All Praise is due to Allaah. We praise Him, seek his help, and ask His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allaah from the evil of our souls, and the adverse consequences of our deeds. Whoever Allaah guides, there is none that can misguide, and whoever He misguides, then none can guide him.
I bear witness and testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except for Allaah; He is alone, having no partners. I bear witness and testify that Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him, is His slave and worshipper.
…those who obey Allaah and His Messenger will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (for ever) and that will be the Supreme achievement. 1
The objectives an individual sets himself, and the means by which he or she achieves those objectives defines that individual. Thus the fundamental objective of the Muslim: the attainment of Allaah’s pleasure in order to gain access to Paradise (objective), by adhering to the commandments of the final revelation sent by Allaah, the Quran and the way of the final Messenger and Prophet Muhammad (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him)(means); shows that the Muslim is not a person of this worldly life. So, what is meant by this? Is the Muslim an alien? An extraterrestrial from the heavens? The answer is obviously no. The Muslim is a person like any other on this Earth. He lives, eats, drinks, sleeps, has relations, has a family. He is an inhabitant of this Earth but cannot be regarded as a person of this worldly life. So what makes the Muslim so different, to the extent that he is considered a person not of this worldly life?
Abdullah ibn Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allaah said: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger ora traveller.” 2
This statement is more than just a mere statement but a piece of advice for the Ummah of the Messenger of Allaah and defines who the Muslim is. It is this statement, whereby a clear cut distinction was made between the believers and the non believers. It defined how we should go about in this world and how we should view it. The life of this world is a journey for the Muslim whilst it is the destination for the non Muslim. The non believers have limited their sight, their objectives to this world and so they focus on the affairs and trivial pursuits of this life whilst neglecting the life to come.
Say: “Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is far better for him who fears Allaah 3
The Muslim on the other hand sets his sight on something greater, the Paradise promised by Allaah and His Messenger. He does not busy himself soley with the affairs of the world; as Ibn Umar explained the hadith above:
“If you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive in the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to be alive in the evening, and take from your health for your sickness, and (take) from your life for your death.” Ibn Umar 2
The Muslim is expecting his end even though he has no knowledge as when that would be, so he does all he can in terms of worship and righteous good deeds so that he may secure his seat in Paradise. That is the reason why the Muslim cannot be considered a person of this worldly life. The objective the Muslim seeks to achieve is not a worldly goal; the Paradise described by Allaah and His Messenger cannot be found in this life.
When we talk about Paradise we are talking about our purpose, our objective or goal in this life. For a Muslim, the most coveted goal he or she can achieve is to become an inhabitant of Paradise; and the only way he or she is able to do so is to please Allaah.
And surely Paradise is the Goal 5
The companions of Jannah (Paradise), the dwellers of Jannah (Paradise) are the successful ones. 6
Jannah is the goal. It is the same goal that many before us sacrificed and exchanged their wealth, property, energy, time, effort and even their lives in pursuit of it. It is what drives us, motivates us. Those strongest in faith are not hesitant of death, rather they question as to why it delays them from getting to Jannah. The world is nothing but a temporary enjoyment, and those whom Allaah has given knowledge, wisdom and insight, without hesitation give up this world without looking back. The path to Jannah is difficult no doubt but by the mercy of Allaah it is attainable.
The Messenger of Allaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
“Hell has been veiled with desires, and Paradise has been veiled with hardships”
“When Allaah created Paradise, He told Jibreel, ‘Go and look at it.’ So he went and looked at it, then he came back and said: ‘By Your Glory, on-one will hear of it but will be eager to enter it.’ So He surrounded it with hardships and said, ‘Go and look at it.’ So he went and looked at it, then came back and said: ‘By Your Glory, I fear no-one will enter it.’”
