Slashing the Green-Eyed Monster
Jealousy and envy – popularly phrased as ‘the green-eyed monster’ – is defined as the feeling of coveting another person’s life and/or material possessions and the feeling of being upset because someone seems to be better off than you. While jealousy and envy are very similar, they differ slightly in that jealousy is about something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy is about something one does not have and either wants to acquire or to prevent another person from getting. In Islam, this is referred to as hasad. Hasad is a natural human quality which all people have, a trait that everyone exhibits at some point or another, but acting upon it is when it actually becomes a major problem. However, opposing and silencing the green-eyed monster is laudable and gains reward from the Almighty.
Hasad has been around since the very creation of mankind, when Shaytan refused to prostrate before Adam u due to the fact that he felt threatened by his existence. The Qur’an also makes mention about instances where jealousy has caused harm, and it is the main reason for the first murder of humankind, which occurred between the two sons of Adam u. The feeling of jealousy is also the reason behind the brothers of the prophet Yusuf u throwing him into the well (mentioned in Surah Yusuf). In fact, Hasad is such a dangerous characteristic, that Allah I has also revealed verses of the Qur’an to be recited as a protection from the jealous and envious, “Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn. From the evil of that which He created. And from the evil of darkness when it settles. And from the evil of the blowers in knots. And from the evil of the envious when he envies.” (Al-Falaq: 1-5)
Prophet Muhammad r has warned against jealousy, saying: “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.”
Jealousy is a dark emotion which imprisons the heart and mind and its consequences are not pleasant. It has the potential to cause disunity among communities and divide people, sometimes destroying relationships between families and friends. Pursuing jealousy leads to a colossal waste of one’s time and energy. Productivity is lost, because when one spends time thinking about another person’s life, it prevents them from living their own, and it brings on negative energy, causing one to become bitter and miserable. Being jealous is actually frivolous, because Allah I is the ultimate distributor of His bounties, and He gives to whomever He wills.
On the other hand, it is interesting to note that Islam permits a certain type of envy. In contrast to Hasad (destructive jealousy), Ghibtah (envy that is free from malice), means neither loving the loss of the blessing nor hating for it to remain with the person, but desiring the same for oneself, without the removal of the blessing from others. An example of this is shown from a hadith of Muhammad r: “There is to be no envy except in two cases: (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wisdom, and who rules by this and teaches it to the people, and (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property along with the power to spend it in the cause of the Truth.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Ways to deal with jealousy and envy:
The grip of jealousy and envy may be difficult to shake off, so how exactly can it be dealt with in a positive manner? Here are some suggestions on how it can be managed and avoided:
1. Identify the root cause. Hasad can stem from a number of things, such as anger at someone else having something you desire, arrogance in not wanting someone else to be better off, contempt towards someone, or discontentment with one’s own life. It is important to know the reason behind your jealousy/envy of someone. Acknowledgement and rational reasoning is the first step to dispelling the emotion. Dig deeper and ask yourself what’s causing you to feel the way you do, so you can begin to stop it before it becomes apparent.
2. Be thankful. Being oblivious to the countless blessings which Allah I has blessed us with is due to always looking at what others have. Remember that we are all blessed in different ways. Every day, take some time to reflect and be grateful for what Allah I has given you, because when you truly appreciate what you have, you become more content and happy with your life.
3. Make du’a. Ask Allah I to remove jealousy and envy from you, and whenever you find yourself feeling jealous or envious of someone, try to pray for them. Our prophet Muhammad r said: “Whenever a Muslim supplicates for his Muslim brother in his absence, the angels say, ‘Ameen and may the same be for you’.”
4. Give charity. Sincerely giving charity increases humility. In order to discourage envy, the Prophet r said: “Do not look to those above you. Look to those below you, as it will more likely remind you of Allah’s favours bestowed on you.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
5. Say Masha Allah. Even if it may take a lot of effort, try to make it a habit of saying Masha Allah. The meaning of Masha Allah is “Just as Allah willed”. It is a reminder that all good comes from Allah I. Being happy for the next person is part of being a Muslim, remember, Muhammad I has said: “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself”. (Bukhari)
6. Be the best version of you. The ultimate rebound against jealousy and envy is simply to do your best. No one does a better job at being you than you, and no one can compete with that, so the more you focus on yourself and your strengths, the less time you will have to worry about what the next person has or doesn’t have.
Dealing with jealousy and envy in a positive way and conquering these emotions, truly brings inner freedom and peace of mind. It is with knowledge, a little bit of patience and the help of Allah I, that it can be overcome.
Rafeeah Laher is a South African and currently a university student in her final year of studying Business Information Technology. She enjoys freelance writing in her spare time.