Narrated Abu Huraira, the Prophet (saw) said, “The dunya is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the kafir (disbeliever),” [Sahih Muslim, vol.4, #7058]
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is explaining how the Dunya i.e. world is observed by the believer as a prison and through this he is confinement and has many limitations which limit him to commit sin. The believer is also deprived of a range of amusements but these amusements are far from the amusements and fun they will experience in paradise. The believer has many restrictions thus why the Dunya is a prison for the believer. The non-believer find this world as paradise because they do not have restrictions and are able to do as they wish thus they are in complete bliss, delight and peace as they do not have any restrictions which limit what they can do.
Once when Imam Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, a famous scholar in the past who died in 852 AH, who wrote the commentary of Sahih al Bukhar entitled ‘Fath al Bari’, was walking with his grand entourage through the town, they came upon a miserable, poor and dejected Jew. When the Jew recognized Ibn Hajar, he called out to him, “O scholar of Islam! Is it not true that your Prophet has said that this life is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the kafir? How is it that you are living in lavish wealth being a so-called believer, and yet I live this meager and miserable existence?” Ibn Hajar responded, “What you say of the Prophet (saw) of what he has said is true. You should know that this opulence you see me living in, is a prison compared to what awaits for me in the Hereafter. And, you should know that what you are living is Paradise compared to what Allah has prepared for you in the akhira.”
Basically you have limitations bound by Shariah as to what you can do and what you can’t do. Like a prisoner in prison, you are obliged follow rules and live by a certain code of ethics. And a true believer sees this duniya as a prison that keeps him from being with his Lord. He longs to be free to go to his Lord. Whereas a non-Muslim doesn’t care much about the afterlife, but rather lives with the concept of live each day to the fullest. That is why they don’t hold back anything and do everything they desire, be it good or bad. They see this as their paradise, which is why they are afraid to die and going away. In the hereafter, the believers will be free to do as they wish in paradise. All their desires will be fulfilled. Even whine will be available for them. Where as the disbelievers will be in the hellfire, being punished for their disobedience to their lord. They will truly be prisoners being punished in their prisons.
That is not all, this world is paradise for the disbelievers because Allah will give them all they desire in this world. They will be compensated for their deeds to enjoy this world fully as they will get nothing in the Hereafter. Where as a believer may or may not be blessed with much in this world but one even on the lowest level of Paradise will be granted all his heart desires.
Therefore the Dunya is a test and success lead to paradise and failure to comply with the Quran and Sunnah leads to hell. The Dunya here is being referred to the less important life, meaning the life in the hereafter is of far greater importance than this life on earth. As a result the Dunya is built for a test and as a single purpose to worship Allah subhana wa ta’ala. The purpose of creation was not built for entertainment purpose in the Dunya and the believer should act in guidance of the Quran and Sunnah to be guaranteed a place in paradise.
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is explaining how the believer should take action whilst in the Dunya. The believer is like a traveler during his stay in the Dunya and like the description of a traveler one should travel as if on a journey to pass through the Dunya to get to the final destination meaning the Akhirah. The Dunya is seen as passage through to the akhirah.
The believer should use the passage to make preparations to make it to the final destination. In preparations of a journey like the traveller, one should pack a suitcase that may take them to the final destinations. For the believer to get to the final destination, they must pack a suitcase containing good deeds, nafl prayers, prayers on time, patience, Truthfulness, Night prayers and forgiveness for sins in order for them to make it safely to the final destination. In order for the believer to make it to the highest level and be guaranteed the best’s accommodation (i.e. the highest level of paradise), one must ensure they have applied the Quran and Sunnah to the utmost extent.
by Halima Begum