How does Islam view the relation between this world and the hereafter (Akhirah)? Does Islam consider them as two completely separate and different matters? How does Islam describe people who only strive for this world in comparison to the people who strive for the hereafter?
According to Islamic thoughts, this world and the hereafter are not two distinct and separable realities; in fact, they form an inseparable single unit in which one leads to the other. According to the Islamic teachings, extracted from the Holy Quran and the traditions, statements, and behaviors of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and those of the Infallible Imams (PBUT), striving for the hereafter has always been considered with honor; whereas striving for this world, depending upon the context it is used in, has not always been regarded with honor.
In general, the view Islam has towards this world can be divided into two separate entities. The first view is when this world becomes the main goal and purpose in life. People who hold this view thus, spend their entire life striving solely for this world. They get so involved with their surroundings that they begin to dedicate all their efforts to achieve and accumulate their worldly materials. They however, fail to profit the least bit from their worldly materials in the way of reaching perfection and eternal prosperity for the hereafter. Obviously this view contrasts the view Islam holds of the hereafter because with the beginning of the hereafter, this world comes to an end and one would lose all he had gained for this world in a single moment. (1) Islam reproaches this view (2) and describes its followers as deceived people who have lost their investment (their lives) and have not gained anything in exchange (3).
The other view that regards this world as merely a tool as opposed to the goal, can actually help in reaching our final destination. In this view, the world is viewed as a temporary place, not a residence, in which people should prepare for the hereafter (4). The people, who view the world as a merely a tool, consider this world as a farm in which the products of it will be harvested in the hereafter. As long as they make use of this opportunity, eternal success in the hereafter can be obtained. Although such people may possess property, esteemed positions, and other worldly affairs, they however do not regard them as the goal of life. Rather, they use their opportunities in this world as means that will help them in reaching their final destination: Allah’s (SWT) satisfaction. This view is never condemned but as a matter of fact highly praised by Islam. (5) Islam considers this view coherent with seeking the hereafter. Furthermore, the people who hold this view in regards to this world do their best to prepare themselves for the hereafter. They are not considered strivers for only this world, but they are considered as people who seek perfection and prepare themselves for the hereafter (6).
In Islam, “asceticism” is not about depriving oneself from all the matters of this world, rather it is about not considering this world as the ultimate goal. According to the Islamic teachings, a Muslim must never stand still; in fact he/she must strive and work hard in this life in order to prepare for the hereafter. In other words, the way to eternal success passes through this world, and one cannot achieve success in the hereafter without benefiting correctly from this world. (7)