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Getting attached to the Dunya

"I was one to get attached.
Ever since I was a child, this temperament was clear. While other children in preschool could easily recover once their parents left, I could not. My tears, once set in motion, did not stop easily. As I grew up, I learned to become attached to everything around me. From the time I was in first grade, I needed a best friend. As I got older, any fall-out with a friend shattered me. I couldn’t let go of anything. People, places, events, photographs, moments—even outcomes became objects of strong attachment. If things didn’t work out the way I wanted or imagined they should, I was devastated. And disappointment for me wasn’t an ordinary emotion. It was catastrophic. Once let down, I never fully recovered. I could never forget, and
the break never mended. Like a glass vase that you place on the edge of a table, once broken, the pieces never quite fit again.
However, the problem wasn’t with the vase, or even that the vases kept breaking. The problem was that I kept putting them on the edge of tables. Through my attachments, I was dependent on my relationships to fulfill my needs. I allowed those relationships to define my happiness or my sadness, my fulfillment or my emptiness, my security, and even my self-worth. And so, like the vase placed where it will inevitably fall, through those dependencies I set myself up for disappointment. I set myself up to be broken. And that’s exactly what I found: one disappointment, one break after another.
Yet the people who broke me were not to blame any more than gravity can be blamed for breaking the vase. We can’t blame the laws of physics when a twig snaps because we leaned on it for support. The twig was never created to carry us. Our weight was only meant to be carried by God."

(Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed)

Mahn, if I ever had a ‘spirit animal’ in this life, Yasmin Mogahed would be the one for me. Years back when I was reading her renowned book ‘Reclaim Your Heart’, I was mesmerized by how well she captured my personality on paper; for her internal struggles were exactly like mine and it was so profound to be guided by someone older on the same battles of life through her pen. I was one (and still am most times) to get attached, and boy didn’t life disappoint me too. I had to learn the hard way temporality of everything. I had to learn that everything coming our way is rizq and sometimes that rizq is not meant to last forever. It could be people, friendship, love, wealth, health, status, moments, even emotions…we could lose any of it or sometimes all of it once their time was up.

I once came across a profound statement that said something like ‘You ache because the love that you have for this thing was only meant for Allah’ and those words really stayed with me. When you first think about it you might deny it, ‘I don’t love this person, this status, this wealth as much as I love Allah’ but the truth is that when you form worldly attachments that paralyze you and make you have delusions then you are, even if indirectly, equating your love for this dunya for the love of Allah. And please take note that mentioning love for dunya is not necessarily love for material things only.

After years of falling into the same pattern of disappointments and heartbreak, I finally began to realize something profound. I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.” (Yasmin Mogahed)

Allah Subhanahu Wataala says, “Still there are some who take others as Allah’s equal—they love them as they should love Allah—but the ˹true˺ believers love Allah even more.” And here, Allah refers to the blinding kind of love which makes us feel empty, lost, and in despair without it. No one and nothing can ever fill our emptiness except Allah Subhanahu Wataala. We are of course allowed to grieve and to feel sad upon losing our loved ones or things that meant something to us. Yet no one and nothing should be so dear to us to an extent that we fall into despair upon losing it. This in fact is not described as pure love but rather, misplaced love, unhealthy attachment and sometimes, codependency.

"Try not to confuse attachment with love. Attachment is about fear and dependency, and has more to do with love of self than love of another. Love without attachment is the purest love because it isn't about what others can give you because you're empty. It is about what you can give others because you're already full."

(Yasmin Mogahed)

Sometimes in the pursuit of our dreams, acquiring wealth, and building our relationships with others, including our spouses and children, we are overcome with intense passion. Sometimes we spiral out of control; we become slaves to the objects of our love and desire, and most often, we don’t even realize how damaging it is for us. We also don’t realize how these attachments could lead us to disobedience of Allah and the destruction of our nafs.

The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever absorbs his heart in love of the world will be entangled by three things: misery that will not cease to discomfort him, greed that will not achieve his independence, and vain hopes that will never reach their end. For the world is seeking and is sought. Whoever seeks the world, the Hereafter will pursue him until death comes to him and it seizes him. Whoever seeks the Hereafter, the world will pursue him until he exhausts his provision from it.” (Al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 10328)

Sometimes we become so engrossed in the events of our lives; both positive or negative ones, to an extent that we are distracted from the main purpose of our lives. For example, someone loses their mother or spouse through death and it makes them fall into complete despair such that it affects their faith. The believer is expected to accept their fate with grace and patience while bearing in mind that what Allah has in store for us is always better. And of course, I am not trying to discount the pain that comes along with the trials of this life. It hurts and aches deeply. Yet at the end of the day, we should remember that Allah never tests us except for what we can handle.

