Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

Note: The following is a classic blog I wrote a couple years back on Facebook. Yeah blogging isn't a primary focus on Facebook but I still gave it a honest attempt but naturally, things would get lost in the shuffle and the benefit wouldn't reach as many folks. So I just dusted the cobwebs off of this one and am presenting it now. As relevant today as it was when I wrote it.

What? Were you expecting Will Smith? 

In my Sophomore year of college at the University of St. Thomas, I took an ethics course and learned about Happiness being not only a Proximate goal but an Ultimate goal. What does that mean? That's the reason for this blog. It's quite apparent that happiness is the greatest objective for all of mankind. Everyone spends his or her entire life and utilizes their utmost energy to reach a high level of happiness. Everything we do--the hobbies we engage in, the people we associate with and what we prioritize in life--we do because we think we will attain the maximum amount of happiness doing those things, being with those people etc.

But unfortunately in this life, happiness has limits and is ridiculously temporary. And because of the fleetingness and limitation of happiness, humans can't ever be fully satisfied when it comes to being happy. Example: A millionaire is happy with a million dollars for a little while but would be happier with 2 million or a billion. A man that has a beautiful wife might see another drop dead gorgeous girl that he feels he'd be happier with, and then another and then another, and another. A gamer that has a library of video games, would always want more. I would know. Basically people always want--correction,NEED-- more to be happy. The happiness of something bought, earned or what have you, wears off rapidly and before one knows it, they become bored with their current happiness and attempt to top it in a neverending cycle. Even in this age of advanced technology and innovation we see the same result:"My internet isn't fast enough on super duper broadband, IT NEEDS TO BE FASTER!", "My phone sucks even though it does absolutely everything you can possibly imagine, UPGRADE!". So the question which poses itself is "Has mankind reached complete happiness?" The answer clearly is a resounding NO. Just take a look at the tube and news reels for proof:

  1. The spread of drug addictions among the desperate. Drug users feel some sense of euphoria with a drug and then spend their entire life trying to get that rush and sensation again. Living for their next hit.
  2. High crime rates, murders and suicides. Suicides are ever-increasing because people are unhappy. Many of those that do commit suicide nowadays are popular, young, wealthy and beloved.
  3. The psychiatric clinics are raking in -$BILLIONS$- and are filled with patients and more people that suffer from depression and anxiety than ever before. How pills attempt to be cure-alls when you're feeling blue and you think your life sucks is beyond me.
  4. More than 50 (FIFTY) percent of marriages end in divorce, discreet adulterous relationships, cheating etc. People just can't seem to be happy with one person their whole lives. This topic can be a whole 'nother blog.

That's only a few things off the top of my head. All these evidences point to the fact that humans ultimately do not know what truly will make them FULLY and COMPLETELY happy and most spend their entire lives trying to find that out, largely to no avail. Many think it's money, girls, clothes, fashion, fame, or friends that can fullfil this happiness void but end up dissatisfied.

That brings us to the Ultimate Goal that I was talking about above from the college Ethics course. The proximate goal of happiness is our attempts to be happy on this earth with all that we believe is a source of happiness or fun etc. It's temporary and has a limit which is why its not the Ultimate Goal. The Ultimate Goal of happiness can only be attained through God. God created us and so He's the one that can give us unlimited and everlasting happiness. Sounds a lot like Heaven right? That's what I thought too! So what is the way to THAT kind of happiness..?

We can find the answer in The Holy Qur’an. Allah(God) Almighty describes it Himself: 

"Should not He who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves), All-Aware ( of everything)." (67:14).

This verse shows that Allah knows the way or method for us to attain happiness, and why wouldn't he? He is our Creator after all and He knows us a heck of a lot more than we do about ourselves. Just like our parents say that they know whats best for us and give us advice for our benefit, Allah does the same except on a tremendously larger scale since He supercedes everyone. He created us and knows exactly what will make us happy and the steps to take if you want to be completely happy.

Allah further states in the Qur'an: 

"...Then if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My Guidance shall neither go astray, nor shall be distressed." (20:123)

This verse shows that following Allah’s prescribed way is the way to reach happiness and that misery and distress will be upon those who stray from Allah’s path. Basically if you don't follow Allah's way, in the long run your going to end up filled with sadness and regret. Also Allah says: 

"But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (I.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its teachings) surely, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection." (20:124).

Where can we achieve this Ultimate and COMPLETE happiness? In Paradise with Allah. That is the only place where your desires, wants and needs will be FULLY SATISFIED. And the way to get paradise and get that happiness is through following Allah's laws: doing good deeds, learning about Allah through the Qur'an and learning how to be a good person and have an upright character through the practices and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And in another verse Allah promised those who do good deeds a happy life. Allah says: 

"Whoever works righteousness-whether male or female -while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), And We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (I.e. in heaven)." (16:97).

A good life is a promise from Allah for the believers who strive to do the right things. And a promise by Allah is one you know you can trust. A famous scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah’s mercy be upon him, described the good life by saying: 
"It’s the rest and happiness of the heart by the sweetness of the faith (Iman). The life, the lightning, and the strength of the heart are by the Iman." Faith and reverence in Allah or Iman acts like food, medication and a cure for the heart. And this is the meaning of happiness for the believers. On the other hand, the meaning of happiness for the lovers of this worldly life is illustrated by having big houses, luxurious cars, countless goods, eating, drinking, and fulfilling their sexual desires. Allah talked about those same "ballers": 

"While those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as cattle eat; In the afterlife the Fire will be their abode.” (47:12)

The beauty of this life is that you have a choice . Some people go their whole lives trying to make themselves happy here on earth and can never reach that happiness which leads to a void always needing to be filled which in turn leads to sorrow. Once one realizes why they are here, what their purpose is in life, then this life becomes easy for them because they know it's just a temporary place where one has to put in work and go on to the real permanent life, which is the Hereafter. The Pursuit of Happiness starts with Allah and ends with Allah.

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