram." The author of Al-Lisan (a dictionary on the Arabic language) commented on the statement of az-Zuhri,"He means that one should not only thank Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala for the permissible things that He has given him (but also for the obligations, for their rewards with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala are significant), and should avoid restricting his patience to avoiding the impermissible (but couple that with avoiding enjoying all types of the halal, as an act of modesty, patience and zuhd)."
Al-Hasan al-Basri also said, "Az-Zuhd in this dunya is not achieved by prohibiting the halal, nor by wasting money. Rather, it entails your being more certain in what Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has in His Hands, than your are about what you have in your hand. It also entails being eager for the reward of (practicing patience during) the calamity, if a calamity touches you, more than if the calamity did not touch you (as in this case, one will not gain the reward for observing patience during hard times. However, one should not wish for disasters to hit)." All these sayings given to us by the Muslim ancestors who set good examples in the application of Islam, are among the best definitions for the meaning of az-zuhd.
Az-Zuhd resides in the heart, and it can be achieved by ridding the heart of the slave from the love and the eagerness for this life. This way, the dunya will be in one's hand, not in his heart, where the love for Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and the Hereafter will and should reside. Az-Zuhd does not entail abandoning the dunya altogether. The Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was the leader of all those who practiced az-zuhd. Yet, he married nine times. Also, Prophet Dawud and Sulayman were kings as Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has described them. Yet, they were also among the zuhhad (those who observe zuhd). The companions of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam were also among the zuhhad. Yet, they all had wives, children and material possessions.
Imam Ahmad divided az-zuhd into three parts:
- Avoiding the prohibitions, and this is the zuhd of the commoners. Ibn al-Qayyim stated that this type is an obligation;
- Abandoning what is not a necessity among the halal matters. This type is the zuhd of the distinguished people; and
- Abandoning what will busy one from the remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. This is the zuhd of those who have knowledge in the religion.
The Status of this Hadith
The importance of this hadith is demonstrated in the fact that it explains the way through which one can gain Allah's subhanahu wa ta'ala Love, which is the ultimate prize that mankind can and should ever seek to achieve and attain. He whom Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala loves, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala will honor him and will spread about his love in the earth. As for he whom Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala hates, He will spread about his hatred in the earth. Further, this hadith explains the conduct because of which mankind will love the slave. It is a fact that when a person is loved by his community, he or she will feel great happiness and joy. Also, when one is loved by his community, he or she will be more acceptable and familiar to his people, and this will help those who call unto Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala succeed in their mission, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala willing.
Belittling the Dunya
The Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Perform zuhd in the dunya."
There are many texts in the Qur'an and the Sunnah that encourage being a zahid in the dunya. These texts demonstrate the little significance that the dunya has and point out its briefness and quick demise. These texts also strengthen the eagerness in the Last Life, which joy is eternal. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says:
"Whatever is with you, will be exhausted, and whatever with Allah (of good deeds) will remain." [Al-Qur'an 16:96]
"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 believers, evildoers), and (there is) Forgiveness of Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, gooddoers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment." [Al-Qur'an 57:20]
The dunya, therefore, is brief and is bound to end sometime soon. Therefore, the slave ought not busy himself with its affairs, nor forget the affair of the Last Life which will never end.
The last ayat states that the life of this world is a deceiving, short-lived joy that contains what does not bring about any benefit. Also the life of this world is pomp, which will encourage one to indulge in it and forget the Hereafter.
Further, this life is full of competition and boasting about having what this life offers of money, offspring, etc. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala then illustrates the briefness of this life by mentioning the rain when it comes down on the earth and thus the ground becomes green and lively with various plants and vegetation. Soon afterwards, the earth will revert to its near past and will become dry and dead again. This is the exact case with the life of this world.
Reasons Behind Az-Zuhd
There are several reasons that encourage one to indulge in zuhd:
- The slave's iman being strong, his remembering when he or she will stand between the Hands of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and his remembering the torments of the Day of Resurrection will all rid his heart from all will belittle the love of this dunya and its short-lived joys. Hence, the slave will avoid excessive indulging in the joys and the desires of this life, all the while feeling content with whatever he has in it;
- The slave's feeling that this dunya busies the hearts from the remembering of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and that it hinders the path of mankind from stepping up the ladder of acquiring higher grades in the Hereafter. Also, the Muslim's feeling that mankind will certainly be asked about the joys and the delights of this life, as Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, "Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!" [Al-Qur'an 102:8];
- One will not acquire the material joys of this life unless he or she works hard to achieve such a goal. In this regard, mankind pays a significant effort and deep thinking. One may then have to mingle with the worst types of people. All this will come at the expense of seeking knowledge of the religion, conducting da'wah unto Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, performing jihad and worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. When the slave feels all this and when he has an enlightened heart, he will feel compelled and encouraged to disregard the dunya, so that he will be able to preserved what is essential and that which will never end; and
- The Qur'an belittles the significance of the dunya and its joys, while describing this life as deceiving, false and short-lived pastime that involves wasting the time. Also, Allah's subhanahu wa ta'ala criticism of the adverse effect that excessive indulging in the dunya will result in the Hereafter. The numerous texts in the Qur'an and the Sunnah about this subject will encourage the Muslim to abandon matters of the dunya and busy himself with what will truly remain.
Jabir ibn 'Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam once passed by the marketplace, passing from the area of al-'Aliyah, while people were all around him. He then passed by a dead goat, which ears were small, then took it by the ear, saying, "Who amongst you would like to have this (dead goat with small ears) for a dirham (a currency)?" They said, "By Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala! Even if it was alive, its small ears will be a deficiency, so how about when it is dead?" He sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "By Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala! The dunya is less significant in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala than this is to you." [Sharh Muslim]
Furthermore, Al-Mustawrid al-Fihry related from the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam that he said, "The dunya, as compared to the akhirah (the Hereafter), is just like when one of you dips his finger in the sea! Let him see how much (water) it (his finger) will carry." [Sahih al-Jami']
(s) The Muslim Creed (February 1998, vol. 6, no.2, pages 10-12)