Those Who Enjoy All Their Pleasure In This Life?
Aquick look at history shows that most people have one thing in common: Whether young or old, rich or poor, complaining about their lives is a significant part of their lifestyle. All that happens gives them an opportunity to express their discontent. Even if something seems to have a hundred good and pleasant aspects, instead of being content, they note a few imperfections and get upset. This way of thinking has become so ingrained that they react in the same way to things they have not yet even witnessed or experienced, because they think of possible difficulties and so make themselves unhappy.
As a result, they become quite weary for reasons that they cannot understand and come to feel that they will never be sufficiently happy about anything. Undoubtedly, you know people who complain: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” “I’m so bored,” “I’m fed up with this life,” or “I don’t feel like doing anything.” If you tried to help them out of their deep-seated world-weariness and discontent, you would most likely fail.
Even if you took them to the most beautiful place in the world, spread the most wonderful blessings before them, and provided them with every luxury their hearts could desire, you could not get them to enjoy these things or to have these blessings exert a lasting influence upon their spirits. In other words, you could never make them really happy.
However, every place, from the high heavens to the deep seas is filled with countless wonders: beautiful living creatures (e.g., birds, rabbits, squirrels, lions, zebras, panthers, tigers, cats, dogs, and fish), thousands of varieties of fruit (e.g., strawberries, oranges, melons, plums, and peaches), plants that cheer the spirit (e.g., roses, orchids, daisies, violets, hyacinths, and carnations) and many other beautiful things that delight the human spirit. A beautiful view, a pleasant human face, or a fine meal give great pleasure to the human spirit: In the Qur’an, Allah enumerates for us the many beautiful things He has offered us in this life, and He reminds us that these blessings are too numerous and varied for us to even count them:
Just one of these blessings delights the human spirit. Therefore, it is certainly unusual if someone who lives amid these beautiful things cannot notice them or be delighted by them. This is a great loss. Obviously, such people have tasted and consumed all of the delights of this life and now find them boring.
It is a great contradiction that those who make lame excuses to avoid religion want to see this world as a place in which they can laugh and enjoy themselves. Their greatest aim is to taste as many pleasures as they can. This universal law has remained unchanged throughout the ages. Some of those who do not understand life’s real meaning have developed philosophies based on this world’s pleasures and have praised those who try to “make the most of a day.”
Horace (65-8 BC), the famous Roman lyric poet, said carpe diem (seize the day). This phrase, prevalent since the seventeenth century, sums up a philosophy of life based only on this world’s life. In short, it means that a person should not think about tomorrow, but live in the moment and make the most of each day, that they should not consider that death can come at any moment or think about what comes next. In the same way, the Renaissance motto memento mori (remember you will die) reminds people that they will die and so they should embrace the world as much as they can. According to this erroneous idea, people should not be afraid of death; rather, knowing that it is near, they should live as they want, recognize no limits, and pursue only their own pleasure.
Throughout history, societies that have sought a good and happy life outside of Allah’s revelations have developed many strange ideas and philosophies. One point that they all have in common, however, is the idea that people should appease their passions and desires and make full use of any blessings that come their way. Allah calls attention to such people’s ambitions:
… So turn away from him who turns away from Our remembrance and desires nothing but the life of this world.
Instead of thanking Him for the countless blessings and possibilities they have been given, they live with an insatiate greed:
Leave the person I created on his own to Me alone, him to whom I have given great wealth and sons who stay with him, and whose way I have smoothed. Then he wants Me to add yet more! (Surat al-Muddaththir: 11-15)
Why do people find themselves unfulfilled? Why can they not enjoy this life, other people, nature, and living things? Their only aim is to take advantage of this life’s pleasures. Why, then, are they unable to enjoy these pleasures? Why are they so anxious, gloomy, depressed, and world-weary? How did they fall into the spiritual state that prevents them from noticing and enjoying these beauties and blessings? Why have they consumed all of this life’s pleasure and find no joy in them? There is only one answer to these questions: Their denial of Allah, their ungratefulness toward Him and His blessings make their hearts anxious:
When Allah desires to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam. When He desires to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted as if he were climbing up into the sky. That is how Allah defiles those who have no belief. (Surat al-An‘am: 125)
Due to their denial, Allah wills them to live in darkness and gloom, even though they are surrounded by beautiful things:
Allah is the Protector of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light. But those who did not believe have false deities as protectors. They take them from the light into the darkness. Those are the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surat al-Baqara: 257)
Since Allah created this world as a testing place, people who get caught up in this life’s adornments make a great mistake. In one of his hadiths (sayings), the Prophet Muhammad (saas) says:
“The world is delightful. Allah will make you inherit it and see how you will behave there. Thus, avoid the world.” (Sahih Muslim and al-Tirmidhi)
When we grasp that all of this world’s blessings are a gift of Allah and are thankful for them, we please Allah. As a result, we are always aware that the beauty, blessings, and good things around us come from Him.
However, those who deny Allah do not see this truth. Instead, they ignore Him and appease their desires and passions. As they enjoy more and more of these blessings, their discontent also increases, because they are consumed by the maniacal desire to possess everything. Instead of being content with what they have, they are unhappy until they get even more. And as a result, they can never fully appreciate the countless blessings and limitless potentials that they already possess. For example, they may have a fine car but become dissatisfied with it as soon as a new model comes out. They believe that going on vacation will end all of their difficulties; however, the slightest setback causes them misery and anxiety. They do not try to overcome their difficulties with patience and submission to destiny, but become pessimistic and return even more anxious and disappointed. Even if they had enjoyed themselves, their pleasure is only temporary; the following anxiety is far more enduring.
Of course, this testing place is full of beautiful things as well as of flaws, imperfections, and lack of durability – all of which they will encounter. For example, rich people may lose their wealth through an accident or a disaster, attractive people may lose their looks, and intelligent people may lose their mental abilities. In addition, their youth and health, as well as their energy and strength, will fail in time. People who do not follow the Qur’an’s morality also worry about meeting people who are spiritually and materially superior to them. The fact that some people are richer, more attractive, more successful, more intelligent, and have a wider social circle than they do plunges them into a deep depression.
So, this wrong-headed way of thinking explains why those who deny Allah are in a life-long search and cannot be content with what they have. Their desires make their lives difficult, for they cannot properly appreciate or enjoy what they have. Believing that all blessings will end with death, they consume and use up their beautiful things one by one. Beauty, youth, and health are all transitory for them, and their ego’s fierce desires make them unhappy with what they possess. And so they live in misery in both worlds:
Part of this misery is that these people live in a sort of Hell in this world, although they are surrounded by beauty and opportunity. Many people exist in this spiritual condition, and thus find that their level of anxiety, depression, stress, and psychological problems continue to increase. Those who constantly complain, saying: “I don’t know why I feel so anxious,” “I’m so bored,” “I’m fed up with this life,” or “I don’t feel like doing anything” must see that their spiritual condition needs to change. They must ask themselves what has happened to them – and why. Allah has revealed the cure: belief. We will now examine this important truth, and thereby reveal that only when we look at spiritual and material blessings with the eyes of belief can our spirit truly enjoy them.