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Friday, February 22, 2013

Concept and meaning of Happiness in Islam

Does Believing in God Leads to Ultimate Happiness?
Is there any link between our beliefs and being happy in this world?

Seeking happiness is human necessity.  Going deep into the meaning of word 'happiness declares that  'Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy'.. Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. This article is an effort to explain the theory if believing in God leads to real/ultimate happiness and concept of happiness in Islam which agrees with the theory.
An undeniable reality is that permanent happiness cannot be achieved except by believing in God - The Creator - and following His guidance. Since it is He who created mankind, He is the one who knows what pleases and benefits them, just as he knows what saddens and harms them. A number of psychologists have affirmed that only a religious person lives with true content and serenity.

So if believing in God leads to ultimate happiness, then how can this be achieved?

There is now extensive research suggesting that religious people are happier and less stressed.

Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Center and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being "very happy" than the least religiously committed people. An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that "high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being," and a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of them showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem and lower levels of hypertension, depression, and clinical delinquency.

If we examine all the orders and laws of Islam, we find that every single law or order aims at bringing happiness to the individual. This applies to Islamic regulations with regard to worship, economics, penal laws and all other aspects of life. Few laws and orders are:

The Belief in Allaah and Psychological Security:

When a person believes in Allaah, this belief gives him a strong feeling of security, which is a basic psychological need. This belief in Allaah gives the believer a strong support in critical moments and gives him continuous hope against all sources of despair. This belief gives strength to the sick and hope to the hopeless.

The Belief in Life after Death and the Feeling of Continuity

A Muslim believes in life after death. This belief gives the person a feeling of continuity. To a Muslim, death is not the end of life; rather it is a transition from the first life to the second one. A Muslim is not horrified by death because he knows that death is a change into another life.

A Connection with God: A Muslim prays five times a day. This prayer is a connection between the believer and Allaah. Without this continual daily prayer, the man-God connection becomes weak. The stronger the man-God connection is, the more obedient to Allaah man becomes.

Away from Tension: Islam regulates the relations of the two sexes and discourages any unnecessary intermingling of the two sexes. This helps both sexes to be away from any source of sexual temptation or tension.

One of the most elusive objectives of every human being is "Happiness." The Noble Qur'an reveals the secret of attaining perfect happiness in this life and forever. We learn from the Noble Qur'an that happiness is an exclusive quality of the soul. Thus, a body that attains all the material successes it longs for - money, power, fame, etc. - often belongs to an unhappy person. Happiness depends totally on the degree of growth and development attained by the soul, the real person. The Noble Qur'an provides a detailed map towards perfect happiness for both body and soul, both in this world and in the eternal Hereafter.

To reach true happiness, we need to know what is the purpose of our life, how to reach success in the hereafter, and to fulfill the requirements of reaching this success by following the commands of Allah (SWT) and His true religion.

Throughout the ages, the concept of happiness has been widely discussed by the great thinkers of the past oriental or occidental. The Greek philosophers have stated in clear a term that the ultimate happiness will take place through what they called virtues. They unanimously agreed that there are four cardinal virtues, namely temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. Thus a happy person is the one who possessed these cardinal virtues in their selves.

Unfortunately, happiness in the context of modern western man is never been defined in a definite manner. It has continuously changed depending of which philosophical school or line of thinking these definitions are derived from. Happiness in Islam does not thus refer to the bodily or material aspect of the human life. As a matter of fact, the abundant material wealth, excessive physical pleasure sometimes contributes to the prevention of the true happiness. How many cases have we seen people with abundant of wealth are deprived from gaining the true happiness in their life. Their material bounties, on the other hand, are the very origin and cause of their unhappiness.

Islam simply views material wealth is only one of the tools to a more absolute kind of happiness which goes beyond the boundary of the physical gain. This is the very reason God states in the Quran (Al-Kahfi 18:46)

“Wealth and children are temptation of the life of this world; the only things endure, are good deed, which is the best in the sight of your Lord as rewards and as the best hopes.”

It is interesting to see that the contrary of sa’adah is termed by the Quran as shaqawah, which conveys the meaning of great misfortune and misery in general. Shaqawah is the generic term which include within it many other terms also mentioned in the Quran as khawf (fear), huzn (grief), dank (narrowness), hasrat (profound grief and regret for something gone and never be experienced again). These terms are used in the Quran to denote those who turned away from God and spend his life in self-waste which than he discover after death how he has lost his soul and appeal toward God in turning back to worldly life to make good deeds.

The concept of happiness in Islam:

The concept of happiness in Islam is expressed in the Quran and Sunnah in a number of different ways. First, we find the Quran discussing the good life. Allah says: Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, we shall make them live a good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do. [Surah al-Nahl: 97]

This good life is happiness itself. It is realized through faith and good deeds. This does not mean that we will not face difficulties in our good life. Our worldly lives, even when they are bolstered by faith and good works, are never free from distress and vexations. This world is the abode of toil, as Allah says: Certainly We have created man to be in toil. [Surah al-Balad: 90]

This world is the abode of tests and trials. Allah says: Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: so We gave him (the gifts) of hearing and sight. [Surah al-Insan: 2]

Allah also says: Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial, and to Us is your return. [Surah al-Anbiya: 35]

The concept of happiness is also expressed in the Qurun as a negation of wretchedness and misguidance. It is also expressed through by contrasting it with the description, of a narrow, straightened life.

Allah says: But he who turns away from remembrance of Me, his will be a narrow life, and I shall bring him blind to the assembly on the Day of Resurrection. [Surah TaHa: 124]

Wretchedness is the opposite of happiness. It is a state of being bereft of Allahs remembrance. The way to distance oneself from wretchedness is to follow the path of guidance. This is what brings about happiness.

The Quran also uses the concept of the openness of the heart to express happiness. Allah says: Those whom Allah wills to guide, He opens their breast to Islam; those whom He wills to leave straying, He makes their breast close and constricted, as if they had to climb up to the skies: thus does Allah (heap) the penalty on those who refuse to believe. [Surah al-An`am: 125]

Another expression is the contentment of the heart. Allah says: Those who believe, and whose hearts find contentment in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment. [Surah al-Ra`d: 28]

The contentment and openness of the heart are aspects of happiness which are achieved through keeping up the remembrance of Allah and through following the guidance of Islam. Total and perfect happiness is achieved through true devotion in worship to Allah, salvation from Hell, and admission to Paradise in the Hereafter.

To reach true happiness, we need to know what is the purpose of our life, how to reach success in the hereafter, and to fulfill the requirements of reaching this success by following the commands of God and His true religion.

Useful links:
What happiness is (A chritian point of view)

Islam and human happiness

Real Happiness and Inner Peace

The Way To Achieve Happiness

Happiness is Submission to God Alone

Happiness is a common goal that everyone strives to attain

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