What is Dunya?
“The word dunya encompasses many things but generally means the temporal, earthly world in contrast to the eternal spiritual realm of the hereafter. Literally, the word dunya means 'closer,' or 'lower.'”
More colloquially speaking, the dunya is any earthly concern or possession. We human beings admittedly love the dunya.
And there is no problem in loving the dunya. It is after all the means to sustain our lives and continue our worship. It is after all a blessing for us and a means for us to be thankful to our Creator.
When Love of the Dunya Goes too Far
The problem comes in when we make the dunya become the goal and not the means to the ultimate goal. The dunya is a place where we are for a time, and all that is in the dunya should be used for or avoided with the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah in mind.
Our goal is not to be as rich, or as powerful, or as comfortable as we possibly can in this life. This life is just a means to the hereafter where what we do in the dunya will determine our position with Allah. And Allah knows how we forget the dunya's place in our journey to the hereafter. He says in the Quran:
But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring. (87:16-7)
When we start chasing the dunya for dunya's sake instead of using it as a means to our real goal (pleasing Allah) that is when our priorities are mixed up. And we start to suffer from a serious spiritual disease.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) once stood before the companions and said:
“It is not poverty that I fear for you, but what I fear for you is that the world (the dunya) will be presented for you just as it was presented for those before you, then you will compete for it, and it will destroy you, just as it destroyed them.” (Ibn Majah)
As a physical disease destroys the body, a spiritual disease destroys the soul. When we put the love of the dunya before the love of Allah, diseases like greed, arrogance, ingratitude, jealousy, vanity all start to take over our heart and destroy our lives.
Children have a natural love of Allah. And it is easy to nurture this love in them.
But as soon as they are old enough to process visual stimulus and voice their wants, they are bombarded with advertisements geared at them, convincing them that they need the latest and greatest toy, article of clothing, or snack on the market. And this is where the battle ground for the heart begins.
The good news is that, as parents, you can do a lot to make sure the love of Allah wins over the love of dunya in the hearts and minds of your children.
Use their obsession with getting that bright and shiny new toy as a teachable moment. Tell them about children who could only dream about having all that they have.
Combating too Much Love of Dunya as Adults
As adults, we still fall for the same traps we did as children. The commercials may be more sophisticated and our friends may have bigger toys to tempt us to compete, but it is all the same.
Similarly, the cure for this disease of too much love of the dunya is the same.
When we want the latest and greatest “toy” and become obsessed with it and feel like we cannot live without it, we can look to those who have less than us. Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said:
Look at those who stand at a lower (financial) level than you but don't look at those who stand at a higher level than you, for this would make the favors (conferred upon you by Allah) insignificant (in your eyes). (Muslim)
When we feel the urge to compete with others in material wealth or possessions - things that will not help you even a little in the hereafter - replace that competition with a competition in good deeds and gaining religious knowledge - things that will build mansions and gardens for us in the hereafter.
When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked whether the verse in the Quran:
And those who give whatever they (have to) give while their hearts are trembling. (23:60) referred to people who committed sins, he replied:
No. They are those who fast, pray and give charity while fearing that (these deeds) may not be accepted (by God). They are those who compete with one another in good deeds. (Ibn Majah)
The key is to understand that Allah does not deny our impulses. He encourages us to redirect them to something better.
Remind yourself that everything you do in this dunya can be done for the love of Allah, if you just have the right intentions.
Indeed, my prayer, my service of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.' (6:162)