By Abu 'Aaminah
“…Know that the soul loves to attain rank and position above its like and this is what produces pride and envy. However the intelligent one strives, for everlasting and perpetual rank which is in Allâh’s pleasure, and in nearness to Him, and he turn away from fleeting and short-lived rank which is followed by Allâh’s Wrath and Anger and means the person’s downfall, lowness and his distance from Allâh and being banished away from Him. So this is the second kind of eminence which is blameworthy and it is wrongful haughtiness and eminence upon the earth.
As for the first type of eminence and wishing for it – then that is praiseworthy, Allâh, the Most High, says,
وَفِي ذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ
“…let those who strive, strive for this.”
Al-Hasan ‘l-Basrî said, “If you see a man competing with you with regard to this world then compete with him concerning the Hereafter.”
Wuhayb bin ‘l-Ward said, “If you are able to make sure that no one precedes you in hastening towards Allâh then do so.”
Muhammad bin Yûsuf al-Asbahânî, the worshipper, said, “If a person hears of another person or knows of another person who is more obedient to Allâh than him, then that should grieve him.”
Someone else said, “If a man hears or knows of another man who is more obedient to Allâh than himself and this causes his heart to break – then this is not a case of vanity.”
A man said to Mâlik bin Dînâr, “I saw in a dream a caller calling out, ‘O People! The time for departing and the time for moving on has come.’ But I did not see anyone departing except Muhammad bin Wâsi`.” So Mâlik cried out and fainted.
So it is correct to vie for the levels of rank in the Hereafter and to seek and aspire to that by hastening in that which leads to it, and that a person should not be satisfied with aspiring for a lower rank when it is within his power to aspire for that which is higher…”
Source: Al-Hâfidh Ibn Rajab ‘l-Hanbalî, The Evil of Craving for Wealth and Status, pg. 34