What makes you happy? Is it when you have everything you want? When you have your loved ones surrounding you? When you buy new shoes? When you do lots of good deeds?
If so, is that really what makes you happy? Yes, you are happy with those things – but where does the happiness really come from? Does it comes from those things or does it come from somewhere else?
Think about those who have everything they want but are still searching for happiness. Why aren’t they happy? Think about those who have never so far suffered loss or separation. Are they always happy? Are the people who are conditioned to do a lot of good deeds each day always happy?
In every situation that you find happiness, there is actually something in addition to that situation happening. And that is the ingredient of gratitude – of saying Alhamdulillah.
Your new pair of shoes can’t bring you happiness unless you appreciate it. Your good deeds can’t bring you joy unless you take the time to relish them; otherwise they become mere routine. Having everyone and everything around you is meaningless unless you step back and appreciate it all once in a while, for there are those who take their loved ones completely for granted.
There comes a magical moment when you appreciate the blessings that Allah has bestowed on you and that is what actually feeds into joy.
If you’re not mindful and present in the moment, you don’t see the beauty that is painted in your life. You don’t feel the bliss in the comfortable padding inside your shoes. You don’t appreciate the brush of a loving palm against your shoulders.
It all just rushes past in a blur as you keep you sight fixed on the horizon – looking for the happiness that is right under your nose.
When you think about it, doesn’t that explain how a poor man can have more contentment (redha) than a rich man, or the ailing more than the healthy, or the deprived more than the privileged?
The attitude of redha is the ingredient that can turn any situation into a happy situation – Alhamdulillah ala kulli haal.
In other words, happiness can be attained through redha and that redha is right within ourselves!
Besides, how can we depend on external sources for continued happiness anyway? Every person is going through his or her own rough and tumble of life. They can’t be consistent in their moods or their approach towards us. Material possessions wear off and even luxury houses need repairing from time to time.
Everything in life is transient. Everything is deteriorating. Even that selfie you took 5 seconds ago was of a younger version of you – not the version you are now, 5 seconds later.
Supplementing that attitude of contentment, we have other qualities within ourselves that we can appreciate and make use of – like compassion, empathy, strong will, creativity, and so on. All these come from within and not from outside, and we can use these not only to feel good about ourselves but to actually serve humanity in some form or another.
Start paying attention to the so-called little things in life. You realize that they are the big things.
Look for the balance in everything, because no situation or person is entirely good or entirely bad. If your house is tiny, is it also easier to clean? If your co-worker is slow and sloppy, is she also compassionate and helpful? If your sandwich is cold, is it also enough to satisfy your hunger?
Matthieu Ricard has been scientifically declared as the happiest man on Earth and he says, “It’s quite clear that the outer conditions are not enough. The way we interpret and translate those outer conditions in our inner experience is what determines either a sense of well-being or misery…… We can’t modify the whole world to our taste but we can change our mind. If we change our mind we can change our world…. Genuine happiness doesn’t mean pleasant feelings one after the other. It’s more like a cluster of qualities that we can develop as skills – like openness, genuine altruistic love, compassion, inner strength and inner peace.”
What, then, is a Muslim’s approach? Happiness is not that you did a lot of good deeds today. Happiness is in reflecting on Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala’s blessings on you, such that He woke you this morning, that you were able to get out of your bed, that He allowed you to use your body and mind to worship Him, and that He is taking care of you and making arrangements for you more than you can comprehend.
“And if you should count the favour of Allah, you could not enumerate them.”
[Surah Ibrahim, 14:34]
With so many blessings upon us, do we still have to go outwards in search of happiness?
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.