Contentment in Islam: Secret of true Happiness
As we all pass through life looking at people and materialistic things around us, we often tend to look at people above us and desire to be like them. But Islam advises us to look at those below us and feel contempt at what Allah (SWT) has provided us. Listed below would be some practical suggestions on achieving this contentment and repelling the greed of want of more.
Note: Contentment is the neuro-physiological experience of satisfaction and being at ease in one’s situation. It is said that a man complained about his old shoes until he saw a man who had no feet.
“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”
Greed for More: A Fact of Human Nature
Contentment is one of the most important prerequisites for happiness in life, and, unfortunately, many of us don’t have it. We have a good car that meets our needs, but we always want a nicer, more expensive one – a Mercedes or a Jaguar perhaps. We have a nice house, but we always want a bigger, fancier, more expensive one. More jewelry, fancier clothes, a boat. The list goes on. We always think about more rather than saying, “Alhamdulillah,” for what we already have.
Prophet Muhammed (saws) said:
“Remember death repeatedly. This will save you from longing for the worldly pleasures. Show gratitude frequently and this will increase the graces upon you. Pray to Allah (SWT) so recurrently, because you do not know in which time Allah (SWT) will respond for your prayer. Beware of tyranny, for Allah (SWT) has ordained that HE will support those whom are oppressed.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said:
“If a son of Adam (as) possessed two vast valleys wherein gold and silver flowed, he would still wish to search for the third one.”
Imam Musa Kazem (as) said:
“The world is like water of the sea, the man who is thirsty, the more he drinks water of it the more he becomes thirsty, until the water kills him in the end!”
Things that Lure us Out of Contentment
A good rule for developing contentment is to always look at the people who have less than us, not the ones who have more. In America, this is difficult because almost all advertising is geared toward showing us people who have more than us and enticing us to want it. They show us beautiful cars, beautiful houses, handsome men, and beautiful women. And we can get it all with a credit card. If our lives don’t match the ad, we should make a change – buy a new car, get a new wife, give her a bigger diamond!
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Muslims Falling Prey to Materialism
Even Muslims have fallen into this trap. Many drive expensive cars far beyond their needs, not just for dependability, but for prestige or to make people say, “Wow!” These Muslims have been deceived, duped by the multi billion dollar advertising industry – the chief enemy of contentment, the chief advocate of a lifestyle of constant wanting.
Many children are the same. They have grown up surrounded by advertisements on TV, on the radio, and on billboards. They want everything they see, and they expect to get it now! But how can we teach them to be content, if we are not content ourselves? Instead of wanting everything we see, we need to learn to resist. Instead of letting our children have everything they want, we need to teach them to be thankful for what they have.
We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
Example of Prophet Muhammed (saws) Life
This is indeed following the example of Prophet Muhammed (saws) and the early Muslims. The story is told of the time Prophet Muhammed (saws) saw his beloved daughter Fatima Zahra (sa) wearing a dress made of camel hair. Although tears welled in his eyes at the sight, he is reported to have told her, “Fatima, today endure the hardships and poverty with patience so that you may acquire the comfort of Paradise tomorrow on the Day of Judgment.”
On another occasion, Umar bin Khattab saw the simple life of Prophet Muhammed (saws) and said:
“O Messenger of Allah (SWT)! While kings sleep in soft, feather beds, you are lying on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of Allah (SWT) and thereby deserve more than any other people to live an easy life.” Prophet Muhammed (saws) was reported to have replied: “Do you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs but those of the Hereafter ours?” [Bukhari, Tafsir, 287; Muslim, Talaq, 31]
There can be no doubt that Prophet Muhammed (saws) and our Imams – some of the greatest heroes of Islam – lived very simple lives with contentment. [Checkout the Food of Sher e Khuda, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as)]
Practical Suggestions in Developing Contentment
The following are some principles that, if remembered, will help us develop this type of contentment in our own lives.
• As previously mentioned, we should look at the people who have less than us, not those who have more.
• When purchasing something, we should consider what we need, not how glamorous or prestigious it is.
• We should feel empathy for the poor and know that they have rights on our excess money.
• We should look at what we already have and be thankful to Allah (SWT).
Many people possess the material goods of the world and are not happy. In fact, they are often the most miserable people. With everything they have, they still feel they want more. This unfilled desire, along with the constant nagging in their heart for more, makes them unhappy. Those who have little but feel no need for more do not experience this nagging in their heart. They can relax and find peace. Indeed, the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who is content with what he has.
Prophet Muhammed (saws) said, “Riches does not mean having a great amount of property; real wealth is self-contentment.”
[Sahih Bukhari (Book 81, Chapter 15)]
Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) was always Content and remembered Allah (SWT).
Allah (SWT) had granted immense bounties to Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) such that it has been reported that he possessed five hundred pairs of bulls for ploughing his fields and hundreds of slaves, who used to cultivate his farms. His cargo carrying camels were three thousand in number while his sheep totalled seven thousand.
