By: Masood Malikyar
Modern man is given various remedies to cure or to eschew unhappiness and depression. These remedies range from attending psychotherapy sessions, changing careers, and building or enhancing relationships to participating in sports, taking Prozac or going on vacations. However, as Muslims we can achieve true happiness simply by practicing Islam. That does not preclude taking time away from diurnal stresses. Nor should it stop us from seeking new opportunities and challenges. We have the innate capacity to grow at any age. So, we must continue to adequately nourish our minds and bodies. We must exercise as did the paradigm of humanity, may Allah’s Peace and Blessings Be upon him, his progeny, and companions. He wrestled, rode horses; and, matched the best of his day in swordsmanship. And, as human beings, we have the need to socialize, to have friends and to build and maintain lasting friendships.
However, what remains questionable is whether or not these activities alone will lead to lasting happiness. How often do we hear of famous and wealthy modern celebrities who attempt suicides despite a huge following of real or pretentious friends and fans, presence of caring family members, ostensibly fabulous careers, power, access, money and anything else that money can buy? If money were the measure, for instance, why do many who are relatively poorer lead happier and fuller lives? Conversely, why are those who lack little in material possessions and luxuries admittedly depressed?
Research findings proffered by anthropologists suggest that material does not necessarily lead to real happiness. That is because happiness has two faces – pleasure and value based. Pleasure based happiness does not lead to lasting happiness or real happiness. Malcolm X experienced both. He spent his non-Muslim formative years pursuing pleasure based happiness. He found it in sex, drugs, and crime. Ultimately, he ended up highly depressed and in jail. He started pursuing value based or spiritual happiness, once he converted to Islam. He found true Sakina (state of tranquility) and peace in submitting his will to the Will of his Maker which lasted him throughout his remaining time – in spite of the challenges and threats he faced from the NOI and others.
So, what are the key factors in Islam that can lead us to Sakina, peace of heart; and ultimately, to true happiness?
1) Hub (love) of and Tawakkul (entrustment) in Allah, Adored is He Above all.
Love and trust Allah Almighty with all of your heart and in all that you do! Entrust yourself and your affairs to Him.
Many who are unhappy cannot find someone they can truly believe in or fully trust. Allah, ‘Ezza wa Jal, Informs and Encourages us in the Holy Quran [2:165]:
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلَّهِ
“…whereas those who believe have the strongest of love for Allah.”
Then He Says in [3:159]:
فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“…then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God Loves those who place their trust in Him.”
If we combine the spirit of these two verses, we find the recipe for the reciprocal relationship between man and God ; and hence, success or happiness. The two ingredients mentioned are belief and trust. The outcome is mutual love. Allah SWT Tells us that true believers love Him exceedingly and that He Loves those who place their trust in Him. Nothing soothes a believer’s heart more than the knowledge and belief that 1) one can turn to God and entrust all affairs to Him at any time, 2) God Loves those who trust Him precisely because of such entrustments, and 3) God is fully capable of addressing what is entrusted to Him as only He Can.
If you believe, you will trust. If you trust, you’ve believed. You believe and trust because you love Allah SWT – not just because you are afraid of burning in Hell fire or because you are eager to enter Paradise. If you believe and trust, He Loves you. That is what you are truly after: His Hub and His Rithaa (Divine Satisfaction) as Your Rabb (Cherisher). The promises of hell and paradise in Quran are very real. But, those who have attained a higher level of understanding adore Allah for His Essence.
Parents promise punishments and rewards in order to shape and guide their children’s behavior. Without outlining such consequences, much more chaos will ensue in a world already adrift in it. Muslims who have attained Ihsan*1 conduct their lives in harmony with and in compliance to Allah’s Will not driven by any motive other than true love for God as explained in 2:165 above. Similarly, mature children take extra care to comply with their parents’ wishes in order to keep them pleased – no longer to enjoy rewards or to avoid spanking. All they seek is the parents’ pleasure.
Can anyone – poor or rich; with family, friends, shrinks, or without; working or vacationing; fit or fat – feel miserable in the midst of a reciprocal relationship with Allah SWT founded on true love? It is highly doubtful.
2) Hope in Allah’s Mercy.
Despondence is Kufr (ungratefulness) and the leader of the hopeless is Shaitan (Satan). People are depressed because of anxieties, fear, and mostly, dejection and hopelessness. They lose faith and hope in a better tomorrow. Muslims**2 by definition submit their lives entirely to the Will of God. He, SWT, Creates, Sustains, Takes away, and Forgives as He Wishes. Don’t ever lose hope in His Boundless Mercy! Don’t speak or intend to do anything save by uttering in Sha’ Allah (if Allah Wills) first. Even if you are severely tested, know that Allah guarantees you have the built-in capacity to bear it. Allah Almighty Informs us in [2:286]:
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
“God Does not Burden any soul with more than he is well able to bear…”
Allah Subhana wa Ta’aala Prepares us in [2:155-6]:
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٥﴾ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
“And most certainly shall We Try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of [labor's] fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity (155) who, when calamity befalls them, say, "Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return." (156)”
This life is ephemeral. It is too fleeting to spend it in despair. Many who are desperate have not only lost all hope in a better tomorrow on earth, but even dismiss the possibility of an afterlife – or even if believing in an afterlife – of a better lot in it. As Muslims, alHamdu-Lillah (thanks are to God), we are to maintain a fair balance between this life and the hereafter. In sharp contrast, as Muslims, not only do we believe in an afterlife but keep hope in one that is a lot (no pun) better. We believe that our return is to God. And we believe in an afterlife that is not temporary.
