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WHERE IS HAPPINESS?

MIT
5/16/2017
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Undoubtedly, the most sought after objective on this planet , which determines a particular methodology or  approach to adopt in seeking it is happiness.  It is the most comprehensive life phenomenon whose definition leads to the flow of the society towards certain directions of human endeavor, yet as pivotal as it is, science still cannot explain much about it. Its concept itself is elusive.  Is it an idea, emotion, virtue, philosophy, ideal, or is it just programmed in the genes?  

There is no agreed upon definition for it, yet  still everyone seems to be selling happiness these days - drug dealers, pharmaceutical companies, Hollywood, toy companies, self-help gurus, sports enthusiasts, pornographic demagogues all seeks out happiness.

Can happiness really be purchased?  Is happiness achieved by maximizing pleasure, earning fame and fortune, or living a life of unlimited leisure?. This article seeks to define success and answer most of the above perplex questions that baffles the mind of many thinkers.

Man and the world:

If we cast a cogitative and observatory glance at this complex universe around us, with the aim of recognizing the many bounties of nature we are endowed with, starting from our own creation and potentials, the minerals imbedded in the earth of gold and diamond, pearls in the oceans, fruits and vegetables of different kinds, which the earth gushed forth for us, flowers, stars, the moon and the sun that beautify our days and nights, the reactions of atoms and molecules around us, the removal of carbon dioxide from the air leaving the oxygen for our breadths and besides all the categorization of the human race into nations and tribes to facilitate benefiting from each other’s in trade and business, one would be left with no option than to admit that man is not created to be unhappy in this life.

The only condition of living happily in the midst of the above is the recognition of the Creator and Provider of these provisions. No one can be happy living a country if he does not recognize the power that runs the country and its rules of law. Man and everything that surrounds of him of this complex universe is a creation of Allah almighty, hence, how can man attain happiness in his endeavors without recognizing the Power that brought him and all his environs into existence?!

Thus happiness can only sought in recognizing the creator of the heavens and earth and bowing to His will and being His servant, fulfilling His will and obeying His commands, hence, where can one know such a creator.

Success in Christian and Western thought:

The Christian idea of happiness was based on a reported saying of Jesus,

"…now is your time of grief, I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy" (John 16:22)

The Christian idea of happiness was developed over the centuries and, in turn, rested on a theology of sin, which, as St. Augustine explained in The City of God, taught that because of Adam and Eve’s original transgression in the Garden of Eden, true happiness was "unattainable in our present life."1 Hence, in Christianity there is no happiness in this earthly life!

Western concept of happiness however was molded by the above Christian perspective of happiness, hence, when people lost hope of attaining happiness in the Christian doctrine, they turn to follow their own whimsical inclinations of happiness. It is this tendency that has thrown the western society into a whirlpool of crimes and immoralities that is beyond description the result of which is the deviant plight we see in western societies.

Happiness sterns from Islamic Teachings.

In the past few years psychologists and researchers have been studying people all over the world to find out what exactly makes us happy.  Is it money, attitude, culture, memory, health, or altruism? New findings suggest that actions have a positive effect on happiness. This suitly correspond with the universal principle of the Qur’an for happiness and that is: “ faith and righteous acts” as mention in Qur’an chapter 16 verse 97:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَٰلِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُۥ حَيَوٰةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while being a believer, We will grant him a good life-and We will reward them according to the best of what they used to do.”

Having faith in the Oneness of Allah and recognizing His dominion and His right to be worshipped entitled one to good life. Good-life is the replicate of happiness and success which has nothing to do with plenty wealth for many are the wealthy ones but due to their disbelief in God almighty and ascribing partners to Him they spend their lives under fears and psychological traumas more painful than the pains of hunger of the poor.  The thought of death disconcerts all their past times because they have nothing in wait of them in the next life, whilst people of faith and righteous acts gets forgotten of the usual sufferings of this life because of their hope of what is in wait for them in paradise.

ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوٓا۟ إِيمَٰنَهُم بِظُلْمٍ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ لَهُمُ ٱلْأَمْنُ وَهُم مُّهْتَدُونَ

“those who believe, and do not obscure their faith with wrongdoing-those will have security, and they are guided.” (Al-An’aam: 82)

According to a research by “Yes Magazine”, it came up with a list of scientifically proven strategies for becoming happy.   Not surprisingly they neatly correspond to the way God and His messenger Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, have taught us to behave, which is an indication of the perfection of Islam.

Here in no particular order, are seven “scientifically” proven ways to increase happiness.

1.     Avoid comparisons.

According to Stanford psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky2, focusing on our own personal achievement instead of comparing ourselves to others, leads to greater satisfaction.  God says in the Quran, 

وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِۦٓ أَزْوَٰجًا مِّنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ

“And do not extend your glance towards what We have given some classes of them to enjoy-the splendor of the life of this world-that We may test them thereby. Your Lord's provision is better, and more lasting.” (Taha:131)

2. Smile:

Prophet Muhammad , may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said, “Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful smile.”[Sahih Muslim]  and “To smile in the face of your brother is charity given on your behalf.”[Sahih Bukhari]

One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said, “Since the day I accepted Islam, the Messenger of God would never meet me without a smiling face.”[Sahih Bukhari] The late Islamic scholar Sheikh Ibn Baaz, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “A smiling face indicates a good quality and causes blessed results – it indicates that one’s heart is free of rancour and it causes affection to grow between people”.

3.     Get out and exercise.

A Duke University study shows that exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression.  Prophet Muhammad said: “A strong believer is better and more beloved in the sight of God than a weak believer.”[Sahih Muslim]  He was not only talking in terms of faith and character, but also that optimum health and fitness were desirable traits in a believer.

4.     Make friends and treasure family.

Happier people tend to have good families, friends, and supportive relationships, say Diener and Biswas-Diener.[3]  “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring.  Allah, the Exalted, says:

وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًٔا ۖ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَٰنًا وَبِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَٰكِينِ وَٱلْجَارِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْجَارِ ٱلْجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلْجَنۢبِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا

“Worship God and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet). Verily, God does not like those who are proud and boastful.” (Quran 4:36)

Prophet Muhammad said, “Among the things that bring happiness to a believer in this life are a righteous neighbour, a spacious house and a good steed.”[Hakim with good chain]  Islam places great emphasis on the solidarity of families, neighbourhoods and the wider community.

5.     Say thank you like you mean it.

People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals, according to author Robert Emmons[4].

6. Be grateful to Allah:

At the core of the teachings of Islam is the idea that to be happy or content we must be grateful to God, not just for what we perceive to be blessings but for all circumstances.  Whatever condition we find ourselves in we are grateful and sure that it is good for us as long as we are following the teachings of God.  God said:

فَٱذْكُرُونِىٓ أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ لِى وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

“Therefore, remember Me (God) and I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favours on you) and never be ungrateful to Me.” (Quran 2:152)

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِى لَشَدِيدٌ

And (remember) when God proclaimed: ‘If you are grateful I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are ungrateful verily, My punishment is indeed severe.’ (Quran 14:7)

7.     Put money low on your list of priorities.

People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan.  God’s messenger said, “Be happy, and hope for what will please you.  By God, I am not afraid that you will be poor, but I fear that worldly wealth will be bestowed upon you as it was bestowed upon those who lived before you.  So you will compete amongst yourselves for it, as they competed for it and it will destroy you as it did them.”[Ibid]

References:

1-[ - City of God, (XIX.4-10). (http://www.humanities.mq.edu.au/Ockham/y6705.html).].

2-The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Penguin Press, 2008

3- Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2008

4-Thanks!  How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Robert Emmons, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007






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