Religion and Happiness: Any Relation?

31 December, 2017
Q Assalamu alaikum. Why do so many non-Muslims apparently have peace, happiness, and success with or without God? They say it's because they tap into their inner selves and spirituality. I have read a lot of self-help books and it seems you can be happy and close to God without Islam. But if this is all wrong, why doesn't Allah show them that they are in the wrong? They seem to ask what the meaning of life is, and seek answers. So why does Allah give them peace and success and the feeling that He is on their side?


Salam Dear Questioner,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Muslims believe that Allah (God) is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe and everything in it. He is not the God of Muslims only, but of all the humans on earth.

The Quran mentions that before the creation of humans, Allah Almighty told the angels that He wished to appoint a “khalifah” (vicegerent, or ambassador) on earth (see Al-Baqarah 2:30).

The word khalifah, in the context, stands for a human endowed with the faculties of reason, logic, imagination, and other creative qualities.

Allah Almighty has also bestowed upon humans the freedom of choice and action, enabling them to use their faculties for their welfare. It is these qualities that make humans — not just Muslims, but all humans — the best of God’s creatures.

The foregoing means that human freedom as envisaged in the Quran is universal — that is, irrespective of people’s beliefs or actions. And so it is up to each one of us to believe in God and lead a good life here, or to reject God and lead a bad life.

The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion or coercion in religion:

{Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error.} (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

The above verse indicates that God does not want to forcefully impose His religion on humans. Hence the blessings of this world are open to all; and anyone who has the worldly wisdom to adopt the means of achieving material success in this world can achieve it. And Islam or no Islam has little to do with the process.

So, it is possible for people to attain a degree of peace, happiness, and worldly success without following any religion. At the same time, genuine spiritual peace born out of contentment and tranquility can be attained only through the remembrance of God, as Allah Almighty says in the Quran:

{For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.} (Ar-Ra`d 13:28)

A point to note here is that “tapping into one’s inner self” is an indirect expression for religious contemplation, whether a person acknowledges it as such or not. This process, therefore, is not accessible to persons who have nothing to do with religion.

Indeed, there are hundreds of “self-help” books available in the market that claim to teach people the easy way to get rich, to better their position in a professional organization, and to enhance their status in theReligion and Happiness modern world.

But there are no shortcuts to spiritual peace.

So, it is a misconception that the self-help books can help us get close to God. Their objective is in the direction of people’s material welfare, not their spiritual development.

And material progress is considered a hindrance to spiritual progress too. That is why religion is sometimes described as incompatible with modern times.

Remember what Jesus Christ himself had to say of material welfare:

[No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?] (Matthew 6:24-25, New International Version)


[Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.] (Matthew 19:24, New International Version)

These verses show how Jesus taught material progress s antithetical to faith. Islam, however, strikes a balance between material progress and spiritual progress, as is obvious from this prayer from the Quran:

{Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!} (Al-Baqarah 2:201)

You have raised this question about non-Muslims who are successful in this world: “Why does Allah give them peace and success and the feeling that He is on their side?”

The answer is that it is not Allah’s plan (as we can learn from the Quran) to necessarily follow up the right actions of humans with immediate rewards and the wrong actions of humans with immediate punishments.

There will be a Day of Judgment when Allah Almighty will judge all of us on the basis of our beliefs and actions. Then those who accepted the guidance of God, and lived a good life on earth will get their due reward in heaven, and those who rejected God and lived an unrighteous life here will receive their punishments.

Until then we are all on reprieve; and we are free to enjoy life as we face it.

Besides, our success in this life does not mean that Allah is with us in all our choices and actions. So, if worldly success makes a person think that God is with him on that score, he is wrong. True success is the eternal spiritual felicity awaiting the righteous people in the hereafter:Religion and Happiness

{As to those who believe and work righteous deeds, they have, for their entertainment, the Gardens of Paradise.} (Al-Kahf 18:107)

{And for those who reject faith and deny our signs, there will be a humiliating punishment.} (Al-Hajj 22:57)

Here is the answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?

The glittering attainments of a person in this world are of no value in the hereafter. What renders meaning to our life is the spiritual good we can earn through faith and good works. Only they can serve in the final reckoning.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


(From Ask About Islam Archives)

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