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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Acquire Taqwa, Build a Home in Jannah

6 build a home in jannah“This is the Book (The Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious believers of Islamic Monotheism who fear Allah much and love Allah much).” (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

The above-stated verse clarifies that guidance is given to those who fear Allah (swt) and have Taqwa. What is Taqwa? It stems from the root word ‘Waqa’ meaning ‘to protect’.

Fear of Allah (swt) is only one element of Taqwa, which also means ‘to build a barrier between oneself and whatever angers or displeases Him’.

We have a remarkable example of Taqwa in the annals of history, and the way it brought a very noble person to Islam. Our beloved Prophet (sa), while braving the hardships of opposition and persecution by the Makkans, earnestly invoked Allah (swt) to strengthen Islam by guiding either Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or Umar ibn Al-Khattab (rtam).

Allah (swt) answered his Dua, and granted Islam to Umar (rtam). Why? In spite of being an apparent archenemy of Muslims, he was not completely evil, and Allah knew the beauty of his heart. Subsequently, when he heard his sister recite the Ayah of Surah Taha, Umar’s (rtam) heart melted, and he entered the fold of Islam.

The word ‘Taqwa’ has been mentioned 250 times in the Quran. It is the essence of Islam. How can it be attained? Allah (swt) created Ramadan to train and discipline us for the rest of the eleven months. It is an opportunity for the believer to exit this month with rewards, to gain Taqwa, and, finally, to enter Jannah.

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Dealing with Grief and Sadness in the Light of Surah Yusuf

grief

Like most stories from the Quran, there are some important life lessons that stem from Surah Yusuf. This entire Surah is dedicated to a story in a chronological order. Most importantly, it teaches us how to deal with sadness, anguish, and difficult situations in life. Allah (swt) essentially describes two characters who suffer and deal with a lot of grief in their lives: Prophet Yaqoob (as) and his son, Prophet Yusuf (as).

We can apply these examples to our own difficulties. This is similar to how Prophet Muhammad (sa) received this Surah at a time when he was facing a tough time in life: during the Year of Grief, his beloved wife Khadijah (rtaf) and his supportive uncle, Abu Talib, passed away. He was signalled to seek counsel through Surah Yusuf, so surely we can do the same.

We learn from this Surah about Yaqoob’s (as) excessive love for his son, Yusuf (sa) and also that his brothers are so jealous of their father’s attachment to Yusuf (as) that they plot to get rid of him.

We also discover that Yusuf (as) tells his father of a dream he saw. Yaqoob (as) interprets the dream and realizes that his son will become a prophet. He warns Yusuf (as) not to mention the dream to his brothers because he is worried for him. Similarly, many years later, Yaqoob (as) fears for his son Bin Yamin when he is left behind in Egypt. Generally, Yaqoob (as), by nature, is concerned about his children and their well-being. He is known to give sound practical advice to his children throughout the narrative. However, we learn that his advice or plans do not necessarily turn out the way he wishes, because Allah (swt) has greater outcomes planned.

Yaqoob (as) advises his son not to share this dream with his brothers because they might plan against him. Even though Yusuf’s (as) brothers did not learn about his dream, they went ahead and schemed against him anyway. In this regard, we have to realize that there are always two plans at work: one is the plan a human maps out, and then there is a greater plan, of the greatest of planners, Allah (swt). Sometimes our plans and hopes for the future coincide with Allah’s (swt) decisions, but at times, they don’t.

Assume you’ve just been hired and are on your way to purchase a new home. Everything seems to be working out just fine. Suddenly, the employers reconsider their decision and the seller of the house changes his mind. You are now hit by an unexpected turn in life; this is not the way you had it planned! This is not what you had wanted! What you experience next is sadness, grief, and depression. After this phase, we might experience a state of disbelief driven by extreme sadness. We might question our destiny, asking why Allah (swt) did this to us.

After hearing about Yusuf’s (as) dream, Yaqoob (as) harbours high hopes for him. He ends the congratulatory response to his son by saying: “…Verily, your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:6) Note the two names of Allah (swt) mentioned in this Surah: Aleem and Hakeem. Hakeem means He possesses all the wisdom, and Aleem pertains to Allah’s (swt) knowledge. These are words of hope which Yaqoob (as) utters, because he trusts the knowledge and wisdom of Allah (swt). Basically, what he’s telling his son is that he has high hopes for him but only Allah (swt) knows what is really going to happen.

These attributes of Allah (swt) are mentioned a second time when another son of Yaqoob (as), Bin Yamin, is left behind in Egypt. Saddened by the news, Yaqoob (as) once more mentions that “…Truly He! Only He is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:83) By saying that Allah (swt) is All-Knowledgeable, you have already affirmed that Allah (swt) knows what you’re going through. Thus, the second time Yaqoob (as) mentions these words, he says them as words of trust.

