[A Word of Advice] Example of This Life and Its People

I compare this life and the people in
it to the crew aboard a ship, blown
along by the wind to an uncharted
island in the ocean. 

At this location
are precious jewels, stones such as
rubies, emeralds, sapphires and
everything else, including onyx and
wormwood. There are other splendid
things; priceless gems and stones
everywhere, and the island’s serene
rivers and beautiful meadows. 

The king of the island has put down walls
to surround his pastures, and his
servants and children are within the
walled compound of the city.
The ship’s crew disembark, after
which time they are told by someone
on the island:

“You are to remain here for one day
and one night, so make use of your
short time here wisely by taking hold
of what precious gems and jewels
you can.”

The crew immediately split into two
groups.

1. One group started working
almost at once. They set
about packing the jewels and
gems, carrying them aboard
the ship in turn and placing
them in the treasure chests
on-board. 

During the whole
time of their work, whenever
they became tired they
remembered the value of the
gems as well as the little time
they had. They would soon
be setting off from the island
without being able to return.
This made them decide not to
rest. 

They also abandoned
useless speech. Instead, this
group focused themselves on
the task at hand and worked
hard to complete the job.
When they were overtaken by
sleep, they thought of their
mission until the desire to
sleep disappeared.

To keep themselves
motivated, they said, “Those
who work hard in the day can
rest easy at night.”
Some people among them
took some of the jewels and
gems, rested at certain times
and even slept in the night.

2. This group did not move
forward to take any gems or
stones at all. They mostly
slept, rested and wiled away
the hours. There were three
groups among them.

a. Some people who hurried
about building seasonal
cottages, castles and other
properties.

b. Others set about gathering
seashells, stones for
quarrying and chinaware.

c. Still others spent their time in
playing about, chit-chat,
enjoyment and listening to
frivolous stories and music.
While enjoying themselves,
they would sing, “The little
bit of good now is better than
the good promised.”

These people eventually made their
way to the outer wall of the king’s
city. They circled around it, trying to
find some way to get inside. When
they were unable to find a door, they
did everything they could to make
cracks and rifts in the wall,
demolishing the gates and plundering
the king’s treasures that were inside.

They played with the children and
neighbours of the king chanting,
“We live forever!”
They continued doing this until the
horn was blown, signalling the end
of their time on the island.
The first group of people mentioned
in the parable were delighted with
their things and came to the meeting
place with their gems and jewels.
They had no regrets about their time
on the island except that they would
have preferred additional time to
collect more items.

When they were brought before the
king, he praised them and said, “You
are my elite, my closest companions
and beloved. You may take what you
will from my generosity.”
He in turn made them kings and gave
them whatever they wanted.
Whatever they asked for they were
given. If they sought his counsel on a
matter, it was granted.

If a time came when they desired
something, they were told, “Take
what you wish and seek judgement
in whatever way you see fit.”
They took possession of the castles,
cottages, maidens, meadows, towns
and cities, as well as having the
finest transportation. A procession of
the army and the king’s children
went in front of them when they
travelled. They became neighbours
to the king and they would sit with
him, look at and visit him, seeking
advice with him for what they willed.

If they asked him for something, they
were given it and even if they did not
ask, it was still brought to them.
The second group lost out as they did
not take advantage of their time to
take goods. They had misused their
time and not taken any goods. They
had not done what they were told to
do, which wasted their time and left
them worried and without hope.

“Where are your goods you were
supposed to collect?” the king asked.
“We collected nothing,” they said.
He said, “May mercy come upon
you! You were in the same place to
collect the gems and jewels weren’t
you? Weren’t you and the people
who were just now made kings in the
same place collecting the gems and
jewels?”

The second group responded by
saying, “Yes, that is correct, but we
were busy playing and sleeping.”
Some of the people with them said,
“We were building houses and
cottages.”
Some others said, “We were working
hard collecting shells, stones and
chinaware.”

The king then said to them, “You are
to perish. Did you not know your
time was short? Did you not see how
precious the gems and jewels were
with you? Did you not know that this
was not forever and that it was not a
place of rest? Did the trustworthy
people not warn you? Did someone
not try to correct you about this
matter?”

“Yes, they did warn us. They did try
to correct us. By Allah, we knew, we
just did not take any notice. We were
warned, but allowed ourselves to be
heedless. We heard what they said,
but we just did not listen,” they
replied.

It was said to them, “You are to
perish until the end of time.”
They bit their hands in remorse,
weeping and wailing at their loss.

They stayed in this state, waiting and
hoping that some of those who had
been made kings would go to the
king and try to help them or speak on
their behalf.

The worst and most miserable of the
second group were the people who
broke into the king’s residence. It
was said to them, “We will not
release you until you bear the burden
of the treasures you took from the
king on your back.”

They set out, carrying all these things
with great difficulty. Once they
reached the city of the great king,
they were called into the city and
made to come forward with the gems
and jewels they had taken. The
people said to them, “Take your
things to the king.” The people of the
city, the king and his army took hold
of them and cursed them.

By the time they arrived, they were
stumbling while carrying the things.
They had no hope while they were
humiliated and scandalised in front
of the people. The king ordered them
out of his presence, far from his
neighbours and into prison. They
were to stay at that place. Once they
were put in jail, the people knew the
punishment and they were certain
they would have nothing coming to
them but retribution.

Then if they bear the punishment,
the Fire is still their home, and if
they ask for favour, they are not
those to whom favour can be
shown.

May Allah have mercy upon you!
You should pay careful attention to
the difference between the two
groups. The first group was
successful because they used their
time on the island to work hard and
be patient with the difficulty they
had to face - this difficulty was only
for a short period of time.

The example given above was a
parable of this life, showing the
difference between those who are
obedient and those who waste time.

May Allah have mercy upon you!
You need to work hard and strive to
be from the first group, who filled
their time with actions of obedience
and did not engage in frivolous
things during their spare time. You
should use your heart to reflect on
the favours of Allah, so you might be
grateful for them. You also need to
reflect on your sins, so that you
might seek forgiveness for them and
your wasted time, so that you might
feel remorse. You should
contemplate on the creations of Allah
and His Judgement, to come to know
His Grandeur and His Wisdom.

Whatever you possess you should
consider using justly, so that you
should prepare to go to Him with it.
You should hasten to learn the ruling
on something, so that you know what
is to be done in different situations.
Use your tongue wisely for the
remembrance of Allah, supplicating
to Him, seeking His Forgiveness,
reciting the Qur’ān, teaching,
learning, ordering with goodness,
forbidding from evil or rectifying
matters between people. 

You should be hard at work, using your limbs for
acts of obedience, the most important
being the compulsory actions in their
times to come to perfect their
states.15 Whatever is of benefit to the
creation should be done. The best
thing to do is what helps or benefits
people, such as teaching them the
faith and guiding them to the Straight
Path and so forth.

Be careful with your actions so that
you do not nullify any deed and lose
that which you worked so hard to
gain. You will neither receive the
benefit of what others are doing nor
the comfort of the time wasters, so
do not let this lead to your failure in
this life and the Hereafter.

Taken from "A Word of Advice" Imam Ibn Qudamah
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One comment on “[A Word of Advice] Example of This Life and Its People

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