This also means that the love for Allah Subhanahu Wataala should be superior to anything/anyone else and that we should master the art of letting go and detachment. Letting go of all worldly attachments that paralyze us. Detaching from our desires. Cutting off any objects of love that blind us or anything that is no longer benefiting us. Most importantly, looking forward to the rewards of our patience in the hereafter.

“As much as you can, keep dunya (worldly life) in your hand--not in your heart. That means when someone insults you, keep it out of your heart so it doesn't make you bitter or defensive. When someone praises you, also keep it out of your heart, so it doesn't make you arrogant and self-deluded. When you face hardship and stress, don't absorb it in your heart, so you don't become hopeless and overwhelmed. Instead, keep it in your hands and realize that everything passes. When you're given a gift by God, don't hold it in your heart. Hold it in your hand so that you don't begin to love the gift more than the Giver. And so that when it is taken away you can truly respond with 'inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon': 'indeed we belong to God, and to God we return'.” (Yasmin Mogahed)

Some of the ways to detach from the Dunya are:

  • Frequent remembrance of Allah to fill one’s void
  • Seek Allah’s closeness
  • Remember death often
  • Be content and do not be greedy seeking this life
  • Invest in one’s self-development and seek spiritual healing
  • Be pleased with Allah’s fate upon you and trust His wisdom upon how He manages your affairs
  • Realize that anyone or anything in your life belongs to Allah and can be taken away from you at any moment.
  • In cases where you don’t get what you want, or things don’t go your way, realize that perhaps you love a thing and it is not kheyr for you (or the vice versa) as Allah Subhanahu Wataala stated in the Qur’an.
  • Finally, make dua-

Ya Allah, we are your weak, humble servants. We come to you with humility and in hope for Your mercy.

يا حَـيُّ يا قَيّـومُ بِـرَحْمَـتِكِ أَسْتَـغـيث ، أَصْلِـحْ لي شَـأْنـي كُلَّـه ، وَلا تَكِلـني إِلى نَفْـسي طَـرْفَةَ عَـين

“O Ever-Living One, O Eternal One, by Your mercy I call on You to set right all my affairs. Do not place me in charge of my soul even for the blinking of an eye (i.e. a moment).”

اللّهُمَّ قَنِّعْنِيْ بِمَا رَزَقْتَنِيْ ، وَبَارِكْ لِيْ فِيْهِ ، وَاخْلُفْ عَلَى كُلِّ غَائِبَةٍ بِخَيْرٍ

“O Allah, make me content with what you have provided me, send blessings for me therein, and replace for me every absent thing with something better.”

Ya Allah, please do not make this world our biggest concern. Ya Allah, please do not make this world our biggest concern. Ya Allah, please do not make this world our biggest concern.

Protect us from attachments that take us further away from You. Protect us from loving anyone or anything more than you. Protect us from seeking anything that will displease You.

Ya Allah, strengthen our hearts and our imaan such that we can bear our losses with patience and forbearance.

Make us among those who accept their fate with grace and good hope in You.

Heal our souls and grant us peace of mind with whatever happens in our lives. Please don’t let this life overwhelm or devastate us.

Ya Allah occupy our time and minds with Your Remembrance alone. Make us among those who are always striving to do good and be good.

Ya Allah please do not make us slaves to the objects of our love or desires. Please do not make our spouses, children, loved ones, wealth or status take us away from You.

Protect us from persistently pursuing people, wealth, or anything in this life that is not written for us. Instead, please redirect our hearts to what is best for us both in this life and the next.

Our Lord we beg You, do not make our worldly affairs be the reason for Your wrath upon us.

Ya Allah, guide our hearts towards You and allow us to attain Your highest level of Jannah, ameen ya Raabal alameen!


If you haven’t read Yasmin Mogahed’s book ‘reclaim Your Heart’ here’s your cue to do so. The book is life-changing mashallah.

Kindly subscribe below to stay tuned with part 6, the final article in this series in Shaa Allah. May Allah be pleased with you always, ameen!

Photo Courtesy: Pinterest.com

Throughout history, empires were erected, revolutions were staged and science flowered. Yet, the colossal mould of these events, in our minds, could have easily dissolved the sheer fact that they were orchestrated by specific people. It is easy to forget the Tunisian whose self immolation coupled with zealous activism by influential citizens, spawned what would later be the Arab spring. By the same token significant incidents that ever happened gathered momentum through relationships built by leaders . Relationships lubricated fulfillment of their interests. And on a closer look influence was at their nexus. It is a constant that stretches its tentacles into various relationships existing in organizations from corporations to social movements. What strategies can one use to gain influence, better still how can one wield it effectively?

