Excellence of making do with little of this world and the encouragement to have little of it and the excellence of poverty

Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous)

by Imam Nawawi

55. Chapter: On the Excellence of making do with little of this world and the encouragement to have little of it and the excellence of poverty

Allah Almighty says, "The likeness of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky, which then mingles with the plants of the earth to provide food for both people and animals. Then, when the earth is at its loveliest and takes on its fairest guise and its people think they have it under their control, Our command comes upon it by night or day and We reduce it to dried-out stubble, as though it had not been flourishing just the day before! Thus do We make Our Signs plain for people who reflect." (10:24)

The Almighty says, "Describe for them the likeness of the life of this world. It is like water which We send down from the sky and the plants of the earth combine with it but then become dry chaff scattered by the winds. Allah has complete power over everything. Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord's sight, right actions which are lasting are better in reward and a better basis for hope." (W18:44-45; H18:45-46)

Allah Almighty says, "Know that the life of this world is merely a game and a diversion and decoration and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the cultivators, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the Next World there is terrible punishment but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion." (W57:19; H57:20)

The Almighty says, "To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colours: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock, and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world. The best destination is in the presence of Allah," (3:14)

and the Almighty says, "O mankind! Allah's promise is true. Do not let the life of this world delude you and do not let the Deluder delude you about Allah." (35:5)

The Almighty says, "Fierce competition for this world distracted you until you went down to the graves. No indeed, you will soon know! Again no indeed, you will soon know! No indeed, if you only knew with the Knowledge of Certainty." (102:1-5)

The Almighty says, "The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The Abode of the Next World ­ that is truly Life if they only knew." (W29:64; H29:63)

The ayats concerning this subject are numerous and well-known.

457. 'Amr ibn 'Awf al-Ansari reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent Abu 'Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah to Bahrayn to bring its jizya. He arrived with the money from Bahrayn and the Ansar heard of the arrival of Abu 'Ubayda and appeared at the Fajr prayer with the Messenger of Allah. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had prayed, he went to leave and they presented themselves before him. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, smiled when he saw them and said, 'I think you must have heard that Abu 'Ubayda has arrived with something from Bahrayn?' They said, 'Yes, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Rejoice, and hope for what will gladden you. By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you, but I fear that this world will be spread out in front of you as it was spread out in front of those before you, and then you will vie for it as they vied for it, and it will destroy you as it destroyed them.'" [Agreed upon]

458. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said, "One day the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sat on the minbar and we sat around him. He said, 'Part of what I fear for you after I have gone is the beauty and attraction of this world which will be opened up to you.'" [Agreed upon]

459. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This world is sweet and green and Allah Almighty has appointed you vice-regents in it, so pay attention to what you do. Be fearful of this world and be fearful of women." [Muslim]

460. Anas reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "O Allah, there is no life but the life of the Next World." [Agreed upon]

461. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Three things follow a dead person: his family, his property and his actions. Two of them go back and one remains. His family and property go back and his actions remain." [Agreed upon]

462. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "That one among the people of the Fire who was wealthiest person in this world will be brought on the Day of the Fire, dipped once into it and then asked, 'Son of Adam! Did anything good ever happen to you? Did you ever experience any blessing?' He will say, 'By Allah, no, my Lord.' That one among the people of the Garden who was the most wretched person in this world will be brought and dipped once into it and then asked, 'Son of Adam! Did you ever experience any misery ? Did you ever undergo any hardship?' He will say, 'By Allah, no. I never experienced any misery and I never underwent any hardship.'" [Muslim]

463. Al-Mustawrid ibn Shaddad reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This world in in comparison with the Next World is like putting your finger in the sea and seeing what comes back on it." [Muslim]

464. Jabir reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went through the market with people on both sides of him. He passed the dead body of a deformed sheep, took it by its ear and then said, "Which of you would like to have this for a dirham?" They said, "We would not like to have it for anything. What would we do with it?" He said, "Would you like to have it?" They said, "By Allah, even if it was alive, it would be defective since it is deformed, and now it is dead." He said, "By Allah, this world has less value with Allah than this has with you." [Muslim]

465. Abu Dharr said, "I was walking with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in the lava-bed at Madina and Uhud was looming there in front of us. He said, 'Abu Dharr.' I said, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah!' He said, 'It would not give me any pleasure if I had this Uhud in gold and a dinar of it remained with me for more than three days except for a dinar I would keep for paying debts. Rather I would say that it is for so-and-so, so-and-so, and so-and-so among the slaves of Allah,' indicating to his right and to his left and behind him. Then he began to say, 'Those who have a lot (in this world) will have little on the Day of Rising except for someone who spends his money here and there and there, (to his right and to his left and behind him) and they are few.' Then he said to me, 'Stay where you are until I come back.' Then he went off into the darkness of the night until he disappeared. I heard a voice raised and I was afraid that someone meant to harm the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. I wanted to go, but then I remembered his words, 'Do not go until I come back.' So I did not go until he came back to me and then I said, 'I heard a voice and was alarmed by it, but I remembered what you said.' He said, 'Did you hear it?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'That was Jibril who came to me and said, "Anyone of your community who dies without associating anything with Allah will enter the Garden."' I said, 'Even he if fornicates and even if he steals?' He said, 'Even he if fornicates and even if he steals.'" [Agreed upon]

466. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If I had the whole of Uhud in gold, it would not make me happy for three days to pass while I have any of it except something I have kept for a debt." [Agreed upon]

467. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Look at those who are lower than you and do not look at those who are higher than you. That is more likely to prevent you underestimating the blessing of Allah on you." [Agreed upon]

These are the words of Muslim. In one variant, "When one of you sees someone who has been given more bounty in respect of wealth or physical strength, he should then look at someone who has less than him."

468. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "May the slave of the dinar and the dirham, the qatifa (outer garment) and khamisa (cloak) perish! If he is given them he is pleased, and if he is not given them he is not pleased." [al-Bukhari]

469. Abu Hurayra said, "I saw seventy of the people of the Suffa and not a man among them had a cloak. They either had a waist wrapper or a sheet (kisa') which they tied round their necks, some reaching to the middle of their legs and some reaching to the ankles. They would gather them in their hands, not wanting their private parts to be seen." [al-Bukhari]

470. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This world is the prison of the believer and the paradise of the unbeliever." [Muslim]

471. Ibn 'Umar said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took hold of my shoulders and said, 'Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller on the road.' Ibn 'Umar used to say, 'In the evening, do not anticipate the morning, and in the morning do not anticipate the evening. Take from your health for your illness and from your life for your death."[al-Bukhari]

They said in commentary on this hadith, that it means: do not rely on this world and do not take it as your homeland and do not persuade yourself that you are going to stay a long time in it nor be concerned with it nor attached to it except with the attachment of a stranger who desires to return to his people. Success is by Allah.

472. Abu 'Abbas Sahl ibn Sa'd as-Sa'idi said, "A man came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Messenger of Allah, show me an action for which Allah will love me and for which people will love me if I do it. He said, 'Do with little of this world and Allah will love you, and do with little of what belongs to other people and people will love you." [Ibn Majah]

473. An-Nu'man ibn Bashir said, "'Umar ibn al-Khattab mentioned the things of this world that the people had acquired and he said, 'One day I saw the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sifting through some bad dates he had found in order to fill his belly." [Muslim]

474. 'A'isha said, "When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, there was nothing in my house that could be eaten by a living creature except for half a barley loaf on a shelf. I ate from it until I seemed to have had it for a long time. Then I measured it and it finished." [Agreed upon]

475. 'Amr ibn al-Harith, the brother of the Umm al-Mu'minin, Juwayriyya bint al-Harith, said, "When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, he left neither dirham nor dinar nor slave nor slavegirl nor anything other than his white mule which he used to ride, his weapons, and some land that he made sadaqa for travellers." [al-Bukhari]

476. Khabbab ibn al-Aratt said, "We emigrated with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, seeking the face of Allah Almighty and our reward was in the hands of Allah. Some of us died without consuming any of their reward, and Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr was one of them. He was killed on the Day of Uhud and left a cloak. When we covered his head, his feet showed, and when we covered his feet, his head showed. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, commanded us to cover his head and to put some idhkhir-herb on his feet. Some of us have picked the fruit of the reward and some of us are still gathering it." [Agreed upom]

477. Sahl ibn Sa'd as-Sa'idi reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If this world had been worth as much as a gnat's wing in the eyes of Allah, no unbeliever would have had a single drink of water from it." [at-Tirmidhi]

478. Abu Hurayra said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "This world is cursed and cursed is what is in it, except for the remembrance of Allah Almighty and what brings one near to Him and the teacher and the student." [at-Tirmidhi]

479. 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Do not take possession of estates or you will find yourselves seeking after this world." [at-Tirmidhi]

480. 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by us when we were working on a hut we had. He said, 'What is this?' We said, 'It has become weak and we are repairing it.' He said, 'I think that the matter is too urgent for that.' [Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi]

481. Ka'b ibn 'Iyad said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, 'Every community has a trial, and the trial of my community is wealth.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

482. Abu 'Amr (and it is said Abu 'Abdullah or Abu Layla) 'Uthman ibn 'Affan reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The son of Adam only has a right to these three things: a house in which to live, a garment with which to clothe his nakedness, and plain bread and water." [at-Tirmidhi]

At-Tirmidhi said, "I heard Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn Salim al-Balkhi say, 'I heard an-Nadr ibn Shumayl say that jilf is bread which has no condiment with it. Someone else said that it is coarse bread. Al-Harawi said, "What is meant here is the bread basket, like jawaliq and khurj (saddle-bags). And Allah knows best."

483. 'Abdullah ibn ash-Shikhir said, "I came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when he was reciting 'Fierce competition for this world distracted you.'" (102:1) He said, 'The son of Adam says, "My property! My property!" Son of Adam, have you any other property than what you eat and thus gets used up, wear and thus becomes worn out, and give in sadaqa and thus make effective?'" Muslim]

484. 'Abdullah ibn Mughaffal said, "A man said to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, 'Messenger of Allah, by Allah, I love you.' He said, 'Be careful of what you say.' He said, 'By Allah, I love you,' three times. He said, 'If you love me, then prepare yourself for poverty. Poverty comes swifter to the one who loves me than a flood to its destination.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

485. Ka'b ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Two hungry wolves loose among sheep do not cause as much damage as that caused to a man's deen by his greed for money and reputation." [at-Tirmidhi]

486. 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, slept on a straw mat and when he got up he had a mark on his side. We said, 'Messenger of Allah, we could make a covering for you?' He said, 'What have I to do with this world? I am only in this world like a rider who seeks shade under a tree and then goes on.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

487. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The poor will enter the Garden five hundred years before the rich." [at-Tirmidhi]

488. Ibn 'Abbas and 'Imran ibn al-Husayn reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I looked into the Garden and saw that the majority of its people were the poor. I looked into the Fire and saw that the majority of its people were women." [Agreed upon]

489. Usama ibn Zayd reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I stood at the door of the Garden and most of those who entered it were the very poor while the people of wealth were held back. All the people of the Fire, however, were commanded to go straight to the Fire." [Agreed upon]

490. Abu Hurayra stated that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The most truthful phrase ever said by a poet is the words of Labid:

'Everything except Allah is false.'" [Agreed upon]