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40th Hadith - Be in This World As a Traveler (Bukhari: 6416)

الحديثُ الأربعون 

عَنْ ابْنِ عُمَرْ رضي الله عَنْهُمَا قَالَ : أَخَذَ رَسُوْلُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِمَنْكِبَيَّ فَقَالَ : كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيْبٌ أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيْلٍ. وَكاَنَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا يَقُوْلُ : إِذَا أَمْسَيْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الصَّبَاحَ، وَإِذَا أَصْبَحْتَ فَلاَ تَنْتَظِرِ الْمَسَاءَ، وَخُذْ مِنْ صِحَّتِكَ لِمَرَضِكَ، وَمِنْ حَيَاتِكَ لِمَوْتِكَ

[رواه البخاري]


40th Hadith - Translation

On the authority of Ibn Umar (R.A.), who said: The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) took me by the shoulder and said:

"Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a traveler/wayfarer."  Ibn Umar added:  "When evening comes, do not expect (to live till) morning, and when morning comes, do not expect (to live till) evening. Take from your health (a preparation) for your illness, and from your life for your death."  (Bukhari: 6416)


Brief Narration

There are so many verses in the Quran that make comparisons between the worldly life and the Hereafter. The priority and emphasis is made on the Hereafter where it is described as the real life and the worldly life as a life of nothing but entertainment and amusement. Allah says in Quran::

“And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion but the home of Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah. Will you not then reason?" 

(Surah Al-An’am: 6:32)

And in Surah Al-Ankabut (29:64), Allah expresses the same meaning. The same meaning is also expressed in other ayahs such as in Surah Muhammad (47:36), Surah Yunus (10:26), Surah Al-Kahf (18:45-46), SurahFater (35:5), Surah Al-Ala (87:16-17) and Surah Al-Isra (17:18-19).

In all of the above mentioned ayahs, Allah draws the attention of the believers toward the Hereafter to remind them that it is the final destination and the real life and enjoyment of the believers. Allah also comments on this life as nothing but amusement and diversion. It is a life of a test and trial. It is a life used as a means of getting us forward to the Hereafter.

Following are the impact of this hadith on the life of Muslims:

  1. To increase the sense of responsibility in terms of our duties towards Allah, the Prophet (S.A.W.), relatives, and the community members (ummah). 
  2. To motivate the Muslims to enjoin what is good and to forbid what is evil. 
  3. To be closer to Allah at all times. 
  4. To minimize weaknesses, shortcomings and sinful acts. 
  5. To maximize self-accountability and self-reckoning. 
  6. To emphasize 'Taqwa' and fearing Allah the Almighty. 
  7. To be safeguarded from being misled or enslaved by self-interests, desires and worldly temptations.

One of the portion of the hadith means that today you may be healthy, but you never know about the future. It is then wise and better to perform good deeds and to be closer to Allah now before being unhealthy or before dying. This meaning has been stressed by the Prophet (S.A.W.), in other hadiths where he asks us to utilise our time and to do beneficial things whether in this life or in the Hereafter. We can relate to Imam Nawawi's other hadiths that have been previously mentioned in which certain charitable acts have been emphasised. 

Some Muslims throughout history misunderstood this hadith. Consequently, they misunderstood the Islamic teachings regarding dealing with life. They understood it in a negative way. We also find other Muslims who are affected by the challenges of modernity and the excessive tension that is given to this life. We find minimum levels of good deeds. They are overwhelmed by the advancement of technology and end up with little “iman” or spirituality. The Islamic standpoint that should be understood is that there is no conflict or opposition between this life and the Hereafter. On the contrary, Islam establishes harmony where a Muslim lives in this life but his heart is devoted to Allah and the Hereafter. Whatever he does is with the objective of pleasing Allah and is to be done in accordance with the teachings of Islam and the guidance of revelation. 

(Reference: Commentary of Forty Hadiths of An-Nawawi by Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi)

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