Redha Series #4: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

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The azan for Fajr prayer can be heard echoing through the neighbourhood. The beautiful sound rouses Anisah gently. She rubs her eyes, sits up, and stretches.

“اَلحَمدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي اَحيَلنَا بَعدَ مَا اَمَاتَنَا وَاِلَيهِ النُّشُور” she says with heartfelt contentment. Alhamdulillah, it feels good to wake up in the stillness of dawn and have this time for herself.

The alarm rings on her phone just then and she looks over playfully.  “Haha, I beat you! I’m up before you can even ring!” she chuckles as she reaches over to shut it off.

As the alarm screen closes, her gaze falls oh so casually over the red notification on the blue “f” logo. The reflex action kicks in. Anisah opens the Satanic trap and falls in headlong……

Needless to say, her Fajr prayer is disrupted with thoughts of Anna’s trip to Sweden, Aisha’s birthday cake for her daughter, Mariam’s new apartment pictures, and Warda’s grand engagement ceremony. “Oh how lucky my friends are…..

If only Anisah were to remember the blessing of being able to wake up for prayer and the hadith, “The two rak’ahs (before) Fajr are better than this world and everything in it.

The serenity of her morning solitude is ruined, and so goes the rest of the day.

Thus begins the tidal wave of pessimism. What we are blinded to is that these social updates are mere glimpses of another’s life. They don’t spell the whole story and they certainly don’t capture the worst moments. We see the happy couple selfies, but not the pictures of them throwing pots at each other. We see the shiny new phone, but not the gaping hole it left in the man’s wallet – or worse – the debt that he’s in.

We compare our uncut movie with their trailer.

There’s a flip side to this too. We see those who seem to be a station or two below us and we allow a sense of arrogance to creep in. We pat ourselves on the back for doing better, and even backbite to others about how badly so-and-so is faring in a certain department.

Either way, the one who suffers is the onlooker. We bring unnecessary difficulty on our own selves through the comparison trap. We ask for heartburn and go looking for opportunities to sin. May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala give save us.

Yes, it is sometimes worthwhile to compare, but the only comparison is the ‘me’ of yesterday; not anyone else[1]. It is beneficial to look back and see how far we have progressed, as it is to look into the future and set aims to improve – based on where we are today rather than basing it on what the neighbours have.

Everything that we ever had, everything that we have now, and everything we ever will have – it all belongs to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala. Redha (contentment) comes from appreciating the bounties that have we have been blessed with, in spite of all the sins we commit and the level of ingratitude we display. Redha comes from knowing that Allah Ar-Razzaq is well aware of how to apportion rizq. Redha comes from curtailing the jealous monster inside and instead understanding that we have more than we could ask for anyway.

When we put on the lens of gratitude, the comparison monster disappears. To quote from Shaykh Ebrahim[2]:

How is the man who acts with gratitude different from the man who acts with neediness, which is the opposite of gratitude? A man who acts from neediness is a slave; he is under the thumb of the world because he wants things from life. The one who acts from gratitude is not something that is empty and wants to be filled; it is a full thing that just empties….. You can die now, there is nothing more to get. Your heart is full and there is only the pleasure at seeing Him unfold His design.

Therefore we approach every blessing with gratitude; not comparison, and surely every situation is a blessing, whether we see it or not.

“هَـٰذَا مِن فَضۡلِ رَبِّى لِيَبۡلُوَنِىٓ ءَأَشۡكُرُ أَمۡ أَكۡفُرُ‌ۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشۡكُرُ لِنَفۡسِهِۦ‌ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّى غَنِىٌّ۬ كَرِيمٌ۬”

“…This is from the favour of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.
[Surah An-Naml, 27:40]

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Notes:

  1. Article: The Only Comparison is the You of Yesterday
  2. Book: Millenium Discourses; by Etsko Schuitema

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Fathima Nafla is an IT-professional-turned-online-Qur’an-tutor who left the corporate world after finding her passion in learning and teaching Qur’an. She maintains her blog at www.Believuh.com and its social media channels – where she strives to help people understand the tests of life, and how to love God through them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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