As we all pass through life looking at people and materialistic things around us, We often tend to look at people above us and desire to be like them. But Islam advises us to look at those below us and feel content at what Allah has provided us. Listed below are some practical suggestions on achieving this contentment and repelling the greed of want of more.
It is said that a man complained about his old shoes until he saw a man who had no feet.
Greed for More: A Fact of Human Nature
Contentment is one of the most important prerequisites for happiness in life, and, unfortunately, many of us don't have it. We have a good car that meets our needs, but we always want a nicer, more expensive one---a Mercedes or a Jaguar perhaps. We have a nice house, but we always want a bigger, fancier, more expensive one. More jewelry, fancier clothes, a boat. The list goes on. We always think about more rather than saying, "Alhamdulillah," for what we already have.
Things that Lure us Out of Contentment
A good rule for developing contentment is to always look at the people who have less than us, not the ones who have more. In America, this is difficult because almost all advertising is geared toward showing us people who have more than us and enticing us to want it. They show us beautiful cars, beautiful houses, handsome men, and beautiful women. And we can get it all with a credit card. If our lives don't match the ad, we should make a change --- buy a new car, get a new wife or girlfriend, give her a bigger diamond!
Muslims Falling Prey to Materialism
Even Muslims have fallen into this trap. Many drive expensive cars far beyond their needs, not just for dependability, but for prestige or to make people say, "Wow!" These Muslims have been deceived, duped by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry --- the chief enemy of contentment, the chief advocate of a lifestyle of constant wanting.
Many children are the same. They have grown up surrounded by advertisements on TV, on the radio, and on billboards. They want everything they see, and they expect to get it---now! But how can we teach them to be content, if we are not content ourselves? Instead of wanting everything we see, we need to learn to resist. Instead of letting our children have everything they want, we need to teach them to be thankful for what they have.
Example of the Prophet Life
This is indeed following the example of the Prophet Muhammed (SAWS) and the early Muslims. The story is told of the time Prophet Muhammed (SAWS) saw his beloved daughter Fatima wearing a dress made of camel hair. Although tears welled in his eyes at the sight, he is reported to have told her, "Fatima, today endure the hardships and poverty with patience so that you may acquire the comfort of Paradise tomorrow on the Day of Judgment."
On another occasion, Umar saw the simple life of the Prophet (SAWS) and said: O Messenger of God! While kings sleep in soft, feather beds, you are lying on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God and thereby deserve more than any other people to live an easy life. The Prophet (SAWS) was reported to have replied: Do you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs but those of the Hereafter ours? (Bukhari, Tafsir, 287; Muslim, Talaq, 31) There can be no doubt that the Prophet himself (SAWS) and the early Caliphs --- some of the greatest heroes of Islam --- lived very simple lives with contentment.
Practical Suggestions in Developing Contentment
The following are some principles that, if remembered, will help us develop this type of contentment in our own lives.
- As previously mentioned, we should look at the people who have less than us, not those who have more.
- When purchasing something, we should consider what we need, not how glamorous or prestigious it is.
- We should feel empathy for the poor and know that they have rights on our excess money.
- We should look at what we already have and be thankful to Allah (SWT).
Many people possess the material goods of the world and are not happy. In fact, they are often the most miserable people. With everything they have, they still feel they want more. This unfilled desire, along with the constant nagging in their heart for more, makes them unhappy. Those who have little but feel no need for more do not experience this nagging in their heart. They can relax and find peace. Indeed, the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who is content with what he has.
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