It is something that is the norm in today’s modern age and therefore no one sees anything wrong with adopting it. It is more of a trend and is very close to being in a competition where each opponent’s intent is to outrun the other.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is an age-old proverb. In the most simplistic of explanations it refers to those who choose to live a lifestyle that they in actual fact cannot afford but still do it so that they can live as their affluent neigbours live. In modern day living it is better known as ‘Affluenza’- a social infection stemming from the desire to be wealthier, more successful or live life with all its fancies and frills. Affluenza is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. People said to be affected by affluenza typically find that the very economic success they have been so vigorously chasing ends up leaving them feeling unfulfilled, and wishing for yet more wealth. This is a scourge that has gripped the world at large and on an unimaginably amazing scale. Thus success is measured only in these terms. No other yardstick can be good enough to measure an individual’s success in life as well as his financial standing does.

So whilst the rest of the world is gripped by this debilitating malady, as Muslims we should be automatically immune from it. Our immunisation which is built in comes in the form of Imaan (faith) in Allah Ta’ala and more so in our firm belief that real wealth and possessions is of the Hereafter  which is everlasting as opposed to the worldly possessions that is nothing but fleeting and will surely end one day.  And whilst affluenza cannot be quantified easily, those wishing to avoid the condition should look to be the master of, not a slave to the things they have or wish to obtain. There is no one better that can understand and relate to this than a Muslim for his goals and objectives in this life are different by far. His worldly life is nothing but a journey. He carries worldly possessions only as a means to a more sublime goal and does not see its accrual as the ultimate objective and purpose of his life.

And thus we come to the question of how important is wealth to our lives? Can we do without it altogether or do we need to amass as much as possible of it to ensure a safe passage? Wealth is indispensable-no one can dispose of it altogether. It is as important as water is to a sailing vessel- a vessel cannot sail from one port to another without this medium. However, undisputedly, it has to be at a certain constant. Not too much neither too little. Either, extremes and the vessel becomes ill-fated. This is exactly what our beloved Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam told us of more than 1400 years ago. Wealth is just like the ocean whereon a vessel sails. It is meant to act as a medium of conveyance carrying the vessel on it. Should this water enter the vessel, the vessel is automatically doomed. Likewise wealth (Dunya) is only there to keep us afloat. It is there to help us seek a higher purpose and reach a targeted goal. Sadly today, ours is not the case. We like the rest of the world have taken the means as the goal and thus put ourselves on a course of self-destruction.

This worldly life, the dunya, is just like the ocean. And our hearts are the ships. We can use the ocean for our needs and as a means to get to our final destination. But the ocean is only that: a means. It is a means of travel. It is a means of seeking a higher purpose. But it is something which we only pass through, but never think to remain in. Imagine what would happen if the ocean became our end – rather than just a means.

Eventually we would drown.

As long as the ocean’s water remains outside the ship, the ship will continue to float and be in control. But what happens as soon as the water creeps into the ship? What happens when the dunya is not just water outside of our hearts, when the dunya is no longer just a means? What happens when the dunya enters our heart?

That is when the heart becomes enslaved. And that is when the dunya – which should have been subservient to us, begins to control us. When the ocean’s water enters and overtakes a ship, that ship is no longer in control. The boat then becomes at the mercy of the ocean.

 It is a fact that we live in the world and no one can detach from it altogether. Abstinence (zuhd) does not mean that we totally abandon this world. Instead we have been taught true abstinence by none other than our Beloved Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam.

The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam had detached himself from this world at a different level. His detachment was much deeper. It was the detachment of the heart. His ultimate attachment was only to Allah Ta’ala for he understood the words of Allah Ta’ala:

“What is the life of this world but amusement and play? But verily the Home in the Hereafter, – that is life indeed, if they but knew.” (Surah 29, verse 64)

Detachment does not even mean that we cannot own things of the dunya. In fact many of the greatest companions were wealthy. Rather, detachment is that we view and interact with the dunya for what it really is: just a means. Detachment is when the dunya remains in our hand – not in our heart. As Hadrat Ali Radiyallaahu Anhu expressed beautifully, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.” The supplication of Sufyaan Thawri (R.A.) was “O Allah, place wealth (dunya) in our hands but not in our hearts.”

Like the ocean’s water entering the boat, the moment that we let the dunya enter our hearts, we will sink. The ocean was never intended to enter the boat; it was intended only as a means that must remain outside of it. The dunya, too, was never intended to enter our heart. It is only a means that must not enter or control us. Qur’aan calls this world ‘Mataa” meaning provision. It is the path—not the destination.

Once we realize and understand this then there is a natural detachment that comes with the realization that something is only temporary. The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam understood the danger of becoming engrossed in this life. In fact, there was nothing he feared for us more. We fear poverty but he feared wealth!

The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam recognized the true nature of this life. He understood what it meant to be in the dunya, without being of it. He sailed the very same ocean that we all must. But his ship knew well from where it had come, and to where it was going. His was a boat that remained dry. He understood that the same ocean which sparkles in the sunlight, could become a graveyard for the ship if allowed to.

The adornments and fineries of this world do not necessarily bring peace and happiness. The painful and miserable lives of some of the world’s wealthiest attest to this fact. And whilst many of us envy and yearn for such wealth let us also focus on the lessons that can be learnt from the lives of the wealthy. “All that glitters is not gold’ they say- The sparkle of the oceans waters in the sunlight is a sight to behold indeed. Let that water enter the ship and see what happens then. Gone is the sparkle and doom sets in.

We need to send out the distress signal already. The waters of Dunya have already begun seeping into our hearts. The lifestyles that many of us lead and almost every one of us aspire to lead is sufficient proof of this! The affluenza outbreak has gotten to us already!

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