The very purpose that Allaah, the Most Merciful sent His Books and His Messengers is to purify us from shirk and ignorance; to make us worthy of entering through the gates of Jannah. Iman An Nawawi commented on the hadiths above:
“This is an example of the beautiful, eloquent and concise speech of which the Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam was capable, in which he gives a beautiful analogy. It means that nothing will help you to reach Paradise except going through hardships, and nothing will lead you to Hell but whims and desires. Both are veiled as described, and whoever tears down the veil will reach what was hidden behind it. The veil of Paradise is torn down by going through hardships, and the veil of Hell is torn down by giving into whims and desires. Hardship includes striving consistently and patiently in worship, restraining one’s anger, forgiving, being patient, giving charity, being kind to those who mistreat, resisting physical desires etc.” 7
However there is a problem with us. Though we may say our objective is achieving Paradise, our actions show otherwise. We have become so immersed and engulfed in this world and its affairs to the extent that it has distorted our perspective of this life. We no longer think Paradise is hard or expensive. We live our lives with the assumption that the effort required to gain Paradise can be delayed or even minimised. How many people, how many Muslims have said let me study and work now and I’ll practice Islam when I have free time or when I am old and retired? We are influenced by what we see, hear and feel, so when see wealth, we want it. When we see beautiful men and women, we seek for them to become our partners. When we see delicious food, we crave it.
Beautified for men is the love of things they covet; women, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world’s life; but Allâh has the excellent return (Paradise with flowing rivers) with Him. (14) Say: “Shall I inform you of things far better than those? For Al-Muttaqûn (the pious – see V.2:2) there are Gardens (Paradise) with their Lord, underneath which rivers flow. Therein (is their) eternal (home) and Azwâjun Mutahharatun (purified mates or wives), And Allâh will be pleased with them. And Allâh is All-Seer of the (His) slaves” 8
Indeed it is true what Allaah has said:
Nay, you prefer the life of this world. 9
Ibn Kathir explained this ayah noting how we give this world precedence over the matter of the Hereafter, and we prefer it because of what it contains of usefulness and benefit for us in livelihood, and our returns (i.e., income, profitable gain). We are fooled by the illusion of great profit and benefit the world has to offer that we are actually making the biggest loss man can ever make.
Allaah has stated in the following ayah that:
…the Hereafter is better and more lasting 10
The reward of the final abode is better than the worldly life, and it is more lasting. For indeed, this worldly life is lowly and temporal, whereas the Hereafter is noble and eternal. Thus, how can an intelligent person prefer that which is short-lived over that which is eternal. How can he give importance to that which will soon pass away from him, while ignoring the importance of the abode of eternity and infinity.
Where is the logic of the disbelievers as they choose something which is temporary and filled with trivial desires instead of that which lasts an eternity; free from trials, tribulations, pain and suffering. Indeed for the believing slave, this world is nothing but a prison. And for the disbeliever it is nothing but paradise. This is what separates us from them. We are the people of the Hereafter and they are the people of this World.
Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari that the Messenger of Allaah said, “Whoever loves his worldly life, will suffer in his Hereafter, and whoever loves his worldly life, will suffer in his Hereafter, and whoever loves his Hereafter, will suffer in his worldly life. Therefore, chose that which is everlasting over that which is temporal.”
It is imperative that we, as Muslims rid ourselves of the misconception that Paradise is easy. If it was so easy then why did the Messenger of Allaah and the Companions struggle and suffer, hardship after hardship, trial after trial even though they were guaranteed Jannah. We have not received a direct guarantee to enter Paradise rather a conditional one. It is conditional on the adherence of all the commandments of Allaah and his Messenger. We cannot allow the Shaytaan, the enemy of our Father Adam and our enemy to deceive us. We must act now or never. If we delay the pursuit of Paradise or underestimate its requirements Allaah may place a seal on our hearts and make us content with the state we are in. Thus when death comes suddenly upon us we have no key for the gates of Paradise, no extra deeds that would secure our place. Or we may lay on deathbeds and it is only at that moment we realise the deception of this world and our foolish in not preparing for the life to come. So on our deathbeds we can barely do the simplest of deeds and be filled with sorrow and regret.
But Allaah has given us insight and knowledge. He has given us a chance to earn a greater reward. He has removed a veil from our eyes and allowed us to set our sight on a higher goal. A reward which is far superior to what this world has to offer. There are many ayats and ahadith denouncing the pleasures of this world and extolling the greatness of Jannah.
And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them (polytheists and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh), the splendour of the life of this world that We may test them thereby. But the provision (good reward in the Hereafter) of your Lord is better and more lasting. 11
Paradise is nothing like this world. There is no comparsion. But a question remains to be answered. What is so great about the life to come? What is so great about Jannah that we should exhort all our time, effort and wealth to achieve it?
