Imagine a person living the dream life. He has the car, home, family, business and everything else of his dreams. But then, his eyes suddenly open, and to his absolute dismay, he finds himself lying in bed, back to reality – and his precious ‘dream life’ was exactly that – a dream without substance.

Now imagine a person who is suffering intense agony and torture. He is experiencing every ‘nightmare’ that he ever feared and he cannot imagine things being any worse than they already are. But then, his eyes suddenly open, and to his absolute delight, he finds himself lying on his bed, safe and sound. To his immense relief, the ‘nightmare’ life he was ‘living’ was merely an illusion and a dream.

Each and every one of us, living in this world, is like a person in a dream. While everything around us is real, and everything we experience is real, the reality is that it is so transitory and temporary that when compared to the Hereafter, it is like a mere dream, illusion or shadow.

Sayyiduna Hasan bin ‘Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma), the grandson of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), would sometimes recite the following couplets, reminding people that this dunya (world), in its temporary nature, is like a shadow with no substance or reality:

يَا أَهْلَ لَذَّاتِ دُنْيَا لَا بَقَاءَ لَـهَا      إِنَّ اغْتِرَارًا بِظِلٍّ زَائِلٍ حـُمْقٌ

O people immersed in the pleasures of this world which is temporary! To be deceived by a temporary shadow (thinking it to be a permanent shelter) is foolishness. (Zammud Dunya #24)

When a person passes away, his life in the next realm commences. On experiencing the delights of Jannah, or the agony of Jahannum (may Allah Ta‘ala save us!), if he has to look back at his time in the world, he will realize that it was like a mere dream compared to the Hereafter. Hence, Allah Ta‘ala mentions in the Quraan Majeed:

وَإِنَّ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ لَهِيَ الْحَيَوَانُ​

Indeed, the abode of the Hereafter is certainly the real life. (Surah ‘Ankaboot v64)

When a Muslim travels along the journey of life, he needs to ensure that he is treading on the path to paradise. His constant concern must be to secure his Jannah through fulfilling the rights of Allah Ta‘ala and the rights of people while refraining from all sins. However, as we remain in this world, immersed in our numerous engagements and occupations, we gradually lose sight of our destination. After some time, the Hereafter seems to be a distant dream, while this world seems to be the true abode and reality.

Thereafter, instead of striving for Jannah, we dedicate and devote our energies and resources to striving for the dunya. Night and day, day and night, we remain oblivious of the reality of the Hereafter, and the thought of the life to come after death seldom crosses our mind. At times, we even sacrifice the invaluable bounties of Jannah to enjoy some of the fake, worthless, illusions of this world.

In this way, we continue to chase our ‘dreams’, and one day becomes the next, and the months pass into years, until suddenly, before we know it… death strikes and our eyes open to the reality of the Hereafter.

At that time, every pleasure and treasure that we cherished, or agony and pain that we suffered, will seem insignificant – it was like a mere dream. At that time, we will have to face the reality of the Hereafter, and it is the preparation that we made for this reality that will stand us in good stead.

Whether we lived a dream life in this world, or our life was filled with difficulties, tests and challenges, what matters is the life to come, and that will be determined by the preparation that we make in this world.

May Allah Ta‘ala make it such that when our eyes close to this world, they will open to the pleasures of Jannah – not the torment of Jahannum, aameen.