From the Journal of Umm Zakiyyah:
Too often we associate “worldly life” with material things and carnal pleasures. So when Allah cautions us to not allow this worldly life to distract us from worshipping and obeying Him, we think of fancy cars, big houses, and sexual temptations. While these things are certainly common distractions from our purpose in life, they do not represent the often greater and more serious trial in life: our relationship with other human beings.
This severe trial has caused many of us to not only go astray, but to also let go of Islam altogether.
Our husband or wife. Our parents or children. Our brothers and sisters in Islam. And even our imams, sheikhs, and scholars. These are all “double edged swords.” Our relationship with them can either be a powerful means to defend and fortify our faith, or it can be a destructive weapon we use to inflict ourselves—and others—with deadly spiritual wounds.
Yes, we’ve all heard the wonderful stories of how Muslims had marriages, families, fellow believers, and leaders that inspired them to draw closer to Allah. But we like to brush aside or deny when these very things cause our spiritual destruction.
And no, I’m not talking only about the obvious examples: a husband forbidding his wife from wearing hijab, a mother begging her son not to grow a beard or pray in the masjid, Muslims becoming too distracted with work or school to open the Qur’an, or an imam or sheikh caught in a sexual scandal.
I’m talking about when these things appear like wonderful blessings, but the enjoyment of them incite in us dangerous pride and a sense of entitlement that inspire us to arrogantly play God in our lives and everyone else’s. With marriage, it can be as seemingly innocent as advising someone to not marry into a certain culture or as bold as declaring divorce or polygyny a sin. With parents or children, it can be as seemingly helpful as advising a distressed friend to be patient with an abusive mother or father or as overbearing as parents micromanaging the life choices and even thoughts and beliefs of their children. And with our Muslim friends and Islamic teachers, it can be as seemingly necessary as telling someone they need to commit to a certain madhhab (school of thought) or spiritual teacher, or as arrogant as telling someone they are on the path to Hellfire.
But just as our fancy cars, big houses, or sexual desires can direct us toward good or evil; our marriages, families, and Muslim communities and leaders can direct us toward good or evil.
These are all ropes that can pull us either toward Allah or away from Him.
Thus, it’s helpful to remember that all of these things are part of this “worldly life.” So when Allah cautions us in the Qur’an not to allow this worldly life to distract from worshipping Him, let us look beyond our material possessions and carnal desires. This worldly life comprises so much more than that. And if our good marriages, successful families, strong Muslim communities, or inspirational Islamic teachers are making us feel emboldened to criticize or look down on those who don’t seem to have what we have—or to dictate how someone else’s marriage, family, or relationship with Allah must look— then most likely, we are using these blessings to harm, not purify, our souls.
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