They are mentioned a third time by Yusuf (as) towards the end of the story when he finally reunites with his family in Egypt. He acknowledges Allah’s (swt) attributes by saying: “…Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will. Truly He! Only He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:100) He never forgot the words he heard as a child. Yusuf (as) realized that he went through many problems in his life because Allah (swt) was subtly planning something great for him.

Anyone else in Yusuf’s (as) place would have lost all hope, but he was steadfast in his faith in Allah (swt). Imagine what he went through! As a child, he was hated by his brothers, kidnapped, and sold away as a slave in a house where he was treated well at first, but eventually had to deal with a psychotic woman, who caused him to be imprisoned.

He went through a lot of problems! However, when he looks back at his life he says: “…He was indeed good to me…” (Yusuf 12:100) He adds another phrase: “…Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will…” (Yusuf 12:100)

Another attribute specified in the Surah is Allah’s (swt) dominance over matters. At first, we cannot understand why Allah (swt) is making Yusuf (as) go through all this trouble. But soon it all makes sense. In the Quran, Allah (swt) mentions that He “…established Yusuf (Joseph) in the land…” (Yusuf 12:21). This verse implies that all these events are occurring for Yusuf’s (as) benefit, not against him. Allah (swt) further clarifies that this is happening to Yusuf (as) so that “…We might teach him the interpretation of events…” (Yusuf 12:21) It now makes sense why Yusuf (as) ends up in the home of a minister. Naturally, the minister’s home is one where other dignitaries visit and discuss important political and economic matters. Yusuf (as) has the opportunity to listen in to the conversations as he goes about doing his work. Indeed, from the well to the caravan and to the minister’s home, Allah (swt) planned and decided that this is how Yusuf (as) will be exposed to learning the interpretation of speech.

This proves that Allah (swt) was dominant over Yusuf (as) and his matters. All events, including Yusuf’s (as) stay in jail, were critical because it was the way Allah (swt) chose for Yusuf (as) to come out and gain position as a minister himself. He mentions: “…And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not.” (Yusuf 12:21)

From this Surah, we learn four names or attributes of Allah (swt): Ghalib (the Dominant), Lateef (Most Courteous and Kind), Aleem (All-Knowing) and Hakeem (All-Wise). It is important to seek counsel from this Surah because it displays how Allah’s (swt) plans work. Yes, it is extremely difficult to face grief and unexpected situations, but we need to realize and believe that these events are occurring by Allah’s (swt) will. We can seek inspiration from Yusuf’s (as) story and learn to trust Allah’s (swt) plans, especially when our lives seem to be breaking apart. Believe that Allah (swt) is taking you somewhere better.

An unabridged version of this lecture transcription is available at www.nakcollection.com. It has been abridged and edited for hiba with their permission.

 

Inviting Our Youth to the Quran

Vol 6 - Issue 4 Inviting Our Youth

Alhumdulillah, most people today know at least one person who is attending a Quran course. Yet, the Quran is not just for aunties, grandmothers or older people. Our Guide Book is as much for the young as it is for the old; it was as relevant 1400 years ago as it is today. It is as much for women as it is for men.

Oddly, studying the Quran is considered the domain of the older generations now. Therefore, we need to use some creative ways to attract and retain the youth, and connect them with the Quran.

Make it fun

Without compromising the respect of the Quran, keep the atmosphere light when you are addressing the youth. In order to attract today’s generation, choose topics and the style of delivery which they can relate to.

Choose your topics carefully

Select a Surah from the Quran that hits home with the youth. If you just talk on a topic, they might feel this is your opinion. I chose Surah Kahf for my first youth circle, as it talks about the youth that withdrew to a cave when they saw their society falling into disbelief. Even today the youth can withdraw and form their own group, if they see their friends falling prey to the dangers of smoking, dating, etc. Stories are always interesting for young people, so choose them accordingly.

Do not make it a one-way street

Ask questions while explaining the Surah, instead of having a test at the end. Divide the group into teams and have them compete in Quranic knowledge. You can hand out play (e.g., Monopoly) money whenever anyone answers a question correctly, and award a prize for the person with the most ‘money’ at the end.

Involve them even more by asking them to choose a Surah to learn. Does the story of Prophet Yusuf (as) intrigue them, or would they like to hear about the Battle of Uhud?

Do not say the ‘h’ word

They get enough homework from school – do not put them off by assigning pages and pages of questions. However, you do want them to remember what you learned together. Ask them to read a short Dua a few times a day and they will automatically learn it. Do not photocopy the Dua and give it to them. Have them open the Quran, find the Ayah and read it. Who knows, they might want to read a little more.

Include trivia

Insert some general knowledge and trivia to make the session even more interesting. If you talk about the alternation between day and night, you can, perhaps, show some slides from a science unit, making them appreciate the balance and beauty of Allah’s (swt) creations. There are lots of games and flash cards with Islamic knowledge available today, so make the best use of them.

These are just some ideas you can use for making the studies of the Quran interesting and exciting for our youth. Implement these ideas or use your creative imagination to come up with even better ones of your own!