The short article and video below are products that I managed and developed for One Reason (www.onereason.org).
‘and a happy future belongs to those who are mindful of Him’ The Qur’an 7:128
In the Pursuit of Happiness
The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is an essential part of our human nature. All of us want to be happy – even when sometimes we can’t pinpoint exactly what ‘happiness’ is. This is why if you were to ask the average person why they want to get a good job, they would probably reply, ‘to earn enough to live comfortably’. However, if you questioned them further and asked why they want to live comfortably, they would more than likely say – like many of us – ‘because I want to be happy’. But happiness is ultimately an end, not a means. It’s the final destination, not necessarily the journey. We all want to be happy, so we endlessly seek ways to help us achieve that final happy state.
The journey that people seek varies from one person to the next. Some dedicate the years to adding qualifications and career credentials to their names. Others work tirelessly in gyms to achieve their perfect figure. Those who desire the love of family often end up sacrificing their lives to the care of their spouse and children. Whilst some simply party their weekends away with friends, seeking a release from the relentless cycle of another tough week at work. The list is endless. Whether it’s through money, status, other people or just a good time – everybody is involved in trying to ‘get happy’ and eventually just BE happy. Which begs the question, what is true happiness? If it exists, where does it lie and how do we get there?
Am I happy?
To help answer these questions, imagine the following scenario: While reading this, you are sedated against your will. Suddenly you wake up and find yourself on a plane. You’re in first class. You have your own cabin. The food is heavenly. The seat is a flatbed, designed for a luxurious comfortable experience. The entertainment is limitless. The service is out of this world. You start to enjoy all of the facilities. Time starts to pass. Now think for a moment, and ask yourself the question: Would I be happy?
How could you be… you’d need some questions answered first. Who sedated you? How did you get on the plane? What’s the purpose of the journey? Where are you heading? If these questions remained unanswered, how could you be happy? Even if you started to enjoy all of the luxuries at your disposal, you would never achieve true happiness. Would a frothy Belgian chocolate mousse on your dessert tray be enough to drown out the questions? It would be a delusion, a temporary fake type of happiness, only achievable by deliberately ignoring and suspending these critical questions.
Now apply this to your life and ask yourself, am I happy?
Our coming into existence is no different to being sedated and thrown on a plane. We never chose our birth, our parents or where we come from. Yet some of us do not ask the questions or search for the answers that will help us achieve our ultimate goal of happiness.
Can We Truly Be Happy?
So where does true happiness lie? Inevitably, if we reflect on the previous example, happiness really lies in our inwardness, in knowing who we are, and finding the answers to the critical questions like, ‘why are we here?’ and ‘where are we going?’.
Unlike animals, we cannot be content by simply living and reacting to our instincts. Obeying our hormones and mere physical needs will not bring happiness. To highlight this, reflect on another example.
Imagine you were one of fifty human beings locked in a small room with no means of exit. There are only 10 loaves of bread, and there is no more food for another 100 days. What do you all do? If you follow your animalistic instincts, there will be blood. But if you try to answer the question ‘how can we all survive?’, it is more than likely that you will, as you will devise ways to do so.
Extend this example to your life. Your life is far more complex and has many more variables, which can result in almost an infinite number of outcomes. Yet some of us just follow our carnal needs. Our jobs may require PhD’s or other qualifications, and we may wine and dine with our partners, but all of that is still reduced to mere survival and procreation. Happiness cannot be achieved unless we answer the critical questions and find out who we really are.
So Why Are We Here?
We all need to answer the fundamental question of why we’re here. In Islam, the answer is simple, yet profound. We are here to worship God.
But worship in Islam is quite different to the common understanding of the word. Worship can be in each and every act that we do. Its in the way we walk and talk to each other, to the small acts of kindness we do each and every day. If we focus on pleasing God by our actions then our actions themselves become an act of worship.
So worship is not merely limited to the spiritual acts like prayer and fasting but worshipping God means loving Him, pleasing Him and knowing Him. To know your Lord is to know yourself. Knowing and worshipping God is the ultimate purpose of our existence; it frees us from the slavery to others and society.
God, in the Qur’an, presents us with a powerful example:
“God puts forward this illustration: can a man who has for his masters several partners at odds with each other be considered equal to a man devoted wholly to one master? All praise belongs to God, though most of them do not know.” The Qur’an, 39:29
Inevitably, if we don’t worship God, we end up worshipping other ‘gods’. Think about it. Our partners, our bosses, our teachers, our friends, the societies we live in, and even our own desires, ‘enslave’ us in some way. Take for example social norms. Many of us define our sense of beauty based on influential social pressures. We may have a range of likes and dislikes, but they are shaped by others. Ask yourself, why am I wearing these trousers or this skirt? Saying you like it is only a shallow response, the point is why do you like it? If we keep on probing in this way, many will end up admitting ‘because other people think it looks nice’. Unfortunately, we’ve all been influenced, sometimes from the endless adverts that bombard us.
In this respect we have many ‘masters’ and they all want something from us. They are all ‘at odds with each other’, and we end up living confused, unfulfilled lives. God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, who loves us more than our mothers love us, is telling us that He is our true master, and only by worshipping Him alone will we truly free ourselves.
Yasmin Mogahed, in her book Reclaim Your Heart, explains that anything other than God is weak and feeble, and that our freedom lies in worshipping Him:
“Every time you run after, seek, or petition something weak or feeble… you too become weak or feeble. Even if you do reach that which you seek, it will never be enough. You will soon need to seek something else. You will never reach true contentment or satisfaction. That is why we live in a world of trade-ins and upgrades. Your phone, your car, your computer, your woman, your man, can always be traded in for a newer, better model. But there is a freedom from that slavery. When the object upon which you place all your weight is unshaking, unbreakable, and unending, you cannot fall.”
Where Are We Going?
We have a choice: to embrace God’s eternal unbounded mercy, or to run away from it. Accepting His mercy, by responding to His message, and obeying, worshipping and loving Him, will facilitate our eternal happiness in paradise. Rejecting and running away from God’s mercy necessitates that we end up in a place devoid of His love; a place of unhappiness – hell. So we have a choice. Either we decide to embrace His mercy or try to escape from it. We have the free will to choose. The choices we make in this life will shape our lives after we die:
“… and when that Day comes, no soul will speak except by His permission, and some of them will be wretched and some happy.” The Qur’an 11:105
The following Quranic verses and statements from the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) in this booklet are essentially a call to happiness. Since our ultimate purpose is to worship God, then to do so would be to establish our natural balance, and to find out who we really are. When we worship God, we free ourselves, and find ourselves. If we don’t, then it would be like forgetting what makes us human.
“And be not like those who forgot God, so He made them forget themselves.” The Qur’an 59:19
These Quranic verses, when reflected upon with a sincere heart, answer the fundamental questions that facilitate happiness. They penetrate the heart, mind and soul, to wake up the inner unquestionable truth within us, and guide us to that ultimate happy ending.
“There they will stay – a happy home and resting place!” The Qur’an 25: 75