Therefore, dwell on earth as an A student preparing for an important exam aiming for success – not failure! Couple your preparations and hard work with confidence and hope in your examiner’s leniency and you should be able to attain the Sakina of heart.
When we are awakened after death, we would wonder how much time did really pass whilst on earth. All the decades would seem as just moments in the past. That experience would not be entirely dissimilar to how we feel in the mornings even after a long night of sleep. All the sleeping hours appear at dawn as only a moment or two now past. Dwell on earth unlike some who spend all or others who spend none of their time in worship. We are the people of the middle way. Maintain a good balance between the two and have hope in Allah’s Grace and Mercy. You will lead a fuller and happier life – if Allah Wills.
Discontentment of one’s lot in life is also Kufr. The discontented person is rejecting one of the main pillars of Islam – that the measure of good and bad is determined by Allah, SWT. Contentment, on the other hand, is gratefulness.
The Prophet Muhammad, SAW, has explained the practical implications of this: “If something befalls you, don’t say: If only I would have done such and such, rather say: Allah Decreed this, and whatever He Wishes, He Does; for verily the phrase ‘if only I would have’ makes way for the work of Shaitan” [Muslim]
To better understand why we should be content with our allotments in life, we must understand the concept of Qadr (measure, destiny, or Divine Decree). Allah, Most High, Says in [6:59]:
وَعِندَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ ۚ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِن وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
“And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden or beyond created beings’ perception), none knows them but He. And He Knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He Knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.”
And, then in [57:22]:
مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ
“No calamity can ever befall the earth, and neither to your own selves, unless it be [inscribed] in a book [Our Decree, or Lowh al-Mahfooz****3] before We bring it into being: verily, all this is easy for God.”
وَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“And you cannot will unless that Allah Wills – the Cherisher of the worlds.”
As does [54:49]:
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ
“Behold, everything have We Created with Qadr [in due measure - also in due proportion]’”
Believe that Allah, SWT, Knows it all. He Is Omniscient. He Knows of all that we do and of all that befall us at any time. It is all written in the Preserved Tablet. We still have free will. We choose our own destinies within the spatiotemporal limits Set by Him. But His Knowledge Encompasses time and space. And nothing that happens can happen without His Will or Permission. Therefore, what do we achieve by discontentment with His Will and Decree other than self-induced misery, stress and depression?
Here are more reasons why you should be content with your lot in life. Understand that someone, somewhere, may live in worse conditions. Understand that Allah, all Glory belongs to Him, Will not Burden you with more than what you can bear. Understand that your own circumstances could be a lot worse. Know that Allah is your best ally and Shaitan is your perpetual enemy. Therefore; thank God for all that you are given and even in the worst of conditions. Be grateful! True Muslims are grateful and completely content with Allah’s Will. Kuffar (the ungrateful ones) are discontent; and therefore, unhappy and hopeless.
True happiness to a large measure stems from loving Allah SWT, from hope in Him, and from being content with the Divine Will and Decree.
I will end first with a simple formula as prescribed by the Lord of success and happiness and then by a quatrain from Jalaaluddin Rumi as translated to English by Shahram Shiva.
May you attain real happiness in this world and the hereafter.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اصْبِرُوا وَصَابِرُوا وَرَابِطُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“O you who have attained to faith! Be patient in adversity, and vie in patience with one another, and be ever ready [to do what is right], and remain conscious of God, so that you might attain to a happy state! [or success]” [3:200]
To Love is to reach God.
Never will a Lover’s chest
feel any sorrow.
Never will a Lover’s robe
be touched by mortals.
Never will a Lover’s body
be found buried in the earth.
To Love is to reach God. [Rumi]
*1 Ihsan litterally translates into goodness. It follows Iman, and Islam in degree. Under Islam (lowest level of faith), a Muslim just declares by tongue that Allah is One and that Muhammad is His messenger and may additionally perform the prescribed acts of worship, fast in Ramadan, give poor-due, and if able go to Haj. Iman implies belief or inner faith in the above as well as in Allah’s messengers, angles, books, the Last Day, and the Divine Decree – the good of it and the bad of it. Ihsan implies perfection or excellence and is applied to worship as if to feel and witness God’s Presence at all times. Prophet Muhammad SAW said of Ihsan: "[Ihsan is] to worship God as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, then indeed He Sees you." [Muslim, Bukhari.] Muslim, Mu’min, and Muhsin refer to practitioners of the three levels of Islam the religion. Not all Muslims are Mu’mins, not all Mu’mins are Muhsins. But a Muhsin is both.
**2 Muslim literally means one who submits or one who is in peace. Muslim is also one who has chosen Islam as a religion.
****3 Lowh al-Mahfooz: Preserved Table. God’s Eternal Decree.