A FEW days ago, I was approached by Ej Fernandez, a colleague in the university, to ask me to be part of his project called #Happiness.
In my understanding, the project aims to document different perspectives on the concept of happiness. These perspectives are coming from different religious backgrounds and status in the society.
I agreed to be part of his project and I decided to share my views about happiness from an Islamic perspective in my article today.
I could not really remember the details of my responses to him during the interview. But I am sure that I connected three basic concepts: Islam, peace, and happiness.
The interview gave me the inspiration to review my notes about Islamic perspective of happiness. Allow me to share my notes.
According to Webster’s Third International Dictionary, “happiness is a state of wellbeing characterized by relative permanence, by dominantly agreeable emotion ranging in value from mere contentment to deep and intense joy in living and by a natural desire for its continuation.”
Moreover, according to an article written by Fariha Ullah of the Aligarh Muslim University, “Agryle, Martin and Crossland (1989) believed that happiness is composed of three related components: positive affect (pleasant moods and emotions), absence of negative affect (unpleasant moods and emotions) and satisfaction with life as a whole. Positive affect is commonly divided into joy, pride, affection, ecstasy whereas negative affect is separated with guilt, anger, depression, stress etc.”
Based on these definitions, happiness is state of mind that is manifested in a human behaviour.
Studies have also shown that when people are asked what they think are the most important source of satisfaction in their lives, the most often mentioned domains were family, home life, money, living standards, social relationships, social values, housing, work and health.
The concept of happiness in Islam is quite different from the Western scholars’ definition and scope of happiness that every human being experiences.
A Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) mentioned captures a transcendental perspective of happiness which states, “True enrichment does not come through possessing a lot of wealth, but true enrichment is the enrichment of the soul.” (Bukhari) Moreover, in Islamic view, our soul resides in our heart (physical and metaphorical definition).
Hence, happiness cannot be measured alone by our physical state and material possessions. Happiness includes peace of mind, tranquility, a sense of wellbeing, and a secured environment for ourselves, our family, and loved ones.
In my conversation with Ej, I told him that the five pillars of Islam teaches every Muslim how to have an internal peace and happiness in our lives. I will explain further one by one.
Shahadah: The Testimony of Faith. Every Muslim must testify and internalize the Shahadah, “There is no God but Allah (SWT) and that Muhammad (SAW) is the last messenger of God.” The verbal statement of Shahadah is the fundamental part of Din (religion).
Salat: Obligatory prayer. The Salat trains every Muslim how to have self discipline and it brings a direct connection to the Almighty. Muslims are also taught that Salat should be performed five times a day: daybreak (Fajr), noon (Zuhr), mid-afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and evening (Isha). These periods also conveniently correspond with man’s daily routine activities: rising, noon break, after work, dinner, and sleep.
Zakat: Helping those less fortunate. Zakat teaches that wealth like other aspects of life is in the hands of Allah (SWT). Islam encourages us to help those who are not as fortunate as us. Zakat translated means purification and growth. A small portion of our wealth 2.5 percent is to be given. If an individual is not wealthy, then there is compensation, performing good deeds for others. Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadhan. We must also understand that Fasting is not only abstaining from food and water. It is an appreciation for what Allah (SWT) has given us, to realize that other’s less fortunate go through days without proper food and clean drinking water. It is the month that many find solace in their religion and return to the appreciation of it, gaining closeness to Allah (SWT), repenting and asking for forgiveness from the Almighty.
Hajj: Pilgrimage to Makkah. This shows unity among the Muslims of the world physically. A once in a lifetime duty, for those that are able-body and financially capable; should make the journey.
The five pillars of Islam are the basic framework in our lives as Muslims. The pillars are what define a Muslim. We believe that they are the essence that binds Muslims from around the world into a fellowship, in which values are shared, regardless of creed and race.
I cannot fully remember the whole points that I shared to Ej about happiness. But I do hope that this project can be shared to other people.
The project may be simple, but it opens a lot of doors about geopolitics, political economy of a nation, and whole lot more.