Islam ensures happiness in many ways. It ensures happiness through its stress on submitting to the Will of the One True God, through its call to be thankful to the Creator for all those countless little mercies He has given us, through the middle path it tells us to take and avoid the extremes of asceticism and over-indulgence, through the direction it gives us as a whole way of life from cradle to grave and through its promise of an afterlife that must surely come.
At the same time, the purpose of our earthly existence is not the pursuit of happiness in itself. Men who have lost sight of this fact live for the moment, grounded in a philosophy of life peculiar to themselves: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. Others think that the purpose of life is to amass as much fame and fortune as possible, little knowing that they can be doors to pain rather than pleasure as seen from the high number of celebrity suicides. Little do they realize that the true purpose of life is not any of this, but to earn the good pleasure of God. It is to Serve God and to do His Will on earth and vindicate the Trust He has placed in us as his vicegerents on earth.
If it were indeed the pursuit of worldly happiness, that would mean we created ourselves for this purpose, but this is not so. We know this well and what this means is that we were created for another purpose, to earn God’s Pleasure by submitting our wills to Him willingly. When we lose sight of the true purpose of life, our existence becomes meaningless, reveling in fleeting moments of joy that have no real meaning.
That’s not all, such an attitude creates misery. Why, because when one dines on the banquet of life with gay abandon, one necessarily has to pay the price for the gluttony. Every orgy has its flatulence just as liquor has its intoxication. However sumptuous food you indulge in or music you delight in, the feeling is fleeting. It later turns to boredom or disgust if you have a continuous overdose. But not so prayer. Why, because man was primarily created for the purpose of Divine worship, not worldly enjoyments.
Like it or not, religion is a psychological necessity for human existence and even psychologists are agreed on this. It gives believers a spiritual security the godless do not enjoy. Researchers today tell us that religion gives man a greater sense of what they call ‘sustained happiness’ than any other social activity such as playing sports or joining a club.
Yes, religion gives us lifelong happiness. It gives us a groundedness in this otherwise confusing life of ours, it gives us meaning in this otherwise empty life of ours. Call it what you will, a beacon of light guiding us to safer ground across storm-tossed seas, a cooling oasis in a hot desert or a warm hearth in a cold, wintry night, wherever one be, whatever the situation, faith in God gives us hope undying. It is the formula for lifelong happiness. It gives us wings in the flight to eternity!
Man needs a God for his innermost soul to speak to, to find solace in a higher power in his moments of solitude and to be thankful in his moments of joy. Even atheists feel a need for a higher power to comfort them in times of despair and despondency. If not, they feel an emptiness so deep and disquieting that they throw their hands in despair as if not knowing where to look to. That is the nature of man. His inner self longs for the support of a Higher Being, a God who watches over him and cherishes him. This is something even the theory of evolution cannot explain. Why, because if we are to believe in evolution, man’s trust in God will prove to be counter-productive, leaving one’s survival to a higher being who does not exist. What evolutionary theory does is that it kills all hope in man; take this hope away and there is nothing more to look forward to; no God to appeal to for help and no one to cry out for succour; Man is a mere product of evolution in a battlefield where only the fit survive. It must be a cruel world out there for these atheists who cannot even explain how the manifold blessings of civilization could be the gift of this law of the jungle called the “survival of the fittest”.
This is where religion comes in, to fill that deep void, that spiritual vacuum the godless encounter in their day to day lives. Why, because man draws strength from the fact that a Higher being is ever watching over him and his needs. This God consciousness, this idea that God is ever watching over him, gives man an inestimable sense of happiness. Who else to look to in times of hopelessness but God, your only handhold, your best of helpers who alone can help you when all else fails, who alone can give you what you have lost and heal your broken heart, who alone understands your feelings like no other and knows of every single teardrop that has fallen down your cheeks.
So by believing and submitting to God, man subsumes his will to that of the Divine and the guidance that comes with it, achieving an equilibrium between his physical nature and spiritual state.
