The Lowliness of Obsessing with the Riches of the Dunyā
Imām Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
A warning against those who fixate on attaining superficial success in this life. While striving for a comfortable life is encouraged, this should never supersede the Muslim’s true goal of reaching Paradise.
Richness [as it applies to the believer] is of two types: [that which is] lowly and [that which is] raised.
As for the lowly type of richness, it is to possess temporary valuables like wives, children, treasures of gold and silver, fine horses, cattle, and fertile land. This is the weakest and most meaningless form of richness. For it is like feeling wealthy with a dubious shadow. [They are] all commodities that will return to their Lord very soon. What is left after this abandonment is but destitution as if the richness that was felt was but a dream that had run its course. There can be no aspiration more meaningless than the one who is pleased with such richness, for it is all but a dubious shadow. Such is the richness of the lords of this dunyā. They vie with one another regarding it, they busy themselves with seeking only it, and around it they pace.
There is nothing more beloved to shayṭān and farther from al-Raḥmān than a heart overflowing with the love of these types of riches, possessing fear over its loss. Some of the [pious] predecessors used to say:
‘When Iblīs and his army gather, there is nothing that makes them happier than three things: a believer that has killed another believer, a man that dies in disbelief, and a heart that possesses fear of poverty.’
This [so-called] richness is surrounded by two types of poverty: poorness that precedes it [while he seeks it] and that which comes after it [when he eventually loses it]. The state of wealth is but a short waking dream between [these two states of poorness]. Thus, it is suitable for the one who seeks to advise himself to ensure that he is never tricked with this type of richness, nor should he make it his true end goal. Rather, if he is granted this type of richness let him make it a means by which he is able to achieve the greatest of all riches [paradise]. Let him make it a servant from among his servants instead of becoming a slave to it. For his soul is a greater commodity far above ever directing any form of worship to other than its True Master, neither should [his soul] ever serve other than Him.”1