Dec 2, 2013

The Real Meaning of "Detachment"

There was once a businessman who was dealing in cloth. His business flourished and it made him owned property and wealth.

One day, when he was delivering a lecture, some people came and broke the news by interrupting him that all the four ships carrying his goods had sunk. This is the equivalent of someone finding out that they have lost a big amount of money. The man paused for a moment, and then said, “Praise be to God," and he continued his lecture.

After sometime, the same people again came rushing in to tell him that they were mistaken and that it wasn't his ships that sunk, and his ships were fine. Again, he paused, and he said, "Praise be to God," and he continued his lecture.

His same reaction on the two opposite situations created a flutter of curiosity among his students. So they asked the man.

The man explained that when he was first told that his ships had sunk, he paused to examine his heart. And he found that it unmoved by the loss, so he thanked God for that. And then when he was told that the news was wrong and that his ships were actually fine, he paused and examined his heart. Again, he found it unmoved. So he thanked God for that.

In other words, his gratefulness wasn't for the gain or the loss, but it was for the fact that his heart was not attached to the gain or the loss.

This story reminds me of a saying of Ali (RA) that the concept of living this (temporary) life 'with a sense of detachment' doesn't mean that we do not (or should not) own anything, but it means that (we should let) nothing owns us.

Obviously the man understood the concept very well.

P.S. The story was of Abu Hanifa, one great scholar, one of the four great Imams of fiqh.