Portfolio Management in This World and The Hereafter

There is a beautiful saying formed from precious words which are very well known among Muslims and widely reported in many traditional books. The saying is: Work for your life in this world (dunia) as if you are living eternally and work for your Hereafter as if you will die tomorrow. As one can see, there are two portfolios to deal with, where both of them should be handled properly through high level of skills in management.

For the first portfolio, the person should work for his dunia through building his assets by accumulating wealth such as money and a house, with endless time in mind to acquire these material wealth. The benefit of this mindset is that the person will keep working in managing his life and affairs in a gentle and easy manner without rush, because he has been given endless time to do so. So there is no need to hurry, and what he missed today will be obtained tomorrow and so on.

The second part of the saying should motivate a person to be very productive with innovative and creative thinking because the sky is the limit. Hence, many goals can be set, including short term goals, medium term goals and long term goals. The other benefit is that a person will be working for his life in the hereafter enthusiastically as if he is going to die tomorrow. This approach makes the person closer to Allah (s.w.t), where he will be actively doing good deeds with extraordinary quality performance such as prayers, recitation of Quran, seeking forgiveness from people, forgiveness from Allah (s.w.t), repent for his sins, be more decent and nice in dealing with everyone in the society. This course of action and behavior will have a positive spillover on society.

There are two portfolios managed by the same person, one related to this world and the second is related to the Hereafter.

The assessment of this world is done by looking at the assetsand liability, where normal overall assessment is conducted to obtain the net worth value according to the following equation: total asset – total liability = net worth. When the net worth is positive the person will be financially healthy, but in cases where the net worth is negative the person has some financial problems and he is in a deficit financial position. Due to this, he can get some advice or consultancy from financial advisors on how to manage his deficit and improve his financial assets in this world.

With regards to the Hereafter portfolio, there is a problem with its assessment due to the lack of human ability in accessing the data because no one has the details about his asset status. There is no information about the good deeds (hasanat), no statistics about the bad deeds (sayyia’t). Hence, there is no stand to take against the status of the Hereafter assets.

However, there is an indication that can be referred to in order to get an idea about the status of the assets. This indication is derived from the same saying we are discussing; the person should ask himself whether he is ready to die on the second day i.e. tomorrow or not? If the answer is yes, it means his assets in the Hereafter is in good status, and it is an indication that he is not in deficit. On the contrary, if the answer is no it means his assets is in deficit. Furthermore he also has to determine how long he needs to get the yes answer in order to improve his condition. The number of days needed represent the gap required to be closed. We have to note here that the answer with yes or no is self-exercise, self-assessment, meaning the person should ask and answer himself to check his status.                  

The challenge faced by everyone is the struggle in the management of the two portfolios whereby the same person is behaving daily in different ways according to the course of action of each portfolio. On the one hand he is working for this world full of energy realising the principle of khilafah in this universe which includes accumulation of wealth for his benefit, and for benefit of his family, neighbours, society, and for the humanity at large. In this portfolio he is acting in a way that he will never die; hence, his agenda is full of programmes with long-term vision. On the other hand, the same person is managing another portfolio related to the life in the Hereafter, where he is working as if tomorrow is his last day to live. Hence, one action is based on long-term action with endless time, and the other action is short-term based on one day to live.

By right according to Shariah the Hereafter portfolio is more important compared to this world portfolio whereby the first should serve an objective whereby the former is regarded as means. This is based on the provision of the Quran. (But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters) (al Qasas; 77).

However, due to our nature, we are always interested to cultivate the asset related to this world at the expense of the asset related to the Hereafter. In addition to that, the devil i.e. Shaitan is always trying to disturb the sequence of the priority by making the asset of this world as the objective and making the asset of the Hereafter as means, or even something negligible. In the case whereby the mixed-up happened, the person will be in chaos heading to a direction which ends with a total loss.

In order to smoothen the calibration of the two portfolios, there are compulsory stations made by Shariah where every person is obliged to make a stop and balance up his portfolio. These include the five daily prayers, where the person starts his day before the sunrise with Hereafter asset by offering Fajar prayer, and closes his day by Isha prayer. In between his daily journey, he crosses other stations where he must stop to do calibration. These are Zuhor, Asar and Maghreb. Because Shariah knows that these station may not be sufficient for calibration, other compulsory stations have been provided on a weekly basis that is the Friday prayer and the biggest station on yearly basis that is Ramadan where the entire month is regarded as precious time for building the Hereafter assets.

In addition to these, there is a larger station set through overseas trip to the Holy Land much related to the life after / life after death/ afterlife where more focus will be placed on enhancing the quality of asset of the Hereafter and making a full Shariah audit of one’s life. There are also other voluntary stations for the person who needs more time to do the calibration and balancing, such as prayer of duha, the prayer before and after the compulsory five prayers. Voluntary fasting is another important tool which is regarded as a good example of integration between this world and the Hereafter where the person is fasting during his day to get an asset in the Hereafter. It can be fasting on Mondays and Thursdays while at the same time he is productively active and engaged in the affairs of this world.

I have presented the problem statement of the two portfolios and its challenges in the context of daily management. Hence, everyone should skillfully manage these two portfolios to ensure success in both worlds. The possible results are whether the person will fail in managing both portfolios, or succeed in this world portfolio and fail in the Hereafter portfolio, or succeed in the Hereafter portfolio and fail in this world portfolio, or try his best by struggling to manage both portfolios within his ability and best effort. From a Shariah perspective, all of the previous scenarios are losses except the last one with the mercy and blessing of Allah.

By Associate Prof Dr. Ahcene Lahsasna

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