All creation is in a sense Muslim because it submits to God’s will:
All creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to His Will, and to Him shall they all be brought back
But what happens when a person becomes a Muslim is that he or she orders his or her life in accordance with the universal law of submission to God, bringing about an alignment between the natural submission and conscious submission, making such a one higher than the rest of creation. Such a one aligns himself or herself totally with God’s natural order and as a result achieves harmony with God and His Creation at its highest level. The peace so achieved percolates to all levels of the human experience, the physical and the spiritual. When one embraces such a God-conscious way of life, his or her purpose extends beyond merely enjoying worldly pleasures. This is the basis on which the concept of true happiness in Islam rests. The Qur’an brought out this truth over a thousand years ago when it told us:
And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face, and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this world
Thus it is through frequent remembrance of God that men find solace, getting the much desired inner peace people long for, a real peace that no money can buy. As the Qur’an says:
Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest
The Prophet went on to compare the remembrance of God to life itself:
The likeness of the one who remembers God and the one who does not remember God is like that of the living and the dead
(Saheeh Al Bukhari)
We remember God in a number of ways, and in countless times of the day when reflecting on his mercies and the prayers we offer him, by which means we get closer to Him. He Himself tells us:
I am as My servant presumes me to be, and I am with him when he remembers Me, so if he remembers Me to himself, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers me amongst a company, I remember him amongst a company (of angels) greater than it, and if he draws near to Me the span of a hand I draw near to him the span of an arm, and if he draws near to Me the span of an arm, I draw near to him the span of two outstretched arms, and if he takes a step towards Me I hastily step towards him
When we remember Him as such He comes to love us and hates doing anything that dislikes us. He Himself tells us of those who attain his love through prayer:
And when I love him, I become the ears that he hears with; I become the eyes he sees with, I become the hands that he holds with. I become the feet that he walks with. When he asks anything from me, I immediately grant it to him. When he seeks refuge in Me, I safeguard him. I never hesitate about anything as I do in taking the life of a believing servant. He dislikes death and I do not like anything he dislikes
Man needs a purpose to live for and there can be no better purpose than to live for the higher power that made it all possible; to vindicate yourself before God as a humble creature of His and to surrender yourself to that Supreme Will is what your soul really yearns for, that is the ultimate purpose of our earthly existence, making nobles of the meanest of mortals. You may serve your king, and you may serve your country, but to serve your God exceeds all this. Nothing can make you happier than seeking the pleasure of God, which is why the Qur’an calls it the ‘supreme success’:
God has promised the believers -men and women, – Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Eden. But the greatest bliss (happiness) is the Good Pleasure of God. That is the supreme success
(The Repentance:71- 72)
The pleasure you derive from earning the good pleasure of God is boundless, this feeling that your Creator and Cherisher takes cognizance of all that you do, in public and private, and rewards you accordingly. We achieve the Peace of God when we resign ourselves to our lot with humility knowing very well that God has so willed it for us for our good. Who else to look towards in one’s moments of despair, even when your whole world seems to fall apart. The good Muslim knows this well as his Prophet did when he pleaded to God after he was set upon by a mob in the walled town of Taif in the early years of his mission:
If Thou art not angry with me, I care not. Thy Favour is more wide for me. I take refuge in the light of Thy Countenance by which the darkness is illumined, and the things of this world and the next are rightly ordered.
In like manner did David sing when he was in the wilderness of Judah:
O God, You are my God, for You I long! For you my body yearns, for you my soul thirsts. Like a land parched, lifeless and without water. Your love is better than life
This is how the Prophets earned the Peace of God, by being ever so thankful to Him for His Blessings. Similarly, we achieve peace with God and with ourselves when we thank Him for the little mercies He has given us, even as much as seeing a smile on the face of a child, smelling the sweet fragrance of a flower or feeling the tingling sensation of the warmth of the sun on your skin. Yes, man needs somebody to thank for all the blessings he has, and who else to thank but the maker of it all. Who else to thank, but God who is with us at all times, guiding us with His Light and enveloping us with his Mercy.
The Prophets of old did not stop at preaching to their people to believe and worship the One true God, but also reminded them of God’s Favours to them. Prophet Muhammad told his followers:
This world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you his stewards over it
In the Qur’an we read of the Prophet Hood telling his people, the Aad:
Call in remembrance that He made you inheritors after the people of Noah, and gave you a stature tall among the nations. Call in remembrance the benefits from God, so that ye may prosper
(The Heights: 69)
In like manner, the Prophet Saalih told his tribe of Thamood:
And remember how He made you inheritors after the Aad people and gave you habitations in the land. Ye build for yourselves palaces and castles in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains, so bring to remembrance the benefits from God, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth
Yes indeed, God is happy to see his creatures happy and He is most Happy when they who are blessed by Him give thanks to Him and grant that all they have is from Him. Quite naturally one who has been blessed by God as such, but is not grateful to Him will only earn His Wrath:
O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink, but be not prodigal. He (God) does not like prodigals
O ye who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to God, if it is Him you worship.