In addition to this, Allah (SWT) had also granted him good health and numerous children. On his part, Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) perpetually praised and thanked his Lord, and when faced with two acts of obedience, he would always choose the more difficult of the two.
But then, he became the object of Divine trials – not for having committed any sin but rather for raising his rank and status – such that Allah (SWT) took back all the bounties that He had given him and afflicted his body with an incurable disease.
However, despite the severity of the adversity, when Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) ever abandoned thanking, praising and remembering Allah (SWT), the Satan got into the act. He began whispering into his wife’s mind as a result of which she started to complain of the hard times that had befallen them and would moan: “Everyone has deserted us and we do not possess anything.”
Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) said:
“For eighty years we had been receiving the bounties of Allah (SWT) and so we should not complain for seven years of hardships but instead continue to remember Him in all circumstances!”
But his wife continued to complain and protest, and persistently placed before him irrational ideas till eventually, enraged, he hollered:
“Go away from me such that I do not set my eyes upon you ever again.”
When his wife had left him, Prophet Job / Ayyub (as) found himself alone and without a caretaker; going into prostration, he began praying to his Lord and communicating with Him. On this occasion Allah (SWT) answered the prayers of His servant, who had continued to praise and thank Him, and once again granted him all the bounties!
Meanwhile his wife thought to herself:
“Though he has driven me away, it is inappropriate for me to leave him alone. He has none to look after him and he may perish out of hunger.”
With this in mind she returned to the place where she had left him but found him missing, while in his place, sat a youth. As she began to weep, the youth asked her: “Why do you weep?” She replied: I had left my old husband here but I do not see him anymore. The youth said: “If you were to see him, would you recognize him?”
She said: “Yes.”
Having answered him, she then looked at him hard and realised that he possessed a great resemblance to her husband. The youth then said to her: “I am the same Ayyub.”
[Anecdotes for Reflection, Vol 3, Dhikr]
True meaning of Tawwakul: Reliance on Allah or trust in Allah (SWT)
Angel Jibril (Gabriel) came to Prophet Muhammed (saws) and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! Allah (SWT) has sent you a gift which He has not given to anyone before.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is that gift? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “It is patience.”
But there is a virtue better than patience. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “It is contentment.”
There is still a virtue better than contentment. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “It is pleasure of Allah (SWT).”
But there is a virtue better than that. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “It is piety.”
Yet there is a virtue better than that. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “It is devotion.”
But there is a virtue better than that. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “Sure knowledge.”
Yet there is a virtue better than that. Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is it? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “The way to attain all of them is to put trust in Allah (SWT).”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked O Jibril (Gabriel)! What is the meaning of putting trust in Allah (SWT)? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied:
“Knowing that His creatures neither harm nor benefit anyone. They neither give nor withhold anything. One must stop having hope in creatures. When a man reaches this position, he will not do anything save for Him, his heart does not go astray, he fears no one save Him and he does not set his hope on anyone but Him. This is the meaning of putting trust in Allah (SWT).”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: O Jibril (Gabriel)! What is the meaning of patience? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “Man must have forbearance and patience in afflictions as in joys. He should never complain of His Creator to the people.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is the meaning of contentment? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “To be content with whatever in this world and to thank Allah (SWT) for the small things he has.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: what is the meaning of pleasure of Allah (SWT)? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “To be pleased with Allah (SWT) but not to be pleased with one’s own deeds.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: O Jibril (Gabriel)! What is the meaning of piety? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “A pious man loves whatever His creator loves and hates whatever He hates. He is careful about what is lawful and leaves of what is unlawful, for what is lawful is counted and what is unlawful will entail punishment. He has mercy on every Muslim as he has on himself. He shuns useless words as he shuns what is unlawful. He abstains from overeating as he keeps away from a corpse with bad smell. He keeps away from the embellishments of world as he keeps away from Fire. His desires are not far-fetched and death is present before his eyes.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: O Jibril (Gabriel)! What is the meaning of Devotion? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “A devoted person is one who does not ask for anything from people until he obtains it and whenever he obtained it, he is pleased with it. Also if he has something extra, he will give it away for the sake of Allah (SWT). The fact that he does not ask for something from others is admittance of his being a servant of Allah (SWT). He is pleased with Allah (SWT) and Allah (SWT) is pleased with him. He gives away when he needs it more than others.”
Prophet Muhammed (saws) asked: What is sure knowledge? Angel Jibril (Gabriel) replied: “A man of sure knowledge acts in a way as if he sees Allah (SWT). Even if he does not reach the degree of seeing Allah (SWT), he knows that Allah (SWT) sees him and is sure that what he has and what he has not is what Allah (SWT) wills.”
These were some of signs of putting trust in Allah (SWT) and having piety.Advertisements