Abdullah M. Khouj, Director

We hear about happiness from our childhood and we know that it is connected with things that are pleasing to us. It is the opposite of misery. Even though happiness has global meaning, it means different things to different people. It mainly depends on people’s background and their upbringing, as well as their ethical education. To some people, happiness means wealth; to others, it means position, and still to others, it means power and control. Even though these factors are the means to happiness, they are not the ends.

Islam teaches that human happiness does not originate from any of these above mentioned factors, and to a believer, a Muslim, happiness has a very different meaning. To better understand the meaning of happiness in Islam, Anas narrated the Prophet (Pbuh) as saying, “Whoever’concerwathafterlifeAllah makehirichnesbetweehieyesgatherhis inneselfanthworldllifwill comthiwitcomplianceAnwhoever’concerwafothworldllifeAllawill makhipovertbetweehieyes[1]disunithim[2] anhe will nogeanythinfrothiworldllifexcepwhahabeewrittefohim.” (Tirmidi)

In another hadith, the Prophet says, “Whoevewakeuanfeelsafihiflockfeelhealthihibodyanownhidailsustenanceit is as if he owns this worldly life.” (AI Nawawi Riyadh as Salaheen)

In these two hadith, the Prophet (Pbuh) draws an objective for a Muslims life, his means for happiness, and how to go about achieving it. He (Pbuh) clearly shows Muslims that happiness is not only in collecting money, or holding a position, or having a child; it is not only in gaining knowledge, and it cannot be found in any of the luxuries or joy of this worldly life. If happiness is found only in these things then we would find that the people of the highly advanced, sophisticated and rich countries are happy. But, reality shows the opposite.

In an article published in May 11, 2007 explains that according to WHO (world health organization) statistics, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide rates all over the world have increased by 5-62% in the last two decades. Hardly any country is immune to this disease. What’s disturbing is that more young people are killing themselves than ever before. After the author writes about his short coming of the research he divides the countries into four groups depending in their suicide rates:

Group 1 (High suicide rate): EuropanmajopartoAsia.

Group 2 (a medium high suicide rate): Countries like Belgium (21), Finland (20) Switzerland (18), Austria (18] France (17.6), S. Korea (17.9) and Japan (23.8] too have a fairly high rate of suicide.

Group 3 (medium suicide rate), only China and India seem to fit.

Group 4, with its low suicide rates? Well, there was no data from the Muslim countries.

Somehow, we recently  witness the suicide rates are getting higher in some Arab and Muslim countries. Many people refer that to the economic instability. In an article published in the New York Times on April 22, 2011 Tara Parker noted that in Sweden, Denmark even though the capital income for an individual is very high and the society is modem, there are high rates of suicide. Europe and America, also known for its people of wealth, knowledge, and industry, have certain unhappy symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, crimes, and suicide. This is an indication that wealth, prestige, and position are only means to happiness if we utilize them in a proper way. Many people are wealthy and have all the means for happiness but they are missing something that they don’t have. Allah draws the Prophet’s (Pbuh) attention to these facts when He says:

“Let not their wealth nor their following in sons dazzle thee: in reality God’s plan is to punish them with the things of this worldly life, and that their souls may perish in their very denial of God.” (9:55)

We can see that scientific technology, industry, inventions, wealth, and children alone did not make the people who have all these means happy. Sometimes, wealth, if it is not managed properly, can be destructive. Also children, if they are not educated and raised properly may be troublesome for their family and cause them grief.

For these reasons, the Prophet (pbuh) clarifies to the believers that happiness is an inner contentment. It comes from the intensity of one’s belief and the depths of one’s self and is established in one’s feelings and exhibited in his/her behavior. In this sense, happiness is comfort, peace, hope, contentment, satisfaction, and love. All of these traits are the fruit of a true faith coupled with sincere and lasting work to utilize and use, whatever Allah has given to human being in this worldly life. Happiness is not isolated to a dress to wear, food we enjoy eating, prestige we gain, or honor we earn. All of these, without a pragmatic aim and a correct picture of life, would be useless.

The Prophet (pbuh) clarifies that the believer is happy and content as long as he/she returns to Allah and requests from Him to comfort his soul and make him/her content. This was one of his supplications:

“O Allah I ask You a soul (self) that is contented with You; accepting Your decree, contented with what You give, and believe in meeting You.”

Contentment is the cause of happiness specially if the basic elements of this contentment are fulfilled. The first: is to accept what Allah decrees. That makes a person receives such decree with patience and thanks. A person would not feel arrogant when he has and would not feel despaired when he does not have. This leads to the second matter that is to be content with Allah’s gifts. Contentment is a trait of a natural personality. A healthy personality is the one that accept the decree of Allah and content of what He gives and does not envy, hold grudges or complain against Allah’s will. A contented self is the one that is saved from all kind of greed illnesses. Thus, the third matter is to meet with the Creator. This matter in particular makes the human being more ready to reach the higher levels of being human because it informs the human being about functions in this life as well as his/her responsibilities. A human being thus, becomes clear on how to please Allah and fulfills His mandates; even though he/she is under stress or suffering an illness or taking the oppression of poverty and deprivation, or facing oppression or torture, even death.

