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10 Steps to Happiness!

Ustadha Safiyya Bint Ahmed

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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 MuhsinaatLondon, 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and trust Him, we are satisfied with what He Has decreed for us. The Messengerṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the more He will shower His bounties  upon us. Appreciation of what Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). 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 subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 Messengerṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Messengersubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 Prophetsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) used to carefully apportioned his time according to the demands on him for: Worshiping Allāh, Public affairs and Personal matters.

On the authority of AliraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), Tirmizi has recorded that the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and an essential part of the Islamic faith. Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has repeatedly emphasized the consumption of halal in His book.

Abu HurairahraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) 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. Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Pingback: MyHappy » Happiness Research News Digest for April 12, 2012

    • Avatar

      rosie

      December 5, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      very soothing and a rite guide to happiness it changed my life took me out o depression and made me happy and gave me a direction of happiness and happy life.

  2. Avatar

    Bintsairah

    April 12, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    Fantastic article.

    This is by Ustadha bint ahmad, i read it in this years handbook

    I think it would be good to add the author of the article.

  3. Avatar

    Bruno Kamal

    April 12, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Could we have the Arabic translation of the many excellent Du’a and maybe also the transliteration? 
    Thanks.

  4. Avatar

    Habiba27

    April 12, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Jazarkalla I will try to implement these steps in my life inshallah

  5. Avatar

    Aballah Jerushi

    April 12, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    Jesus Christ is the one and only way to get eternal life or “happiness”. Jesus is Lord!

    • Avatar

      Pat

      April 12, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      Is Jesus really the lord? Why is it that when he was asked about the day of judgement, he said ‘nobody knows the day or hour, not even the Angels or the son but only the father’ (Mark 13:32)
      Why is it that Jesus prostrated to God whilst in prayer? (matthew 26:39). If he was God, wouldn’t that mean he was praying to himself? And why is it that when Jesus was supposedly dying on the cross, he cried, ‘father why hav thou forsaken me?’ ( Mark 15:35). What kind of a lord dies anyway?

    • Avatar

      Bible basher

      April 12, 2012 at 7:37 PM

      Hello. If Jesus is God, why did he not know that the fig tree would bear no fruit?

    • Avatar

      abda

      May 30, 2016 at 12:18 PM

      are you AbdAllah ? what’s the meaning of “abd Allah” ?

    • Avatar

      abda

      May 30, 2016 at 12:20 PM

      are you realy abdAllah ? what’s the meaning of “abd ALLAH” ?

  6. Avatar

    Umm Ousama

    April 13, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    I find the quoted research rather depressing and I wonder if we don’t blame genetics for lots of things. Instead of genetics, wouldn’t it be upbringing? I’ve seldomly seen a toddler depressed, which makes me think that it is only a very tiny percentage of genetic factor that makes one  happy or not.

    Of the ways to be happy too are smiling to people and even to yourself. When you grow older, do you want to have “smiling”  and “laughing” wrinkles or do you want to have “angry” or “sad” wrinkles?

    Of the ways to be happy is not to complain about trivial things and not to find fault in others. Take the good in people and leave the rest. Don’t be arrogant and forgive people.

  7. Avatar

    Hossnain

    April 16, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Jazakellahukhairan!! very much needed and appreciated.

  8. Avatar

    Talat albegamy

    April 20, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    mashallah well written . may allah make all your days happier .

  9. Avatar

    shihab khan

    September 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِي
    [Al-A’raf, 7:1]

  10. Avatar

    moustapha

    October 18, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    i would like to thank Aallah for given us great opportunity to to get advantage of this program…….this is ideed benefits for all………..i also want use this opportunity to thank the organiser of this wonderful web site program….who are able to represent Islamic principle on internet… ..help muslim to know more about Islam…..i’m really glad to be a memeber of such wonderful progrm……May Allah beless ,reward you more …………………..

