In one of his sermons regarding people, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said: “…God created some people who are not attracted to this world. He made them abstinent regarding worldly goods. They got attracted to the secure house to which God called them. They were patient, put up with the hardships in life, and were eager to attain the nobility that is near God. They gave their life to please God, and their deeds ended with martyrdom. They visited God while God was pleased with them. They realized that death is inevitable for those who lived in the past and those who will live in the future. Therefore they saved up things different from gold and silver for the Hereafter. They put on rugged clothes, ate little, and preferred nobility. They became friends for God’s sake or became enemies for the sake of God. These people are guiding lights in this world, and will be surrounded by blessings in the Hereafter.”
For example, in the month of Ramadan, to feel like the poor, is not only to be hungry. Poor people are not only hungry. We refer to them as poor because they do not have the same things that we have. Some may say being poor is because they are not as blessed as others, but I think it is because of the lack of what we call luxury in the way they live.
I have noticed that when people live simply, they live happier lives. Simple lives mean not much to deal with; you pray, eat, sleep, go to school/work/masjid, spend time with your family, and continue life. That’s all you worry about, and it’s stuff that is easily taken care of. When there is less going on in people’s lives, they enjoy it more. I like to call it living drama-free – when there is no drama, you are happier. I honestly feel that majority of us can admit we have too much drama going on in our lives, and for this problem there is a solution from our beloved Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).
Regarding the duties of one who owns blessings, which means everyone who is breathing, Imam Ridha (peace be upon him) said: “There are certain duties for one who owns blessings: paying the alms tax; helping his believing brothers; visiting the relations of kin; providing the means of comfort for his family; etc.” Then he said: “Sometimes I receive a blessing but cannot enjoy it unless I know I have fulfilled what is incumbent upon me regarding it.”
If we learn to live simply, as our Ahlul Bayt did, we will be successful. Those simple acts of life, like visiting family or helping a believing brother, are things that some of us do not do. It is our duty, and how can we enjoy all our other blessings like wealth, enough food, a home, car, etc. when we cannot even perform a simple act as such?
This may be one of the reasons why we cannot enjoy our simple blessings of life, such as rain. I like to use rain as an example because I noticed that when it rains, people complain. Why? The Qur’an says that rain is a blessing, but to people these days, rain is bad, because it makes their car dirty, their shoes and pants wet, and it causes traffic. If you ask a brother or sister living in Somalia, where almost half the people survive on only three cups of water a day, they take the rain as a blessing. It’s a simple blessing in life Allah has given us. Do you ever wonder why in some of the pictures that are taken in third-world countries, the people, no matter what they’re wearing or how “bad” their hair looks, or where they are, they smile the most beautiful smiles, because they realize, Alhamdulillah, we are alive. This is a main reason we are told to empathize with the poor when we fast, because it actually registers in our brains that when we think we may have nothing, we really see the value in everything Allah has given us.
We have been told to dress simply, eat simply, talk less, and remember Allah often. Fasting gives us a chance to put those things into practice. When we fast, we should completely change who we are, imagine that we are a man/woman in a poor country, where the homes are not made of bricks and windows. Where the food is not rice, salad, meat, AND dessert, where just about all amenities are nonexistent. There are no shopping malls, or cars to even get there. Some may call it the poor life, but why can’t we change that and call it simplicity?
Did not our Imams (peace be upon them) live in simple homes and eat simple food? Is it narrated that they spent their times running errands all day or that they spent their time worshiping their Creator and putting into action the simple acts of humanity?
We have become wrapped up in the fast-paced society of today, which is really unnecessary. Can we not live a happy life without overpriced clothing and basically a surplus of everything? Can we not live a happy life without making sure we go out every weekend, just because it’s the weekend and we have to go out because everyone does? Can we not be simple and just take the time to realize that we are the ones creating our own problems?
It’s even come to a point where the young children of today have adopted the life of luxury instead of simplicity. I was working here at a daycare over the summer, and a young boy said to me happily: “Aren’t my shoes cool? They were 85 bucks.” And you see kids who are so worried about what others will think of them if they aren’t up to par with society’s definition of cool.
The more we care about living simply, the more the future generations will adopt the same ways of simplicity. So the next time we want to do something like buy five colors of the same shirt from that store where everyone else buys their clothes, or eat a 20 dollar meal at a fancy restaurant, dress ourselves in our best for going to watch a movie with costs 10 dollars in itself to watch, or even think something, think of how necessary it is in the eyes of Allah and if we are overdoing it. Because He, like it says in Dua Kumayl, is Sari ar-Ridha – One whose pleasure is quickly achieved. And the fact that He is pleased quickly is another blessing for us, because we hope that our every action pleases Allah.
And let’s keep in mind that those who are poor are not at loss. There is a saying by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) that everyone should think about, especially when we are told to empathize with the poor. Rather, we should look up to how they live and ask ourselves if maybe we are the ones who are in poverty of realizing Allah’s blessings. Imam as-Sadiq said: “On the Resurrection Day, God will apologize to a needy believer, just as a brother apologizes to his brother. God says: ‘I swear by My Honor that I did not make you poor to humiliate you. Push this curtain aside to see what I have given you instead.’ Then the man pushes the curtain aside and looks at what God the Almighty has given to him instead of this world and he will say: ‘There was no harm for me due to what You took away from me (in the world) considering what you have given me instead (now in the Hereafter).'”