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The Danger of Obsession with Worldly Pleasure and Desires

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

An individual must empty his vessel completely from every drink other than the love and knowledge of Allāh. For every drink other than it is indeed intoxicating.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 AH) said: “Allāh has not allowed man to [ultimately] possess two different hearts within himself. He shall find that whatever wants, desires and beloved things enter his heart, a similar opposing want, desire or beloved thing will entice it. [It is as if] he is a single vessel in the company of a multitude of drinks. So whichever drink he allows to fill his vessel, he will find that he now lacks space to accommodate anything else. His vessel shall only be filled if empty and with what he holds to be the most bounteous of drinks. For if his vessel is already filled with something else, he cannot accommodate it [this drink] until and unless he pours out what is currently in his vessel to make room for it. As some [poets] used to say:

‘Its desire came to me before I could comprehend desire itself. So, it happened upon an empty heart and thus was able to take hold.’



So, the poverty of one in such a state is to empty his vessel completely from every drink other than the love and knowledge [of Allāh]. For every drink [other than it] is indeed intoxicating.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

And whatever causes intoxication in large amounts is ḥarām in small amounts. There is no comparison between the intoxication of desire and this worldly life and the intoxication of alcohol. For how can one hope to pour the drink of true submission—which is the most significant drink for the ones who truly love [Allāh]—into a vessel that is already full of the intoxicating drink of desire and worldly pleasure? For one [in such a state] shall never be sober, nor can he seek sobriety. If his heart can free itself from this state of intoxication, it would fly on the wings of hopeful anticipation towards Allāh and the hereafter. But this deplorable individual is pleased with destitution and has chosen to sell his share of closeness to Allāh, and knowledge of Him and his graciousness for the most paltry and meaningless of prices. He has indeed made the deal of a bankrupt fool. He will know the true value of what he lost [on the day] when the true lovers [of Allāh] succeed, and the ones who falsified [the message of Islām] lose.”


  1. Source: Ṭarīq al-Hijratayn: 18
  2. The poverty referred to here is the ‘need’ that is alluded to in the ayah:
    يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ أَنتُمُ ٱلْفُقَرَآءُ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَٱللَّهُ هُوَ ٱلْغَنِىُّ ٱلْحَمِيدُ
    O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy. [al-Fatir, 35:15]

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: January 17, 2022
Edited: May 27, 2022


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