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4 Ways to Break Free from Envy

Among the first diseases to hit the children of Adam was the disease of Jealousy.

Our Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) first had two sons and two daughters. As there were no other people present at that time, Allah allowed siblings to marry one another, as long as they are not twins.

The two sons, Habil and Qabil (Abel and Cain in the Bible) were thus betrothed to the two daughters of Adam (peace be upon him). However, what Qabil thought was that the wife betrothed to him was worse off than the one that was to be the bride of his brother.

That was the beginning of a very destructive jealousy, which ended in Qabil killing his own blood brother Habil later on. That is how terrible jealousy can be. It is like a fire which burns the one who has it and those around him.

The jealous person may even try to hurt the one he is jealous about but the one he hurts the most is his own self. Because he is preoccupied with what is in the hands of someone else, he is in a constant state of pain, anger and frustration.

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Jealousy ruins the heart and soul of the one who is jealous. It ruins our good deeds as well. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Beware of envy, because it devours good deeds just like a fire consumes wood.” (Abu Dawud)

But what exactly is jealousy (or envy)?

Shaykh Salman Al-Aodah writes:

“Envy refers to the desire that a person feels for the destruction or removal of a blessing that another person has – a destruction which the bearer of this feeling would himself carry out if he had the power to.

This is quite different to wanting such blessings for oneself while not wishing for them to be removed from others, for that is, indeed, a positive and commendable desire that leads to competition.

Competition is not considered blameworthy in general, rather it is considered to be praiseworthy if it is in pursuit of righteousness.”

Envy or Jealousy (will be used interchangeably in this article) can be so serious that it can, not only cause our good deeds to disappear, but also cause us to go to the edge of kufr (disbelief).

This is because envy is questioning of the decision of Allah. It is almost like saying: “I hate that Allah gave that person this, but He did not give me.”

It is almost like saying: “I deserved it, but Allah doesn’t understand.”

It can be as bad as muttering: “Allah made a mistake!” We seek refuge in Allah from all such thoughts and inclinations. And thus Allah asks that question in the Quran:

{Do they envy people for what Allah has given them of His bounty?} (4:54)

It is an evil disease of the heart that can lead to foul manners. It leads to animosity, hatred, thinking evil of others, backbiting, tale-bearing, lying, and the abandonment of other Muslims- all of which are major, major sins.

It may lead its possessor to inflict physical harm on the person whom he envies and can even lead to murder, as we saw in the story of Habil and Qabil.

Thus the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered his ummah:

“Do not envy one another; do not hate one another; do not turn your back on one another (in discontent); (but) be slaves of Allah as brothers.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Jealousy can be so bad that Allah has taught us to seek protection from it on a regular basis! Among the Surahs of protection from danger is Surah Al-Falaq, and among its verses is seeking refuge in Allah from {the evil of the envier when he envies.} (113:5)

Envy can be deadly, and therefore we should take care of the situation of our heart and seek to rid it from our soul. Imam Al-Ghazali teaches us about letting go of envy in his book Ihya Uloom ad-Deen:

“Be aware that envy is one of the deadliest diseases of the hearts, and there is no medicine for the diseases of the heart except through knowledge and deeds.

The knowledge that will treat the disease of envy is to know, without any doubt, that envy is lethal for a person’s worldly life as well as his religion, and that there is no danger from it to the envied person regarding his life or his religion; on the contrary, the envied person will actually benefit from it.

The fact is that envy is actually dangerous for the envier’s religion because it is through this envy that he hated Allah’s predestination and the blessings that He divided among his slaves; he also hated His justice that He established in His world due to His Wisdom; therefore, the envier contested that and objected to it. This is contrary to belief in the Oneness of Allah.

Additionally, the envier would share with Satan and the rest of the disbelievers a love for crises to befall the believers and for blessings to leave them. These are evils in the heart that devour good deeds and erase them like the night erases the day.

The person who suffers from envy in his life is tortured by it, and will always be in sorrow every time he sees the blessings of Allah upon the envied person.”

How to Break Free from Envy

So then how do we cure this disease?

There are 4 points I would like to mention:

  • Firstly, we have to be grateful. Allah has created us, fashioned us, and has given us all that we have. If we were to count the blessings of Allah, never would we be able to finish counting. For us to forget the millions of blessings we have and to focus on the blessings of someone else is -in short- being ungrateful. Whenever Satan pushes us to be jealous of something someone has, let us remind him and ourselves of the millions of blessings that we have that others do not have.
  • Secondly, we need to remind ourselves of who Allah is. It is Allah who decides our provisions. The fact that he has given something to someone and not given it to us is part of divine wisdom that we do not understand all the time. Do we not put our trust in the One upon whom depends all of the universe, or do we put our trust in our own flawed minds?
  • Thirdly, it is to understand that whatever we get or not get on earth is a test. Do we not see celebrities and feel jealous of their popularity at times? And yet, we see these same celebrities going through mental health problems and saying “I just want to live a normal life again.” The person whom you are being jealous of might be going through a test that you have no clue about.
  • Fourthly, make du’a. Whenever you see something in someone and you feel jealous, make du’a. Make du’a that Allah purifies your heart. Make du’a that Allah does not harm someone else due to your jealousy. Du’a is the ultimate resource of the believer, and du’a is a door that is always open.

May Allah make us more loving and clear our hearts from all traces of envy.



About Raiiq Ridwan
Raiiq Ridwan is a Bangladeshi medical student at the University of Bristol, UK. He has a Bachelors In Arts in Islamic Studies at the Islamic Online University. He is founder of "The One Message". He’s certified life coach. He can write on topics related to Quran, dawah, depression, anxiety, achieving goals, productivity etc.