(The Heifer: 172)
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
But bear in mind, worldly bliss does not necessarily mean Divine Favour. Far from it, it can very well lead us on the path to arrogance and destruction. That is why God reminds us in the Qur’an :
And it is not your wealth, nor your children that bring you nearer to Us, but only those who believe, and do righteous deeds; for such there will be reward multiplied for what they did, and reside they will in the dwellings on high
So just as God has blessed us, He will also test us with trials and tribulations. He Himself says so very frankly:
Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say when afflicted with calamity:“To God we belong and to Him is our return”
We see this all around us, the pain we go through when a loved one dies or when we are struck with sickness or some other calamity. God may even test us with poverty, or he may test us with wealth, why because wealth can corrupt us and out us on a trajectory to the hellfire. As the Prophet 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
On the other hand, when poverty or disease strikes us, we may come to rely on God more than ever before. He becomes our only handhold in these times of trial, fragile as we are, and so we become ever closer to him. This does us good in His Sight. He becomes pleased with us for depending on Him and praying to Him and bearing what he has in store for us with patience till the trial is over or death takes us back to Him. This is why God says:
And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. God knows but you know not
Echoing these sentiments, His Prophet said:
If God wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials
Thus it is well for man to be humble in times of prosperity and patient in times of adversity, knowing very well that it is all a trial from our Creator and Cherisher. Nothing in this universe happens without His leave. No disease afflicts one or misfortune visits one but by his leave. When we are visited by these trials, we must always bear in mind that what God does, He does for our good, for reasons that are at times beyond our comprehension. Whether or not we are able to grasp what is good in it, the good is there and we accept it as such. But always bear in mind that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy desires only what is best for us, to test us, so as to grant us the eternal bliss of Paradise. To be steadfast in one’s belief in God is what ennobles us in His Sight. As the Prophet said:
The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, it becomes straight again. Similarly, a believer is afflicted with calamities. And a wicked evil-doer is like a pine tree which keeps hard and straight till God cuts it down when He wishes
One has only to look at God’s Favourites, His Prophets to whom He has promised the highest stations in paradise. Who suffered from the world’s injustices more than they. Take Job who is held out as an epitome of patience in both the Bible and the Qur’an:
And remember Job, when he cried to his Lord: “Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.”. We answered his call, and We removed the distress on him, and We restored his family to him, and the like thereof along with them as a Mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all those who serve Us.
(The Prophets: 83-84)
But at the same time, God does not test us with unbearable burdens. He tests us only with what we can bear, for He Himself assures us:
On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear
(The Believers: 62)
And as if that were not enough, God assures us that whatever trial he tests us with, will clear the path to paradise for us, even something as trivial as a fever. All such adversities contain in it the seeds of blessings, cleansing the soul as the furnace does the dross of iron to purify it. It once happened that the Prophet visited Umm Saib while she was sighing. He asked: “‘What is wrong with you?” “The fever”’ she replied, “May God debase it!” The Prophet said: “Gently! Do not curse it. It removes the errors of the believer as the bellows remove the dross of iron‘” (Adab al Mufrad). On another occasion, a companion named Abdullah visited the Prophet when he was suffering from high fever. He said: “No Muslim is afflicted with any harm but that God removes his/her sins as the leaves of a tree fall down”(Saheeh Al-Bukhari). He also said: “No misfortune or disease befalls a Muslim, no worry or grief or harm or distress – not even a thorn that pricks him – but God will expiate for some of his sins because of that” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari). Indeed even the death of a loved one is a trial that could enable one to enter paradise, for did not the Prophet tell a group of women: “‘There is no woman among you who has three children die, resigning them to God, who will not enter the Garden” A woman asked: “And if it is two?” He replied: “And if it is two””(Adab al Mufrad).
So always remember, if God closes a window in this material life of ours, He will open us a door to the heavens, to a beautiful garden we can not imagine even in our wildest dreams, to be with our loved ones and enjoy the pleasures this short life could not give us. Thus Islam gives us happiness in times of trial when we most need it to banish the sadness in our lives that overtakes us now and then. Life is after all not a roller coaster ride. We have our ups and downs and no person on this wide world can ever say he truly lived a happy life every single day of his life.
There are so many things in this worldly life that are beyond our control and it is faith that helps us accept it as such. Being born black in a world that favours white people or poor in a world that favours the rich is not at all our choice. The modern world leaves us to the mercy of the elements to take its toll on those so disadvantaged, but not God. He tells us that it was He who created us as such for reasons best known to Him. When we accept it as such, we achieve peace of mind, that perfect inner peace knowing that all those things that are beyond our control are part of God’s destiny which he has destined for our own good.
