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The Pursuit of Happiness in Islam

Islam calls for virtue and rebukes vice.

The rewards for virtuousness not only benefit individuals but the society as a whole.

Through worshipping Allah and doing righteous deeds, spirituality soars with blessings of tranquility and a life of happiness.

Almighty God describes in the Quran how success lies in the purification of the soul and misery lies in instilling it with corruption:

{And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, he has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].} (Ash-Shams 91:710)

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Why Am I not Happy?

You might claim “I should be happy as I can do whatever I want whenever I feel like it; I have total freedom. But, why am I still unhappy?!”

The answer is simple; vices go against fitrah (human nature).

Unfortunately, in our modern societies, fitrah is ridiculed and regarded as backward and vices are considered “Personal Freedoms”. But, how does that make us different from beasts if we follow our instincts?

Humans have a freedom of choice, yes, but they have been created with the blessing to reason and think rationally.

As humans, we were created of both body and soul, Islam seeks to create a balance of both. If we bury our soul and only keep our body alive and overload it with what it cannot handle, we will live a life of misery. Islam permits us to enjoy the pleasures of this world, as long as they are through Halal (lawful) means and are in moderation.

Why Are Vices Unlawful in Islam?

Vices such as vanity, avarice, wrath, gluttony, jealousy, sloth, illicit relationships, alcohol, gambling, drugs and crimes are all considered unlawful in Islam as they are detrimental spiritually, physically and intellectually.

Vices Are Detrimental Spiritually

How can we quench our thirsty souls while engrossed in vices? Vices mutate human bodies, transforming them into bestial ones, leaving no room for spirituality. A body without a soul is doomed for misery and at times even to suicidal thoughts.

The Quran mentions the detrimental effects of bodily vices such as intoxicants (alcohol and drugs) and gambling:

{O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling[sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?} (Al-Ma’idah 5:9091)

Vices that taint the soul are as grave, since they slowly but surely corrode the heart. Vanity, avarice, wrath, sloth and jealousy, etc. are all harmful as they basically stem from putting one’s own desires above everything else to the extent of harming others, although the primary harm is the one that befalls the transgressor in doing injustice to his/her better self.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warns us against the destructive effects of jealousy and envy:

“Beware of envy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” (Abu Dawud)

He (peace be upon him) also advises us to stay away from wrath:

“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Al-Bukhari)

Vices Are Detrimental Physically

We only have one body and if we don’t take good care of it, it will take its toll on our health. Islam moreover prohibits vices to protect us physically.

Illicit relationships can cause serious diseases such as syphilis and AIDS. Gluttony leads to obesity which in its turn causes life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart related diseases.

Allah Almighty warns us in the Holy Quran to stay away from gluttony:

{…and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes notAl-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance} (Al-A’raaf 7:31)

Drugs and overconsumption of alcohol can lead to serious medical conditions such as cancer, heart failure, cirrhosis (a chronic disease of the liver) and neuropathy (nerve damage). Moreover, there is an alarming risk for car accidents while intoxicated. Crimes such as murder and human trafficking are destructive too, as they either end or damage other peoples’ lives.

Vices Are Detrimental Intellectually

Imam Ash-Shafi’i describes how gluttony in food and drink negatively affects the mind besides the harm it does to body and spirit. He points out how:

“I have not filled myself in sixteen years because filling oneself makes the body heavy, removes clear understanding, induces sleep and makes one weak for worship.”

Chronic Heavy Drinking affects the intellect too. In the article 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking: Health Risks of Alcohol: 12 Health Problems Associated with Chronic Heavy Drinking, David Freeman quotes the words of James C. Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a researcher at the university’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies:

“As people age, their brains shrink, on average, at a rate of about 1.9% per decade. That’s considered normal. But heavy drinking speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.”Heavy drinking can also lead to subtle but potentially debilitating deficits in the ability to plan, make judgments, solve problems, and perform other aspects of “executive function,” which are “the higher-order abilities that allow us to maximize our function as human beings.”

Stay Away from Vice & Believe in Islam = Pursuit of Happiness

Are you feeling bothered, depressed and sick of your miserable life? Do you feel you’ve lost your sense of purpose and the more you search for it in worldly “pleasures” the more you feel the void?

This is indeed the life Almighty God warns us from falling into if we turn away from His remembrance:

{And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.} (Ta-Ha 20:124)

Allah most Glorified grants us a good life both in this life and in the hereafter if we believe in Him and do right:

{Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.} (An-Nahl 16:97)

What is belief in Islam? Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) describes this (an excerpt from a longer hadith) when asked by Angel Gabriel about Iman (belief):

“It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in the divine destiny of both good and evil.” (Muslim)

Along with Belief, you need to do righteous deeds too like prayers, fasting, zakah, charity, supplications, etc. You should also practice good Islamic traits such as piety, patience, kindness, generosity, modesty, etc.

So, wake up from your slumber in vice and give yourself a chance to experience the beauty and serenity of a virtuous life through the teachings of Islam.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Suzana Nabil Saad, MA
Suzana Nabil Saad is the former Ask About Islam Editor. She has many years of experience in dawah work.She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the Faculty of Languages, Ain Shams University, Egypt. She obtained her Master’s Degree of Arts in English Literature from Gothenburg University, Sweden.She currently resides in Texas, USA with her husband, and three kids. When she is not editing or writing, she enjoys reading, ideally followed by nature excursions.