But the most incredible bliss (happiness) is the Good Pleasure of Allāh. That is the supreme success. (Q:71-72)
We are all caught in the maze of chasing fame and fortune and, of course, power, in whatever form we can attain it in the delusive hope that it will provide us lasting and wholesome happiness.
We see hordes of people who seem to have it all money, fame, houses, cars, yet miserable at heart, whose lives are devoid of the peace and contentment that all this was expected to bring.
Fortunately, happiness does not rest in anyone’s hands but in our own. Happiness is not found over the rainbow or in some mythical place. It is around the corner, dancing down the street with no cares.
Looking for happiness through acquiring objects is like trying to catch your own shadow. The closer you move toward it, the farther it moves away from you.
The problem is that we can so easily be seduced into believing that generating more external value whether in the form of wealth, status, or even achievement leads to a greater sense of internal value. Each of these, pursued as a means to ensure our value, delivers diminishing returns over time.
Psychologists explain that what is essential is an engagement with something that gives meaning and purpose to one’s life. In the words of Carl Jung, “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”
In his book Alchemy of Happiness, al-Ghazali begins by saying, “He who knows himself is truly happy.” We are lost in a world of delusion and attachment, extremely caught up in the whirl of material life. We have no time to reflect upon the words of these wiser souls. They spoke out of their religious experience to awaken us from our slumber.
Happiness can be found in the solace that comes from practicing the truth. It can be achieved by practicing sincere worship, promoting noble and beautiful deeds, and performing acts of kindness and charity. They all have the potential to make us happy every day, under any circumstances. Even giving the smallest charity to please God can bring a smile to your face and a feeling of joy to your heart.
The Qur’an says “And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking God’s pleasure while they are sure and certain that God will reward them (for their spending in His Cause), is the likeness of a garden on a height; heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest. And if it does not receive heavy rain, light rain suffices it.” (Qur’an 2:265)
In his book Alchemy of Happiness, al-Ghazali begins by saying, “He who knows himself is truly happy.” Self-knowledge consists in realizing that we have a perfect heart or spirit, but which has been covered with dust by the accumulation of passions derived from the body and its animal nature. The essence of oneself is likened to a perfect mirror which, if polished, would reveal one’s true divine nature. The key to this polishing is the elimination of selfish desires and adopting a contrary desire to do what is right in all aspects of one’s life. He writes, “Moral discipline aims to purify the heart from the rust of passion and resentment till, like a clear mirror, it reflects the light of God.”
The most striking claim that al-Ghazali makes about the prophets is that they are the happiest people, for they have achieved the ultimate goal of human existence. Al-Ghazali writes that every person is born with a “knowing pain in the soul” resulting from a disconnection from the Ultimate Reality. The tragic condition of Man is that our eyes have been so distracted by physical things and pleasure that we have lost the ability to see the unseen. This is why people are so unhappy: they are trying to relieve this pain in the soul by recourse to physical pleasure. But bodily pleasure cannot reduce an essentially spiritual pain. The only answer to our condition is a pleasure that comes not from the body but from self-knowledge.
The idea of happiness is not a universal human that applies across all times and all cultures, but something that remains fluid through the eons. There is, however, an overwhelming agreement that the texture of the lives of all happy people shows that they connect very well with the world around them and have a purpose to their lives that buffers them from worldly strife. “Life has meaning,” as Robert Browning reminds us, and “to find its meaning is my meat and drink.” These happy people are like Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov, “One of those who don’t want millions, but an answer to his questions.” Sadly, most of us have lost focus of this age-old equation and are pursuing a mirage the conquest of the unconquerable.
Every single one of God’s commandments aims to bring happiness to the individual. This applies to all aspects of life, worship, economics, and society. “Whoever works righteousness whether male or female while he (or she) is a true believer verily; to him, we will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment, and lawful provision), and we shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter).” (Qur’an 16:97).
Following the teachings of Islam and striving to please God is a constant reminder that this life is but a brief pause on the way to life everlasting.
“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e., neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its teachings) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him blind on the Day of Resurrection.” (Qur’an 20: 124)
Parents and teachers must teach children to develop a suitable template for happiness and then equip them with a moral compass to keep it intact. An ideal template has all these ingredients sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others and skills that are best learned early notably: empathy, responsibility, kindness, reciprocity, generosity, and the value of fairness.
Gloom sets in when desires and impressions of worldliness stain our conscience. It needs to be polished by a deep journey inward. A successful journey opens our spiritual eyes to the wonders we have been gifted with. Instead of comparing ourselves constantly with “the haves” and feeling deprived, we start weighing our good fortunes against those who have little
We are lost in a world of delusion and attachment, extremely caught up in the whirl of material life. We have no time to reflect upon the words of these wiser souls. They spoke out of their religious experience to awaken us from our slumber. We must use these pearls of wisdom to discover that inner happiness. Instead of comparing ourselves constantly with “the haves” and feeling somehow cheated and deprived, it would do us a world of good to weigh our good fortunes against those who have little. Our time on this earth is not infinite. We must welcome any opportunity to smile and can’t afford to waste one second. There’s a real purpose in our desire for happiness it’s not selfish to pursue it.