If we Muslims aren’t to share in modernity’s despair or unhappiness, if we wish to prise ourselves from this web of distraction, we need to see the world with a critical prophetic perspective. This perspective is one that wants us to marvel at Allah’s creation and be filled with a sense of awe and thanks to Him, yet at the same time not be lured away from remembrance or loving submission of Him.
The Holy Qur’an says: Strain not your glance by looking at what We have given some others to enjoy; the delights of the life of this world, through which We only test them. The provision of your Lord is much better and more lasting. [Q.20:131]
Concerning the verse and the iman-based way to see the enchantment of the world, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah once wrote:
‘If looking at trees, horses or animals is done to make the world, power or wealth more appealing, then this is condemnable because of Allah’s words: Strain not your glance … But if it is done without diminishing religiousness, but simply to revitalise the soul, such as to gaze at beautiful flowers, then this is from those vanities which assists one upon the truth.’1
It is one of the reasons why the Prophet ﷺ warned: ‘The most beloved of places to Allah on earth are the mosques, while the most despised are the markets.’2
Markets being deplored has nothing to do with trade, per se. It does have to do with the fraud and deception common in such places, and the greed, avarice and lack of remembrance of Allah. More than that, markets are where even a renunciant’s heart can so easily be entangled in the tentacles of dunya, or be ensnared by its false glitz and glitter. Enter it for needs, we must; enter it for wants, we may. But enter it bewitched and besotted, we must not!
Of course, markets are not just an endless row of shops and stalls down the main high street, or in the town centre in some glitzy shopping mall. Markets are now just a click away, as more and more of us shop online.
Such dangers apply to any place where the soul is in serious risk of being hijacked by the dunya, or where Allah’s remembrance is smothered by hours of unhealthy recollection of material mania. Abu’l-Darda’ once remarked: ‘Beware of markets, for they are a temptation and a distraction.’3
1. Ibn Taymiyyah, Mukhtasar Fatawa al-Misriyyah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1985), 29.
2. Muslim, no.671.
3. In Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hanbal, al-Zuhd (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1999), 111; no.721.