Thus when we look upon this world for what it really is, we become content with our lot and become at ease with the rest of society, even when disease strikes us or death is about to overtake us. When one submerges one’s worries and problems into this larger picture of a better world God promises us, it all fades into oblivion.
In a lovely parable God compares the life of this world to a crop that flourishes after rainfall, only to wither over time:
Know ye that the life of this world is but play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting and multiplying among yourselves riches and children. The similitude here is how the rain and the growth it brings forth delight the tillers, soon it withers and you will see it grow yellow, then it becomes dry and crumbles away. But in the Hereafter is a Penalty severe (for the evil doers) and Forgiveness from God and His Good Pleasure (for the doers of good). And what is the life of this world, but goods and things of deception?
Man’s lifespan on earth, after all, is a very short one. In this life you are born with a death sentence because you must surely die. It hangs over us like a damocles sword with the angel of death ever ready to take our lives at God’s bidding. The question is when and how? Indeed, a lifespan of even a hundred years is really not much if you really stop to think about it, given that a year is only 365 days. That’s how short life is, and man in his folly craves for power, wealth and other worldly pleasures as if he’s going to enjoy them forever. He toils and suffers and even risks his life lusting after these fleeting pleasures, only to ask himself at the end of his days whether it was really worth it after all. The truth is nothing in the world is ever stable or permanent. Its all ebb and flow and that’s the way we go. But we humans often get so lost in the allure of the world that we hardly stop to think of the perishable nature of our existence. God reminds us again and again of the ephemeral nature of our wordlly existence in the Qur’an:
What is with you must vanish: what is with God will endure
All on the earth shall pass away, there abides but the Face of Your Lord resplendent with Majesty
(The Most Merciful:26-27)
Yes, those who make the world their God can never find happiness. How can they find happiness in something so fickle and fleeting as this world? Whether we like it or not impermanence is a fact of this world, so that at the end of the day, it’s more like a long phantom play. Which one of us is not subject to inexorable Time that makes our tomorrows our yesterdays, driving every moment of our existence to an end that must surely come. It takes its toll in this worldly life so that in less than three score years one’s youthful bloom turns into a hoary head. The bloom that once was turns into a withered stalk and this we see everywhere in the world. Life, after all is fleeting like a whirling wheel; blossoms decay, people die and palaces crumble. Such is the nature of this transitory world. The body will age and rot and decay. Only our soul will survive to move on with its account of deeds. So don’t deceive yourself. Death will find you anyway. We all have to go sooner or later. It’s not a question of ‘if I die’, just a question of ‘when I die’.
Why, because life on earth is a gift you receive from God so that you could do good in each and every moment of your existence to benefit yourself in the hereafter like an investment yielding far-reaching dividends. The knowledge that you can earn God’s Pleasure by choosing good over evil and be rewarded for it in the hereafter with eternal life assures you a place in the heavens unlike this fleeting worldy existence. It gives you wings in the flight to eternity. Thus belief in God and the hereafter He has promised, expands your lifespan while unbelief only cuts it short.
By its promise of an afterlife, Islam transforms the spectre of death into an object of desire much like a young man or woman anxiously awaiting his or her wedding night, only that the night of death is more eagerly anticipated as it is the portal to eternal life. Why abhor death when it is only a tunnel, a passageway to a better life? The more you beautify your life with good deeds, the more the prospect of inevitable death becomes bearable, nay even alluring, in anticipation of the afterlife to come. This world after all is so very fickle. It turns its back on us and leaves us while the faithful afterlife awaits us with open arms.
The peace of mind you get from believing in God and the life to come also makes you happy, and it makes you happy for a lifetime, While in the West you find many people, and especially women losing their natural beauty as they age, weighed down not just by gravity, but by their noxious selfish souls, you will find the opposite true among Muslims who age with grace, who as they age, have a certain beauty about them, an inner peace that even shows in their outer selves. We call it noor ‘light’.
This belief in the hereafter God has promised gives man hope- hope that a better life awaits him. It opens up vistas which this torturous earthly life just cannot give him, why because the world was created by God only as a foretaste of the things to come. The sooner we realize this the better. We see flowering gardens and we picture how paradise would look like; we see the scorching fire and imagine what hell will be like. God says of that day:
Theirs are Gardens beneath which rivers flow- their eternal home. God is well pleased with them, and they with God. That is the Great salvation
Yes, Islam invites you to life eternal, to exchange your love of this world for the love of the hereafter. Would you not happily exchange life for death, youth for old age, health for sickness, grass for a rose garden or a clay pot for a golden goblet? This is exactly what the hereafter offers you, if only you could earn it.
