Ghazali on love of dunya (hub ad dunya)

Ghazali on love of dunya

Imam Ghazali’s book, Kitaab Al-Arba’in Fi Usul ad-Din, ‘The Forty Principles of the Religion,’ which he wrote before his death, is a summary of Ihya Ulumuddin, and his life’s works and thoughts.

In his chapters on the purification of the heart, Ghazali mentions 10 principles. Love of dunya is the seventh principle.

Love of status is connected to love of dunya. It is a saying (not a hadith) that the essence of all sins is the love of dunya.

Ghazali says love of dunya is not just about wealth and status, as they are two of the many branches of dunya. Allah subjugated the earth for us to use. If we did not love the dunya and have desire, we would not survive as a species, as we would not eat or reproduce. However there is more to our existence than eating, drinking and enjoying ourselves. It is part of our test to be attracted to the dunya.

In Surat al Kahf, Allah Almighty said:

We have made that which is on earth as an adornment for it, in order that We may test them as to which of them are best in deeds.” (18:7)

Yet we are not always aware that it is a test, as we get easily distracted.

Some people are asleep and only wake up when they die.

First we were in a state of non-existence, then we came to existence, from here we will go to barzakh and then hisab (reckoning) and after hisab we reach the akhirah. Therefore, only take with you what you need. Do not overload your camel. Otherwise you will not get far. In the old days, people used to take everything but the kitchen sink with them when they travelled. Now we can travel light.

Do not make your occupation the dunya, but the reformation of yourself and your character.

When we enjoy the dunya we love staying in it, whereas it was created to pass through it, like a traveller. Only fools become attached it, not realising that it is a station not the final destination. It is like the one who is going to Hajj on a camel but gets so taken by his camel and grooming his camel that he gets left behind and misses the Hajj.

In Surah Hadid Allah mentioned how attractive the dunya is for us:

﴿٢٠﴾ اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Know that the worldly life is but play, and distraction, and glitter, and boasting among you, and rivalry in wealth and children— the likeness of rainfall that produces plants and delights the disbelievers. But then it withers, and you see it yellowing, and then it becomes debris. And in the Hereafter, there is severe agony, and forgiveness from Allah, and acceptance. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (57:20)

He says in Surah Al Imran:

﴿١٤﴾ زُيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ حُبُّ الشَّهَوَاتِ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ وَالْبَنِينَ وَالْقَنَاطِيرِ الْمُقَنْطَرَةِ مِنَ الذَّهَبِ وَالْفِضَّةِ وَالْخَيْلِ الْمُسَوَّمَةِ وَالْأَنْعَامِ وَالْحَرْثِ ۗ ذَٰلِكَ مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَاللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ حُسْنُ الْمَآبِ

Adorned for the people is the love of desires: women, and children, and piles upon piles of gold and silver, and branded horses, and livestock, and fields. These are the conveniences of the worldly life, while with Allah is the best place to return. (3:14)

وَعَنْ حَكِيمِ بْنِ حِزَامٍ قَالَ: سَأَلَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَأَعْطَانِي ثُمَّ سَأَلْتُهُ فَأَعْطَانِي ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي: «يَا حَكِيمُ إِنَّ هَذَا الْمَالَ خَضِرٌ حُلْوٌ فَمَنْ أَخَذَهُ بِسَخَاوَةِ نَفْسٍ بُورِكَ لَهُ فِيهِ وَمَنْ أَخَذَهُ بِإِشْرَافِ نَفْسٍ لَمْ يُبَارَكْ لَهُ فِيهِ. وَكَانَ كَالَّذِي يَأْكُلُ وَلَا يَشْبَعُ وَالْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الْيَدِ السُّفْلَى» . قَالَ حَكِيمٌ: فَقُلْتُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِي بَعَثَكَ بِالْحَقِّ لَا أَرْزَأُ أَحَدًا بَعْدَكَ شَيْئًا حَتَّى أُفَارِقَ الدُّنْيَا “

Hakim bin Hizam said he begged from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ and he gave him something, later he begged again and when he had given him something he said:

“Hakim, this dunya is green and sweet, and he who receives it with contentment will be blessed in it, but he who receives it with a greedy mind will not be blessed in it, being like one who eats without being satisfied. And the upper hand is better than the lower one.”

Hakim told that he replied, “Messenger of Allah, by Him who sent you with the truth, I shall not accept anyone’s bounty after this till I leave the world.”  (Bukhari and Muslim)

The world as a stage

Whether we are a bus driver or a high-flying executive, our main focus should not be the dunya, as this is just a stage.

As Jaques says in Shakespeare’s As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (Shakespeare)

Focus on quality

Whatever you plant in the dunya you reap in the akhirah. What you harvest from dunya is knowledge and your character, and these stay with you after death. Dunya is like farmland for the akhirah. It is where you plant your seeds, and you reap the fruits in akhirah. You are not planting to sell in the market in bulk, you are planting to have fruit you will enjoy yourself. So do not rush it. Focus on the quality, not the quantity, so that you have the best fruit. Aim for high quality in your salah, your dhikr, your dua, your recitation of the Quran and your conversation.

