Before we focus, we should have a goal, desire or something we want to achieve. Before taking a photo, photographers have an idea of the intended image in mind. Then, they focus on the object. They want a clear image, and cut out the superfluous background that detract from the main object.
Focusing allows us to see the object with total clarity. When the object is out of range, the image will be unstable and blur.
Many cameras today have an image stabiliser. It allows us to take a clearer shot, without distortion and movement. The sharpest detail is captured when the camera is at its most stable position, and whenever possible, photographers use tripods to ensure maximum stability.
Focus will never be achieved unless we have a goal, something high and which will benefit us. Once we have that, we are motivated do whatever it takes to stabilise ourselves and to focus on the goal.
Focusing is an action that is generated from a desire, feeling, will and determination to achieve something very important to us. The more we believe in what we want, the more we sharply we focus on it.
It is the strong will and determination on the goal that causes one to focus.
Focusing on the faith
Lack of focus on the hereafter is symptomatic of a lack, or weakening, of iman (faith). Either the devil or our nafs (base desires) have collaborated, to breed arrogance, selfishness and greed within us, that we become too occupied with the material life to give serious consideration to the hereafter.
A person who is not focused on the hereafter concentrates on life in this world and its immediate concerns and luxuries: food, physical pleasures, work and income. To achieve the grandeur of this world, Shaitan then plies us with the pressures, targets and other distractions of material accomplishments.
The effect is that we end up busy about the future. Our minds are clouded with layers of plans, most of which are not even likely to come to fruition – because we are living for the thrill of dunia. It does not have to be as posh as flying the world on a private jet – the simple immersions in our daily routines, time in the shopping malls, vacations, fruitless hours on the internet, lunches and dinners in social gatherings which have nothing much to offer apart from mementos to be posted on Instagram and Facebook, are all evidence of how distracted we are from our ultimate goal in life.
With this preoccupation in motion, Shaitan easily leads us to a second element, which is worry. We are afraid of losing our grip on dunia and its joys, and we start nursing concerns about our finances, children, marriage, popularity and jobs. Again, much time is wasted when we act upon those fears. Time disappears and the akhirah is relegated to the backburner, becoming vague, blur and out of focus, compared to immediate worldly needs.
When that focus is lost, that is when all other things related to the hereafter become increasingly challenging to perform, for the distractions of our worldly life keep jostling to the forefront of our consciousness. We become inattentive in worship, and the demands of the dunia scream for our attention. When we are going about our daily routines, we delay our worship by one more errand, one more phone call, one more chapter, one more TV programme, one more round of Candy Crush. This is due to our lack of focus on what Allah has created us for, which is to worship Him.
When a person's faith is weak, this weakness is manipulated by Shaitan. This manipulation can take place in two extremes. The first is when Shaitan makes a person so energetic that he has no time for his soul - he is busy with multitudes of never ending tasks and becomes enslaved by dunia.
The second element, is where Shaitan makes one feel spiritually broken, despondent and hopeless. This is what will happen when one does not believe in Allah and His quality. He starts cultivating doubt about Allah's powers, and becomes bankrupt within as a result of his lack of faith in the Creator.
The lack of belief will lead one to carelessness on matters of akhirah, so he ends up frittering his precious time away on empty endeavours, blaming the circumstances but not doing anything about it. This is because Shaitan has made him believe that he has no ability, and he believes in his doubts and not in Allah. The hereafter is not in the picture – because it seems to be so out of reach that it is better to focus on the present enjoyments. Many have theorised that if they are consigned to jahannam anyway, then why not have a bit of fun in this world first?
What causes these misguided actions? It is the lack of belief in Allah and His quality, caused by the lack of education and understanding of the message. We may recite the Qur'an but if we do not take the effort to understand what Allah is telling us through it, our knowledge and understanding, love of akhirah and fear of jahannam are weak, overshadowed by our immense love of dunia. With lack of knowledge, our worship becomes hollow and our focus becomes easily distracted to the more attractive offerings of the worldly life.
This lack of comprehension distracts us from what Allah wants from us, and in return, what He can do for us. Without this connection with Allah, we end up abusing our time on the achievements and success of life, meandering through days, weeks and years, with no particular aim; going with the flow, killing ourselves with high pressured jobs, with empty entertainment, shallow conversations, spending hours in the mall, posting selfies on Facebook and competing with each other on computer games.
If we had an important exam or job interview, is this how we would prioritise our time? If we are capable of soaring like eagles for matters of dunia, why do we waddle like turkeys in the matters of akhirah?
The clock is ticking while our lives are flowing away. If we are spiritually asleep, with no vision, goal or wishes, hope or strength, this lack of iman can eventually put us in a state of kufr and shirk.
What does the Quran Say About This?
It is often emphasised in the Qur'an that if you busy yourselves with the pleasures of dunia, and neglect the hereafter, then you are not a true believer. The Qur'an contains ample warnings and the promise of severe torture to the liars – being those who are playing with their lives, Muslims and non Muslims: the ones who take life as an idle game and fill their time amusing themselves with useless activities.
Our actions have a cause and effect, and if we want something, we have to strive for it. Verse 39 - 41 of Surah Najm says:
And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen –Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.
Therefore, what you want depends on what you are looking for. If you increase iman in your heart, the yearning for akhirah will increase in your heart. If your heart is filled with disbelief and hypocrisy, and you form associations with Allah, by putting your slavery to dunia at par or even superior to your slavery to Allah, your life will flash by in a series of meaningless pursuits, routines and the drama of life. The material demands are achieved, but the day is gone, and with it, your akhirah.
Verses 53:42 to 43 continue:
And that to your Lord is the finality. And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep.
Do we want to meet our Lord in a state of weeping or laughing?