Religion also gives direction to the individual and no religion does this better than Islam, which is an entire way of life from cradle to grave. It is the Divine Blueprint for living our lives. Why, because God best knows the nature of man as it was He who created him, and so it is in the fitness of things that His Way for us should suit human nature. Islam is that way, the only religion suited to human nature. Yeah, it were as if man had been moulded in accordance with it.
This is seen in the way Islam beautifully blends the temporal and the spiritual into a harmonious whole, combining the best of both to ensure that we humans live happy satisfying lives without losing our inherent spirituality. Islam speaks of a middle path, free from both the extremes of excessive religious zeal to the point of celibacy and excessive indulgence to the point of promiscuity. It strikes that delicate balance so essential for human wellbeing, neither demanding that we live a life of asceticism nor condoning over indulgence. What it requires is that we balance our lives in accordance with the nature God created us with.
For example, Islam does not allow promiscuity as it leads to faithlessness and the collapse of morality in our spiritual life and venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies in our material life. By limiting sexual activity within the bounds of marriage, Islam preserves the family and human continuity. If not for marriage could one bring up good and healthy offspring? Thus sex is not sinful so long as it is within the confines of lawful wedlock, in which case it is considered a blessing and not a sin. Sexual desire entices humans to procreate, ensuring the survival of the human race. Further, sexual pleasure is a foretaste of the delights of paradise which can only be achieved by pleasing God.
At the same time Islam does not approve of celibacy, as it is not suited to human nature. Man ought not to suppress his inherent sexual nature, but rather indulge in it to enjoy life and procreate his species. That it goes against human nature to be celibate is seen from the fact that it leads to an increased incidence of prostrate cancer in men and causes untold frustrations that take some terrible forms. Take the Catholic church’s ban on priests from marrying. It attracted pederasts of the worst order. Its ban on nuns from marrying robbed them of their right to sexual fulfillment and deprived humanity of being mothered by some really pious women.
When we compare the peace Islam holds out to those who submit to it, with that single-minded focus on the All encompassing Will and Mercy of God, with notions of human suffering in other faiths, here you will find that difference that truly makes it stand out from the rest. Islam does not say don’t enjoy this world, it does not call for the suppression of bodily desires to achieve spirituality such as we find in other faiths. Rather God’s Blessings are to be enjoyed, though not abused:
Say: who has forbidden the beautiful things God has produced for His Servants, and the things clean and pure, for sustenance?
God asked the Prophet when he decided to abstain from honey in deference to his wives wishes:
Why do you forbid for yourself that which God has made lawful for you?
He further says after speaking well of the followers of Christ
But We did not command monasticism. Rather they invented it
for themselves to please God with it
Our Prophet also made it very clear that celibacy and renunciation of the world can have no place in Islam:
There is no monasticism in Islam
Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue that way. So you should not be extremists
(Saheeh Al-Bukhari )
This religion is strong and well-established, so enter into it deeply yet do so gently. And do not cause the worship of your Lord to become hateful to you.
For the one who traverses it harshly will not reach his goal
It once happened that three men came to the Prophet. The first said, “I will fast everyday and never eat during the day again.” The second declared “I will remain celibate to worship God for the rest of my life” And the third proclaimed, “I will pray all night every night and never sleep again “The Prophet was not impressed with their zeal. He told them:
I am the Prophet of God, and I eat and fast, I also marry and sleep at night. Whoever does not follow my path is not one of my followers
This attitude is in stark contrast to the punishing other worldliness of other faiths. Take Christianity, which held that due to the original sin of our first parents man’s lot is one of endless suffering in this world, that man’s body is the playground of Satan and that the material world Adam fell to as a result of his sin is essentially Satanic.
To obtain salvation therefore man has to turn away from wordly happiness, from carnal desires, from the pleasures of the flesh, towards the world of spirit. This idea was neatly captured by St. Augustine when he summed it all up in The City of God, when he declared that because of Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, true happiness was “unattainable in our present life.”.
This naturally brought about a dichotomy between the material and the spiritual, the material as wholly evil and the spiritual as wholly good. This is why you get Christian priests who even consider enjoying a meal a sin, so that what they do is just gobble it all up by shoveling it down their throats in spite of the toll it takes on their health.
