The Secret of Happiness: Allah's Good Pleasure
Some people do not hesitate to look at the society in which they live from the viewpoint of their own advantage, including the people with whom they have relationships, even those closest to them, those they say they love very much, their friends, brothers and relatives. When there is a conflict of interest, no matter how great or small, they forget the relationship between them and the value they placed on it and suddenly drop these people. The ability of such people to be happy and to live comfortably and at ease depends on the advantages and benefits they can obtain. They expect a return on the smallest good deed they do. They regard doing anything without the expectation of a return as a waste of time and they slander and mock at well-intentioned people who do so at every opportunity, presenting themselves as superior and more intelligent. When their own advantage is not at stake, they do not consider behaving generously and they never deviate from the principle of their own gain. Their only aim is to grab as much as they can from life and to live in happiness and peace as a result. At all times, in all places and under all circumstances they think only of themselves and try to protect their own privileges. There is a point here which must not be misunderstood. Of course, everybody wants to lead a comfortable and happy life - what is wrong is the methods used by these people to achieve this desire.
The reason these people are so devoted to their own gain is that they do not adhere to the standards of the Qur'an which Allah sent down as a guidance and warning for people and they ignore the responsibilities the Qur'an places on them. They live their entire lives in ignorance of the Hereafter, as Allah tells us in the verse, "They know an outward aspect of the life of this world but are heedless of the Hereafter." (Surat ar-Rum: 7) Death, what they will encounter after death, the accounting they will give to Allah for what they have done during their lives and whether they will wind up in Heaven or Hell are subjects which do not cross their minds or which they do not want to have cross their minds. The most important factor which pushes these people into behaving in this heedless and unintelligent way is that they regard themselves as a long way from the Hereafter. They think they have plenty of life still ahead of them and they do not want to sacrifice their whole lives, their profits and the plans they have made, for something they never think about or whose likelihood they do not regard as very great even if they do think about it. They regard such thinking as a great loss. They regard the life of this world and worldly advantages as a lot closer and a lot easier than what they will gain in the Hereafter. They try to cram all their enjoyment into the life of this world. They pass their entire lives ignoring Allah and what is pleasing to Him, indifferent as to whether or not their behavior is acceptable to Him, and they spend their time in pursuit of their own worldly passions and ambitions.
As we have explained in previous sections, a passion for the life of this world makes people unhappy. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that people who set themselves against His word at every opportunity will not be happy in the life of this world but will experience continual trouble:
But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one and on the Day of Rising We will gather him blind. (Surah Ta Ha, 124)
Reminding these people of Allah, reminding them that He will hold them responsible for their adherence to the Qur'an and that He will call for an accounting of what they have done in the life of this world on the Day of Judgment makes them very uncomfortable and even provokes them to anger. Allah points out this characteristic of the disbelievers as follows:
When Allah is mentioned on His own, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink back shuddering, but when others apart from Him are mentioned, they jump for joy. (Surat az-Zumar, 45)
For Allah's true servants, the basic aim of their lives is Allah's good pleasure. Believers are people who know very well that it was Allah Who created them from nothing and Who is the giver of everything and the owner and sole controller of everything, that all events occur through Allah's will and that He is the bringer of both mercy and torment. Because of this the devotion and loyalty of the believers to Allah and their love of Him are very strong.
Throughout their lives believers worship only Allah, ask for help from Him alone (Surat al-Fatiha: 4) and fear none but Him. Due to this powerful love and devotion they feel for Allah they always behave gratefully towards Him and never slacken in serving Him. They show great enthusiasm and determination in their striving to earn His approval. They will give up the goals to which ignorant people devote their lives, all worldly profits and assets, in order to gain Allah's pleasure and admission to Paradise. As Allah informs us in the Qur'an, "There are some who give up everything, desiring the good pleasure of Allah..." (Surat al-Baqara: 207), they feel no trouble or disturbance within themselves and maintain a perfectly correct attitude on the path of Allah, saying, "My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds." (Surat al-An'am: 162) For example, the concept of property has a very important place in the lives of people who are ignorant of Allah's religion. All the efforts of these people are directed towards increasing their property and achieving a status which earns them the respect of others. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that a number of things have become passions with such people:
To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colors: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world. The best homecoming is in the presence of Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran, 14)
Property, which has become an end in itself for the community of the ignorant, is for believers only a means to be used for gaining Allah's good pleasure. For this reason believers do not long for the things listed in the above verse and do not make an aim of pursuing them. Increasing their property, enriching themselves or improving their status are never amongst the goals of believers. They know that everything is a blessing given to them by Allah and that they have to be grateful to Him. They never neglect what is pleasing to Allah for the sake of trivial and temporary worldly gains. If a person uses everything he possesses and all his resources and opportunities to earn Allah's good pleasure, he will receive a fine reward in this world and the next as we are told by Allah in the verse, "Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did." (Surat an-Nahl: 97)
The difficult times and the troubles they encounter also make people who are ignorant of Allah's religion unhappy because their happiness is entirely bound up with worldly profits and gains, which in times of difficulty are at risk of being lost. The loss of these things due to events completely beyond their grasp, plunges them into great sorrow because of their attachment to them. In this way they completely lose the happiness and joy which acquisitions can bring them. They inevitably sink into depression and hopelessness.
