by Ustadha Bint Ahmad
A dynamic female scholar, Ustadha Bint Ahmad teaches the Islamic sciences and Arabic at Al Zahra ‘Ilmiyyah Institute and Al Arqam Academy and she is the main course instructor and author at Al Muhsinaat, London, UK
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Each and every human being instinctively is in pursuit of happiness. Whether he/she is a child or an adult, a Muslim or a non-Muslim, and this is the fact. In order to achieve this true and eternal happiness, one must comprehend what this emotion really is. Happiness, according to the Oxford dictionary is ‘feeling, causing, or giving pleasure’ and it is being ‘satisfied’. It is essential to understand the psychology of happiness to know how much control we have over it. James Montier, a renowned global equity strategist studied behavioral psychology and concluded in his research ‘The Psychology of Happiness’ that psychologists have found that happiness is comprised of three components:
1. About 50% of individual happiness comes from a genetic set point. That is, we’re each predisposed to a certain level of happiness. Some of us are just naturally more inclined to be cheery than others.
2. About 10% of our happiness is due to our circumstances; demographic factors, age, gender, ethnicity and geographic factors. It also includes personal history and life status.
3. The remaining 40% of an individual’s happiness is derived from intentional activity, from discrete actions or practices that we choose to do.
As humans we have no control over our genetic set-point, and hardly any control over our circumstances. This 50% of happiness in Islam is called ‘ridha bi al-qadha’ (being content with our lot in life). This means that as believers if we truly love Allāh and trust Him, we are satisfied with what He Has decreed for us. The Messenger would supplicate with words that would highlight the importance of satisfaction with our fate; therefore we too should make the effort to recite these supplications:
“I am pleased with Allāh as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with Muhammad as my Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).” [Abu Dawud]
“O Allāh, make me content with what you have provided me, send blessings for me therein, and place for me every absent thing with something better.” [Bukhari]
“O Allāh, I seek refuge with You from knowledge which does not bring benefit and from a heart which is not fearful and from a self which is not content and from a supplication which is not answered.” [Muslim]
Thereafter, the main conclusion to be drawn from Montier’s research is that we can only work on the last 40% to make ourselves happier. It must be noted that this 40% cannot be achieved in pursuit of money, fame or anything else materialistic. These are all transitory, and anything transitory will never result in true happiness. True happiness is contentment, and this is only attained through activities which are not fleeting. So here are the 10 steps in the light of Qurʾān and Hadith which makes our lives happier:
1. Seek the Pleasure of Allāh – Nothing can make us more happier than seeking the pleasure of Allāh. Allāh tells us in Qurʾān about what is the greatest happiness, calling it a ‘supreme success’ and about the people who deserve this supreme success.
The believers, men and women, are Auliyâ’ (helpers, supporters, friends) of one another; they enjoin (on people) Al-Ma‘rûf (good), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (evil); they perform As-Salât (prayer), and give the Zakât (charity), and obey Allāh and His Messenger. Allāh will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allāh is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Allāh has promised the believers -men and women, – Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of ‘Adn (Eden Paradise). But the greatest bliss (happiness) is the Good Pleasure of Allāh. That is the supreme success. [71, 72 Al-Tawbah]
2. Be Thankful – The more Thankful we are to Allāh, the more He will shower His bounties upon us. Appreciation of what Allāh has blessed you with is vital for this step to be achieved. This is indeed an act of worship.
And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless, verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.” [7 Ibrāhīm]
O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him you worship. [172 Al-Baqara]
3. Satisfy Your Soul – Work on activities that result in internal happiness that satisfy and bring a smile to the heart, not merely a smile on the face by doing meaningful work; strive to partake in activities like feeding the poor, assisting the distressed and helping others rather than killing your resources like time and money.
“True enrichment does not come through possessing a lot of wealth, but true enrichment is the enrichment of the soul.” [Bukhari]
4. Avoid Worldly Comparisons – Do not look at the celebrities, rich or affluent people above you in worldly matters. The lives of such individuals is not ‘ideal’ in the eyes of Allāh. Admire the lives of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and Khadija (may Allāh be pleased with her) who are our role models.
“Look at those below you (less fortunate than you), and don’t look at those above you, for this is better.” [Muslim]
5. Expect Only From Allāh – Any sustenance, provision and reward we expect is from Allāh alone.
“O Allāh, give me enough of what You have made lawful to suffice me from what You have made unlawful, and enrich me by Your bounty giving me independence from all other than You.” [al-Tirmidhi]
And so many a moving (living) creature there is, that carries not its own provision! Allah provides for it and for you. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. [60 Al Ankabūt]
6. Serve Others and Maintain Relations –The Messenger strongly advised to maintain family ties, keep strong relations and taught us the etiquettes of social relations.
“All created beings are the dependents of Allāh, and the most beloved of creation to Allāh is the one who is good to His dependants” [Bayhaqi]
7. Get Adequate Rest and Organize Your Life –A very important step to ensure better productivity.
The Messenger chose a simple life over a glamorous one, and he was always content. A person who plans their day is much more productive than a person who does not. The Prophet used to carefully apportioned his time according to the demands on him for: Worshiping Allāh, Public affairs and Personal matters.
On the authority of Ali, Tirmizi has recorded that the Prophet had carefully apportioned his time according to the demands on him for offering worship to Allāh in and his personal matters. After the early morning prayers he would remain sitting in the mosque reciting praises of Allāh till the sun rose and more people collected. He would then preach to them. After the sermons were over, he would talk genially with the people, enquire about their welfare and even exchange jokes with them. Taxes and revenues were also disrtibuted at this time. [Sahih Muslim, Tirmizi]
He would then offer chaste prayers and go home and get busy with household work. [Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi]
8. Build a Support Group – Feeling a part of a larger group gives one a sense of security and a safety net to fall into on occasions of happiness and hardships. The concept of brotherhood and sisterhood is one of the central themes of Islam.
“The (example of) believers (in their mutual love, care and concern) is like a single person: if his eye complains of pain his whole body complains of pain, and if his head complains of pain his whole body complains of pain.” [Muslim]
9. Eat Halal– Consuming halal is an order of Allāh and an essential part of the Islamic faith. Allāh has repeatedly emphasized the consumption of halal in His book.
Abu Hurairah related,” Allāh’s Messenger PBUH said: Verily Allāh is pure and He accepts only what is pure and indeed Allāh has given those orders to the believers, which he has given to the Messengers. He has said, “O Messenger, eat from the pure foods and work righteous”. He -also- has said: “O you who have believed, eat from the pure things which we have provided you.” Then (the Prophet PBUH) made mention of a man who undergoes a lengthy journey in a state that he is disheveled and dusty. He spreads his hands towards the sky (calling), “O my lord, O my lord”, however his food is haram, his drink is haram, his clothes are haram and he has been nourished with haram! So how will his call be answered?” [Muslim]
10. Keep Fit – Scientists claim that one of the benefits of exercise is that it makes us feel happy. Exercise is described by many doctors as an anti-depressant. The presence of certain chemicals like endorphins and phenyl acetic acid increases drastically after a good work out and it is this that contributes to that ‘feel good’ feeling afterwards. Prophet said:
“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” [Muslim]
These are the ten steps for Happiness and with the divine assistance of Allāh it is hoped we can all live happier lives to transport us to our final abode – PARADISE. May Allāh be pleased with us always – and that’s the eternal happiness. Ameen.