Everyone wants to live happily ever after; however, not everyone can. For the young, the phrase ‘happily ever after’ usually translates into getting married. Shaykh ash-Shanqeeti, a teacher of great Ikhlas (sincerity) with over two hundred thousand students, was not married until 48 years of age. His students were after him to get married, but he refused out of fear of offending his mother. He got married after her death. When asked why he didn’t marry earlier, he replied: “The one who has Allah (swt) on his mind, the Quran in his heart and the problems of the Muslimeen on his shoulders has no time for marriage.”
This is the true ‘happily ever after’.
The prophets and the messengers tasted the sweetness of faith, though they faced trying times in their lives. Prophet Moosa (as) felt it when he was pursued by the Pharaoh. Prophet Ibrahim (as) felt it when he was thrown into the fire. Prophet Yusuf (as) felt it while he languished in prison. Prophet Muhammad (sa) felt it during his stay in the Cave of Thawr, while migrating to Madinah. Prophet Yunus (as) felt it when he was swallowed by the whale. The Sahabah felt it when atrocities were committed against them.
A renowned scholar of Islam Ibrahim ibn Adham has said: “We are living in such sweetness that if kings knew about it, they would fight us over it with their swords.” Note that he was a very poor man. This shows that happiness does not come from money.
Ibn Taymiyah, another scholar of Islam, has said: “There is a Paradise in this life. Those who do not enter it here shall not enter it in the Hereafter.” When he was thrown into prison, he said: “What can my enemies possibly do to me? My Paradise is in my heart; wherever I go, it goes with me, inseparable from me. For me, prison is a place of (religious) retreat (Itikaaf); execution is my opportunity for martyrdom (Shahadah); exile from my town is only a chance to travel (Siyahah).” For such scholars, real imprisonment was the imprisonment of the heart by Allah (swt).
In the contemporary world, we see a lot of people with plenty of money and fame. Yet they do not live ‘happily ever after’. Rather, they either die as lonely individuals or commit suicide out of depression. Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley are only a few examples.
On the other hand, we have one Surah in the Quran, whose recitation gives immense happiness and a feeling of being blessed. That is Surah Ad-Duha. Consider its first verse:
“By the forenoon (after sun-rise); and by the night when it is still (or darkens); Your Lord (O Muhammad [sa]) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.” (Ad-Duha 93:1-3)
This Surah was revealed when Prophet Muhammad (sa) had not received the revelation for six months, and was fearful that Allah (swt) might be angry with him. The first verse of the Surah instructs to look at the Sun and its brightness, and forget the doom and the gloom. Depressed people usually sleep during the day and stay awake during the night. Hence, the very first verse swears by the forenoon and then by darkness that Allah (swt) has not forgotten His Prophet (sa) nor is he angry with him. The Surah then goes on to mention three remedies for depression:
“Therefore, treat not the orphan with oppression, and repulse not the beggar; and proclaim the Grace of your Lord (i.e. the Prophethood and all other Graces).” (Ad-Duha 93:9-11)
The three sure-fire cures for depression include:
- Consider the condition of the orphans and never say ‘no’ to them;
- Don’t shun the poor; treat them kindly;
- Enumerate the praises of Allah (swt).
When faced with any problem, one should do the above, plus recite as many invocations as possible, in order to rely upon Allah (swt) only. The Prophet (sa) once saw in the Masjid a Sahabi, who was worried about his debts. He (sa) taught him the following Dua to recite during such a time:
“Oh Allah! Truly I seek refuge in You from anxiety and grief; and I seek refuge in You from inability and laziness; and I seek refuge in You from miserliness and faint-heartedness; and I seek refuge in You from the burden of debt and the coercion of men.” (Abu Dawood)
Practical Ways to Achieve Happiness
Here are a few:
Stop looking in the rear-view mirror: Do not dwell on your past. If you keep looking back, while driving a car, you will crash.
Remain positive in the face of the negative: Every trying circumstance has something good in it. Renowned poet, Al-Mutanabbi, wrote some of his best poetry while he was sick. Good comes when you are least expecting it. Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Abi Sahl Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi was an Islamic scholar, who was imprisoned by the Khaleefah. He spent fifteen years in prison. While in prison, he used to dictate to his students the content of his book “Al-Mabsoot”. He is known for his excellent memory, because of which he was able to quote the works of other scholars.
Be patient, when doing Dawah: Don’t let people get to you. Expect criticism, when you enjoin good and forbid evil. Persevere with sincere intentions. Remember: if people criticize you behind your back, they are only increasing your good deeds and decreasing their own.
Attributes of People who Think Positively
- They are curious. They look at a goal and then think of ways to achieve it.
- They have leadership qualities. They approach challenges maturely and take calculated risks.
- They never give up. If they fail, they try even harder.
- They are focused and have self-respect.
Attributes of People who Think Negatively
- They have neither vision nor clarity.
- They are followers, not leaders.
- They dread challenges.
- They avoid hard work.
- They give up hope after every failure.
- They are frustrated with life and have low self-esteem.
Unlocking the Positive
If you feel you tend to think negatively, follow these strategies for staying positive:
Develop a clear vision: Why are you here and what do you want to do? Define your purpose of life and follow it. Think about what gives you peace of mind and happiness, and make it your goal.
Goals: If defining a vision seems impossible, write down three main goals related to Allah (swt), your family and finances. Work on those.
Ask others: Ask people, who know you, to point out your strengths and weaknesses. Work on them.
Aim for Firdaws: Strive hard to achieve excellence and the highest level in Paradise called Firdaws.
Supplicate: Ask from Allah (swt): “Oh my Rabb! What do you want from me?”
Last, but not the least, think about what the word ‘create’ stands for: current, reality, explore, alternatives, take action.
Current: You want to do Dawah, and you want to enjoin good and forbid evil. This is your current goal.
Reality: You don’t know how or where to start.
Explore alternatives: You join an institute to learn Islamic knowledge first and then explore options to impart it from that institute only.
Take action: You search and explore your options, and choose an institute. Then, you enrol in it.
Don’t come to the end of your life wondering, why you were here in the first place. Take the first step today and ‘happily ever after’ will be no longer out of reach, Insha’Allah!
Adapted from a lectureshop organized by “LiveDeen”. Transcribed for “Hiba” by Umm Ibrahim.