‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) took hold of his shoulder and said, “Be in the world as if you are a stranger, or a traveler.”
Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say, “If you survive to the evening, do not expect to be alive till the morning. If you survive to the morning, do not look forward to the evening. In a healthy condition, prepare yourself for illness and while you are alive prepare yourself for death.”
[Bukhari – Kitab Ar-Riqaq (Book on Heart Softness), hadith 6416.]
Explanation of the hadith
Lessening one’s hope for a long life
This Hadith is related to lessening one’s hope in long life. A believer should not consider himself as eternal in this life. He should be just like a traveler. All prophets and their followers agree on this. Allah says,
“O my people! Truly, this Life of the world is nothing but a (quick passing) enjoyment, and verily, the Hereafter, that is the home that will remain forever. ” (Surah Ghafir, 40 : 39)
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “What have I to do with the world? In connection with the world, I am just like a rider who sits under the shade of a tree, then goes off and leaves it.” [Tirmidhi – hadith 2377; Ibn Majah – hadith 4109; Musnad Ahmad – hadith 1/391]
A man visited Abu Dharr and he kept on looking at his house. Then he said, “Abu Dharr, where is your furniture?” Abu Dharr replied, “We have another house to go to.” The man said, “While you are here, there must be furniture.” Abu Dharr replied, ‘The owner of the house will not leave us here.”
Some people entered the house of a righteous man and looked at it and said, “Your house is just like that of a traveler.” He said, “I will not travel. I will be dismissed.”
‘Ali bin Abi Talib said, “This world is passing by and the Hereafter is coming. Each has sons. Be sons of the Hereafter and never be the sons of this world. Today, you perform deeds, but you are not held accountable for them, but tomorrow you will be held accountable, and will not perform deeds.”
The status of the believer in this world
If a believer knows that he will not have eternal life in this world, he should be either as a stranger in a foreign country who aims at preparing his luggage in order to return home or a traveler who is walking, day and night to his destination, The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) advised Ibn ‘Umar to be one of these.
The first case is when a believer is just like a stranger in a foreign country. His heart should cling to his home country. He is busy preparing his luggage to return home.
Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyad said, “In this world, a believer is sad and worried. He has no aim but to prepare himself for the Hereafter.”
In such a case, the believer will not compete with inhabitants of this foreign country and he will not humiliate himself to any of them.
Al-Hasan said, “A believer is just like a stranger. He does not humiliate himself to others, nor does he compete with them in procuring worldly benefits. He has his own affairs and people have their own affairs.”
In the second case, the believer will consider himself a traveler whose final destination is the Hereafter. With such destination in mind, the believer will concentrate on obtaining just the necessary needs for travel. He will not care for worldly pleasures. For this reason, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) advised some of his Companions to own nothing from this world except the equipment of a traveler. [Just like the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s advice to Ibn ‘Umar in this hadith.]
It was said to Muhammad bin Wasi’, “How are you today?” He replied, “What do you think of a man traveling to the Hereafter everyday?”
Al-Hasan said, “You are no more than days. When a day passes, some of you have passed away as well.”
He also said, “O son of Adam, you have two riding animals which are the day and the night. The night hands you over to the day and vice versa until they hand you over to the Hereafter. Who is more important than you, son of Adam ?”
He also said, “Death is your destiny and this world will come to an end.”
Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyad’ said to a man, “How old are you?” The man replied, “Sixty years.” Al- Fudayl said, “You have been traveling to your Lord for sixty years. You about to arrive at your destination.” The man said, “To Allah we shall return.” Al-Fudayl said, “Do you know its interpretation? When a person knows that he is a slave and that he will return to Allah, he knows that he is to be asked about his deeds. If he knows that he will be asked, he should prepare answers to the questions.” The man said, “What shall I do?” Al-Fudayl said, “It is an easy matter.” The man said, “What is it?” Al-Fudayl said, “You should stick to the straight path the rest of your life and Allah will forgive the past sins. If you committed sins for the rest of your life, you will be held accountable for the deeds you have committed throughout your life.”
In the light of the above, a poet said, “If a man walks for sixty years to a destination, it will be very near.”
A wise man said, “If days and nights are the riding animals of a person, they will walk with him even if he does not walk.”
Another poet said,
“These days are no more than phases which will end in death.
If you contemplate, you will see that it is surprising that the traveler is sitting down.”
The advice of Ibn ‘Umar
As for the advice of Ibn ‘Umar, it is derived from the hadith which he narrated. It also refers to lessening one’s hope for long life; and that if one survives to the evening, he should not expect to be alive till the morning; and if he survives to the morning, he should not look forward to the evening. He should believe that he may die even before this. Many scholars interpreted asceticism in light of this advice.
Al-Marwazy said, “It has been said to Imam Ahmad, ‘What is asceticism in this world?’ He replied, ‘Lessening ones hope in a long life, and that if one survives to the evening, he should not expect to be alive till the morning; and if he survives to the morning, he should not look forward to the evening. This is the opinion of Sufyan as well.’ ”
It has been also said to Imam Ahmad, “How could one lessen his hope in long life?” He replied, “I do not know. It is guidance from Allah.”