If you are always bogged down by dunya issues, and always busy, busy, you will never have time for your family or your relationship with Allah. It is not good quality. In fact we are lucky, if we plant seeds at all, as there are people who so preoccupied that they do not even find the time to pray.

Ghazali gives the example of passengers on a boat which stops at an island. They are given instructions not to stay long but to return to the boat. Some people stop briefly and return, and find lots of space to settle down, others are charmed by the island and pick up souvenirs, which weigh them down, and the last lot are so enthralled by the island, they do not return to the boat and get eaten by the wild animals.  

Do not look at the dunya with your eyes, look at it with insight (baseerah), as your sight can deceive you, but your insight if you are connected with Allah, will not deceive you. Do not let the glitter of the dunya distract you from the akhirah. Put the happiness of the akhirah before the happiness of the dunya. You cannot achieve happiness in the akhirah, unless you know Allah and you come to Him with love. When you love someone you keep mentioning them and remembering them.

Let the love of Allah be the focus of your heart. Delete the attachments in your heart.

Ghazali says, whoever knows himself, his Lord, the world’s adornment and the afterlife witnesses through the light of insight the world’s enmity toward the afterlife. Ibn Ata Allah al-Iskandari who wrote in his book Al Hikam:

How can the heart be illumined

while the forms of creatures are reflected in its mirror?

Or how can it journey to God

while shackled by its passions?

Or how can it desire to enter the Presence of God

while it has not yet purified itself

of the stain of forgetfulness?

Or how can it understand the subtle points of mysteries

while it has not yet repented of its offences?

Man’s insatiable appetite

Hawa is desire. Desire comes in many shapes and sizes. As humans we are driven by it. In our post-second world war society, particularly following the 1980s with the rise of Wall Street and the rampant growth of materialism, we have witnessed the explosion of the materialism and consumerism which has come to dominate the world. The insatiable appetite to acquire and chuck and acquire and chuck has become a beast over which the world has lost control. The growth of mass production, credit culture, designer brands, fuelled by the advertising the media and social media have led to a world teetering precariously on the brink of a global disaster.

Abu Shama’s beautiful book, The Blue Moon, captures our predicament poetically:

Man entered the age of abundance unlike anything seen before

A world of extremes and paradoxes that demanded more and more

He bent and exploited the natural world to his every whim and will

Needs, wants and desires, click, click, empty baskets and voids to fill

Man mined the rocks, farmed the wild and plundered the seas

Yet consumption grew and spread like an infectious disease…

This is the tragic point we have reached in the history of our world, we know that money cannot buy happiness but the urge to fill our appetites is not easy to kill. Ask anyone on a diet. Scholars have said that hawa will be the last disease we can eradicate.

Do not poison yourself with the dunya

Take from the dunya what you need but not more than that. The example of the seeker of the dunya is like the one who is drinking salty water. The more you drink, the thirstier you become and the more you drink, until it kills you.

Al-Mustawrid reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

مَا مَثَلُ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا مَثَلُ مَا يَجْعَلُ أَحَدُكُمْ إِصْبَعَهُ فِي الْيَمِّ فَلْيَنْظُرْ بِمَ يَرْجِعُ

What is the example of this worldly life in comparison to the Hereafter other than one of you dipping his finger in the sea? Let him see what he brings forth. (Muslim)

Allah Almighty and the Prophet (peace be on him) warned us of the dunya and its temptations. Do not be deceived into thinking you can live in the dunya, without it getting into you, like the one who thinks they can stay dry while walking in a pond.

Do not relax. Relaxation is in the akhirah, so work towards the akhirah. If you can smell the fragrance of the akhirah, then the dunya will be nothing to you.

How to Keep the Heart Healthy: Hawa – Love of worldly things and wanting more by Rahma Abdulatif

Society leads us to believe that happiness is a matter of getting what you want. That means I am going to get what I want, whatever it is regardless of what everybody else thinks. Another theory is that the fulfilment of a ‘desire’ contributes to one’s happiness regardless of the amount of pleasure or displeasure it causes for other people. Bottom line is, it is about the individual’s pleasure and their happiness.

However, another theory states that there is a problem with ‘desire’, that if ‘desire’ is ‘life’, why should we seek to control it because when we are deciding to control ‘desire’ we are almost deciding to control ‘life’. We are supposed to enjoy life and do everything you want to experience in life. Another idea suggests that no matter how much you acquire, you will always want to acquire more. So that’s the nature of ‘‘desire’’, just go for it. Why do you let anyone get in your way?

 ‘Desire’ is an object. It is caused by the possible pleasure that will result in its attainment, ‘desire’ often makes you blind to what you want and sometimes you abandon what you already have. There are many different approaches in therapy – in addition to mindfulness, we also can prescribe ‘gratitude’ as a treatment.

The main idea is that pleasure is the sole motivator for ‘desire’ and that ‘desire’ is not a bad thing but it’s the lack of checks and balances that can turn a healthy emotion into a self-destructive emotion.  When ‘desire’ is driven by ego, by the desire to win at any cost that is when it starts to undermine our wellbeing. Acquiring more wealth appears ineffective in decreasing the discrepancies. Some research suggests that the more you get the more you want.

