You’re not expected to make everyone happy. That’s not Islam. Maybe people push that expectation onto you—in some cultures young people are taught to cede control over their lives to every elder aunt, uncle, sibling and even in-laws, until they feel squeezed from every direction and stripped of free will. But that is not the dīn. Respect for others is vital, but in the end we answer to Allāh.
” … But it is more fitting that they should please Allāh and His Messenger … “ [Sūrah At-Tawbah;62]
The ultimate example of this is the Prophet Ibrahim [alayhis], who rejected the idol worship of his people, including his father, to such a degree that they tried to kill him. Imagine him, as a young child, tying a rope to the idols he was charged with caring for, and dragging them through the dust to the marketplace, calling, “Come and buy these lifeless idols that can neither benefit nor harm anyone!” SubḥānAllāh! What incredible will and independence of thought.
Looking at it from a more conventional perspective, many young people nowadays are forced into unwanted marriages, or are denied the partners of their choice because of un-Islamic reasons such as caste and race. Young women are pressured by their boyfriends into having sex -and yes, this occurs among Muslims all the time- because they don’t have the fortitude to say no, or because they are suckered by false promises of future marriage. People do all sorts of reprehensible things in order to be accepted by their peers.
Women, in particular, are taught to be “pleasers,” and sometimes measure their own self-worth to the degree to which they make others happy. Pleasers have a narrative running constantly in their minds: “I’m nothing if I can’t make others happy. If I please others I will be loved. If I just keep on trying, the people around me will change.”
This narrative is a myth. In reality, pleasers are often taken for granted or taken advantage of, and end up feeling depleted, hopeless, and angry. Managers and co-workers can get away with dumping extra work onto them. Friends ask them for steadily bigger favors, knowing that the pleaser never says no. Stuck in a relationship with an abusive man, a pleaser will try ever harder to cook, dress and smell the way the abuser likes, convinced that if she can only please him, he will become kind and loving. When this doesn’t work and the pleaser can’t take any more abuse, she feels like a failure. The feeling can be extreme, as if the world is coming to an end.
Allāh , by contrast, is One who rewards us with far more than we give in His cause. When we strive to please Him we feel contented, right, and spiritually hale, rather than exhausted and disillusioned. Pleasing and serving Allah is never a one-way street, as it so often is with human beings. Everything we have already came from Allah . When we’re grateful, He increases our provision, and when we work in Allāh’s cause He outmatches us.
We have to stop surrendering our souls to other human beings, and surrender instead to Allāh .
The Challenge of a Lifetime
We were created to live in the cause of Allāh , fulfilling our greater purpose, and living the dream imbued in our hearts.
Every one of us has a role to play in healing this fractured world and bringing truth to the fore. We are asked to dedicate ourselves to the One, and it’s not a small task. It’s the challenge of a lifetime. We shine with our full glory only when we bow exclusively to Allāh . When we do that, all others will either fall into step with us on this lighted path, or will lose their power to harm us spiritually and emotionally.
“Those (the believers) to whom the people (the hypocrites) said: ‘Verily, the people (the pagans) have gathered against you (a great army), therefore fear them.’ But it (only) increased them in Faith, and they said: Allāh (alone) is sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.” [Sūrah Āl-‘Imrān;173]
Sahl bin Sad As-Sai’di reported: “A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, guide me to such an action which if I do Allāh will love me and the people will also love me.’ He said, ‘Have no desire for this world, and Allāh will love you; and have no desire for what people possess, and people will love you.’” [Ibn Majah Al-Albani classified this hadīth as authentic]
To “have no desire for this world” doesn’t mean that you don’t strive to achieve the necessities of life. Rather, it means that you do not hunger for luxuries, and that you don’t envy what others have been given (what people possess). You have a greater goal, which is the achievement of Jannah. Therefore your concern in worldly affairs is the pleasure of Allāh.
You will never succeed in gratifying everyone, not if you lived a thousand years. As the old saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. It is also true that sometimes you will please none of the people, and that’s fine too. Work on pleasing Allāh, and you’ll find yourself in harmony with the fundamental forces of the universe.
These are not just pretty words that I toss out like confetti. These are my deepest beliefs, condensed from decades of loneliness, bitter pain, and also joy and gratitude. I have truly seen miracles, and in many ways I’m a walking miracle myself; not because of anything I’ve done, but because Allāh has saved me from so much, and guided me from such depths—Alhamdulillāh.
If my posts help anyone then all praise is due to Allāh . And if you think I’m off the mark, then māshā’Allāh, that’s alright. You have lived your own life and gone where you’ve gone on the face of this earth, and you must make your own judgments. I’m putting forward what I believe to be true, if anything can be said to be true in this dunya. And Allāh knows best.
What is Real?
For what is real in this universe if not Allāh ? All else passes away. If one was to venture into quantum physics, you find that our physical “reality” itself is bizarre and impossible to comprehend.
In the last century the science of physics has been upended. It was once believed that everything was either a particle or a wave. Now we know that particles are also waves, and waves are also particles. Quantum objects can exist in multiple places and states at the same time. Two particles can become entangled on the quantum level such that the behavior of one affects the other instantaneously, even when they are light years apart. When these theories were first proposed scientists resisted them, feeling that the universe would no longer make sense if such things were true (Einstein labeled quantum entanglement “spooky action”). These theories have since been confirmed by repeated experiments, but scientists still have no idea how these things are possible.
What makes sense in this life except Allāh ? With all the suffering we human beings go through, with all the starvation, war and crime, how can we even justify our existence except in the name of Allāh ? We need that ultimate justice. We need that One Single Reality, that Eternal Presence, that Final Arbiter.
Coming back to the original thought, why should we torture ourselves trying to indulge people who are themselves flawed? Other human beings don’t set the standard of truth. They don’t have the right to sit in judgment over every slip and fall. They don’t see our souls. They don’t know our hearts or our pain. Only Allāh is Al-Baseer (The All Seeing), worthy of our striving. Let us be kind to others, honor our parents, and show respect. But let us not submit our souls to anyone or anything but Allāh .