What is Dunya?
Maulana Rumi (RA) explains the reality of the dunya by posing the question, “What is dunya?” Some ignorant people say, “Kick the dunya aside, kick the dunya aside!” Our Shaikh Hazrat Hakeem Akhtar (DB) says, “If you do not have money, and if you do not have food, then you will not be able to even lift your leg up to kick the dunya aside.” From this we can understand that wealth is not necessarily dunya. Then what is? Maulana Rumi sums it up in one line, where he poses the question, and then answers it. He says, “What is dunya? It is to be unmindful of Allah.”
Clothes, silver, gold, money, wealth, wife and kids are not necessarily dunya, provided they do not make a person unmindful of Allah. In other words, all these things are kept according how Allah wants them to be, and he does not use any of these things in disobeying Allah, then this person is a man of God, and is not materialistic. On the other hand you have a person who is broke. He spends his life hungry and goes through financial difficulties, but is negligent of Allah, and disobeys Allah, and then this person in reality is materialistic even though he has nothing. We understand that even living in luxury and affluence, a person can be a wali of Allah, and contrary to this, in poverty and hunger; a person can be distant from Allah and materialistic. That is why Maulana Rumi (RA) has defined dunya as negligence towards Allah, not wealth, and prominence.
The proof of this statement can be found in the Tafseer Ruh-ul-Ma’aani under the verse where Allah says, “And the life of this world is nothing but capital of deception.” Allah uses the Arabic word manta’, so what really is mataa’? Allamah Aalusi (RA) (the author of the above mentioned Tafseer) mentions that mataa’ actually refers to a cloth that women normally use in the kitchen to wipe and clean the kitchen area. So it is something very low and worthless.
Allamah Aalusi (RA) poses a question in his Tafseer that when is the dunya considered lowly and bad? He answers by saying that the dunya is only bad when it makes you unmindful of the Aakhirat. The dunya is carrion, and its seekers are dogs. But this is with a condition, and the condition is that it should make one unmindful of the Aakhirat. Allamah Aalusi (RA) mentions that if the dunya does not make one unmindful of Allah and the Aakhirat, and the dunya is made as a means to attain the Aakhirat, then it is a great capital and saving. One person uses his wealth to serve the Ulamaa. He donates his wealth to masjids, and madrasahs. He makes utilizes his wealth for Islamic publications. He feeds students of deen and pious people. So is this person’s wealth merchandise of deception? Is it lowly and degenerate? No, rather it is a great capital that he has saved up, which is being sacrificed for the sake of Allah. That is why it is mentioned in a hadith, “No one but a pious person should eat your food.” The reason for this is that the pious person after eating will get strength and energy and he will do good deeds. So the one who fed him will also have a share in the reward and this will be a form of Sadaqah Jaariyah (continuous charity). So this form of dunya is not debased because it is being used as a means to build the Aakhirat.
This type of wealth is not given to everyone. Everyone is not so fortunate that their wealth does not make them unmindful of Allah. My Shaikh, Shah Abdul Ghani (RA) used to say that Allah does not disclose the secret of His love to every heart. He then would recite some poetry in Farsi with great enjoyment. The meaning of the poetry is as follows:
Allah does not disclose the secret of His love to every heart.
And every eye is not always fit to guide one on His path.
Every pearl is not given the honor of being part of the king’s crown.
And every messenger was not blessed with the ascension (Mi'raj).
Not everyone is chosen for the service of the Deen.
One out of a thousand is blessed with this honor.
I pray that Allah gives us the taufeeq to utilize whatever dunya we have for the sake of Deen, and also that Allah include us amongst those that He has chosen for the service of His Deen. Aameen.
-Dars-e-Mathnawi pg. 20-24
(Shaykh Hakeem Akhtar)
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This article can be found here on An-Noor. It's a bit too lengthy to repost here, but InshAllah it will remain available on that site. It's a very good read.