The Stations of Detachment & Contentment

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from Purification of the Soul, compiled from the works of Imam ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (r.a.), Imam ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (r.a.) and Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (r.a.).

Yunus ibn Maysarah (r.a.) said, “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.”

He has explained this in terms of three stages, or stations, all of which are concerned with the heart rather than with physical action.  This is why Shaykh Abu Sulayman (r.a.) used to say that we should not call anyone a zahid.

The first station is that of a servant who is more certain of what is in the Hand of Allah (s.w.t.) than he is of what is in his own hands.  This station arises from a healthy and strong conviction.  Shaykh Abu Hazim az-Zahid (r.a.) was asked, “What is your wealth?”

He replied, “Two kinds of wealth dispel all fear of poverty: trust in Allah and not being attached to what people have.”

He was asked, “Do you not fear poverty?”

He replied, “How can I fear poverty when my Lord Owns all that is in the heavens and on the earth and all that is between them and all that is beneath the ground?”

Shaykh al-Fudhayl (r.a.) said, “The essence of living simply is being content with Allah, Mighty and Exalted is He.”  He also said, “The one who is content is the one who lives simply, and it is he who is rich.  The one who has attained real faith, who trusts in Allah in all his affairs, and is content with what He Provides for him, and remains unattached to Creation, out of fear and hope, and by so doing finds that pursuing worldly gains is not worthwhile has attained the benefits of simplicity.  He is the richest of people, even though he may not possess a thing in the world.”

As ‘Ammar ibn Yasir (r.a.) said, “Death is teacher enough, true faith is wealth enough, and worship is action enough.”

ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said, “True belief is not trying to please people by doing things which would bring Allah’s Displeasure on you; and not envying anyone for what Allah has Given him; and not blaming anyone for what Allah has not given you.  For Allah’s Provision is not attracted simply by a man's being careful, nor is it deflected by another man’s malice.  Allah, with His Justice, Omniscience and Wisdom, has Made delight and joy the companions of faith and contentment, and despair and sorrow the companions of distrust and dissatisfaction.”

The second station is that of a servant who, if he is afflicted by some misfortune like the death of a child, or the loss of wealth or goods, desires the reward for his accepting the loss more than his recovering what has been lost.  This is also a consequence of having complete trust.  ‘Ali (k.w.) said, “Whoever lives simply in this world finds misfortunes easy to endure.”

Some of our predecessors used to say, “If it were not for the misfortunes of this world, we would arrive in the next world completely destitute.”

The third station is that of a servant who regards praise and criticism equally.  If the world occupies a place of importance in his heart, then he would prefer praise to blame, which in turn might make him abandon much good for fear of being censured, and do many bad things in his quest for praise.  This means that in his heart, other people’s opinions about him are of no importance to him.  Indeed what is important to him is his love of the Truth and his earning Allah’s (s.w.t.) Good Pleasure.

ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said, “True faith is not trying to please other people by doing things which are displeasing to Allah.”

Allah (s.w.t.) has Praised those who fight in His Way, without worrying about the opinions of others.  al-Hasan (r.a.) said, “The person who lives simply is the one who finds it in his heart to say that someone else has surpassed him in it.”

Imam Ahmad (r.a.), we believe, was once asked whether a wealthy man could live simply.  He replied, “Yes, if he is not pleased when his wealth increases, nor sad when it decreases, then he can.”


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