There was a piece of research that was done using meaningful psychological mindfulness and they found that this could close the aspiration gap, so they concluded that mindfulness may help to improve the perception of having enough. I think the Shaykh was talking about having contentment. Having that Qan’aa in yourself that you are content with what you have.

According to George Bernard Shaw, there are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what your heart desires. And the other is getting what you desire. So, what he is saying is that you can’t win. It’s disaster both ways.

When the person is driven by desires this somehow involves the family, being driven by desires is like being in a vicious cycle where satisfaction can never be attained. Let us think about this guy called ‘desire’, with a focus on the development of this disease Hawa. As families we can a play a part in how desire enters our homes and families, the question is how am I contributing to inviting desire into my family, what do I say or do? what are my actions that help growing desire within my family?

Comparing with other childrenComplainingUsing amazon
Posting stories on social mediaEquating having things to happiness or motivating children to act on the basis of material thingsNo boundaries and lack of discipline – elastic boundaries, everything shifts and changes on how I feel can create Hawa
Having the financial ability to have whatever we want and when we want.Living by the equation that you do in-order-to-have in-order-to-be.Giving into peer pressure e.g. so and so lives in that post code so I want to live there and I am unhappy that I can’t live there.
Constantly feeling that when you get the next object or milestone you will be happyAllowing children to indulge, indulgence starts to create Hawa, so as your parent how will you manage this so that your children do not have HawaLack of unity in parents on what the values are
Parents didn’t have when they were growing upSpending too much on advertsUsing material rewards for motivating children
  Unmet emotional needs  

We become a go and get culture, the more you get your appetite grows bigger, so your desire grows too. Wants become needs, we have become a society that acts in a way of seeing it, wanting it. I can get it, just put it on plastic card, rather than saying I see it, do I need it and can I afford it?

The objective of this exercise is to help us understand how we might be contributing to the development of Hawa.  Our natural next step is to ask ourselves how we curb these desires. We live in the cultures where we are told that things will make us happy, and when you buy into that narrative you feed this appetite and it keeps becoming bigger fuelling ‘desires’ and then this narrative influences you and your children.

Sometimes as parents we are not on the same page. Why is there a lack of unity between parents?

Not sharing the values, not having the same goal and purpose – one parent wants to raise to be really connected in Qur’an, whilst the other parent is Ok with them praying and that being sufficient. One parent is thus more worldly and the other more driven by Deen/religion. So that’s one reason.

Lazy parenting can also lead to Hawa. You give them things because you are too tired and don’t have the energy to engage with your children.

One of the ways we are promoting Hawa is by not being present and substituting our presence with things to overcome our absence and our sense of guilt.

To be fully present, you need be available:

  • Physically
  • Emotionally
  • Spiritually
  • Mentally

If you can’t bring all of these qualities into your state of being presence, then you may be compensating your absence by giving things and in return inadvertently creating Hawa.  From my experience, children and young people wish to get more of their parents’ time and attention rather than material things. Being present can be hard, however, it is critical as this is where we can develop meaningful relationships.

We discussed previously that we need connections in our lives that is an emotional and spiritual need. However, these days that connectedness is replaced by many different diversions and the gap can grow easily. We then fill this with material needs, can material things fill that emptiness we feel, or does this simply fuel the desire to have more and more?

This is the tip of the iceberg; we are teasing our thought process to help us with managing the power of Hawa in ourselves and within our families. We need to check how we are contributing to it and how we can curb Hawa so this doesn’t get bigger within ourselves, and our family lives.

Here is the question, how did the companions who were considered millionaires, make it to Jannah/heaven How did they achieve that, what can we learn from them?

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – The Thursday Al Ghazali Class 

Additional notes on the psychotherapy on love of dunya by Sister Rahma Abdul Latif delivered at the How to Keep your Heart Healthy Course, transcribed by F. Qadir.

Related posts

The dunya delusion

Assessing your attachment to dunya

Spring clean your life

Desire and work for the hereafter

Be ready for tomorrow

How to pack for the afterlife

Love of status

How to avoid envy

Duas for protection

Break free from anger

Evils of the tongue 5 – praise

Evils of the tongue 4 – joking

Evils of the tongue 3 – arguing

Evils of the tongue 2- backbiting

Evils of the tongue 1- lying

The benefits of feeling hunger

Why is following the sunnah the key to success. Ghazali’s secrets part 1

What is wrong with excessive laughter?

Do you have to practice what you preach?

Self righteousness when giving counsel

Command good and forbid evil

Brotherhood, friendship and wilayah

How to deal with difficult neighbours

The first 6 rules of how to deal with people

Dealing with gossip (7-8)

How to deal with people according to their status (9-11)

Cover the faults of others (12-13)

Shake hands (15 continued)

Defend others in their absence, be tactful, be cautious of the company of the rich (16-18)

Avoid the people of ghaflah

Be good to your relatives

Love they neighbour


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.