Contentment: An Islamic Perspective

Mainly a reminder to myself, and, hopefully, to my future self.

I am challenging myself to see the world in different colours. My soul already feels lighter, and my mind feels freer, as a result of this. This blog article will probably fail to provide you with an immediate and profound sense of internal peace, but hopefully it will provide you with a reminder of certain things that might help to put the hardships present in your life into perspective. Although I know I am probably going to come across as a condescending ‘newly enlightened’ hippie and/or a Buddhist-wannabe, I am approaching the issue from a mainly Islamic perspective. I hope that what I am going to discuss will prove at least somewhat useful to my religious – and perhaps even some of my non-religious – readers.

Sometimes, the weight of the world might seemingly become too much for us to bear; this is an unavoidable truth that we must deal with. I know I personally sometimes experience lengthy anxious and depressive episodes, coupled with an intermittent and inexplicable unpleasant feeling that makes me feel like my brain is rotting. I know I cannot simply dispense with all the negativity in my life once and for all, but I do aspire to get rid of this baseless internal restlessness for good.

I feel as though I am starting to re-discover my religion; I find myself exploring the beauty of the Deen on my own terms, and as if for the first time. Recently I had become so invested in the materialistic and superficial issues of the Dunya – the fears of inadequacy, in terms of how I look and how I behave, for instance – that I had almost completely forgotten about Islam. The deep feelings of insecurity, emptiness, and loneliness I had been feeling, I think, had come as a much-needed reminder to me that Allah is there for me, and that instead of ruminating over unfortunate parts of my past, or anxieties – about my own perceived inadequacies, others’ perceptions of me, and about my future – I must learn to be content in the present moment. My reasoning behind this stems from the idea that if my contentment is more or less unconditional, it cannot suddenly be taken away from me by life’s sporadic setbacks.

Further to this, I have come to realise that if I cannot find happiness in the here and now, I will simply never be able to find it. Expectations and idealistic thinking – the practice of comparing our current selves and our current lives to our ideal ones – tend to lead to disappointment. If, instead, we can train our minds to focus on gratitude and positivity even in the face of adversity, we will undoubtedly experience a more substantial and long-lasting form of contentment and peace within ourselves. Ultimately, I have decided, I would rather live a quiet but generally content life than an ostensibly highly ‘successful’ one, which, in reality, would probably translate to a constantly frenetic, hypercompetitive, and fundamentally discontent one.

Surah Duha

I think that, for too long, I have been living too much in other people’s heads, trying to gauge, and respond in accordance to, their expectations of me – and my own lofty expectations of myself, of course. I have worried excessively about how others might perceive me; I have spent many a sleepless night replaying and dissecting many of the  critical comments that have ever been directed towards me. But I am gradually coming to realise that people’s vocalised negative perceptions of others are often mere projections of their own insecurities, and so what if they think I am strange, unpleasant, or lesser than them in any way? I simply need to be kind to people, and learn to worry less about what they think of me. All I need is my own love, and Allah’s. As a good friend of mine recently reminded me, Allah made me – and He also made our glorious universe. What a beautiful idea to focus on.

All I really want from this life is contentment, and I have come to the (arguably rather obvious) conclusion that contentment lies in the following things: Salah and the remembrance of Allah; the deflation of one’s ego (as this significantly reduces unpleasant emotional reactions caused by the fear of criticism and embarrassment, toxic competitiveness, etc.) and, of course, smiling, even in the face of adversity. I am not trying to promote an unrealistic continuously positive outlook on life, nor am I saying that I think I suddenly have it all completely figured out. It is simply my view that it is possible to train oneself to hone a strong sense of inner peace that proves to be far stronger than the potent forces of the calamities that will inevitably befall us in life.

Previously, when people have asked me about what I want to be in the future, I have always responded with something academic- or career-related. But now, and in truth, I want to be exactly who I already am, and I want the light – the Noor – in me to grow (as a result of my nurturing my spiritual, mental, and physical health). I want it to radiate from me, in the form of kindness and positivity. This is what my religion teaches me to do, and this is what is giving me an ongoing sense of comfort and strength.

These re-discovered realisations feel like a breath of fresh air for me, after being underwater for so long; they are making me love and appreciate the little things more – things like the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I smile at somebody and they smile back (even if a handful of people choose to scowl in return instead).

I think I am finally starting to see life in different – better – colours. And I have my faith – and the glasses I am trying to at least mildly rose-tint – to thank for that.

I hope that reading this article has benefitted you in one way or another; I would like to remind my friends (and, of course, the anonymous followers of this blog who should definitely become my friends) that I am here if you ever need somebody to talk to. We all struggle sometimes, and we are all better off with each other’s support.

Now cue somebody singing a Halal version of La Vie En Rose.

لَا تَحزَن إنَّ الَلهَ مَعَنَا

“And be not sad [nor afraid]. Surely Allah is with us”

Sadia Ahmed, 2018

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