The following ahadith are selections from Kitab al Zuhd of Ibn Majah
1. Abu Dharr Ghifari reports the Prophet (saws) as having said: “Renunciation of the world does not consist in forbidding (unto oneself) the lawful nor in throwing away one’s wealth. Renunciation consists in you placing greater trust and confidence in what Allah (swt) possesses, than what your hands possess, and the rewards for a misfortune when it strikes, being dearer to you than the (dislike of the) misfortune, were it to continue.” (Hadith no. 4100)
The hadith gives us to understand that the trend to deny oneself the joys of this life, as if the lawful were the unlawful, and of recklessly throwing away one’s wealth, all in the name of renunciation, had either begun to appear during the life-time of the Prophet (saws) or he foresaw it.
The Prophet’s definition tells us that zuhd is not the extremities of forbidding oneself the joys of this life or distributing one’s wealth without regard of one’s personal needs or those of the dependants. One can partake of the good things that Allah (swt) has created and be rich and still be an ascetic. Asceticism is the name of a condition of the heart, a matter of faith, trust and confidence in Allah (swt), and the love of the Hereafter and hence the readiness to bear hardships with patience and forbearance in the hope of being rewarded in the Hereafter. It should be such extent that such hopes become stronger than the fear and abhorrence of the misfortunes.
Yes, zuhd has its outward forms: those practised by the Prophet (saws) himself and his close Companions, viz., eating, drinking and sleeping as little as possible (without treating these things unlawful), spending a lot in the way of Allah (swt), (without recklessly throwing away one’s wealth), and indulging in this world only to the extent of need. Some examples of these practises will follow in this chapter. But these are only outward forms. But, when practiced today, they may or may not be accompanied by zuhd. Further, not to everyone can these outward forms and practises be prescribed, although everyone should make attempts at them, both for one’s own self as well for others. At the personal level these practices help in the realisation of tazkiyya and on the collective level they counter the greed prevalent in society.
2. Zayd ibn Thabit says the Prophet (saws) said: “He whose concern is this world, Allah (swt) will have his affairs disorganised and all the while poverty will stare him in his face although no more of the world will reach him but that which Allah (swt) has ordained for him. (In contrast), he whose concern is the Hereafter, will have his affairs organised by Allah (swt), contentment will be placed in his heart and the world will come to him bent on its knees.” (Hadith no. 4105)
The first point to be noted in this hadith is that, against the generally prevalent belief, Allah (swt) has not abandoned or forgotten this world after its creation. He pays attention to every individual and to every minor event. He who is devoted to Him, and is striving hard to seek His company in the Hereafter, has his life made easy for him by Allah (swt). His affairs are organised, so that although he is involved in many of those activities that sound time-taxing and hence adversely affecting the material growth of a person, he is able to do them without the neglect of those other things that everybody does. So that others wonder about him as to how he can combine both, this and the next-worldly activities, or do so many things at one time. As for the world and the person’s share of it, it comes to him, as if dragged down to him by circumstance, chasing him wherever he goes.
The situation of a person whose objective is this world, is entirely the opposite. The more he tries to organise his life, and save some time, the more he gets entangled in doing things that are non-constructive. Nor does his chasing of the world and lunging forward to get more and more earn him more than the share written for him. He is like a donkey with a carrot tied in front of him. No amount of running gets him closer to it. At the end of the day he gets just his share of the fodder.
3. `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) says once the Prophet (saws) lay down on a mat. It left its marks on his body. I suggested: “By my father and mother, O Apostle of Allah (swt), had you allowed us we would have spread something for your comfort.” He replied: “What do I have to do with this world? I and this world are like a traveller who rested under a tree for a while and then went away leaving it (all) behind him.” (Hadith no. 4109)
4. Ibn `Umar (ra) says the Prophet (saws) once held a part of my body and said: “O Abdullah. Live in the world as if you are a stranger or like a passer-by. And count yourself among those in the grave.” (Hadith no. 4114)
The narrator does not say what part the Prophet (saws) held. It was not his hand obviously. It could have been his shoulders, or arms around him, or the chins between his two palms. Whatever, it seems to be one of those gestures that the Prophet (saws) employed to link the words he said with an unusual action, in order to help the person remember his words. Whenever Abdullah would have thought of the Prophet (saws) holding him that way, those words would have come to the surface of the mind refreshing the memory. Without that gesture accompanying the words, he could well have forgotten the words also.
5. Mu`adh ibn Jabal says the Prophet (saws) said: “Shall I not tell you about the kings of Paradise?” I said: “Please do.” He said: “A weak man, rendered helpless (by circumstances), clad in two tattered garments, whom no one pays attention to, but (of such worth with Allah (swt) that) were he to swear (in the name of Allah), Allah (swt) will fulfill (his oath).” (Hadith no. 4115)
6. Abu Dharr (ra) reports the Prophet (saws) as having said: “Those who have a lot (of wealth) will be the lower ones in the Hereafter, save him who spent this way and that way – and his earning had been by the lawful means.” (Hadith no. 4130)
7. `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn al-As (ra) says the Prophet (saws) said: “Successful is he who was guided to Islam and was fed with what is just sufficient for him and is satisfied with it.” (Hadith no. 4138)
So prosperity is not the other name of wealth. It is to be, first of all, assurance of a place with Allah (swt) in the Hereafter, and then just enough for physical survival: food, drink, and shelter, and when sick, some simple medicine. But man is not merely his physical body. He has a heart too. If it is restless neither wealth nor poverty matter. Hence the contentment of the heart. What better road there can be to prosperity?
8. Abu Salamah (ra) says once `Ayesha (ra) said: “Sometimes a month used to pass over the household of the Prophet (saws) during which smoke would not have risen from any of his homes.” I asked her: “What did they eat then?” She said: “The two dark commodities: dates and water. Except that our Ansar neighbours – and they were true neighbours – sometimes sent him milk from goats that they reared in their houses.” (Hadith no. 4145)
`Ayesha (ra) used the word “dark” to describe dates and water because in those day water from the wells used to be brackish and appeared dark in the jug.