A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend about how she was willing to sever a friendship over a bottle of perfume. I could feel myself becoming increasingly irritated as she told the story. I would have handled the situation in a similar, if not worse, manner. Even though I didn't recognize it before, it made me realize how devoted I was to this dunya.
The idea that we can own something, possess it as a part of ourselves, is one that we grasp by the age of two. And by six, we exhibit the endowment effect, placing extra value on an object simply by virtue of it being, or having been, ours.
The prevailing view in psychology is that materialism is bad for our well-being. Research by Tim Kasser has revealed an association between holding materialist values and being more depressed and selfish, and having poorer relationships. Other research has shown that the purchase of experiences leaves people happier than buying material products.
Az-Zuhd resides in the heart, and it can be achieved by ridding the heart of the slave from the love and the eagerness for this life. This way, the dunya will be in one’s hand, not in his heart, where the love for Allah SWT and the Hereafter will and should reside.
Zuhd is a concept that is found in practically all religions. Buddhists refer to it as nekkhamma, a word generally translated as renunciation, giving up the world and leading a holy life or freedom from lust, craving and desires. Eastern Christian Monasticism cultivated practices of known as apatheia. Vairagya is the Hindu term which is often translated as detachment. For Stoics, it was the rational response to the world.
So every person- atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Christian, Jew- worships something. For most people, that object of worship is something from this dunya. Some people worship wealth, some worship status. Some worship fame, some worship their own intellect. And many of us worship our own selves, our own desires and whims.
If there is anything or anyone that losing would absolutely break us, we have a false attachment. False attachments are things that we fear losing almost to a pathological extent. It is something that if we even sense is drifting away, we will desperately pursue. We chase it because losing that object of attachment would cause complete devastation, and the severity of that devastation is proportional to the degree of attachment. An example would be how my friend was so enamored with the perfume that she wanted to discard the friendship without any hesitation.
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said: ‘Zuhd is of three degrees. Firstly, to shun the forbidden; this is the zuhd of the general folk. Secondly, to avoid the lawful but unnecessary; this is the zuhd of the elite. Thirdly, to guard against everything that distracts one from Allah; this is the zuhd of the knowers of Allah.’
The challenge for us is to keep the as much Haram as we can out of our lives. This level of worldly detachment is an obligation upon us all and is most likely one of the greatest forms of spiritual struggle in our time.
The next level is to detach ourselves from unnecessary consumption and to settle for simpler ways of living.
Beyond that is detachment from whatever distracts the heart from Allah. This is the sought after goal In Sha Allah and the true embodiment of the Sunnah.
Zuhd is less about minimalism and more about the heart’s detachment from material possessions. That is to say, we may own wealth, but should not be owned by wealth. It is said about the sahabah that they held wealth in their hands, but it didn’t enter their hearts.
As we roll up our sleeves and start emptying our hearts of worldliness, we make space for the love of Allah and of Allah S.W.T enveloping us in His love.
Being detached from this world does not mean that you should forbid what Allah has permitted, nor that you should squander money. Rather, it is a state in which you are more certain of what is in the hand of Allah than you are of what is in your own hands: your state in misfortune is the same as your state at other times; your attitude towards those who quite rightly criticise you and those who quite rightly praise you is the same.
Thus, detaching our hearts from the dunya allows us to attach them to Allah – attaching them to His acceptance, to His pleasure, to His love and, ultimately, to Him. May Allah make it easy.
Kindly include me in your du’as please. All I ask for is peace of mind and contentment.
An epic piece subhanallah. May Allah bless you with peace of mind and contentment. May Al-Wadud fill our hearts with love for Him and our beloved rasul Ameen🤍