Oh, happiness. That flutter of emotional butterflies.
The smile; the surge in blood to the cheeks.
That jump for joy all the way to the clouds.
The concoction of happy hormones surging in the veins.
We live in a time where emotions are so easily expressed that we even emoticon to communicate them. J, :D, \O/, – and so forth.
But as expressive as happiness can become, there are also undulating expressions of sadness, frustration, loss of hope, sorrow, fear, anger, and even disdain, in the Muslim community.
Happiness may seem like something alien in a world fraught with problems. Whether it is seeing Muslims being caught in war-torn areas, or the reel of hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims, genocide against Muslims in some countries, or the constant association of terrorism and violence with Islam, due to the misrepresentation of the faith by a handful of the community – there is really little joy to go around.
So is it really an oxymoron for a “Happy” Muslim to exist?
A while back, I wrote about the Quran’s remedy for sadness and unearthed some rejuvenating stories from the Quran of those of the past and their dealings with extreme sorrow. If there is a remedy for sadness in Allah’s book, then naturally there is avenue for happiness.
Happiness in This World
Often times, happiness is associated with materialistic ventures or possessions. Someone buys something new – a gadget, a new handbag, a shiny four wheel drive. A new shelf of books. A picture gets posted on Facebook. It garners the likes. Comments share the happiness. The world continues to spin.
The average Muslim’s mindset has started to alter due to the different streams of “living,” – i.e., you either have to be “religiously-inclined” or you’re “liberal” or “secular.” The former carries connotations of seriousness, rigidity, conformity, and generally, murkiness. The other carries happy vibes, the enjoyment of life, the fulfillment of dreams.
But there is an open secret. Perhaps it’s not all that open, because not many people know of it – but Muslims who – without a shadow of doubt – declare complete servitude to Allah and loyalty and obedience to Prophet Muhammad have found the key to eternal happiness, and that is contentment of the heart.
Abundance of worldly wealth is not richness of happiness, the real richness of happiness lies in contentment of heart and care free nature.
What Are the Happy Vibes in the Quran?
Well, Paradise, obviously for one. Over and over again, the believers are reminded of the happiness and rejoice they will experience on the Day of Judgment, where they will receive their books with their right hands and be paraded into Paradise, surrounded by the adulations of the angels.
But that’s the big picture of the Day of Judgment and Jannah (in only so many words) but what else are we told about Paradise.
We each receive a home with a beautiful view. Food and drink that remind us of the dunya, but taste so much better with every bite. Reclining furniture with good company, and living life as if it was a very long vacation.
Notice how everything that is listed out in the non-exhaustive list is something that makes us happy in this world?
Everyone wants, or at least, dreams of a home to live in. When it comes of age to buy a house, we find ourselves checking our real estate websites, driving around new housing areas. Everyone enjoys good food and drink in this world – especially in Muslim-majority cultures where food is like the pulse of the society. It doesn’t take much of an occasion for a few hundred dishes to be churned out in celebration.
Good company is also something that we thrive on in pursuit of happiness. Rarely ever do people want to be around mopes. And no matter how much we love our jobs, a good holiday is always in order.
All these happy elements of Paradise have already been put inside of the human fitrah, and it’s only natural for us to want to work towards the ultimate return to Paradise to clinch these medals of contentment.
But since they are inside of us, they could also lead us astray. When these desires turn solely into materialistic ventures, that’s where the problems lie.
An obsession with the house: constant renovation – making it larger and larger, as if to permanently mesh it into this temporary earth, painting and repainting, upholstering and re-upholstering, a growing collection of objects to fill the voids of emptiness, as a reflection of the value of one’s life. And when the house gets too cluttered, too old beyond repair, the neighborhood gets a little too noisy; the hunt for the next house ensues.
Food and drink are not alien to causing problems – in particular, health problems, greediness to a certain extent when a sudden obsession with fine dining starts to brew. Good company may not always turn out “good,” as and when good friends start to lead us down routes that are detrimental to our deen.
There are famous hadiths reminding us to choose good friends as it’s a reflection of the religion we follow and who we end up becoming as people. It’s not uncommon for the youth to get warped poor company, and dance their way down the aisles of parties, music and drugs. It only takes one or two comrades to tell them that “it’s ok.”
Similarly with vacations, especially the extravagant ones – they can become cauldrons of greed and excessiveness, a brand of status, and an attention-seeking faucet, for those who are unable to find the middle-path of moderation.
Read Part 2