Blessing and Dissipation
In the following sections, we will analyze how the Qur'an looks at Paradise and, based upon these descriptions,"try to imagine this perfect place. But before we do this, let's look at a few important points. In today's societies, many people have erroneous ideas and impressions in their conscious and subconscious minds. As such obstacles cause them to formulate a mistaken view, we must describe some basic Islamic concepts whose meanings have departed from their original understanding.
With this in mind, we first have to distinguish between "blessing" and "dissipation."
In the following pages, we will see that the Qur'an describes Paradise as an extremely luxurious and magnificent place, and that life therein is as comfortable and attractive as it can be.
However, to many people today, such a life is not so much "Islamic" as it is a natural outcome of being alienated from Allah and religious moral teaching.
So, because of this erroneous understanding that dominates society, very many people think that a comfortable, luxurious, and ostentatious life, and all that goes along with it, are "un-Islamic." They see such things as expensive clothes, rich food, entertainment, dinner parties, magnificently appointed houses, décor, and valuable art works as belonging to ignorant people cut off from their religion. They usually call a life filled with these things "dissolute," and criticize those who give this society its name as "living undisciplined lives of dissolution." The word "dissolution" (safahat) comes from the Arabic safih, and can be translated as "a lack of discipline, overindulgence, a weakness of mind that comes from living an irresponsible life of wealth and comfort."
Here, we encounter a false understanding that must be corrected. The life of Paradise that Allah has been pleased to choose for His servants, as well as a life that contains every kind of luxury, comfort, and ostentation, is also the most beautiful and noble way of life, one that conforms as closely as possible to religious moral teaching.
A false definition of dissolution opens the way to misunderstanding. Dissolution, or rebellion against Allah through a lack of discipline and overindulgence, is a condition of the human mind. People are not dissolute because of their clothes, ostentatious houses, aesthetic environments, or material wealth. Rather, the problem is in their minds.
The natural result of this situation is this: If people have a Qur'anic morality and a strong faith, they can live among the richest opulence imaginable without ever becoming dissolute. On the contrary, because they view everything they encounter according to the Qur'anic criteria and moral teaching, they see all of the beauty surrounding them as a blessing. In other words, they realize that all of these things are gifts from Allah. So, if Muslims know that Allah has given all of the surrounding riches, beauty, opulence, and magnificence, naturally they thank our Lord for what He has provided. This is, after all, why all blessings have been created.
If we applied this general way of thinking to our present society, we would have to say that those who live a dissolute life and turn away from Allah's commands have gone astray, because they do not see that all of their possibilities are blessings from Him. If they saw these things as blessings, this understanding would lead them to give thanks to Allah. And then, they would use these blessings as Allah intended them to be used: avoiding waste and using them in a way pleasing to Him.
So, wealth can be defined in two ways. Some rich people are believers who consider all of their possessions to be blessings from Allah, while other rich people go astray by considering all of their possessions as their own, forget Allah, and fall into dissolution. However, the model that Allah has proposed for all of His servants is wealth, as mentioned in the first model above. Wealth and poverty are tests for believers. Although some believers may be tested by poverty, Allah commands: "We desired to show kindness to those who were oppressed in the land, and to make them leaders and inheritors" (Surat al-Qasas, 5). This might happen in the world, but it certainly will happen in the afterlife.
Therefore, it would be very wrong for Muslims to find fault with grand, luxurious, and opulent lives. Muslims must not shun such people and regard them with disdain, because, after all, all material things in this life (e.g., fine clothes, delicious food, magnificent homes and works of art) were created for Muslims, as we read in Surat al-A'raf, 32:
Say: "Who has forbidden the fine clothing that Allah has produced for His servants and the good kinds of provision?" Say: "On the Day of Rising, such things will be exclusively for those who had faith during their life in the hereafter…"
The Qur'an gives the example of Prophet Sulayman (as), to whom Allah gave great wealth. In fact, it describes these possessions, as well as his opulent palace and works of art, in Surah Saba', 12-13 and Surat an-Naml, 44.
The important thing here is that Sulayman (as) gave thanks to Allah amid all of these magnificent possessions, for he knew that they were a mercy from our Lord. By relating his words: "Truly do I love the love of good with a view to the glory of my Lord" (Surah Sad, 32), the Qur'an draws our attention to his deep understanding.
This example shows us that the love of possessions, defined here as "the love of good," is legitimate as long as it is a means to praise Allah. No doubt, believers who have this kind of love will not hesitate to use their possessions as Allah directs. Possessions are a blessing belonging to Allah, and so those who have them will use them as Allah commands.
But if possessions are not seen as a blessing, dissolution sets in. The Qur'an gives many examples of how deviators understand the meaning of riches. One of the clearest examples is that of Qarun, a rich man who "gloated" (Surat al-Qasas, 76) and said: "I have only been given it because of the knowledge I have" (Surat al-Qasas, 78). Such a love of possessions cannot bring people close to Allah; rather, it diverts them from His way and alienates them from faith. The Qur'an describes this type of love as:
[T]ruly man is ungrateful to his Lord, and indeed he bears witness to that. Truly he is fierce in his love of wealth.(Surat al-'Adiyat, 6-8)
So, for this reason Muslims must view wealth according to the Qur'an's criteria and pursue it only to please Allah and serve Islam. They must desire all of Allah's blessings, because all blessings of this earthly life have been created for those faithful and sincere servants who exert every effort to please and serve Allah. We have to be continually thankful for these blessings and follow Sulayman's (as) example: "What an excellent servant! He truly turned to his Lord" (Surah Sad, 30).
Those who live according to the real spirit of the Qur'an's moral teachings and adopt the point of view described above will be deemed "worthy and qualified" to enter Paradise, which possesses, as one of its most salient characteristics, eternal splendor and dazzling wealth and beauty. People who think and feel like Sulayman (as), who said: "Truly do I love the love of good with a view to the glory of my Lord" (Surah Sad, 32) amid all of this beauty, are believers.
Since this is how believers will think in Paradise, their true home, they must establish this point of view in this world, which is no more than a preparation for the world to come. Far from regarding wealth, beauty, and splendor as dissolution, believers must know that every blessing is a mercy from our Lord, recognize its value, learn to enjoy it, and be thankful.
The blessings of Paradise that we will look at in the following pages must be examined from this point of view.