The oriental faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism took it still further by holding that your lot in this existence is determined by what you did in a previous life, adding insult to injury. By doing this, it justified the caste system and other inequalities perpetrated by man against man and even came to look upon helpless persons like widows and blind people as those who deserved their lot, suffering because of a sin or sins they had committed in a previous existence.
Atheism made it still worse, for it gave absolutely no hope at all to the deprived and downtrodden, but rather trampled them harder with its harsh law of the jungle it called survival of the fittest borrowed from evolutionary theory. It sought to overthrow God, installing in His place what it called ‘Scientific Reason’. In the process it reduced man to the status of an animal, a descendant of the ape. Consider what Charles Darwin had to say about his origins: “We must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man, with all his noble qualities, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin”. So I ask, what good has this ‘God’ of the New Age done to restore man’s dignity? Nay nothing. It has not even been able to help more materially well off humans lead happier lives. Why, because happiness is subjective and cannot be measured in material terms. Is it not a fact that some of the wealthiest people in the West lead utterly miserable lives, so miserable that they end up leaving all their fortunes to their pet pooches?
Tell me, if you’re a good man, will not helping your fellow man or woman be happy even with as much as parting with a penny give you greater happiness, than say, sitting comfortably in your plush sofa back home. Yes, seeing that smile on the face of that child you had just fed or that poor widow you had helped will give you more happiness than any worldly pleasure. Why, because God has made it so. This is something that the devil that comes in the form of evolution cannot himself explain because it is beyond him to do so. That’s why the Prophet reminded us: “Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful smile” (Saheeh Muslim).
Has not modern science based on atheism proven to be a very fickle master, changing its tune every now and then, denying things it once held to be true and affirming things it once denied; has it not cast off the mantle of morality and promoted the idea that only the fittest survive, showing a callous disregard for the weaker sections of society and the rest of creation. The worshippers of this ever so fickle ‘god’ are themselves unstable like their master, obsessed only with the material side of life and as such are always in a state of mental flux, contending between this and that to make sense of their world. How indeed, can they have peace of mind when their god is himself so unstable?
Little wonder many people today, especially in the West are a confused lot. Some seek the help of shrinks while others look to the oriental faiths for spiritual enlightenment to enrich their impoverished souls. The reason is simple, man needs God. A purely materialistic people can never find true happiness. Fame or fortune can never bring happiness. If at all, it only adds to one’s misery. Take the high number of celebrity suicides in the West, certainly a higher figure than that of the ordinary man or woman on the street.
Yet, there is one teaching of Islam that brings it closer to Christianity than any other, and that is cultivating a sense of detachment from the world. By bringing man closer to God, Islam helps him cultivate a detached attitude to the world. You may indulge, but at the same time stay detached as much as possible from worldly attachments because nothing in this worldly life is really permanent. People die, love is lost and wealth diminishes by the day. That is why the Prophet said:
What has this world to do with me? My relationship to this world is like that of a traveler who travels on a summer day, sleeps under the shadow of a tree, then wakes up and goes his way
He also enjoined on his followers:
Live in this world as if you were a stranger or traveler!
( Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Why, because all is not lost because you lose something in this world. There is another better and brighter world awaiting us out there and that’s what really matters.
But the godless know of no such life. That is why you will often find them to be such selfish people, clinging on to life like a limpet even in their most advanced years, seeking to derive the maximum pleasure during their short sojourn on earth even at the expense of others. However much of this world they have will not suffice. Why, because the lust for material things is like sea water; the more they drink of it, the more they thirst for it until it sucks them dry to dehydrate and kill them. Control your desires and you master yourself; let loose your passions and you are enslaved by them
When such people become slaves of their passions and possessions you can imagine what the state of his or her mind is and what that kind of mindset bodes for the rest of the world. This world is a good slave but a terrible master and we see this all around us with each one trying to maximize his profit at the expense of the rest of creation, in a world with limited resources. War it is said is the external manifestation of the inner conflict within you. How true, people squabble over possessions and nations fight wars for nothing but to grow at the expense of others and deprive them of what is rightfully theirs. But even if you were to be given all the wealth in this world, you will not be happy, why because there is more to our existence than this fleeting worldly life. Thus it is not attachment to the world that can give you happiness, but rather detachment. Be content with what you have. As the Prophet very wisely observed:
The best richness is the richness of the soul
(Saheeh Al Bukhari)
What he meant by this was that richness is not the abundance of wealth but rather self-contentment. To be happy in life is to count your blessings and not wallow in your shortcomings. Thus Islam is liberation, the ultimate liberation. It is liberation from your own self and all that enslaves you, like your lust for life and worldly possessions. By cultivating detachment from material possessions, Islam helps people not only find happiness, but also become more likely to give, giving happiness to others as well. Like you, it also liberates your fellow men and women so that you all think as one. You all work for the common good united in a belief in a common God who only desires what is good for you. When you win the peace of God in this way you tend to become selfless, giving freely of your wealth to deserving people instead of amassing it in a race to outdo others.
