ARE YOU HAPPY?
“and the happy future belongs to those who are mindful of Him.” The Qur’an, Chapter 7 Verse 129
Most of us just want to be happy – even when sometimes we can’t pinpoint exactly what that ‘happiness’ is. We want to be content, live in ease, enjoy the company of our friends and family, and not be bogged down with the stresses and strains of daily living. 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’. If you questioned them further and asked why they want to live comfortably, they would say – just like the rest of us – ‘because I want to be happy’. Happiness is an end, not a means. It is the final destination, not the journey. We all want to be happy, and we seek ways to ensure that we achieve a happy state.
What makes people happy varies from one person to the next: some work away for years to add degrees and career credentials to their names; some work night and day to achieve that perfect figure; some want the comforting love of a spouse or bustle of a family; some go wild with friends every weekend after a tough week at work; some devour lifestyle magazines to get a home looking up to standard; 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’, live 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?
To answer these questions consider the following. Imagine that while reading this you have been sedated against your will. Suddenly you wake up and find yourself on a plane. You are 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. Think for a moment, and ask yourself this question: am I happy?
How can you be… you need some questions answered first. How did you even get on the plane? Where is it headed to? If these questions remain unanswered, how can you ever be happy? Even if you started to enjoy all of the luxuries at your disposal, you would never achieve true happiness. Would that frothy Belgian chocolate mousse on your dessert tray be enough to drown out the questions? It would be a delusion, a fake type of happiness, only achievable by deliberately ignoring and suspending these critical questions.
Apply this to your life. Now 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. Yet some of us do not ask the questions or search for the answers that will help us achieve our ultimate goal: happiness.
WHERE DOES OUR HAPPINESS LIE?
Happiness lies in our inwardness, in knowing who we are, and finding the answers to the critical questions: why are we here? Where are we going?We are not just animals. We cannot be content living by just reacting to our instincts. In this light, the human being is like a cosmic orphan. We ask the question: why. Obeying our hormones and mere physical needs will not bring happiness. To highlight this, reflect on the following example.
Imagine you were one of fifty human beings in a small room with no entry or exit. You have 10 loaves of bread, and there is no way to obtain food for 100 days. What do you all do? If you react to your instincts, there will be blood. If you try to answer the question ‘how can we all survive?’, it is more likely most of you will, as you will think of ways to do so. Extend this example to your life. Your life is far more complex and has many more variables, which can dictate almost infinite outcomes. Yet some of us just follow our carnal needs. Our jobs may require Ph.D.s or other qualifications, and we may wine and dine with our partners, but all of that is still reduced to survival and procreation. Happiness can be achieved if we answer the critical questions, and find out who we are.
SO, WHY ARE WE HERE?
The answer is simple, yet profound. We are here to worship God. Worshipping God means loving Him, obeying Him and knowing Him. To know your Lord is to know yourself. Worshipping God is the ultimate purpose of our existence; it frees us from the slavery of ourselves, others and society. As 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, Chapter 39 Verse 29
If we don’t worship God, we still end up worshipping many ‘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 like it and other people think I look nice’. Unfortunately, many of these people will hold these views because they have been influenced to: L’Oreal: Because I’m worth it.
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 by worshipping Him it truly frees us. The writer 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.”
BUT, 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. Remember, we have a choice. We decide to embrace His mercy or to escape. 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, Chapter 11 Verse 105