Fruits for the Week

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On the authority of Ibn Umar (ra) who said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) took me by the shoulder and said: “Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a traveler/wayfarer.” Ibn Umar used to say: “When evening comes do not expect (to live till) morning, and when morning comes, do not expect (to live till) evening. Take from your health (a preparation) for your illness. And from your life for your death.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (saw) tells the believers how to deal with this life, and as usual, he offers his audience more than one choice. In this hadith, the Prophet (saw) is giving two choices or levels with regard to living in this world:

1. To be a stranger

This is usually the easier choice. The Prophet (saw) used the analogy “to be as a stranger” because, as Ibn Rajab points out, the stranger is usually prepared to eventually go back to his original place or hometown. His heart will always long for his home. His main concern will be to be in preparation to do whatever is possible and beneficial for returning. A stranger does not look like the other people in his current environment – he is different. Similarly, the believer should be different from those who only care about this life and worldly matters. He should rid himself of the yearning for this materialistic world, a world where some people do not care about the spiritual aspects and the Hereafter. As believers, we should be different from the “people of this world”.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, a famous Muslim scholar, says that a Muslim is a stranger amongst the disbelievers and the Mu’min is a stranger amongst the Muslims. And the Muhsin is a stranger amongst the Mu’mins. This means that there are different levels of being a stranger: the lowest level is Islam, the second level is Imam and the third level is Ihsan.

2. To be a traveler or wayfarer, traveling along a path

This is a higher level than the stranger. The traveler is always traveling day and night without stopping. He is heading toward his final destination. Even if he stops for a while, this is to provide himself with the needed power to continue his journey and to go farther until he achieves his main objective. A stranger may obtain and keep more things than he actually needs but the traveler takes as little as possible in terms of luggage or other things. Similarly, the believer who is in such a situation has a main objective or concern – and that is not to take more than what he needs (i.e. he should not be weighed down with materialistic things or wealth).

Some scholars ask how would a person be contented with this life where the day distorts the month and the month distorts the year and the year distorts the age. That is how this person will be satisfied with this life if his age will lead him to his final destination and his life will lead him to death. One scholar said when a person looks back at his life since his awareness of this life until this moment, it will seem like a blink of an eye. What remains for the rest of his life is also like that “blink of an eye”. If that is the case, the person should be careful and wise up.

Ibn Umar says: “When evening comes, do not expect (to live till) morning, and when morning comes, do not expect (to live till) evening.” This saying is like an explanation to the hadith Al-Bukhari mentions it because the Prophet (saw), is talking to Ibn Umar.

If one still did not understand the message, Ibn Umar continues by saying “Take from your health (a preparation) for your illness, and from your life for your death.” This means that today you may be healthy, but you never know about the future. It is then wise and better to perform good deeds and to be closer to Allah now before being unhealthy or before dying. This meaning has been stressed by the Prophet (saw) in other hadiths where he asks us to utilize our time and to do beneficial things whether in this life or in the Hereafter.

The impact of this hadith on the life of Muslims:

1. To increase the sense of responsibility in terms of our duties towards Allah, the Prophet (saw), relatives, and the community members.

2. To motivate the Muslims to enjoin what is good and to forbid what is evil.

3. To be closer to Allah at all times.

4. To minimize weaknesses, shortcomings and sinful acts.

5. To maximize self-accountability and self-reckoning.

6. To emphasize taqwa and fearing Allah the Almighty

7. To be safeguarded from being misled or enslaved by self-interests, desires and worldly temptations.

by Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi


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