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The World in the Eyes of Ahlul Bayt: Part II

There is a negative side to this world as well.The words of the Imam are taken from the words of Allah when He says in the Qur’an, “The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.” (29:41) When people start hanging onto materialistic things that Allah describes as adornments to this life, then this world is nothing but a delusion that cannot be any weaker.

There is a negative side to this world as well.As discussed previously the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) described the world in positive terms, with great benefits for humankind. However, they also warned us against a more dangerous and negative side to this Dunya.

The Salty Seawater

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, “The example of this world is like the example of [salty] seawater; whenever the thirsty drinks from it, he gets more thirsty, until it (the seawater) kills him.” (Al Kafi)

Consider power and authority. When someone attains power, this world will show him all that is beautiful. He will have money. He will have prestige. He will have respect. If he starts using that to fulfill more desires, it is as if he is drinking seawater. Soon, he start to suffer from diseases. Soon, people will start to hate him. Soon, he will feel empty on the inside. These are not just speculations. History has given us numerous examples of such oppressors who continued to drink from this seawater until they were humiliated before dying. Pharaoh, Qaroon, Namrud, and so many other examples come to mind.

So, this world will offer a lot of attractions, only for it to reel the people into its trap and eventually destroy them. Allah emphasizes this point when He says, “And leave those who take their religion as amusement and diversion and whom the worldly life has deluded.” (6:70)

The Spider’s Web

In one of his poems, Imam Ali (as) says, “This world is like a house (web) weaved by a spider.” (Muhasabat Al Nafs)

The spider’s web is one of the most fascinating creations of Allah. One important quality of the spider’s web is its extremely weak nature. No water stream is necessary to destroy it, as few droplets are enough. No hurricanes are necessary to rip it to pieces, as weak winds can do that. This world is no different.

The world offers us a lot of things to hang on to. We find our wealth. We find our expensive clothes. We find the sports cars. We find fame. We find our children. If we get hold of any of those, it will be hard for us to throw it away. We start building our own empire thinking this will stay forever. But in a blink of an eye, and for the simplest of reasons, it gets destroyed, just like the spider’s web. A fire can take away all the money that one owns. A slip on the brakes, and the most expensive cars are deemed worthless. A small fly can steal the beauty of sleep, even on the most luxurious mattress. Just like a spider’s web, the luxuries of this world are very weak.

The words of the Imam are taken from the words of Allah when He says in the Qur’an, “The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.” (29:41) When people start hanging onto materialistic things that Allah describes as adornments to this life, then this world is nothing but a delusion that cannot be any weaker.

The Market

Imam Ali al-Hadi (peace be upon him) says, “The world is a market: some people win, while others lose.” [Bihar Al Anwar]

Until now, we have examined descriptions of this world from the Ahlul Bayt which demonstrate the good side or the bad side of this world. However, this narration of Imam al-Hadi has an eloquent touch to it, in which it shows this world with both faces.

If we walk into any market, we will find good products that are worth buying. We will also find bad products that are of no use. We will find beneficial products as well as harmful products. Some are expensive, and others are not. Also in a market, we will find even more than just products. We will find the honest merchant, and we will find the cheater.

The market has both good and bad. This is exactly what life is. We have the good people around us, and we have those are not. We have wealth that can give us a good reputation, and the same wealth may make us notorious. The smart person is one who knows how to take the winning side and leave this market as a winner. Setbacks exist in life, just like off-seasons or inflation in markets. But the profit is determined at the end after all is said and done. And with life, winning or losing will come at the end. When death knocks on the doors, the profits will be calculated. Those who strive to seek the pleasure of God will win. And those who seek the temporary materialistic and worldly pleasures will lose.

That meaning is what we find in the supplication recited during Ramadan, “My God, those who fast have profited, and those who [pray] have won.” (Mafatih al-Jinan)

The Broad View

As followers of Ahlul Bayt, we should adapt the aforementioned views towards this world. Only then we will be able to make the most out of it and leave it as winners. And of course, the most important win is the Hereafter, and that should dictate to a certain extent how we treat this life. As Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) says, “In regard to the world, be as if you were going to live forever. In regards to the Hereafter, be as if you were going to die tomorrow.” (Bihar al-Anwar)

This equation finds its basis in the words of Allah when He says: “But seek through that which God has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as God has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corrupters.” (28:77)

This is a peek at this world. Now that we are seeing it better, will we make the best out of it?

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