Life of this world is a brief test

Updated 10 April 2014
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Life of this world is a brief test

The home you acquired with such effort, your belongings, the food you eat, flowers with their dazzling colors, verdant green trees, your own body, in short everything you have is condemned to grow old, fall apart and decay. The life of this world, which seems as if it will never end, in fact consists of a very brief test, and all beauty eventually fades.
There are many things that everyone wants to happen. For some people the time and the conditions are right for these to happen now; for others, it looks more difficult for the things they desire to come about. Yet those people whose means are very closely suited to achieving their desires and others whose means are not both passionately want their dreams to come true. That is one secret of the test in this world.
Even if everything one desires comes true in the most perfect way, or whether it doesn't by the time one dies, there is a reality that people must reflect well on and never forget: All those who achieve their desires, and all those who do not, will live only a very short time in this world.

This world is as fleeting
as the blink of an eye
The life of this world will pass in the blink of an eye, and the happiness that people attain will rapidly fade away. For that reason one must concentrate, not on whether one’s desires come true or not, but on whether one’s moral values are such as to allow one to attain Paradise. Because even if all a person’s desires come true, in just the way he dreamed, the happiness resulting from them will last no more than a few decades at the most. Eventually, these blessings will depart, and with death, everything he has will be left behind. However, someone who aims to attain all the delights he desires in the Hereafter will be able to enjoy that happiness for unending moments.
It is very important to reflect on this and to make the appropriate comparison. One must take a decision for oneself; one must see that focusing on obtaining delights in this world alone is of no benefit. If God so wishes, He can also bestow blessings on people in this world, and that is indeed a blessing for the person concerned but it is a grave error and a waste of time to make that one’s “absolute” aim and to tie all one’s peace of mind, happiness and joy to it. What one must do is to ask God to bestow all the blessings one desires in this world and in the Hereafter; but one must then be content with whatever God has given.
However, the important thing is to be able to experience that happiness as a genuine happiness, as the hope that God will bestow all one’s desires on one in the eternal life, not merely as a superficial happiness. One must not forget that believers will attain the finest of the blessings of this world and of the Hereafter: “For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter...” (Qur'an, 10:64)
God has created the life of this world to test which people will behave best and who will demonstrate fidelity and remain devoted to Him. Beauty and ugliness, good and evil, flaws and perfection are placed side by side in this place of testing, and an immaculate test system has been established; people are tested in a myriad of ways for their faith to emerge. In the end, those who properly know and appreciate God will be distinguished from the unbelievers and will attain salvation. This is revealed as follows in the Qur’an: “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” (Qur'an, 29: 2-3)

People’s aim must be to
earn the approval of God
It is of course improper to want hereafter solely to live forever and to obtain everything one wants there for all time. People’s true aim must be to desire the love of our Lord, to seek to attain His friendship and to live as people with whom God will be pleased for all eternity; God will bestow unlimited blessings on a person with such a powerful love of Him. It is impossible, however, for someone whose true aim is not the love of God, to enjoy the same outcome.
As a sign of His infinite might and omniscience, God creates many delights, art and marvels and various flaws and defects together at one and the same time. Perfection and permanence are against the law of this world; nothing of which the human mind can conceive, not even developing technology, can change this law.
So people must long for and strive to attain the Hereafter and must show gratitude and appreciation to God. They must also realize that their true abode is not this fleeting world, but the eternal life of Paradise, free of all flaws and imperfections and specially prepared for believers. This truth is revealed explicitly in the Qur’an: “But you prefer the life of this world; But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” (Qur'an, 87:16-17)


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.