Maliha is lying in bed, her laptop resting on her lap. She hasn’t gone to work the last three days, spending the entire period lying around, browsing Facebook, eating chocolate bars, crying violently, or just staring at the ceiling for hours at a time.
At thirty eight, Maliha had achieved unprecedented success in her job at a multinational company, with three promotions in her bag. But recently, she’d suffered a great shock: Her ten years of marriage had come to an end as a result of her husband’s extramarital affair. She’d been suppressing her anger and grief by continuing to work and going ahead with life as usual until three days ago, when a violent depression had suddenly come crashing down on her.
Browsing Facebook gives her some relief, especially viewing inspirational quotes and funny memes. But she’s just come across something different– something upsetting: in fact it’s a wedding picture, not upsetting in itself. One of her distant friends, adorned gorgeously in beautiful ornaments around her hijab, with her husband wearing a Sherwani, leaning towards each other, both smiling shyly at the camera. Attached to it is a caption by her friend: “The happiest day of my life, alhamdulillah for such an amazing and caring husband!”
Maliha is staring at the picture, her hand arrested over her mouse, waves of shock washing over her. Her mind has become a series of flashbacks from the last ten years of her life– the day she first met her husband, his first gift, their own wedding day, their intimate moments, his cooking for her, the day her mom died and how he consoled her . . . and then, his occasional rudeness, coming home late, not receiving phone calls, going for unexpected overseas meetings . . . She can’t express the thoughts racing through her mind as she stares and stares at her friend’s happy face.
Envy is something that’s frowned upon. We know it’s bad, and we know we must get rid of it. But just saying it’s bad is not enough. Can anyone honestly go upto Maliha and tell her, “Look, what you’re feeling is bad. You must give it up right now, or Allah will punish you.” It would be a heartless thing to do.
The first thing we need to understand about envy is that it’s a very real, strong, blinding emotion that can affect anybody. It doesn’t affect only those who are weak or “bad”-natured. It affects people when they have a lack of something in their life that’s very important to them, something they crave so much that when they see someone else with it they feel an extreme pain. And in order to reduce that pain, something inside them wants to damage the source of that pain, the envied person or thing. It is a human weakness, a vulnerable point for the shaytan’s attack.
The stronger the pain, the stronger the envy, and the harder it is to fight against it.
It’s not our fault if we are gripped by this powerful, evil cloud. But it’s in our control to get rid of it before it becomes a tornado.
Here are a few things that we can try out to help us fight envy.
1. Make dua immediately, the moment you feel it. Just pray to Allah to protect you from Shaytan’s attacks, remove the envy from your heart, to bless the other person in what He’s given them, and to give you more and better.
2. Transfer the focus towards your own self. Hunt for the source of the envy. Ask yourself searching questions, and give honest answers. Am I discontent with what Allah has given me? Do I want more? Am I angry with Allah for preferring the other person with the thing that I covet? Or am I angry with the person who caused me pain? Once you find out where the problem lies, make more specific duas, and read on your specific problem. If possible, talk to a Muslim counselor about it to get a better insight into your heart.
3. Use self-hypnotherapy. The envy is not a part of you. Imagine it to be an entity in itself, an enemy – a poisonous, green, scaly snake that’s wrapped itself round your heart and trying to squeeze it to suffocation. Now you’ll find it much easier and satisfactory to kill it as soon as possible.
4. Remove the negative filter from your eyes. Yes, the envious feeling is a proof that such a filter exists, that it filters out all the positive things that happen in your life and leaves a grimy, foul-smelling residue of negative thoughts. Force your mind to acknowledge the things Allah has given you, and say Alhamdulillah for each of them. Allah (swt) says:
If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe. [14:7]
5. Remind yourself that not having something can also be a blessing:
May be the thing isn’t good for you, and if you did have it, it would make you unhappy.
. . . Perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. [2:216]
The pain you’re suffering is actually cleansing you of sins and increasing your rewards, if you remain patient.
How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him. [Muslim].
6. Finally, remember that our main job in this world is not enjoying its pleasures. It’s to earn eternal enjoyment and pleasures for the next world. And remember, every tiniest thing that you desire will be yours there, IN SHAA ALLAH
Almighty ALLAH knows best