مَثَلُ الدُّنْيَا كَمَثَلِ الْحَيَّةِ لَيِّنٌ مَسُّهَا وَ السَّمُّ النَّاقِعُ فِى جَوْفِهَا يَهْوِى إِلَيْهَا الْغِرُّ الْجَاهِلُ وَ يَحْذَرُهَا ذُو اللُّبِّ الْعَاقِلُ۔
The example of the world is like a serpent. It is soft to the touch but its inside is full of venom. An ignorant person who has fallen into deceit is attracted towards it but a wise and intelligent man keeps on his guard against it.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #119)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
In this profound Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), he compares the world to a serpent, highlighting its deceptive nature. Let us delve into the meanings of the key words in this Hadith and explore its deeper implications in light of the Quran.
The Arabic word (dunya) "دُنْيَا" refers to the temporal world, the material realm in which we reside. It encompasses all worldly possessions, desires, and pursuits. The word (hayyah) "حَيَّة" translates to a serpent or snake, symbolizing the treacherous nature of the world. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) describes the serpent as (layyinun massuha) "لَيِّنٌ مَسُّهَا", meaning it is soft to the touch. This indicates that the world may appear attractive and pleasurable, enticing individuals towards its allure.
However, the Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) warns that the inside of the serpent is (sam) "السَّمُّ", venomous and harmful. This signifies the spiritual dangers and pitfalls that lie within the worldly pursuits. The Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) further explains that the ignorant person, (al-jahil) "الْجَاهِلُ", who has fallen into deceit, is attracted towards the world. This highlights the vulnerability of those who lack knowledge and understanding, as they are easily enticed by the temporary pleasures and distractions of this world.
On the other hand, the wise and intelligent person, (dhu al-lub al-aqil) "ذُو اللُّبِّ الْعَاقِلُ", remains cautious and vigilant against the world's temptations. This emphasizes the importance of knowledge and wisdom in recognizing the true nature of the world and guarding oneself against its harmful effects.
To further understand the wisdom behind Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) analogy, we can turn to the Quran for guidance. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) repeatedly warns us about the fleeting nature of this world and its potential to lead us astray. In Surah Al-Hadid (57:20), Allah says,
Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children.
This verse highlights the transient nature of worldly pursuits and the distractions they create.
Additionally, in Surah Al-Imran (3:185), Allah reminds us,
Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.
This verse serves as a reminder that the true reward and fulfillment lie in the hereafter, and the pleasures of this world are merely illusory.
Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) analogy of the world as a serpent serves as a profound reminder for Muslims to be cautious and discerning in their pursuit of worldly desires. It urges us to prioritize the eternal life over the temporary pleasures of this world. By seeking knowledge, cultivating wisdom, and maintaining a strong connection with Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ), we can navigate through the challenges and temptations of this world, protecting ourselves from its venomous effects.
May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the wisdom to recognize the true nature of this world and guide us on the path of righteousness. May we strive to prioritize the eternal life and seek His pleasure above all else. Ameen.
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