  11. Avatar

    Random Person

    January 17, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    Great article. It really helps to keep your eyes on the more important things in life. Furthermore, I read this somewhere:

    Ibn Abbas, may God be pleased with him, said,

    In every tribulation there are three blessings:

    1. It could be worse than what it is.
    2. The tribulation is in your worldly matters and not in your religion.
    3. The tribulation is in this world, and not in the hereafter.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 17, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      Dear “Random Person”

      Our Comments Policy requires a valid name or Kunyah to be used when commenting. You may also use a blog handle provided your blog is linked, the email address is a valid one, and it is not advertising a product.

      Best Regards
      Comments Team

  12. Pingback: Where is my happiness? | Small Qalbi

  13. Pingback: Amelioration | The Undepressed

  14. Avatar

    Muhammad Uzair Ahmed

    August 28, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Be content with your life. Be in peace with whatever Allah gives you whether you like it (ThankYou ALLAH) or you dont like it (ThankYou ALLAH).

    This is Hapinesssss !

  15. Avatar

    kamal francis

    November 2, 2015 at 11:31 PM

    Very good. Knowledgble.

  16. Avatar

    maram

    November 4, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    thank you so much ,nice words !
    is there Arabic version of this essay ?

  17. Avatar

    Issa Mahmoud

    December 30, 2015 at 1:51 AM

    This is the exact recify of misery. No wonder why people who follow these instructions are always frowning with so much hatred in their hearts to others
    1 Please Allah. The fear is always there that we are not doing enough to please Him.
    2 – Feed your soul. The word strive is very poisonous as the measure of strive is not defined. Those who attempt to strive to do things pleasing to Allah are always under threat that they are not striving enough and therefore the soul is aways hungry.
    3 – Admire the life of the messenger. What is there to admire other than a power hungry adulterer and murderer who inmposed his beliefs by the word. I think admiring the life of the messenger is where the Islamic nations problem lies. It makes them murderers in the name of Allah, power hungry and always resentful. Where is happiness in that?
    4 Expect only from Allah, is a call for laziness as it is a nature rule that what you saw you reap. This calls for complacency putting all success only on Alla rather than entrepreneuring spirit study and hard work. No wonder the Islamic world lives in darkness with all the inventions coming from the non moslem nations.
    5 – Build a support group. This is a good idea if Moslems reach out to other advanced civilizations for support and learn from them, but as long as they isolate themselves in small backward support groups the more darkness the Islamic world will live in,
    6 – Eat Hallal. This is the best recipe for fear. A person following these instructions will alway live under the condemnation of not questioning the food he eats, rather than enjoy all the exotic cuisines the whole world has to offer, When will Moslems wake up from this Hallal taboo and enjoy everything God has provided to be eaten with thanksgiving, provided science has proved to be healthy and the negative sides treated. I need someone to explain to me how different pork is from beef if treated properly.

    This is all about radicalization and live in fear of not living up to the Islamic mullas expectation. Enjoy life, be friendly, adventure, study hard, love hard, work hard, mix with other nations, learn from each other i a multicultural environment, and play hard. above all, live in the grace of God provided by the forgiveness of sins, through Jesus Christ.

  18. Avatar

    Yusuf

    April 17, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    Masha Allah… just came from the masjid asking Allah SWT to clean my heart, asked him when I came to the library to help me find something good to read and I found this. Alhamdulillah. Very beneficial insha Allah if I put these steps into practice I will become very happy insha Allah. Thank you Jazak Allah khier. It seems like a sound authority. Im very pleased with this im feeling very better already. From Darkness to Light insha Allah Allahu Akbar. I just seen this site for the first time….oh look how Allah is calling the sinners. Any way I Just needed to vent. Barakullah Feekom ( may allah bless you ) nice study. Masha Alllah. take care everybody . Make Dua for me insha Allah… :)

  19. Avatar

    Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Kabir

    June 10, 2016 at 8:28 AM

    Alhamdulillah, this article explains the importance of contentment in Islam. I realized that happiness is a choice. Thank you and may Allah reward you

  20. Avatar

    Abarika Abdulai

    August 24, 2017 at 5:06 PM

    That was awesome. One of the tips that say we should avoid worldly comparison is a very good idea to really keeps us moving. May Allah grant us happiness.

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#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

Published

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Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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#Islam

The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata

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Gratitude
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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