Ibn Mas’ud said to his companions, ‘You fast and pray more than the Companions of Muhammad (sal’Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) but they were better than you.’ They asked, ‘How so?’ He replied, ‘They were more abstinent of this world and desirous of the Hereafter.’ Hence he indicated that the superiority of the Companions lay in the attachment of their hearts to the Hereafter, their desire for it, their turning away from this world, and their thinking little of it even if it be readily available to them. Their hearts were empty of the world and filled with the Hereafter. This is what they inherited from their Prophet (sal’Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He (sal’Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was one whose heart was most devoid of the world and most attached to Allah and the Abode of the Hereafter, this despite his outwardly interacting with the creation, fulfilling the duties of Prophethood, and implementing the politics of religion and world.
This was the state of the Khulafa who came after him and those who followed them in goodness such as al-Hasan and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz. There were, in their times, those who fasted more than them and prayed more than them, but their hearts had not attained the levels of theirs in terms of leaving the world and turning to the Hereafter, and settling there.
The Journey to Allah | Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali