The Alchemy of Happiness

6 alchemy of happiness

Imam Al-Ghazali – Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Persian descent

The alchemy of happiness is a guide to transform the essence of man from baseness to the purity of the angelic state. This transformation is through increasing one’s knowledge of Allah (swt). However, before you can begin to know Allah (swt), you must first know yourself. This starts with the understanding of a human being’s two distinct components:

  • The body
  • The heart (the spiritual heart)

There are five steps to understand the heart:

  1. Recognize its existence.
  2. Know its true nature: The heart works to seek happiness through the knowledge of Allah (swt), which it acquires through the knowledge of Allah (swt)’s creation.
  3. The body is a kingdom: The body is a kingdom and within it, the limbs and organs are its workers.
    1. Appetite is the tax collector;
    2. Anger is the policeman;
    3. Intellect is the Chief Minister;
    4. The heart is the king.

The body is in a constant spiritual struggle between being held captive by appetite and anger and using them as a weapon to attain spiritual fulfillment. If the heart acts at the advice of the intellect and keeps appetite and anger under control, a part of happiness will be made accessible. But if the intellect becomes a prisoner of anger and appetite, the kingdom will become desperate, and the heart will be destroyed.

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Is Allah (swt) Happy with Me?

How can a believer tell that Allah (swt) is happy with him? Is there any sign?

If a person is doing what pleases Allah (swt), then he or she should feel that He is happy with him or her; otherwise, what was the point of Allah (swt) telling us to do what pleases Him? We don’t have to wait for any divine sign like a bolt of lightning from the heaven, stars, and so on. It is enough to know and feel certain that we are doing what pleases Allah (swt).

How does Islam describe happiness? Are there any examples from lives of the Sahabahs? Does our present-day definition of happiness differ from that of Islam?

Happiness is when we experience a state of emotional and spiritual satisfaction or pleasure, which is the ultimate happiness. We know from the lives of the Sahabahs that they were happy in the presence of the Prophet (sa). They were happy even in giving away their lives, when needed, for Allah’s (swt) pleasure.

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Perceptions Matter

half-full-half-empty-480_tcm93-135472I often wonder, isn’t it optimistic to claim that “glass is half full,” when actually it is half empty? My inquiring mind argues whether it is possible that two people could be saying two different things altogether; in meanings and words, yet they could both be correct? If I am right, does that necessarily prove the other person wrong? Is it not possible that two people may have two different perceptions of the same thing, as in the example quoted above, yet isn’t the latter statement that “half the glass is empty” also correct?

Perceptions are prevalent in different paradigms, which influence peoples’ lives, one way or the other. We can consider any situation starting from home to our religious and social lives; perceptions keep building up and breaking down, moulding and transforming, guiding and sometimes misleading us to believe that which is not true; while at other instances hiding the truth and negating reality completely.

My life changed completely with the new homecoming in my religious life that I underwent some two-and-a-half years ago. In fact, my closeness to Allah (swt) and awareness of Deen changed my perceptions drastically, to the extent that I now have a completely new vision and sight of anything I see and undergo; be it people, situations, circumstances, incidents in my life or other’s. This feeling is beautiful. I cannot explain the peacefulness that now surrounds me, because of the change that has occurred in the way I see things.

I don’t know, if many people undergo the same transition. I strongly feel, however, that this new lens to see the world is truly a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, every test in my life now seems Allah’s (swt) mercy over me that it shall give me a chance to apologize to Him for all my wrongdoings in life. Every trial that I now face seems like He is choosing me over others; because He truly loves me and wants me to draw nearer to Him. Everything that happens against my wish or will strengthens my faith in the fact that all that happens in our lives is indeed Allah’s (swt) decree and no matter what our plans are, He alone is the Master Planner.

I now completely lay my trust in Him and see, what I was never able to before; the fact that not everything we like for ourselves is for our betterment. A lot of the things are beyond our comprehension, especially when they happen; however, time proves that in fact what happened was good for us. Even if we fail to understand in this world the logic behind an occurrence, I am sure that we shall receive answers to all our questions, in fact also the unasked ones, on the Day of Judgment, when all curtains will be raised between us and our Creator, Insha’Allah.

Allah’s (swt) reminders in the Quran now seem to be a source of solace. They ease my pain in tough situations, Subhan’Allah!

“….and it may be that you dislike a thing, which is good for you and that you like a thing, which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Al Baqarah 2:216)

This shift in paradigm from negative perceptions to positive has indeed brought a favourable outlook to my life. I don’t blame Allah (swt) for everything that goes wrong in my life any more. I rather choose to be sensible and deal with it patiently. As a result, I am less miserable and more optimistic. A mishap in life doesn’t seem to be Allah’s (swt) punishment for a sin that I did in the past, any longer. It rather feels like a chance to repent on past mistakes and resolve not to commit the same again.

No longer do I feel that Allah (swt) doesn’t love me and He has left me to struggle in this world all on my own. I look at the brighter side now and feel happy about the fact that the more He tries me with tribulations and problems in this life, the easier my eternal life would be Insha’Allah. I shed tears and my heart aches, and all of that is a means of expiating sins from one’s life – Allah’s (swt) promise to us all.

Abu Hurairah reports that the Messenger (sa) said: “For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim – even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn – Allah (swt) removes some of his sins.” (Bukhari)

I understand the logic behind testing those whom He (swt) see fit to be capable of bearing the burden, as oppose to those who will probably go astray and rebel and react in an ungrateful and rather impatient manner.

“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.” (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

I now have the courage to smile in tough times and persevere in tougher ones, Alhamdulillah. I now don’t give up praying or making Duas only because “He doesn’t listen.” In fact, I increase my supplications when I desperately want something, because I am now more hopeful in life and can see the brightness a single ray of light can bring in a dark pit. By the grace of Allah (swt) I am able to see the bliss in the Quranic verse: “And He found you lost and guided you.” (Al-Araf 7:93)

Perceptions may make or break lives and even change lives forever. May Allah (swt) grant us all the wisdom and guidance to keep a positive perception about all matters in life rather than jumping onto hasty, insensible, unrealistic and biased conclusions about anything or anyone (Ameen).

Who knows what Allah (swt) “perceives” us as?


Preparing for Eternal Happiness

Eternal Happiness

We all want to be happy! Alhumdulillah, as Muslims Allah (swt) has provided us an opportunity to attain eternal happiness that is in Jannah, of course.

While we are mentally prepared to go to Jannah and experience Allah’s (swt) exquisite bounties, many of us are not prepared for the transit journey, leading to our final destination: death.

How many of us talk about death or even think about it? Death is often discussed. We attend funerals and watch death depicted in the mass media. However, this is not the accurate depiction of what we as Muslims believe about death. As a result, many different misconceptions have taken root in our minds; a few common ones are discussed below, Insha’Allah:

I am a Muslim, so I have a free ticket to Jannah

Many of us believe that just because we were born into a Muslim family and belong to some lineage of pious ancestors, it automatically guarantees our entry into Jannah, regardless of whether we pray or fast or perform any good deeds. Nothing could be further from the truth! Allah (swt) is not impressed by titles. We need the right deeds and mindset to get to Jannah, Insha’Allah. The Qur’an dispels this myth in the following manner:

“That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do.” (Al-Baqarah 2:134)

I’m too young to die

This commonly repeated phrase is heard in countless action movies. When faced with a deadly situation the protagonist dramatically exclaims, “But I am too young to die!” And then he/she struggles to cheat death, proving to be successful and you see them triumph, living “happily ever after.” So, is there really an age when one can be considered too young to die? As Muslims we must remember that death can come any time regardless of the person’s age and you cannot cheat death.

When I die that is “The End” of my story

The mass media causes us to believe that while we are on this earth, we have all the time to enjoy ourselves, and be successful and happy. When we reach the grave that is ‘the end’ and nothing happens after that. My loved ones will weep over my grave, and then everyone will move on – end of story.

In reality, Islam tells us that when we are lowered into our grave, two angels Munkar and Nakeer will come and ask us questions. This period is called “Qiyamat As-Sughrah” or minor resurrection. In the grave, our judgement begins and based on this our place in Jannah or Jahannum is decided. We don’t sleep in our graves as many of us are led into believing. We bide our time and wait for the actual Day of Resurrection.

The most direct way of cultivating the quality of Ihsan and Khushoo in any worship we do is by remembering death and reminding ourselves that the ultimate goal is Jannah for which we are striving each time we pray, give charity or recite the Quran.

As we clear our minds of these common yet deadly misconceptions, we need to also learn why remembering death is a key element of our spiritual well-being and existence.

The first and foremost reason is the need for preparation. This test is greater than any other worldly examination for which we have prepared. Do you think it’s a wise thing to avoid or delay preparing for such a big exam coming up? We know that death is certain to come. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“Everyone is going to taste death…” (Al-Anbiya 21:35)

Striking the right kind of balance

When we constantly remember death, we are able get our priorities straight.  One doesn’t burden oneself too much with the temporary goals of this world where one only finds short-lived happiness in materialistic luxuries like the latest cars or designer clothes. Rather, he/she only gives as much attention as is necessary for the smooth running of his affairs but his heart yearns for Jannah and Allah’s (swt) pleasure and that is his true goal.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever has the hereafter as his goal, Allah makes his heart rich, makes his affairs focused, and the Dunya will come to him whether or not it wishes to. And whoever has the Dunya as his goal, Allah will place poverty before his eyes, make his affairs scattered, and nothing from the Dunya will come to him except what was decreed for him.” (An-Nasai)

The sign of an intelligent believer

A man came to the Prophet (sa) and asked: “Which of the believers is most virtuous?” He replied: “The best in character.” He asked: “Which believer is most intelligent?” “Those who remember death the most, and are best prepared for what is coming after it. They are the intelligent ones.” (Ibn Majah)

The wise thing to do is to remember death and prepare for it. To avoid thinking about it and kidding ourselves will only lead to our loss, not only in this world but in the Akhirah too.

Remind ourselves that we do not have a lot of time

Once, the Prophet (sa) heard his wife, Umm Habibah (ra), praying: “O Allah, allow me to enjoy my husband, Allah’s Messenger (by prolonging my life), and my father, Abu Sufyan, and my brother Muawiyah.” The Prophet (sa) responded, “Truly, you have asked Allah about time spans which are designated, days which are already numbered, and provisions which are already divided. Allah will not hasten something before its time or postpone something after its time. Had you asked Allah instead to save you from the punishment of the fire, and the punishment of the grave, it would have been better for you.” (Muslim)

Further, it is mentioned in the Quran: “And on the Day when He shall gather (resurrect) them together, (it will be) as if they had not stayed (in the life of this world and graves) but an hour of a day. They will recognize each other. Ruined indeed will be those who denied the meeting with Allah, and were not guided.” (Yunus 10:45)

Alhumdulillah, in the Quran, Allah (swt) tells us the true meaning of ‘success’ and how one can attain it. 

Imagine the extent to which individuals will regret their actions on that day if they spend all our lives in useless endeavours, running after temporary enjoyment and gains, and end up with no good deeds to make the scales heavy in the Akhirah, by means of which they can attain Allah’s (swt) mercy.

Cultivating the quality of Ihsan in our worship

At times, we complain that when we stand to pray Salah, we easily get distracted. When we extend our hand to give charity, we find our intentions tainted with motives other than Allah’s (swt) pleasure. The most direct way of cultivating the quality of Ihsan and Khushoo in any worship we do is by remembering death and reminding ourselves that the ultimate goal is Jannah for which we are striving each time we pray, give charity or recite the Quran.

A man came to the Prophet (sa) and said: “Oh Messenger of Allah give me advice and summarize it.” The Prophet (sa) said: “When you stand to pray, pray as if it is your last prayer, don’t speak with that which you would apologize for tomorrow, and be hopeless for that which is in the hands of the people!” (Ahmad)

Be amongst the successful ones

“Who believe in the Ghaib and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and spend out of what we have provided for them [i.e. give Zakat, spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, etc., and also give charity to the poor and also in Allah’s cause – Jihad,]. And who believe in (the Quran and the Sunnah) which has been sent down (revealed) to you (Muhammad [sa]) and in that which we sent down before [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.] and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter. (Resurrection, recompense of their good and bad deeds, Paradise and Hell,) They are on (true) guidance from their Lord, and they are the successful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:3-5)

In this world, everyone seems to have a different definition of success. Alhumdulillah, in the Quran, Allah (swt) tells us the true meaning of ‘success’ and how one can attain it. This success is the means through which we can live lives of eternal happiness, the kind of happiness we have never experienced before. So, if we remember death as we live through each day, we can rid ourselves of the love for this world and diligently work towards attaining eternal happiness in Jannah, Insha’Allah.

Transcribed from a lecture that was part of a workshop titled “Quest towards Happiness” conducted by “Friends of Allah- Al-Wali” in 2013. Email:

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