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irsyad al hadith 166


What is the status of the hadith which states this world is a prison for believers?



Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

The hadith in question is:

  • From Abu Hurairah RA said, the Prophet PBUH said:

الدُّنْيَا سِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنِ، وَجَنَّةُ الْكَافِرِ

“This world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever.”

The Source of the Hadith

This hadith is narrated by Imam Ahmad in his book Musnad (8289), Imam Muslim in Sahih Muslim (2956), Imam al-Tirmidzi in his Jami’ (2324) and Imam Ibn Majah in his Sunan (4113).

The Status of the Hadith

  • Imam Muslim placed this hadith in Sahih, then it means the hadith is sahih.
  • Imam al-Tirmizi states that the hadith is hasan sahih.
  • Imam Ibn Hibban placed this hadith as sahih.
  • Syeikh al-Arna’outh said that the sanad (chain of narrators) is sahih in accordance with the conditions set by Imam Muslim in his verification process of Musnad Ahmad.

The Meaning of the Hadith

Imam al-Nawawi said the hadith means every believer is imprisoned and prevented in this world from prohibited and makruh (undesirable) desires. Every mukallaf Muslim is commanded to be in complete obedience. However, when he dies, he will no longer have to bear this responsibility. This will entirely change, where Allah SWT promised eternal and true blessings, leisure and comfort where it will forever increase without decreasing even a little. As for disbelievers, they are able to attain some sort of worldly comfort in this life. However, when he dies, he will be forever punished and be in eternal suffering. See al-Minhaj (93/18).

Imam al-Munawi commented the above hadith in Faid al-Qadir (3/546), including a narration from the scholars: “During the time when al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar (al-Asqalani) was the Qadi Chairman, he walked through a market. At the time, he was with his entourage riding a great, beautiful and magnificent animal mount. Suddenly a Jew man, who is a flaxseed oil seller came running towards him. The Jew was wearing an old worn out and dirty shirt. He grabbed and stops the mule Ibn Hajar was riding and said: “O Syeikh al-Islam! You claimed that your prophet said: “The world is prison for a believer and paradise for a disbeliever,” Then, in what way are you imprisoned and how am I in paradise right now?” Ibn Hajar answered: “If I was to compare the blessings Allah has promised for me in paradise in hereafter, then it is as if I am in prison right now, while for you, if you want to compare your situation right now with what has been promised for you in hereafter, it is as if you are in paradise right now.” Then, the Jew embraces Islam.

Regarding the matters of responsibility, Imam al-Marwazi once said: One day, I asked Imam Ahmad: “How are you today?” He answered: “I am in the situation of a slave at the beginning of the day, where his Rabb is commanding him to fulfil His commandments, his prophet asked him to practise the Sunnah, while two angels are with him requiring him to do good but on the other side, his desires and shaytan is tempting him to commit transgressions, while the angel of death is looking at him counting the days to take his soul from him, at the same time his family need him to provide for them.”


The explanation and commentary of the above hadith show that in this world, a believer is commanded to obey Allah SWT and avoid His prohibitions and these are tests for us to attain the blessing of Allah SWT, which is success and comfort in the hereafter. This however, does not deny the right of anyone, whether a Muslim or not, to achieve the riches and opportunities in this world with hard work. This hadith is also not a restriction for a Muslim to do good to non-Muslims and invite them to Islam, as stated in the above narration of Ibn Hajar.

As a conclusion, we should put in our best efforts in worship in this world, for this world is temporary. Furthermore, we should also use our time in this world wisely as a harvesting ground for worship. This is in accordance with Allah SWT’s statement:

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الْآخِرَةِ نَزِدْ لَهُ فِي حَرْثِهِ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِن نَّصِيبٍ

“Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter - We increase for him in his harvest. And whoever desires the harvest of this world - We give him thereof, but there is not for him in the Hereafter any share.”

Surah al-Syura (20)

Lastly, may Allah SWT make us be among who love knowledge and give us understanding in this religion and protect us from making mistakes in conveying the hadith of the Prophet PBUH. Amin.