A group of believers in North America would like to inquire about that which was…
The World – A Marketplace of Benefits and Losses
Imam Ali al-Hadi (p) is reported to have said, “The world is a market, [where] a community reaps benefit in it and there is another one which faces loss.”1
Imam al-Hadi (p) describes the world as a marketplace. We know that in any business you must put in proper planning and preparation to be successful, and the same is true for the world. We should properly plan how to make good investments with our lives in this world, to benefit us in the hereafter. Planning requires knowledge, reflection, and then action. We must know what things will bring us God’s pleasure and what will earn His displeasure. We must reflect on what is the best way to utilize our limited amount of time in this world. Once we properly strategize, then it is time for acting on those plans with our utmost dedication and hard work.
Any business owner will tell you that it requires a lot of time and hard work to secure profits and avoid losses, so we must also work very hard to secure good deeds for our hereafter and to avoid loss as Imam al-Hadi (p) advised.
We see that God has described two types of people of this world: one seeks only worldly pleasures, while the other seeks the best of this world and the hereafter.
“Some people say, ‘Lord, give us what we want in this life,’ but in the life hereafter they have no beneficial share. (2:200) Others pray, ‘Lord, give us good things in both this life as well as in the life hereafter and save us from the torment of the fire.’” (2:201)
We pray for good in this world as well as the next, and this requires a plan for success . We have the tools for success already, which are the Book of God, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp), and his Holy Household (pbut). If we analyze life through the lens of what God wants from us, reflect on how the Holy Household (pbut) lived their lives, and follow their instructions, we will achieve success in this world and the next.
God says in the Holy Quran:
“Lasting happiness will be for those who purify themselves, (87:14) remember the name of the Lord and pray to Him. (87:15) However, (the unbelievers) prefer the worldly life (87:16) even though the life hereafter will be better and will last forever.” (87:17)
God informs us that to achieve lasting happiness we need to purify ourselves. How can we do this? The next verse says by remembering the name of our Lord. One way of doing this is to evaluate our day-to-day activities and see whether our actions are something that would be pleasing to God. Keeping God in mind throughout our daily routines will make us more conscious of our actions. God joins His remembrance with prayer. When we stop our daily activities in the world’s marketplace to go offer prayer to the Creator, we are choosing the hereafter over whatever worldly pleasures or pursuits we were involved in. We stop and thank God for His blessings and mercy, while begging His forgiveness for our shortcomings and sins. We seek his guidance and help to pass the tests and trials of this world and secure His pleasure.
Another beautiful narration of the Imam al-Hadi (p) tells us that he said: “God has made this world for testing while He has made the life to come for receiving the result. He has also made the misfortunes of this world the cause of gaining the rewards of the life to come and made the rewards of this life to come the compensation for the misfortunes of this world.”2
Most of us look at the misfortunes that befall us as losses, but a wonderful way our beloved Imam al-Hadi (p) has described these for us is that even though we may perceive the misfortunes as losses, we will see them as rewards in our account on the day we need it most. We will be much more likely to handle these misfortunes and calamities in a better way and perhaps even thank God for what He has in store for us in the hereafter when we think of our misfortunes this way.
About those who solely focus on this world while neglecting their hereafter, Imam al-Hadi (p) addressed Muttawakkil al-Abbasi, the tenth tyrant ruler of the Abbasids, and recited the following lines of poetry:
1. They made the lofty and high peaks their residence and permanently stationed armed guards to watch them, but none of those could stop the death from approaching them.
2. Finally and consequently after all that grandeur they were dragged from their grand palaces into the ditches of graves and how unfortunately they fell into those bad steeps.
3. After the burial the voice of the caller of God was raised saying, ‘Where did those decorations, crowns (magnanimities) [and] ostentations, go? Where did those wealthy and luxurious faces, in front of whom curtains and laurels were hung and placed go?’
4. At the time of their being questioned the grave answers eloquently, ‘These are the faces which are presently the attacking spot of the worms and insects.’
5. They ate and drank for a long time (all they desired) and right now they are themselves being eaten (by insects).
6. For ages they built houses to dwell in but they got separated from those houses and transferred to another place.
7. They had been accumulating riches and wealth for a long time but (now) they dispersed all of that wealth among their enemies and then departed.”3
Let us view the world as a marketplace as Imam al-Hadi (p) has described it and make good investments to reap benefits for our hereafter. Let us take time to stop during the busy schedules that we all have and take a moment to reflect on our Lord and seek His help, guidance, and forgiveness so that we may be one of those who are successful.
1. Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Shubba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqool, p. 483.
2. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 50, p. 211.
3. Ayan al-Shia, p.38.
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