As the Prophet said:
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
After all was it not Islam that turned worldly warlike tribes like the Turks into some of the noblest and gentlest nations the world had ever seen. Was it not Islam that infused in the survivors of the Mongol invasions that indomitable spirit to conquer the souls of the very conquerors, to such an extent that they would soon be some of its most ardent champions, even going on to conquer India for Islam. How much more violent was the Mongol onslaught against Islamdom than Rome at the hands of the Goths and Huns. And yet Rome fell with her religion, but Islamdom thrived well afterwards, growing from strength to strength by means of the very offspring of those who had oppressed the Muslims, like the Moghuls of India.
Was it not Islam that produced men like the Martyrs of Yarmuk. That was a battle in the early days of Islam where the Muslims lost several godly souls. Hudhaifah, a companion of the Prophet was searching the battlefield for survivors when he saw his cousin Harith in a pool of blood. he rushed to give him some water, but when he was taking the water, he heard the voice of Ikrimah crying out “Water, a drop of water for the sake of God!”. Harith pointed his eyes to Ikrimah and withdrew his hand from the water, signifying that his cousin should take the water to him. But when he reached him, this time he heard the voice of iyash “Water, please, water!”. Ikrimah did not accept the water and pointed towards Iyash. Hudhaifa rushed to Iyash, but he did not have time to drink the water before he gave up his life. He then rushed back to take the water to Ikrimah, but he too was dead by that time. He ran back to Harith, but he too had passed away. Here were three warriors, about to become martyrs who gave up the little water they were offered, so that others could drink of it.
In more modern times, we have the example of popular British Singer Cat Stevens who sang such beautiful songs like Morning has Broken and who used to earn over 100,000 Dollars a night. Ever since he became Muslim and took on the name of Yusuf Islam, he found true happiness by helping others with the wealth God had bestowed him with.You will find countless examples like this in the Muslim world where people find happiness by doing good to their fellow men and women for the Sake of God.
Who else to think of but God to police your own soul, which is vital not only for your own good, but for the good of society as a whole? This makes for a healthy, law abiding society that brooks no Jekyll and Hyde type characters who are good by day and evil by night. As the Qur’an reminds us again and again:
He knows you well when He brings you out of the earth, and when ye are hidden in your mother’s wombs
And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darkness of the earth and no moist or dry (thing) but that is (written) in a clear record
(The Cattle: 59)
The fear of God helps one police one’s soul, even in the absence of others. A God conscious man or woman is therefore less likely to sin or commit crimes and even if he or she does, is quick to repent. There have been numerous instances of people desisting from unfair actions due to the fear of God throughout the history of Islam, a few of which have come down to us because of the importance of these characters.
Just to give one example. It happened one night that Caliph Umar as was his practice was strolling from quarter to quarter in disguise to see how his people were faring. While passing by a small house, he heard some whisperings which caught his sharp ear. A mother was telling her daughter that the amount of milk fetched by her for sale that day was very little and that she ought to mix the milk with water. The girl replied: “You adulterated milk, when you were not a Muslim. Now that we are Muslims, we cannot adulterate milk.” The mother rejoined that Islam did not prohibit adulterating milk. Her daughter replied: “Have you forgotten the Caliph’s order? He orders that milk should not be adulterated.” The mother replied, “But the Caliph has forgotten us. We are so poor, what else should we do but adulterate milk in order win bread?” The daughter said “Such bread would not be lawful, and as a Muslim I would not do anything which is against the orders of the Caliph, and whereby other Muslims are deceived.”
The mother said: “But there is neither the Caliph nor any of his officers here to see what we do. Daughter you are still a child. Go to bed now and tomorrow I will myself mix the milk with water for you.” The girl refused to have anything to do with her mother’s plan saying: “You may escape the notice of the Caliph and his officers, but how can we escape the notice of God and our own conscience?”