Al-Hasan said, “Three scholars met and they said to one of them, ‘How long do you expect to live?’ He replied, ‘If a month began, I think that I would die within it.’ The other two scholars said, ‘This is actually the short hope in life.’ They said to one of them, ‘How long do you expect to live?’ He replied, ‘If a week began, I think that I would die within it.’ The other two scholars said, ‘This is actually the short hope in life.’ They said to one of them, ‘How long do you expect to live?’ He replied, ‘What is the hope of a person whose soul is owned by another?’ ”
Dawud At-Ta’i said, “I asked ‘Atwan bin ‘Amr At-Taymy, ‘What is short hope in life?’ He replied, ‘Between two breaths.’ I told Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyad about his saying and he wept and said, ‘He took a breath and feared that he would not take the second. Truly, ‘Atwan bin ‘Amr was very ready for death.’ ”
A scholar said, “I have never slept without thinking that I would not get up again.”
Ibn ‘Umar said, “In your times of health, prepare yourself for illness and while you are alive prepare yourself for death.”
This means that one should perform good deeds when he is healthy and before death. This advice was mentioned in other hadiths.
Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “There are two blessings which people lose: (They are) health and free time (for doing good).” [Bukhari – Kitab Ar-Riqaq (Book on Heart Softness), hadith 6412]
Ibn ‘Abbas reported that he heard the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) preaching to a man and saying, “Seize five opportunities before five events; your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your richness before your poverty, your free time before your being occupied and your life before your death.” [Mustadrak Hakim – hadith 4/306, authenticated by Adh-Dhahabi]
Ghunaym bin Qays said, “We used to preach to each other at the beginning of Islam, saying, ‘O son of Adam, perform good deeds in your leisure time before you are busy, in your youth before your old age, in your health before your illness, in your life before your death and in this world before the Hereafter.’ ”
Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Hasten to do good deeds before six things happen: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the DajjaI, the beast and (the death) of one of you or the general turmoil.”.
This means that such things hinder a person from performing good deeds. They may be peculiar to a person such as poverty, wealth, illness, old age or death. They may be general such as the resurrection, the anti-Christ and the turmoil.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “Hasten to do good deeds before turmoil that is just as dark as the darkest portion of night ” [Muslim – Kitab Al-Fitan (Book on Seditions), hadith 128/2947]
No good deeds will be of avail after some occurrences, as Allah says,
“The day that some of the Signs of your Lord do come, no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before, nor earned good (by performing deeds of righteousness) through his Faith.” (Surah Al-An’am, 6 : 158)
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “The Hour will not come unless the sun rises from the west. When it rises and people see it, they will believe. This is the day that some of the Signs of your Lord do come; no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before, nor earned good (by performing deeds of righteousness) through his Faith.” [Bukhari – Kitab Ar-Riqaq (Book on Heart Softness), hadith 6506; Muslim – Kitab Al-lman (Book on Faith), hadith 157]
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “Three things if they happen, no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before, nor earned good (by performing deeds of righteousness) through his Faith: the sun rising from the west, the anti-Christ and the beast of the earth.” [Muslim – Kitab Al-lman (Book on Faith), hadith 158]
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “If a person repents before the sun rises from the west, Allah will forgive him.” [Muslim – Kitab Adh-Dhikr wad-Du’a (Book on Supplication and Remembrance of Allah), hadith 43/2703]
Abu Musa ‘Abdullah bin Qays Al-Ash‘ari reported that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah, the Exalted stretches out His hand at night so that one who committed evil during the day time may repent and stretches out His hand in the Daytime so that one who committed evil during the night may repent. (This continues) until the sun rises in the west.” [Muslim – Kitab At-Tawbah (Book on Repentance), hadith 31/2759]
A believer should hasten to perform good deeds before he is prevented from doing them either by an illness, death, or any of these signs.
Abu Hazim said, ‘The merchandise of the Hereafter is not sold by all people. It is about to be consumed and no one will be able to buy any of it.”
If a person cannot perform good deeds, he has nothing to do except regret and desire to return once again to a state in which he could perform such deeds. Allah says,
“And turn in repentance and in obedience with true Faith (Islamic Monotheism) to your Lord and submit to Him, (in Islam), before the torment comes upon you, then you will not be helped.
And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord (i.e. this Qura’n, do what it orders you to do and keep away from what it forbids), before the torment comes on you suddenly while you perceive not!”
Lest a person should say: ‘Alas, my grief that I was undutiful to Allah (i.e., I have not done what Allah has ordered me to do), and I was indeed among those who mocked [at the truth! i.e. La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), the Quran, and Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) and at the faithful believers, etc.]’
Or (lest) he should say, ‘If only Allah had guided me, I should indeed have been among the Muttaqun (pious and righteous persons).’
Or (lest) he should say when he sees the torment, ‘If only I had another chance (to return to the world) then I should indeed be among the Muhsinun (good-doers).’ ” (Surah Az-Zumar, 39 : 54-58)
“Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah), he says, ‘My Lord! Send me back, So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!’ No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.” (Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23 : 99-100)
“And spend (in charity) of that with which We have provided you, before death comes to one of you and he says, ‘My Lord! If only You would give me respite for a little while (i.e. return to the worldly life), then I should give Sadaqah (i.e. Zakah) of my wealth, and be among the righteous [i.e. perform Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)].’ And Allah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death) comes.” (Surah Al-Munafiqun, 63 : 10-11)
If the matter is so, a believer should make use of the rest of his life in performing good deeds.
Sai’d bin Jubair said, “Each day a believer lives is an asset.”
Bakr Al-Muzani said, “Each day created by Allah says, lO son of Adam, make use of me. You may not live another day.’ Each night created by Allah says, ‘O son of Adam, make use of me. You may not live another night.’ ”
By: Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali , From the book: Jami’ al Ulum wal Hikam.