What defines happiness in this modern world? Many young Muslim women struggle with understanding how to safely pursue happiness without compromising their own values.
The definition of happiness has shifted over the last few decades, as cultural norms have drastically changed in American society.
According to Positive Psychology, happiness is a state, not a trait. In other words, it isn’t a long-lasting, permanent feature or personality trait, but a more fleeting, changeable state.
Happiness is equated with feeling pleasure or contentment, meaning that happiness is not to be confused with joy, ecstasy, bliss, or other more intense feelings. Happiness can be either feeling or showing, meaning that happiness is not necessarily an internal or external experience, but can be both.
The idea that happiness is defined by pleasure makes many young Muslim women nervous. We are often told to restrain our desires and be mindful of constantly seeking pleasures.
Spiritually, our definition of happiness varies. A believer feels happiness or joy and contentment when he/she is in obedience to his/her Creator, or when his/her Creator is pleased. When navigating these definitions, young Muslim women must define their own path towards happiness.
How to Choose Happiness
1- Define Happiness for Yourself
Happiness can be an extremely individual and subjective state for many of us. What may make one woman happy, may make another completely miserable. It is important to identify what brings your peace, joy, and contentment.
The best way to start this process is with a journal. Writing your thoughts and ideas down can help identify patterns and perspectives that may not be apparent to you. If you notice you feel happy every time you accomplish a particular goal or task, it may be important to take note of this in your daily journal.
2- Know who you are and stand firm by your values
As Muslim women, happiness is more about our obedience and commitment to Allah. We understand that no true happiness can come to us if we are not in alignment with who we were created to be. A huge part of identifying who we are is understanding our faith. What do we believe in and what are our values? These critical questions help reveal our true selves. It is essential to identify our own values, as being in alignment with our true selves is a critical part of being happy.
3- Pursue Your Divine Gifts
This is a huge step and many women get lost with understanding the importance of living purposely. Allah swt created a divine purpose in all of us and this is our purpose for being on this Earth. It is extremely important for us to do the necessary work to identify our divine gifts.
Living in our divine purpose each day allows us to have sustainable happiness. A huge part of uncovering our divine gifts comes through recognizing what we are good at and what comes easy to us. If certain patterns continuously show up in our life, it may be time to explore them. When we are drawn to a concept or idea and it is made easy for us to bring this idea into fruition, it’s highly likely that this may be a step towards our discovery of our divine purpose.
“Humans may resemble many other creatures in their striving for happiness, but the quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human, and uniquely so.” -Roy Baumeister et al. (2013)
4- Nurture Your Relationships
Human beings are social creatures and our ability to stay connected to one another is necessary for our spiritual, mental, and emotional growth.
Positive and healthy relationships promote happiness and overall well-being. It is extremely essential to seek out positive and healthy people to maintain relationships with. Releasing or removing yourself from negative friendships and relationships is critical to the cultivation of your own individual happiness.
“The lesson that came from tens of thousands of pages of that research was that good relationships keep us happier and healthier,” says Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist, and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.
Advice for Muslim Woman
It is extremely important for young Muslim women to not fall into the pitfalls of seeking internal happiness through love and marriage.
This is one of the common mistakes many prior generations made when approaching this idea of happiness. Muslim women use to believe that happiness began after the wedding day.
This is simply not true and frankly, it’s dangerous for Muslim women to adopt such an idea. There will never be anything external that can bring us true happiness.
Happiness starts with our divine and inner relationship with the Creator and the relationship we have with ourselves. It can never be truly fulfilled with another person and this is a crucial concept for us to adequately understand.
However, we understand that our sincere relationships bring us happiness and joy. They contribute to our happiness but they are never the primary source of our happiness.
In conclusion, happiness is a choice. We choose if we want to commit to a life of positivity, contentment, and joy. We choose who we build relationships with and we often choose our life’s work. We relinquish our power when we give the power of choice over to other people.
As Muslim women, we must take ownership of our own happiness and our own choices if we truly want to improve the quality of our lives.
The day it comes, no soul shall speak except by His permission. Some of them will be wretched, and some happy” (Qur’an 11:105).
“And as for those who are happy, they will be in Paradise, abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure, unless your Lord wills, as uninterrupted giving” (Qur’an 11:108).