Gateway to Hadith
Treating Restlessness and Anxiety
Hussain Anwar Attari Madani
Translated by: Translation Department of Dawat-e-Islami
The Seal of the Prophets صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said:
اُنْظُرُوا إِلىٰ مَنْ أَسْفَلَ مِنْكُمْ، وَلَا تَنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ فَوْقَكُمْ، فَهُوَ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ لَا تَزْدَرُوا نِعْمَةَ ا لـلّٰـهِ
“˹In worldly matters˺, look at those who stand at a lower level than you, but don't look at those who stand at a higher level than you, for this would make the bounties of Allah ˹that you have˺ insignificant in your eyes.”
Which people of high rank did the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم prohibit us from looking towards? Which people of a lower level did he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم ordain for us to observe instead? Imam al-Nawawī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه explained:
This hadith comprises of and encompasses all good matters. When focusing on someone of a higher, worldly status, one will want to have what he has and eventually consider his own wealth to be insignificant in comparison. He will then strive to acquire more and more ˹thus becoming negligent˺. A considerable majority of people are victims of this. However, if one were to focus on those who are less fortunate, he would realise the great extent of Allah's favours on him and thank Him.
On the other hand, if one were to look up to someone who is better than him in religion and closer to Allah, he will want to be like him. After seeing his own comparatively insignificant deeds, he will be motivated to do more and grow closer to Allah. Whereas, if he were to focus on someone who has performed fewer good deeds, he will begin to think highly of his own actions and fall victim to conceit and laziness.
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم also said: “If anyone of you looks at a person who was made superior to you in wealth and appearance, he should also look at the person he himself was made superior to.”
Imams Ibn al-Jawzī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه and al-ʿIrāqī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه explained that this hadith reveals the best way to spend one’s life, because no matter whoever surpasses you in any given aspect of life, the carnal self (nafs) will not be able to bear it. Therefore, in matters of the world, look at those who are less fortunate than you and in matters of religion, look at those who are elevated. This will detach your heart from this world and bring about consideration of the Hereafter.’
Anxiety and restlessness
We find unrest and anxiety in all parts of society. Although driven by many factors, this unrest is primarily caused by a deep love for material pleasures, an addiction to the intoxication of sensual delights, and neglect of Allah's remembrance. We passionately compete in worldly matters but remain careless when it comes to striving for Allah's closeness. A fire burns within us if we see someone more beautiful or wealthy than ourselves, and we try to become like them. We forget the countless favours and blessings Allah has bestowed upon us and never thank Him, despite being in a more favourable position than countless others. Due to this, we suffer from anxiety and restlessness. This hadith gifts us a beautiful axiom to shape our lives. By looking at those who are less fortunate instead of those who have been elevated, you will live your life peacefully.
Adopt this remedy
In matters of the world, if we look at those who are at a lower level than us, we will be satisfied with our financial status. If there are people living their lives in poor conditions, how can we not spend our lives thanking Allah for His endless blessings? We should look at the hardships of our lives and ask for the betterment of both religious and worldly matters, like our pious predecessors. We must always remain conscious about the Hereafter. When Sayyidunā Shibli رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه saw a man excelling in the world, he would supplicate, “O Allah! I ask you for forgiveness and well-being in this world and the Hereafter.”
Advice for the one who complains
A needy person stood up during the gathering of a saint and complained about how he had not eaten anything for days. The saint said, “O enemy of Allah! You are a liar. Only the prophets and friends of Allah experience this severe hunger. If you were a saint, you would not expose this matter in front of the creation of Allah; you would keep it hidden.” In summary, when a believer follows Islam correctly, he pays no attention to personal losses or lessening in wealth and continues to bear the difficulties of the present and future.
You have not been tested
A man was sentenced to flogging and imprisonment. He complained to Imam al-Ghazālī (رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه) about his condition, and the great Imam said, “Be thankful that you have not been tested yet, for the real test is harder than this. The man was then imprisoned in a well, and so, once again complained to al-Ghazālī (رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه), who replied with the same response. His situation came to a head when he was then imprisoned with a non-believer in a small, dark, and putrid building. He once again expressed dismay and complained about what he was enduring, so Imam al-Ghazālī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه advised him, “Be patient.” “What can be a greater test than this?” the man asked. Imam al-Ghazālī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه said, “A greater test is being tied with the shackles of disbelief and considering it the truth.”
May Allah protect us from the love of this world and grant us unbounded love for His final Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. We also pray that He gives us the ability to live our lives in accordance with the words and actions of His Beloved (صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم).
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم
 Muslim, p. 1211, Hadith 7430
 Sharh Muslim lil-Nawavi, vol. 18, p. 97
 Ikmal al-Mu’lim, vol. 8/, p. 515, Hadith 2963
 Bukhari, vol. 4, p. 244, Hadith 6490, Muslim, p. 1211, Hadith 7428
 Kashf al-Mushkil, vol. 3, pp. 513 – 514, Hadith 2014, Tarh al-Tathreeb fi Sharh al-Taqreeb, vol. 8, p. 145
 Mirqat ul Mafatih, vol. 9, p. 95, Hadith 5242
 Mirqat ul Mafatih, vol. 9, p. 95, Hadith 5242