By Ustahdha Bint Ahmad
Each and every human is in pursuit of happiness, whether it be a child, or an adult, a Muslim or a non-Muslim, and this is a true fact. In order to achieve this true happiness, one must comprehend what this emotion really is. Happiness is ‘feeling, causing, or giving pleasure’ and it is being ‘satisfied’ according to the Oxford dictionary. It is essential to understand the psychology of happiness so we know how much of it we have control over.
James Montier published his research into ‘The Pshchology of Happiness’ and learned that happiness was composed of three elements:
- About 50% of individual happiness comes from a genetic set point. That is, we’re each predisposed to a certain level of happiness. Some of us are just naturally more inclined to be cheery than others.
- About 10% of our happiness is due to our circumstances. Our age, race, gender, personal history, and, yes, wealth, only make up about one-tenth of our happiness.
- The remaining 40% of an individual’s happiness seems to be derived from intentional activity, from “discrete actions or practices that people can choose to do”.
As humans we have no control over our genetic set-point, and hardly any control over our circumstances. This 50% of happiness in Islam is called ‘ridha bi al-qadha’ (being content with our lot on life). This means that as believers if we truly loved Allah the necessary effect of it would be that we are content with our lot in life. The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) would supplicate with words that would highlight the importance of satisfaction with our fate, therefore we too should make the effort to recite these sorts of supplications:
“I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with Muhammad as my Prophet” (Allah bless him and give him peace). [Abu Dawud].
“O Allah, make me content with what you have provided me, send blessings for me therein, and replace for me every absent thing with something better” [Bukhari].
“O Allah, I seek refuge with You from knowledge which does not bring benefit and from a heart which is not fearful and from a self which is not content and from a supplication which is not answered.’” [Muslim]
Thereafter, the main conclusion to be drawn from Montier’s research is that we can only work on the last 40% to make ourselves happier. It must be noted that this 40% cannot be achieved in pursuit of money, fame or anything else materialistic. These are all transitory, and anything transitory will never result in true happiness. True happiness is contentment, and this is only attained through activities which are not fleeting. So here are 10 steps to make our lives happier:
1. Seek the pleasure of Allah – nothing can make us happier than seeking the pleasure of Allah. Whether we are university, home or on holiday never forget to seek the countenance of Allah.
2. Be grateful – The more grateful we are to have the things we do, the more Allah will shower you with His bounties. Appreciation of what Allah has blessed you with is vital.
“If you express gratitude, I shall certainly give you more, and if you are ungrateful, then My punishment is severe.” [Ibrahim: V7]
3. Satisfy your soul and not your physical body – Work on activities that result in eternal happiness that bring a smile to the heart and not merely a smile to the face. Do meaningful work; strive to partake in feeding the homeless at hospices, assisting the distressed and helping others over and above excessive shopping, excessive eating out, and time spent in worldly activity.
“True enrichment does not come through possessing a lot of wealth, but true enrichment is the enrichment of the soul.” [Bukhari]
4. Avoid comparisons – do not look towards celebrities, rich or affluent people above you in worldly matters. The lives of such individuals are not ‘ideal’ in the eyes of Allah, look towards the lives of the likes of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him happy) and Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her) who are our guiding stars in religious matters.
“Look at those below you (less fortunate than you), and don’t look at those above you, for this is better.” [Muslim]
5. Have no expectations in other than Allah– place all reliance and expectations in Allah alone, any favour that we do, and good character that we display is not for us to be met with the same. All that we do is in hope
“O Allah, give me enough of what You have made lawful to suffice me from what You have made unlawful, and enrich me by Your bounty giving me independence from all other than You.” [al-Tirmidhi]
6. Serve others and cultivate good relations – We should have an altruistic nature always ready share our warmth and support to others. The Messenger (Allah bless him and give us peace) strongly advised to maintain family ties, keep strong relations and relayed to us the etiquettes of social relations.
“All created beings are the dependants of Allah, and the most beloved of creation to Allah is the one who is good to His dependants” [Bayhaqi]
God gives us people to love
and things to use,
not things to love
and people to use. – Max Lucado
7. Be in routine– If we are in routine we will get adequate sleep and that solves half the problem! A person with a sleep deficit is often grumpy, tired and unproductive – all of this counteracts the characteristics apart of the 10 steps to happiness.
The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) chose a simple live over an affluent one, and he was always content in life. One lesson to extract from his life full of happiness is his routine. A person that plans their day is much more productive than a person that doesn’t.
“The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had carefully apportioned his time according to the demands on him for:
- offering worship to Allah
- public affairs, and
- personal matters.
After the early morning prayers he would remain sitting in the mosque reciting praises of Allah till the sun rose and more people collected. He would then preach to them. After the sermons were over, he would talk genially with the people, enquire about their welfare and even exchange jokes with them. Taxes and revenues were also distributed at this time [Muslim]
8. Promote brotherhood/sisterhood – feeling a part of a larger group gives us a sense of security and a safety net to fall onto in occasions of happiness and hardships. The concept of brotherhood and sisterhood is one of the central themes of Islam.
“The (example of) believers (in their mutual love, care and concern) is like a single person: if his eye complains of pain his whole body complains of pain, and if his head complains of pain his whole body complains of pain.” [Muslim]
9. Eat good halal pure food – refer to the article ‘You Are What You Eat”. Eating well maintains our physical well-being, this too keeps us happy.
10. Keep Fit – Scientists claim the best benefit of exercise is that it makes us feel happy.
Exercise is described by many doctors as an anti-depressant. The presence of certain chemicals like endorphins and phenylacetic acid increases drastically after a good work out and it is this that contributes to that ‘feel good’ feeling after a good workout.
There are two chemicals apart of exercising that contribute to that ‘feel good’ feeling after a good workout.
With these supplications and ten steps with the divine assistance of Allah it is hoped we can all live a happier life to transport us to our final abode – PARADISE, where eternal happiness lies. May Allah be pleased with us always. Ameen.
An article from ‘Muslim Student Handbook 2011-12’