I studied several religions and they all have "self-denial" as a main aspect mentioned in their texts.

Such as:

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."

Christians' Bible - Matthew 10:39

"Therefore the sages: They place themselves last, but end up in front."

Taoists' Tao Te Ching - Chapter 7

I friend of mine told me, that this is also the case with the Quran. But he couldn't tell me where it is written.

Can you please tell me (cite with the exact source and line numbers) where this can be found in the Quran? Thank you.

1 Answer 1


Since Islamic definition of self-denial is somewhat different from some other religions, let me first write a bit about its meaning in Islam.

Self-denial in Islam is called zuhd. Literally, zuhd means getting a sufficient and as little as possible amount of something. It is the opposite of being greedy and insatiable. As a word in Islam, it means preventing your spirit from paying excessive attention to everything except God. It doesn't mean not seeking a good worldly life, but rather not paying attention to it. It means being able to abandon everything you have in your life at will for God and not depending on them. So it doesn't contradict being wealthy or wearing decent attire; quite conversely it encourages people to have a good worldly life while being able to prevent themselves from being a slave of their properties. In other terms, it is said by the first Imam of Shia Muslims, Imam Ali that (a hadith): "Who does not become very happy with what he gets and does not become sad when loses something is zahed (has zuhd)". (Sorry for my bad translation, it was the best I came up with!).

Also, zuhd has some stages. The first is preventing yourself from indulgence in mundane life, and ultimately it means not paying attention to anything in life and afterlife, but God.

Now let me point to some of the instances in Quran about self-denial:

And whatever thing you [people] have been given - it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?

Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.

Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one's] hope.

And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah. Do you then not consider?

No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being - indeed that, for Allah , is easy -

In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful -

The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children.

But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart."

So as for he who transgressed

And preferred the life of the world,

Then indeed, Hellfire will be [his] refuge.

But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination,

Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.

There are many other instances that I may add later. Hope it helps!

  • 1
    I agree with you. "Self-denial" is ment to be an inner attitude and not an outer one. It doesn't mean you have to be the last one in line when waiting to buy a ticket. Unfortunately a lot of people misunderstand this. Oct 27, 2014 at 7:31
  • 1
    Beautiful explanation. Nov 2, 2014 at 18:12
  • @krisztianballa can you elaborate more on the ticket in line analogy I’m really interested and wanted to understand it more
    – Kitty M
    Aug 13, 2023 at 3:52
  • @KittyM Sure. Another way to put it: It doesn't matter at all where you stand in the line. Suffering arises when you think that you should be somewhere else in the line. But this doesn't mean that letting others in front of you is not a good spiritual practice to weaken your ego. However if you do it to show off and to prove how good in self-denial you are, you are actually strengthening the ego. It's tricky because the ego always tries to come back through the backdoor. Aug 13, 2023 at 16:37

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