Loving this world—not for the purposes of its creation, but—for its materialistic aspects that appeal to our whims and desires, means, as it were, preferring this world over the next, knowingly and intentionally. This is the most serious malaise of our time. Today, the alluring beauties of the world inebriate so many people and make their heads spin. Even those who seem to be believers are attached to the world in body and soul. They adore this world almost to the point of worshipping it and prefer it to the next. They are attached to this world as if they would never die and they consume their lives after their unquenchable desires.
When you are tightly bound to this world, your worship cannot go beyond mere forms and modalities. What matters in worship, however, is to ensure one’s heart is linked to God with passion. Worship is real when it feels like our hearts would crack open with enthusiasm. Supplications are real when the words coming out of our mouth convey the wailing of our heart. It is the consciousness to feel His existence above everything else. Fuzuli’s (d. 1556) brilliant lines aptly depict this point:
Knowing this world and things in it is not wisdom;
The wise is the one who is oblivious to this world and things in it.
Just as stars disappear from the sky upon the rising of the sun, the inviting attractions of the world will vanish from the eyes of those who truly turn to God. At times, such a person would not even see himself.
Just as Bediüzzaman Said Nursi noted, our time is the era of those who knowingly and intentionally prefer this world to the next. Unfortunately, even many of those who frequent mosques in devotion, those who visit the Ka’ba, the House of God, and those who raise their hands in supplication to God in Arafat all care only about this world. If you happen to lend an ear to their supplications, you realize that they generally consist of worldly demands. They not only make demands related to this world, but also perform their worships and servitude to God just for worldly expectations. Just as the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, put it, there are many people who fast but they have no share of the fast except for hunger, and there are many people who get up for the Prayer, but they have no share of the Prayer except for drowsiness. However, what matters in servitude to God is the purity of intention and sincerity. If you mix your servitude to God with your concerns about your prosperity and future, your progeny, your position and status, your rank and fame, etc., then you tarnish your servitude. Yet, it is a great pity that ours is the time of those who worship this world, and it is very difficult to stand clear of this danger.
The Qur’an depicts our age with the verses, “… but you (people) love and prefer what is before you (the present, worldly life), and abandon that which is to come later (the Hereafter)” (Al-Qiyamah 75:20-21). Today, the disease of giving this world top priority in a way to taint one’s servitude to God is more fatal than plague, pestilence, leprosy, or AIDS. This virus will knock down whoever catches it. It is hardly possible for anyone carrying this virus to keep up and survive. What I ask from God in my supplications is to keep those devoted to His path free from this virus. God has made it possible for them to be successful in many major services, and I pray that they continue with that commitment.
One important way of avoiding the maelstrom of profanity is to make sure that our hearts set sights on lofty ideals and focus on realizing them. If you make it your ultimate ideal to spread the majestic name of Muhammad, peace be upon him, everywhere, you can hardly pin your hopes on inferior goals. As a matter of fact, such a lofty ideal is more important than any worldly position and status, and even establishing hundreds of empires on the earth. A person who longs for God and aims for the Hereafter will not and cannot attach any significance to corporeality or base desires and instincts. If you covet to be blessed with seeing the Divine, you will keep your vision clear of every other thing. Those who turn to Him will stop looking for other directions to turn to. Even if the world encounters them with all its beauties, brilliance, and splendor, they will see it as something fuzzy, misty, or impure. Even they might not see it at all.
The Messenger of God describes the real value and nature of this world as follows: “Were this world worth a wing of a mosquito in God’s sight, He would not let an unbeliever take a sip of water from it” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 13; Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 3). This is the true value of this world. Having been sent to this world with so many talents and abilities, why should humans aspire for such a lowly thing? They should aspire for, and set sights on, such a goal that it should help them attain inaccessible peaks and unimaginable favors and blessings. Those who are infatuated with, and fixed on, this world will have used up all their otherworldly provisions for the sake of this world, with nothing to take with them in their journey to the Hereafter.
What must be done in order not to be lured by the attractiveness of this world is to maintain a strong rapport with God. We should place God’s countenance, beneficence, company, protection, guardianship, victory, and assistance at the very center of our supplications, saying, “My Lord, please fill our hearts with the desire of reunion with You.” We should never stop asking Him to enhance our belief in Him, certainty in belief, reliance on Him, and confidence. Yet, we should never forget that we can hardly fulfill our duties of thankfulness and gratitude for divine favors, and therefore, we should acknowledge in our supplications that we are unable to perform servitude to Him or know Him or praise Him as He deserves it. If we confess His greatness and our inferiority as well as the superficiality of our prayers, this may stir His vast mercy and God may fill the vacuum resulting from the lack of our worship with His mercy.
If we are intent on being honored with God’s countenance, mercy, good pleasure, and contentment in the Hereafter, then we have to go after and seek to attain them in this world. As noted previously, if we turn to God, then God will turn to us with His favors and countenance. If we are replete with such considerations, this world cannot lure us and we will not stagger or stumble in the face of its alluring bounties. Rather, we will be able to use this world as a means of finding and meeting God. As long as we treat this world as such, this world, which is as worthless as coal or soil in terms of transience, will immediately turn to a priceless jewel.