Sayyiduna Mustawrid bin Shaddaad (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that he heard Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mention, “By Allah! The (shortness of the life of this) world, compared to the (eternal life of the) Aakhirah, is like the example of one of you dipping this finger of his into the water of the ocean (saying this, Rasulullah [sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam] indicated to his index finger). (On removing the finger from the water,) he should look at how much water remains on it (i.e. the miniscule amount of water that remains on the finger is like the life of the dunya, which is absolutely insignificant compared to the vastness of the ocean which is like the life of the Aakhirah).” (Saheeh Muslim #7197)
If a person has to submerge his finger into the ocean and thereafter remove it from the water, he will find that only a very small amount of water will remain on his finger, equivalent to perhaps one or two drops at most. Such is the minuteness of a drop of water (0.05ml) that it takes 20 000 drops of water to fill just one litre!
In comparison to this insignificant amount of water is the vast water of the ocean. It is said that the ocean covers approximately 70% of the earth’s surface, and though the exact amount of water in the ocean cannot be accurately calculated, the ocean is approximated to contain 1.336 sextillion litres of water. If one million is one with six zeros written after it, then one sextillion is one with twenty-one zeros written after it!
It should be borne in mind that the example in the abovementioned hadeeth is merely for the sake of highlighting the insignificance and worthlessness of this dunya in comparison to the vastness and greatness of the Aakhirah. Hence, the reality is that the vastness and greatness of the Aakhirah, compared to the dunya, is even greater than the vastness of the ocean compared to a drop of water.
When we ponder over this hadeeth, we realize that the purpose of this hadeeth is to create the enthusiasm and yearning in our hearts to strive for the Aakhirah and the magnificent bounties of Jannah. If a person spends his entire life caught up in the rat race, hankering after the dunya and pining after the latest phones, best holidays, and most palatial homes, then even if he acquires all that he aspired for, it will be like a paltry drop of water.
On the contrary, if a person strives for the Hereafter, by ensuring that he fulfils the rights owed to Allah Ta‘ala at all times (such as salaah, fasting, etc.) as well as the rights owed to people (e.g. serving one’s parents, etc), and he also refrains from all sins and causing harm to people, then though he may live a short life, in this concise period he will earn bounties even more vast than the ocean.
Whenever we are bedazzled by the dunya, and become entranced by its glitter and glamour, then we should bring this hadeeth to mind. We should remind ourselves that the dunya that we are pining for is not even a drop in the ocean compared to what Allah Ta‘ala has in store for us in the Hereafter.
Insha-Allah, if we think in this way, we will begin to acquire the quality of zuhd (disinterest in the dunya), and this will assist us to refrain from the sin of israaf (extravagance and wastefulness), and will also assist us to inculcate the sunnah of simplicity in our lives.
May Allah Ta‘ala bless us to truly understand the worthlessness of this world, and may He create the true yearning for the Aakhirah in our hearts, aameen.