Ibn Qayyim (May Allaah be pleased with him) gave a very beautiful description of Jannah in his book Haadi al-Arwaah ilaa Bilaad il-Afraah, he wrote,
”And if you ask about its ground and its soil, then it is of musk and saffron.
And if you ask about its roof, then it is the Throne of the Most Merciful.
And if you ask about its rocks, then they are pearls and jewels.
And if you ask about its buildings, then they are made of bricks of gold and silver.
And if you ask about its trees, then it does not contain a single tree except that its trunk is made of gold and silver.
And if you ask about its fruits, then they are softer than butter and sweeter than honey.
And if you ask about its leaves, then they are softer than the softest cloth.
And if you ask about its rivers, then there are rivers of milk who’s taste does not change, and rivers of wine that is delicious to those who drink it, and rivers of honey that is pure, and rivers of water that is fresh.
And if you ask about their food, then it is fruits from whatever they will choose, and the meat of whatever birds they desire.
And if you ask about their drink, then it is Tasneem, ginger, and Kaafoor.
And if you ask about their drinking cups, then they are crystal-clear and made of gold and silver.
And if you ask about its shade, then a fast rider would ride in the shade of one of its trees for a hundred years and not escape it.
And if you ask about its vastness, then the lowest of its people would have within his kingdom and walls and palaces and gardens the distance that would be travelled in a thousand years.
And if you ask about its tents and encampments, then one tent is like a concealed pearl that is sixty miles long.
And if you ask about its towers, then they are rooms above rooms in buildings that have rivers running underneath them.
And if you ask about how far it reaches into the sky, then look at the shining star that is visible, as well as those that are far in the heavens that the eyesight cannot possibly reach.
And if you ask about the clothing of its inhabitants, then they are of silk and gold.
And if you ask about its beds, then its blankets are of the finest silk laid out in the highest of its levels.
And if you ask about the faces of its inhabitants and their beauty, then they are like the image of the Moon.
And if you ask about their age, then they are young ones of 33 years in the image of Adam, the father of humanity.
And if you ask about what they will be hearing, then it is the singing of their wives from among the Hoor al-’Ayn, and better than that are the voices of the Angels and the Prophets, and better than that is the Speech of the Lord of the Worlds.
And if you ask about their servants, then they are young boys of everlasting youth who resemble scattered pearls.
And if you ask about their brides and wives, then they are young and full-breasted and have had the liquid of youth flow through their limbs; the Sun runs along the beauty of her face if she shows it, light shines from between her teeth if she smiles; if you meet her love, then say whatever you want regarding the joining of two lights; he sees his face in the roundness of her cheek as if he is looking into a polished mirror, and he sees the brightness from behind her muscles and bones; if she were to be unleashed upon the World, she would fill what is between the Heavens and the Earth with a beautiful wind, and the mouths of the creation would glorifiy, praise, and exclaim greatness, and everything between the East and the West would be adorned for her, and every eye would be shut from everything but her, and the light of the Sun would be outshone just as the light of the Sun outshines the light of the stars, and everyone on the face of the Earth would believe in the Ever-Living, the One who Sustains and Protects all the exists.
And the covering on her head is better than the World and all that is in it, and she does not increase with age except in beauty; free from an umbilical cord, childbirth and menses, and pure of mucous, saliva, urine and other filthy things; her youth never fades, her clothing is never worn out, no garment can be created that matches her beauty, and no one who is with her can ever become bored; her attention is restricted to her husband, so she desires none but him, just as his attention is restricted to her so she is the sole object of his desire, and he is with her in utmost safety and security, as none has touched her before of either humans or Jinn.”
This is the Jannah, we Muslims strive for. Is there a comparison between the paradise of the disbeliever with the paradise of the believer? By Allaah there is no comparison. Why do we spend so much time and effort in making our lives in this world as comfortable as possible when we know that it will never reach the standard of the Paradise promised by Allaah?
Ya Muslimeem, Jannah is our goal and do not be deceived by the life of this world. If only you knew of the loss of those who thought little of the Hereafter and focussed on this life. If only you knew of the great profit and reward of those who sacrificed this world in exchange for the life to come. Indeed he who seeks this world will get this world and those who seek Jannah will get Jannah!
And those who feared their Lord will be led to the Garden in crowds: until behold, they arrive there; its gates will be opened: and its Keepers will say: “Peace be upon you! You have done well, so enter here to abide therein.” 12