On the Meaning of Renouncing the Dunya

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

Imam al-Haddad mentions that the dunya (the material world) is an obstacle to wayfarers on their path to Allah. What does it mean to renounce the dunya?

Renouncing the dunya in reality means leaving everything which distracts you from focusing on Allah and leaving everything which may lead to disobeying Him. It means having no reliance on worldly things, having no veneration for them and having no pride in them. It does not mean, as someone may imagine, leaving one’s food, drink and clothing and not making an effort to earn enough to support oneself and assist one’s relatives.

There are different degrees of renouncing the dunya. The first degree is obligatory and this is leaving that which is prohibited. The second degree is required of every true wayfarer on the path to Allah, and this is leaving that which is dubious or disliked. Doing so preserves the reality of the wayfarer’s Islam and the strength of their faith. A third degree is renouncing everything which one does not need and renouncing everything which does not assist one in obeying Allah, and there are other degrees beyond this.