It is not outwardly forbidden for Muslims to engage in “materialistic” happiness.
In fact, Muslims are encouraged to be high achievers and to be recognized and successful in their fields of expertise.
They should also pride themselves in their accomplishments, enjoy good food and drink, travel the world, appreciate a spacious home, and invest in good quality clothes.
But again, there is the issue of excessiveness. How does one curb the insatiability of desires?
Prophet Muhammad once mentioned four sources of happiness in the world: A righteous spouse, a good neighbor, a spacious home, and a sweet ride. I think we can unanimously agree that all four would be great assets along the route of happiness.
However, the Prophet himself, only had one of the four – a righteous wife, and later on, he married multiple righteous and iconic women of all times. This goes to show that, although these elements can be sources of happiness, we should never feel dependent upon them – of having a good neighbor, pining for a spacious home, insisting on an expensive car – in order to satiate a void that looks like the route towards happiness.
While procuring material wealth is not wrong, emotional dependency is an issue, making detachment from worldly matters is a must. Constant clinginess towards materialistic wealth can only unearth a larger hole that becomes more and more difficult to fill. In fact, the most unhappy people are the ones who keep chasing the larger wardrobes and the latest wheels, just to keep up with the Joneses.
Gratitude is the other half of detachment, as it reminds us of the temporariness of this world, and that with every asset, it’s not its worth that counts, but what we do with it is what makes it valuable.
The constant feeling of gratitude towards Allah that He provides us with everything is a milestone for constant happiness. Knowing that there is someone looking over us, taking care of us, wanting the best for us (even if it may not seem like it at the time), leads us down the path of contentment.
The purification of wealth comes in the mandatory form of zakah, which ultimately purifies the heart and enhances the detachment factor for a Muslim. Muslims need to remember that with each ‘asset’ that is provided by Allah in this world – that it is temporary, it is only mediocre (it’s not Jannah after all!), and finally, the poor have rights to a portion of this wealth.
Those who give are the happiest in this world, even if it’s as little as a smile. While it makes others feel happier, alleviate their burden, and spread the joy of goodness, Allah also puts blessing in the lives of those who give – whether it’s through materialistic rewards or contentment of the soul. For sure, those who pass on their wealth to the poor also know, without a shadow of doubt, that their accounts in the Hereafter are also credited by leaps and bounds.
“On every person’s joints or small bones (i.e. fingers and toes), there is sadaqah (charity) every day the sun rises. Doing justice between two people is sadaqah; assisting a man to mount his animal, or lifting up his belongings onto it is sadaqah; a good word is sadaqah; every step you take towards prayer is sadaqah; and removing harmful things from pathways is sadaqah.” (Al-Bukhari, 2989 & Muslim, 1009)
Happiness within the Realm of Islam
The expression of joy, happiness, celebration and love, are not alien to Islam, in fact they may up the backbone to the religion – but as with everything in the deen, there are guidelines to be followed. Not ours, but guidelines by Allah, down the middle path.
Just like overly indulging in materialistic wants could lead to ingratitude; forgetting about brothers and sisters who suffer in poverty is unbecoming; eating and drinking excessively only brings long term (negative) consequences to health; and celebrative pomp and ceremony with music, dancing, intermingling, and public display is uncalled for; the sweetness of faith can turn sour when Muslims step outside of Shari’ah to justify their ends through questionable means – everything we choose to do or say needs to be fashioned on the middle path.
Something Else about the Middle Path
The middle path carries such colossal importance in Islam because it caters for negative emotions such as sadness, regret, anger, depression, and the like. Remember how happy Muslims seem like an oxymoron in this world where injustice runs free reign and prevalent? Well, the Day of Judgment brings all of the disparities in that ambit to light, and true justice is brought to the scales.
With this alone, it is a reprieve for those who are oppressed, harmed, violated, and even killed. Even the baby girl who was buried alive in the times of Jahilliyah (ignorance before Islam), where paganism ruled and those who murdered thought they had eradicated the curse of a baby girl – will be brought to the Courts of Allah, and asked to stand trial to question for the crime she was killed for.
The injustice upon killing an innocent baby is so heinous that even her murderers are not questioned for their crimes in the Quran (reflecting Allah’s disgust towards them and giving them no chance for defense), but her queries as to her fate will take priority to ensure that she receives justice on that Day.
More Vibes of Happiness in the Quran
A recurring theme in the Quran that exhumes happiness through the glad tidings from Allah and His army of angels, surfaces upon the announcement of an impending birth.
Whether it was when angels came visiting Ibrahim with the news of Ishaq, or when Zakariyyah was given the long-awaited news of Yahya, the excitableness of the angels is contagious, just like the news of an upcoming birth today. There was so much happiness in the du’a of Mary’s mother, pledging her baby to the cause of Islam.
Even Mary was congratulated on her pregnancy of Jesus, despite her circumstances being extremely difficult.
Children are such blessings and joy in this world, through their laughter, their play, their milestones, their endless questions, and their ambitions. They are also sources of sustenance for in the Hereafter, if they are raised well in the dunya.
“The best of which man can leave behind for himself are three: a righteous child who supplicates for him, an ongoing charity whose reward continues to reach him and knowledge which others benefit from after him.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani, 38)
Children are seen as such great investments that their blessings are multifold. Not only are they the coolness of the eyes to their parents, but they are amongst the three provisions for happiness in the afterlife, after their parents are long gone. They are even part and parcel of the formula of eternal happiness as seen through the lens of the Quran.
The Middle Path of Emotions
There is an open secret that Muslims are happy due to the pledge of servitude to Allah, well knowing that we are allowed to celebrate accomplishments, milestone, successes, of both that are religious in nature, as well as those that are “worldly” in nature as long as they fall within the permissibility of celebrations.
While it is normal for sadness and depression to reign in a world of problems, they are emotions that should be acknowledged and navigated through, with the foresight of the Day of Judgment in mind.
Similarly, for eternal happiness to materialize, the moments of joy and pleasure on this earth need to be laced with gratitude and a focused detachment on what is temporary.
Happiness is a great emotion of the human-being, and should be acknowledged and celebrated – though the goal of a believer is to achieve eternal happiness – this mindset alone helps counter the negativity in the world today opening windows of joy and celebration in the next.