Friday reflection: What leads to happiness?
By Muneeb Nasir
What leads to happiness?
Is it by acquiring wealth and having many luxury possessions?
Today it seems as if there is no stop to the excessive greed and reckless living of people in societies around the world.
One of the signs of these conditions is the relative ease with which people enter into debt and live easily in this condition.
Many people are living beyond their means while giving the impression of wealth, when they are actually poor.
In an issue of the Canadian magazine, Macleans, there is an article with the headline: What’s behind Canada’s newfound lust for luxury?
“From cars to clothing to condos, the masses in Canada have developed a taste for the sumptuous—but not everything is quite as it seems.”
The article goes on to talk about how we are being enticed to buy things that are marketed to us as luxurious e.g all condos are now luxury condos.
Items that were once only available to a select group of people are now accessible to everyone through credit and leases – everyone now wants and can drive a bimmer or a benz.
Everywhere we turn, we are told that to be happy we must have more and if we are not happy then we do not have enough.
We have been programmed to lust for more things.
But where does true happiness lie?
Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya, a well-known, scholar who lived from 1292–1350 CE / 691 AH–751 AH) wrote (“Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on the Invocation of God”)”
“There are three conditions that are tokens of a believer’s happiness (sa’adat al abd), and the signs of his success in this world and the next.
Believers are those: who when blessed, give thanks; when tried, persevere; and when sinful, seek forgiveness.”
Ibn Qayyim said these three conditions are tokens of a believer’s happiness (sa’adat al abd), and the signs of his success in this world and the next.
Then Imam Ibn Qayyim said: “What secures blessings is gratitude (shukr), based on three supports: 1) inward recognition of the blessing; 2) outward mention and thanks for it; and its use in a way that pleases the One to whom it truly belongs and who truly bestows it.”
This is how a believer shows gratitude for blessings.
Most of us are thankful for the blessings we have in our lives - we have families we love, jobs that help us provide the necessities of daily living, good health, friends to laugh and play with, freedom and free will to live our lives the way we want to.
But how often do we stop to focus and reflect on the blessings we have? Probably not as often as we should.
Why is being grateful for blessings even important?
Sure, we're thankful for what we have, but why should we have to dwell on it, you may be asking?
God has told us that only those who are grateful to Him truly worship Him:
“... and be grateful to Allâh, if it is Him you worship” (Qur’an, 2:172).
There is a universal principle - when we are truly grateful for the blessings in our lives, and we take time to reflect on them, we automatically begin to draw more blessings to ourselves.
This is what God says in the Qur’an:
“…And if you show gratefulness, I will give you more; but if you are ungrateful, verily My punishment is indeed severe.” (Qur'an, 14:7).
True gratitude isn't the act of mechanically listing the blessings in our lives every night before we go to sleep.
Gratitude is an attitude - it is an attitude we should live with.
It's a mindset of thankfulness for the wonderful blessings in our lives.
It is a deep and heartfelt acknowledgement that our lives would not be as they are now if we didn't have those blessings.
However, there are times in our life when being grateful may be hard because we may be experiencing difficulties.
Maybe we've just lost a job, or a loved one or we have difficult financial struggles or we are mired in depression and sadness.
It's hard to feel grateful during moments like these.
That's where the second condition for happiness - perseverance (sabr) comes in.
Our duty is to have patience (sabr) and forbearance in times of tests.
Imam Ibn Qayyim goes on to say that patience (sabr) requires that: we restrain yourself from anger with that which is decreed; restrain your tongue from complaint; and restrain your limbs from offences, such as striking one’s face in grief.
Patience (sabr), the second condition for happiness, is a key trait that a believer in God requires:
God says that "for Allah is with the patient" (Qur’an, 2:153).
A believer who has patience (sabr) his affliction will become benefaction, trial will change to bounty and what he dislikes will become what he loves.
So the first 2 conditions and tokens for a believer's happiness are: gratitude and patience and perseverance (sabr).
Gratitude is reflecting on and being thankful for the blessings we have while patience (sabr) equips us to persevere in difficult times.
As one of the ancestors (salaf) has said: Faith is in two halves: one half patience and one half is gratitude.
The third condition is that when we sin, we turn to God in repentance and seek forgiveness.
When we seek forgiveness and return to God in repentance, we are relieving ourselves of burden – the burden of wrongs that we committed, the heavy weight of guilt that we carry because of something we have done.
The three conditions that are tokens of a believer’s happiness (sa’adat al abd), and the signs of his and her success in this world and the next are:
- when blessed, he /she gives thanks;
- when tried, he/she perseveres; and
- when sinful, he/she seeks forgiveness.
[Excerpt from a Friday sermon (khutba) delivered in November 2019 at Masjid Toronto].