The Caliph, hearing this resolved that such a girl should be amply rewarded and summoned the daughter and the mother to his court. Turning to the girl the Caliph said, “Islam needs daughters like you and as a Caliph of Islam it devolves on me to reward you by owning you as a daughter.” He then called his sons, and addressing them said: “Here is a gem of a girl who will make a great mother. I desire that one of you should take this girl as wife. I know of no better bride than this girl of sterling character. In matters of wedlock, it should be the character and not the stature in life that should count.” The Caliph’s third son Asim yet unmarried offered to marry the pretty milkmaid and she and her mother readily consented to the offer after which she was happily married to the Caliph’s son.
This is the kind of world Islam seeks to create, so that the happiness of everyone is assured. All are equal before God and have an equal right to pursue happiness as a large extended family living under the shade of God. So the closer we are to God, the closer we are to each other. What more beautiful ideal than this.
You only have to look at the recent past to see the ills that ail the world when men discarded the Divine Law for his own, resulting in selfishness, inequalities and wars that have taken a greater toll than any fought in the name of religion. Take the various godless ‘isms’ of the modern age such as Communism, Nazism and other petty nationalisms that have created so much misery all over the world, despite their false promises of taking their adherents to a higher standard. They were flawed due to human weaknesses arising out of a lack of belief in God so that one’s self becames one’s God and maximizing one’s pleasure became the sole purpose of life.
Take for example the horror of the French Revolution, that reign of terror with its guillotines that lopped off the heads of tens of thousands of innocents, mostly peasants or the urban poor for whom it was supposed to have been fought, but soon victimized them as well, killing them for trivial things like hoarding or not declaring goods or evading the draft or desertion, not to mention the innocent members of the upper classes who played no part in the excesses of the old regime and even those poor nuns who were all killed for simply refusing to give up their vows. Take the killing fields of Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge’s attempt to turn their country into a classless society resulted in mass slavery with the entire population being forced to work as farmers in agricultural communes, where simple things like picking wild fruit or berries was seen as ‘private enterprise’ punishable by death, where anybody who happened to be intelligent such as teachers or doctors or even ordinary folk showing stereotypical signs of high intellect like wearing glasses were systematically murdered, where family members could be put to death for communicating with each other, where even unmarried people could be killed for having sex and where those who practiced any form of religion were summarily executed, all in all over a million needlessly killed to make the communist revolution a reality.
Yes, man, without God, is no more than an animal, nay lower, because even animals think of the larger good at times, but Godless man acts according to his whims and fancies, spurred on by the devil, often at the expense of the rest of creation. Thus any man-made theory of human happiness that may at first sight seem ‘noble’ is bound to fail as a result of this tendency that Satan can easily manipulate in the hearts of the godless. George Orwell brought this out very well in satire on communism ‘Animal Farm’ when he summed it all up: ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’. The luxurious lifestyles of the communist leaders before the Iron Wall came crumbling down is ample testimony to this tendency of the godless who lived in the lap of luxury while the masses suffered poverty and privation. They proved themselves to be worse than even the despotic emperors of old, indulging in the mass killings like Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot did. Unbridled power in the hands of men without any accountability to God can be frightening and it is only religion that can counter this tendency by calling each and every one of us to account.
It happened one day that some companions of the Prophet returned to Medina from a war. The Prophet told them: “Now we are going from a small war to a big war!”. His companions asked: “O Messenger of God! Is there a war harder than the one we just encountered?”. He shot back: “Now we are returning to the Great War (the war against the nafs or ego)” (Tarikh Baghdad)
It is only faith that can ensure the happiness of one and all, changing our insides so that it reflects in our outside lives, helping us achieve that inner peace we so desire, so that it finds expression in each and every aspect of our lives and in our relations with the larger world. It is only faith than can truly bond us, one to the other, to move towards that cherished goal of peace with oneself, with one’s fellow men, and most of all Peace with God Himself. No faith does this better than Islam.
If it’s any measure of happiness, you only have to look at the Muslim’s desire to live life come what may till God chooses to take it away; you have only to look at the very low number of suicides in the Muslim world, so low that it hardly counts, compared to the high suicide rates in the West where unhappy souls continue to take their lives at a shocking rate. You have only to look at the tenacity of Muslims when it comes to their faith. Never did they desert it the way Europeans did Christianity after the French revolution when the threat of force was removed. Even in secular Muslim countries you will hardly find a Muslim deserting the faith. He keeps the faith at all costs. Why, because at the end of the day it gives him happiness, it gives him joy, it gives him life. It is bliss incomparable. Ask any Muslim and he’ll tell you so!