References of Ethics
Qur'an • Nahj al-balagha • Misbah al-shari'a wa miftah al-haqiqa • Makarim al-Akhlaq • Al-Mahajjat al-bayda' • Tanbih al-khawatir wa nuzhat al-nawazir • Jami' al-sa'adat • Mi'raj al-sa'ada • Al-Muraqabat
Zuhd or Asceticism (Arabic: زهد) means lack of desire toward the world and is considered among moral virtues. Zuhd is a spiritual state which brings about attention toward the hereafter, not relying on anyone other than God and turning to Him.
The Ahl al-Bayt (a) did not consider caring about the world and providing the living sustenance in conflict with zuhd; rather, in their view, attachment to the world is in conflict with zuhd. They considered zuhd an attribute of leaders and the cause of people's happiness. In Shi'a hadiths, some fruits are mentioned for zuhd such as illuminating the heart, speaking words of wisdom and discerning the defects of this world.
Zuhd is giving up the world, turning to the hereafter, giving up hope on anyone other than God and turning to Him. Its opposite is turning to and being greedy about this world. Imam Ali (a) referred to verse twenty three of the Qur'an 57 and defined zuhd as not to grieve upon what is lost and not to delight upon what is gained.
In hadiths, zuhd is defined as lack of attachment to the world, lack of profligacy, correct utilization of blessings, being grateful about blessings, shortening wishes, avoiding forbidden things and arrogance.
Difference with Monasticism
Zuhd in Islam is different from monasticism in Christianity. Based on a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), Zahid (one who practices zuhd) does not forbid himself from the permissible in religion, but his trust on the properties in this world is not more than his trust in God.
Zuhd is among important concepts in ethics and mysticism and has been strongly recommended in religious teachings. In mysticism, it is considered among the stages of spiritual journey. It is also discussed in jurisprudence; and in the views of some jurists, zuhd is recommended. Jurists give priority to needy Zahids in paying zakat. In some jurisprudential references, being Zahid is mentioned among the required qualifications of a judge. It is also said that the ruling issued by a jurist who is more knowledgeable and a better Zahid is superior to the ruling of another jurist in case of disagreement between their rulings.
In some hadiths, the most seemly among people is the highest of them in zuhd. Imam Ali (a) considered it among the primary attributes of leaders. Also, the Prophet (s) mentioned it the cause of happiness and comfort of people.
It is transmitted from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that all the good are placed in one house and its key is zuhd and disinclination toward the world.
Scholars of ethics have considered three levels for zuhd with regards to giving up the world:
- First level: Zahid has inclination toward the world but through spiritual struggle, keeps himself away from it. This is the lowest level of zuhd.
- Second level: Zahid gives up the world voluntarily, but his intention of giving up the world is to reach blessings in the hereafter. In his viewpoint, this world is inconsiderable comparing to the hereafter. In this level, Zahid is like a person who loses one dirham in order to gain two dirhams.
- Third level: Zahid gives up this world voluntarily and desirably without thinking that he loses anything. This is the highest level of zuhd.
Also in hadiths, zuhd in prohibitions, zuhd in doubtful issues, zuhd in permissible issues are considered among different levels of zuhd.
Effects and Signs
In a hadith from the Prophet (s), some fruits are mentioned for zuhd including the illumination of the heart, speaking words of wisdom and discerning the defects of the world. In Shi'a hadiths, some signs are mentioned for zuhd such as abstinence against forbidden issues, inclination toward actions desirable before God, lack of interest in the world and having more attention toward the hereafter.
Zuhd is considered among the principles of Sufism. However, the interpretation some Sufis present about zuhd has some differences with the views of Muslims, and their views is closer to monastic view in this regard. In their view, zuhd is close to monasticism and is interpreted as abandoning the world and considering it as an enemy. It is said that zuhd has been influential in the views of Sufis in their early history. In the government of Imam Ali (a), some withdrew from engaging in politics and government with the excuse of practicing zuhd.
But, the Ahl al-Bayt (a) did not consider caring about the world and providing the living sustenance in conflict with zuhd; rather, they considered attachment to the world in conflict with zuhd. In the view of Islam, true Zahids even though having wealth, are uninterested in it. Also, the noble Prophet (s) criticized those who had given up normal life and only practiced ascesis and worship and he (s) did not approve them. The Ahl al-Bayt (a) too had a simple life while they had wealth. In hadiths sources, different stories are mentioned about the simplistic lives of the Infallible Ones (a) and also their giving charity to others.
- so that you may not grieve for what escapes you, nor boast for what comes your way. Qur'an 57:23
- The material for this article is mainly taken from زهد in Farsi WikiShia.