As for the happiness of believers, it takes on a more lasting form because in times of trouble and difficulty they hold to the wisdom which is described in the Qur'an. Since believers always take into consideration what is pleasing to Allah and apply their intelligence and their consciences exclusively to the task of achieving it, they are never affected negatively by adverse circumstances, as disbelievers are affected. On the contrary, because they hope to gain Allah's good pleasure with sincere and submissive behavior in times of trouble, nothing can lessen their happiness even at such times.
Rather than behaving in a way which will not meet with Allah's approval, believers will not hesitate to expose themselves to hardship if this is necessary in order for them to act according to Allah's will. We can see one of the finest examples of this moral excellence in the behavior of Prophet Yusuf (as). Prophet Yusuf's (as) brothers set a trap for him and abandoned him in a well. A group of travelers who found him later sold him to an Egyptian governor. Allah placed Prophet Yusuf (as) in Egypt, taught him how to interpret the dreams of others and granted him mastery and wisdom.
In this way Allah put Prophet Yusuf (as) through an important test. The wife of the governor with whom Prophet Yusuf (as) was staying, desired him. Faced with her behavior, Prophet Yusuf (as) took refuge in Allah. In order to escape from the devious machinations which the woman had concocted, and conduct himself in conformity with Allah's guidance, he found it more "pleasant" to be imprisoned in a dark dungeon. Allah tells us how Prophet Yusuf (as) prayed to Him for rescue from the trap which had been set for him:
He [Yusuf] said, "My Lord, the prison is preferable to me than what they call on me to do. Unless You turn their guile away from me, it may well be that I will fall for them and so become a man of ignorance." His Lord replied to him (Yusuf) and turned away from him their female guile and deviousness. He is the One Who Hears, the One Who Knows. Then, after they had seen the Signs, they thought that they should still imprison him for a time. (Surah Yusuf, 33-35)
Prophet Yusuf (as) gave an example of moral excellence and opted for imprisonment in the dungeon rather than succumb to behavior which would have been displeasing to Allah. That Prophet Yusuf (as) found such a place as the dungeon "pleasant" is an expression of the happiness and peace brought him by acting in order to gain Allah's approval. This determination and zeal on the part of Prophet Yusuf (as) in his striving for the approval of Allah is an important example to all believers. Every sincere believer joyfully opts for trouble and difficulty if this will earn His approval and love. This moral excellence that the disbeliever can never grasp is also the secret of happiness which disbelievers fail to attain throughout their lives.
In the hearts of believers there is a joy and a tranquility which their hope of the approval of Allah and their directing all their efforts to earning it bring them. This cheerfulness and joy which they experience makes them happy and at peace in the life of this world, at the same time constitute an important source of the eagerness which will enable them to earn Allah's approval even more. So long as they have no faith, ignorant people cannot achieve this joy and happiness and cannot imitate it because it has a quality which Allah has made accessible only to the faithful and which comes from the hope He gives of His approval and mercy and of eternal Paradise. Allah announces in the Qur'an the good news that this is a blessing solely for believers:
By it, Allah guides those who follow what pleases Him to the ways of Peace. He will bring them from the darkness to the light by His permission, and guide them to a straight path. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 16)
Ignorant people are not aware that the approval of Allah is finer and of far greater value than any other reward they may obtain and any worldly profit. For this reason, throughout their lives they are deprived of the lasting happiness and joy which earning the approval of Allah can bring them.