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Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. Can you explain the meaning of zuhud as stated in the hadith of the Prophet PBUH in a narration of Abi Said al-Khudri?


Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

From Abu Abbas Sahl bin Sa’ad al-Sa’idi RA, he said: A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, direct me to an act which, if I do it, [will cause] Allah to love me and the people to love me.” So, he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 

ازْهَدْ فِي الدُّنْيَا يُحِبَّك اللهُ، وَازْهَدْ فِيمَا عِنْدَ النَّاسِ يُحِبَّك النَّاسُ

“Renounce the world and Allah will love you, and renounce what the people possess and the people will love you.”

A hasan hadith related by Ibn Majah (4102) and others with good chains of authorities.

Prophetic Guidance and Wisdoms

Among them are:

First: The hadith came from a man without his name or lineage being mentioned, for the more important issue is the question he asked to the Prophet PBUH; which is how to attain the love of Allah SWT and the affection of people.

Second: The meaning of zuhud. Literally, zuhud is turning away from or does not desire or want something, for it is of no value. While according to syara’, it means taking something that is only out of necessity which is halal (that is permissible).

The explanation for the meaning of zuhud according to how the term is used is described as the following:

  • Hating the world and turning away from it.
  • Leaving the wealth of the world for he chooses the wealth of the hereafter.
  • His heart is not attracted to something that is emptied by the hand (which is not in the hands or not owned).
  • Preventing sadness for something that he does not have and removing happiness for something that he has.

Third: Zuhud for the worldly matters. Zuhud for the worldly matters is divided into three:

  • Believe in something that is from Allah SWT is more than his belief in something that he has.
  • Gladly faces the tribulations and tests of losing property, family members or others more than being happy when receiving ease when he was not tested. Whoever are zuhud towards the world, then it is easy for him to face tribulation that befalls him.
  • His feelings and attitude are the same when he is complimented or insulted for the truth that he is doing. A person who prioritizes this world, then he would choose compliments over insults. This type of person would leave the truth that is disliked by people, for he hopes that people will not dislike him.

Fourth: The words of scholars regarding zuhud, some of them are:

  • Ali bin Abi Talib RA said: “Zuhud is not being too happy when one gain profits and not being too sad one suffers loss.”
  • Abu Idris al-Khaulani RA said, as narrated by Imam Ahmad: “Zuhud towards this world does not mean prohibiting the permissible and disregarding one’s property, but zuhud towards this world means firm belief for the things that is from Allah than something that is his. When you are tested, you are hopeful of the rewards from Him and the things provided for you (in the hereafter), even if the tests are continuous.”
  • Hasan al-Basri said: “For a zuhud person, when he sees another person he will say: ‘He is better than me,’”
  • Wahb al-Basri said: “Zuhud towards this world is never giving up on something that is lost (from the worldly wealth) and does not celebrate for something that you attain (of worldly gains)”.
  • Al-Zuhri said: “Zuhud is those who do not lose their patience when faced with prohibited matters and the permissible things do not prevent him from being grateful.”
  • Sufyan bin Uyainah said: “A zuhud person is someone who is grateful when he is blessed and patient when faced with tests.”
  • Rabi’ah said: “The pinnacle of zuhud is collecting something with the correct methods and placing it in its right place.”
  • Sufyan al-Tsauri said: “Zuhud towards this world is not having elaborate and grand wishes. Not with eating bland food and wearing tattered clothing.”
  • Imam Ahmad said: “Zuhud is not having elaborate and grand dreams and not hoping for another’s property.”
  • Imam al-Nawawi said: “Zuhud is leaving unnecessary worldly affairs, even if it is permissible and providing oneself with only what is necessary.”
  • A poet said: “This world is only a provision for the good and bad people. This world is hated by those who love Allah, for it is only taken according to his necessity without harming his religion.”

Fifth: Scholars divided zuhud as the following:

Some salaf scholars divided zuhud to three types:

  • Zuhud from the obedience and worship of other than Allah SWT.
  • Zuhud from what is prohibited and sinful.
  • Zuhud towards what is permissible.

Zuhud for the first and second divisions are obligatory while the third division is not obligatory.

Ibn al-Mubarak said: Ma’la bin Abu Muthi’ said: “There are three types of zuhud:

  • Being sincere in one’s actions and words doing them only for Allah SWT without hoping for any type of rewards from both of them.
  • Leaving matters that is meaningless and perform deeds that are beneficial.
  • Zuhud towards what is permissible. It is sunnah and it is the lowest stage.

Ibrahim bin Adham said: “There are three types of zuhud: obligatory zuhud, prioritized zuhud and safety zuhud. Obligatory zuhud is zuhud towards matters that are prohibited. Prioritized zuhud is zuhud towards permissible matters. While safety zuhud is zuhud towards syubhat (doubtful).”

Imam Ahmad said: “There are three types of zuhud:

  • Leaving what is prohibited. This is zuhud for the public.
  • Leaving excessiveness from permissible matters and this is zuhud for the khowwas (pious people)
  • Leaving something that distracts him from remembering Allah. This is the zuhud for the Arifin (those who truly comprehend the teachings of Islam completely)”. (Refer our book al-Kafi Syarah Hadis 40, pg. 289-295)

May Allah SWT make us form among the zuhud people as stated by the Prophet PBUH and explained by salafus soleh. We end this discussion with the supplication:

اللهم اجْعَلِ الدُنْيَا فِى اَيْدِيْنَا وَلَا تَجْعَلْهَا فِى قُلُوْبِنَا

“O Allah, make this world be in our hands (as ours) but not in our hearts that will lead to love of worldly matters.”