Studying Law was a rather insipid experience for the young Hungarian, Ignaz Semmelweis. His distaste for the subject culminated into a switch to medicine, a field that indulged his passion eventually leading him to a job at the obstetrics department in the University of Vienna in 1846. Working as an assistant at that department meant tackling the challenge of childbed fever which was prevalent in maternity wards in Europe at that time. Dissecting corpses of patients that died from the disease, doctors would find puss and large amount of putrid flesh. Some Medical practitioners believed childbed fever was caused by “polluted air” known as miasma while others thought it was a result of pus, which they mistook for milk. Breast milk was then thought to be a product of menstrual blood under the belief that there was an anatomical relationship between the upper uterus and the breast. It would not be long before Semmelweis discovered that mortality rates were higher in the clinic attended by medical interns compared to the second one attended by midwives within the department. What was even more startling was that women who gave birth in the streets never caught the disease. He suspected that interns spread the disease during childbirth after handling corpses. His suspicions were confirmed when his colleague died of the illness after accidentally pricking himself with a scalpel while conducting a postmortem on a woman who had childbed fever.

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Without haste, Semmelweis commanded those in his ward to wash their hands with chlorinated water before attending to mothers giving birth, a practice that significantly reduced mortality rates. It was now clear that there was only one cause of the disease which he termed as “cadaveric contamination”. As soon as he revealed this theory to his senior, Johann Klein , it was refuted. The idea was radical and went against the medical zeitgeist at the time. Rather than carrying out experiments and publishing his findings, Semmelweis became entrenched in political battles with Klein. His battles with Klein almost resembled those of Thomas stockmann and Peter Stockmann in Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the people; where Thomas was the politically inept scientific genius battling Peter, a shrewd politician with clout and a knack for manipulation. Simmilweiz’s close friends urged him to write papers on the discovery, he would hear none. In fact he had an such an aversive attitude towards writing that would later cripple his career. Consequently Semmelweis lost his job , the medical community in Vienna turned against him. He subsequently left Vienna for Budapest where he got a job at the University of Pest. There too his seniors disbelieved his theory. As a last resort, the vexing swamp of skepticism compelled him to write the only report on his findings, Die Ätiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfieber (The Etiology, Concept, and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever). Unfortunately it did not fully explain the logic behind his theory and attracted even more vehemence. Semmelweis’s behaviour grew aberrant and his wife thought he was insane, he would eventually die miserably from blood poisoning after incurring a gangrenous wound in 13th August 1865 at the age 47. It was several years later that Louis pasteur promulgated what we know today as the germ theory. A discovery that could largely be credited to Ignaz Semmelweis.

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Many a times we find ourselves in circumstances that command voicing suggestions or instituting executive decisions that may not settle well with our colleagues. Just like Semmelweis most of us choose the quick path of shoving instructions at subordinates if we happen to be in a position of power, or rebelling with a panache that borders tyranny if we are not. Yet others will altogether swallow back their reservations to avoid conflicts at all costs. Solving this classical problem commands that we understand the primary ways through which we generally gain influence. The first path to influence is power which often involves control of resources while the second path is status which derives from positive social judgements of others. Ignaz Semmelweis could only implement his findings in the ward that he had control over. His position at the ward gave him power. On the other hand convincing those beyond his reach of power would require that he earned status.Social psychologist Edwin Hollander formulated a an insightful process through which we earn status. He promulgated the concept of idiosyncrasy credits, the freedom to differ from a group’s expectations. Idiosyncrasy credits are earned whenever a person contributes towards a group’s goals. Subsequently, one earns enough idiosyncrasy credits to the point that deviating from the crowd expectations does not trigger any negative reactions. Had Semmelweis properly conducted experiments and formally published his findings, he would have earned credits that would have seen him earn status amongst his peers making them more receptive to his findings.

Likewise, it is always prudent to place yourself in positions that allow you to exercise your strengths. This way, you will be able to make contributions and consequently earn status among your peers. Semmelweis’s profession required him to carry out experiments and consequently publish research papers on his findings. Sadly, writing wasn’t his strength as he abhorred it to the core of his being. As a result he could not bring himself to influence his superiors and peers alike because the germ theory was too novel in that era. It smashed the expectations of those in the medical field which vastly rested on misinformed theories. He never earned enough idiosyncrasy credits to deviate from his colleagues’ expectations.

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As a manager, you will be tempted to use your powers on a frequent basis but this approach quickly breeds resentment and may hurt productivity in the long run. Instead you must coalesce the exercise of power with status building. In fact studies conducted by organizational behavior researcher Adam galinsky and colleagues have shown that individuals occupying high power roles with relatively low status end up having more conflicts with their colleagues in lower ranks. This in effect results into a vicious cycle where those with power frustrate those under them because of their resentment and vice versa escalating conflicts further. Thus you might want to earn the highest qualifications in your field or even occasionally take part in basic technical work as your juniors to demonstrate your capabilities as some executives do which yields massive respect in the long term. With hope that Einstein will not have been offended, we can safely conclude status without power is blind and power without status is lame.