Islam draws the human being’s attention toward his true aim in life and shows him/her the best ways to reach them, to be happy in this worldly life, and to be successful in the hereafter.

Allah says: 

“We have not sent down the Qur’an to thee to be an occasion for thy distress.” (20:2)

He also said:

“He said: “Get ye down, both of you, all together, from the Garden, with emnity one to another: but if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery. But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.” (20:123-124)

These verses show that the Qur’an contains the means for human happiness. It helps people come out of their misery and leads them to the straight path. It also shows that Islam aims to help people achieve happiness, comfort, and peace. It leads people to freedom by showing them the means for a happy life. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“O mankind! There hath come to you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the disease in your hearts, and for those who believe Guidance and a Mercy. Say: “In the Bounty of God and in His Mercy, in that let them rejoice”: that is better than the wealth they hoard.” (10:57-58)

Ibn Kathir says that people should be happy with what they have received from Allah that is guidance and truth. It is better than the perishable, materialistic gains of this worldly life. These gains are like beautiful roses that we enjoy for a certain time and then they wilt and fade away.

Islam does not command Muslims to live the life of a vagabond. Rather, it commands the Muslim to be moderate in all aspects of his life. Allah says:

“But seek, with the wealth which God has bestowed on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world: but do thou good, as God has been good to thee, and seek not occasions for mischief in the land: For God loves not those who do mischief” (28:77)

Ibn Kathir says in the interpretation of this verse that a person has to use what Allah has given him/her of wealth and gifts in worshipping Allah and to be closer to Him. And to offer the things that would make a person gain success in this worldly life and the reward of Allah in the hereafter. A person does not have to forget to live a good life according to what Allah has described and to enjoy the good things in life.

Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand.

This verse came after the following verse:

“O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.”

Allah has mandated on the individual certain duties he has to fulfill. An individual’s self has certain duties toward himself. His family has certain duties on him and his relatives have certain duties on him, as well as his neighbors. He has to do good things with people as Allah has been good with him. He should not misuse his wealth his health to seek corruption and hurt others.

Allah made things lawful to us to enjoy and be content and to be grateful to Him for these gifts. He has also prohibited certain things and commanded us to avoid them in order to save us from harming ourselves and others. Even the things He allowed us to enjoy we should enjoy in moderation, because some of these things can be a double edged sword if we use them excessively or in the wrong way.

Gaining wealth is allowed in Islam through legal and pure means. It is a gift from Allah. Misusing this gift, could lead the human and the society to destruction. Besides wealth, the individual holds this wealth to manipulate others or to ruin the economy and destroy his society. For wealth to give its fruits, it should be used in proper means to give a certain percent in charity, using it to perform Hajj, providing for the benefit of others, even using it in business with good manners. The Prophet (Pbuh) says:

“The honest and the trusted merchant are with those who died in the cause of Allah at the Day of Judgment.” (Ibn Magid)

Also, when the individual spends his wealth on his family and his children or on those who are under his care, he will get rewarded from Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) says:

“Whoever works and makes his intention to make a comfortable life for his wife, his children, and whoever is under his care, and establishes with them the command of Allah, and feeds them halal, it is a must that Allah will make him with those who died in His cause in their degree.” (AI Tabarani, Al Jamia Al Kabir)

Allah raises in rank or degrees those whom He wills, and the gifts that He gives to these individuals are many. Among them are, power, health, prestige, progress, development, and advancement in medicine. These gifts, when used properly, benefit the individual as well as the community. When a person is powerful or prestigious, his degree of influence is best used when it follows Allah’s will. In doing so this abilities are aimed toward a positive goal and serve to benefit himself and others. When a person enjoys good health, he not only functions well, but he can utilize life’s resources. However, if he uses his health to oppress or cause harm to others, then his good health does not serve to do good by assisting those who are less fortunate. Rather he gains isolation and hate.

The world we live in has been inundated with technology, progress, and development. Although this is necessary and is promoted in Islam, these topics can turn toward the detriment of the community if they are not proceeded with carefully. Islam has always encouraged progress and development and has often led the way in technology. However, it has been kept in mind that advancement is best realized when it is according to Allah’s mandates and aims toward benefitting the life of the whole society; rather the whole world.

Advancement in the field of medicine would be beneficial if it is used to help the better functioning of human life. Otherwise, what is the value of an immoral doctor or a scientist who aims toward the destruction of human life? Through these examples, we can realize how important it is for individuals to utilize the gifts that Allah has given them to benefit themselves and others. In doing so, they can find an inner fulfillment and joy through giving. When giving is done according to Allah’s will and not for self appreciation, then an individual finds the true meaning of happiness through their actions regardless of the circumstances.

[1] It means that a person will not be satisfied and will search for more by any means.

[2] The person’s mind and life will always be in different directions and not focused.