Sheikh Salmaan Al Oadah Hafidhahullah
I went on an outing with my children. Our main intention was to swim and for the children to have their fair share of recreation and of my quality time. It was also a chance for me as a father, to have my rightful share of the joy of being with my children, for truly we need our children as much as they need us, if not more. I found myself busy on that day with all sorts of little tasks – like making sandwiches, setting the picnic table, and handing out sweets. It was a beautiful day to harvest some of the fruits of happiness just by enjoying ordinary activities in total relaxation and familiarity.
That day made me think about how much we, as people, speak about happiness. Hundreds of books are published every year to address the issue from a dry, philosophical standpoint. These works strive to define happiness and reveal its connection with factors like prosperity, pleasure, and our state of mind. There is considerable controversy about what brings about happiness and, more essentially, what it actually means to be happy. This leads to the more mundane questions of role that health, wealth, one's job, one's marriage, and being successful play in our chances for happiness.
We might fail to see that happiness is an inner state of our being, which comes into its being within ourselves, and is often connected with the most ordinary and seemingly insignificant events of our lives. It is the normal state of a person's mind when that person is enjoying an experience or an activity. Those of us who disdain engaging in some pleasant activities, or simply fail to admit our enjoyment of them – due to our preconceived notions of what is suitable for us as adults, or as elderly people, or as people of social prominence – need to rethink some of our ideas. We should not rob ourselves of life's small but significant pleasures.
Be like a small child and really enjoy that cup of tea you are drinking. Take time to taste it. The same goes for a piece of chocolate or your ordinary daily meal. Enjoy it. Enjoy eating alone and in the company of people you care about.
Allah says: "There is nothing wrong with you eating together or by yourselves." [Sûrah al-Nûr: 61]
Be like a child who looks forward excitedly to taking a ride. Look forward to pleasant things. Laugh at a funny joke without first examining it to deduce whether the humor of the joke holds up under close scrutiny. Look forward to your sleep. Recognize it as being Allah's blessing and a refreshment for your body and mind. Maybe you will dream about those you love.
Look forward to the activity that is ahead of you. Take pleasure in the accomplishment – however small – that completing your task provides you with. This can be said of reading a book, preparing a letter, a lesson that you attend, or a social event that you participate in.
Try to see the beauty of a flower in bloom, the fields of crops, a flowing stream, the sparrow's song, and a child in play. Do not block these things from your sight, thinking them to be unimportant. Indeed, our sense of importance and of what carries weight with us – this is one of the greatest obstacles to happiness. This is an affliction that we impose upon ourselves. We need no enemy to do this to us.
We are happiest when we are the least inhibited in acknowledging and expressing how we feel. This is the case whether we are in the company of those we know or those we do not know. Expressing our feelings should not carry with it a sense of dread as if we are disclosing the most sensitive of state secrets.
We are happiest when we shed our ostentation and inflated sense of self-importance, so we can really listen to ourselves and acknowledge our inner needs and aspirations.
We are happiest when we are not pining after unrealistic and overly idealistic dreams but look at our lives naturally, without shame, and without exaggerating things.
We are happiest when we focus keenly on the experience of the moment, taking note of the billions – nay trillions – of blessings that are right in front of us. Allah's generosity extends to each living cell of our bodies and to everything on the land, the air, and in the sea. His grace extends to all the intangibles as well, like those feelings and sensations that we cannot describe in physical terms. Faith is a good example, love, pleasure, the apprehension of language, longing, joy, hope…
We may be happiest of all when we realize that happiness is not a package we receive in the mail – either by design or fortune – nor is it a degree conferred upon us like a diploma. It is rather the felling of the moment, if we harvest well what that moment has to offer and resolve to make the best of it. It is when we shove aside despair, worry, fear, hatred, envy, and the other negative emotions that too often preoccupy our thoughts.
We are the happiest we can be when we choose to be happy.