[These are rough notes of a workshop conducted by Alimah S. Ahmed in Karachi on November 21, 2015]
We all have two dimensions:
- One that we show to others
- One that is only known to us
We assume that if the dimension which we show to others, the outward self, has everything then we will be happy. But in reality what is happiness? How do people define their happiness? It depends on whose definition you are following. The media and social media and advertising industry would define happiness by showing you pictures of things you should buy – they try to sell you happiness.
But people who are happy, do they really have everything? Many people are affluent but they are unhappy. While many are deprived but they will tell you they are happy. The inner and outer dimension can be very opposite at times. Some girls just want to get married, because they think then everything will be alright. This is a big problem in our society – no one tells these girls what happens after marriage.
In the West they do research on everything. I once read an article on 7 habits of happy people. I thought that this is a part of our deen. What do we do when we want peace, contentment in our lives? We ask for something to recite. But we forget that in the life of Nabi sws you will find so many guidelines on how to think, how to feel. There’s a book called “An Optimistic Child”. The author of the book researched why some people go into depression. Everyone has a way to think. Thoughts of some people become their friend and thoughts of some people become their enemy. Some say being optimistic or pessimistic is genetic. No, rather these things are learnt. Anger is also a learnt behavior and so is negative and positive thinking.
The people with positive thinking don’t go into depression even in face of adversity. While those with a negative thinking go into depression quickly. Thought process acts as a vaccination against depression. When our thinking is strong we would not be easily lulled into depression. By the age of 10 this thinking is inculcated in people. But we are still not too old for this! Be positive!
Positive thinking are thinking skills – how you view the world. Some people look at the flowers and dew after rain and some look at the mud and dirt. It’s a way of how you view things.
1. Happy People Avoid Comparison
Researchers say avoid comparison. But what do we do? We keep looking at others our entire lives. We keep thinking about what others think about us and what we think about them. We all do observe others, that’s not wrong. But to look with jealousy and desire is called comparing.
Happy people look at their own personal achievements. They look at their own goals, and vision. If they are getting it, they are happy. We are not happy because our happiness is dependent on others. We think if my friend will be happy with me then I will be happy.
Once there was a child who wanted to make friends in a group. He kept doing things with them so they would be happy with him, even though he disliked doing those things. He wanted to jump rope instead, which his friends didn’t want. Once he decided he could not take it any longer so he started jump roping. He enjoyed it so much that gradually others also joined him. People want to be with happy people. If you are happy doing something, others will come to you.
2. They Are Not Put Down by Rejection
Many times the successful stories are about people who have faced a lot of rejection in life. They don’t give up – they don’t bow down to peer pressure. Peer pressure is all around us. It is not just something that happens to young girls, but to older women also.
Quran: (loose translation) Do not look at the belongings of others with desire and longing. These are the things We have given them to enjoy for a little time and through which we test them.
Allah swt will test you with things you intensely love.
Hadith: (loose translation) In matters of deen look at those better than you, in matters of dunya look at those worse than you.
When you stop comparing to others only then will you accept yourself for who you are. You will think howsoever I am, Allah swt made me this way. When a person thinks this way, then Allah swt also gives more opportunity. When you stop trying to be like someone else, you will discover your own talents. Young girls should know they all have some talents. Maybe not something that the other girl is good at, but something else.
Sometimes you have to go against the current. These successful people were the same who were rejected by society – they were told they were not good enough. Steve Jobs was rejected at 30 – that is not a young age. But he worked after that and became successful.
3. They Smile A Lot
Research shows people who are happy smile a lot. Even fake smiling helps. When you have a tough situation – you have to go somewhere – just look at yourself in mirror and give yourself a big smile. In DHA in Lahore it’s written everywhere; smile, you will look better. Nabi sws would smile a lot, I’m sure he sws did not always feel like smiling.
Why are you smiling? If you smile because Nabi sws was a positive person and so you want to be too, then you will be happier and you will get reward as well. When you smile at someone, love increases.
Hadith: (loose translation) When husband and wife smile at one another, Allah swt also smiles at them.
Smiling within relationships is nice. It does not mean you go to a university and smile at a boy and say this is what you told us to do! This is only for halal relations.
Hadith: (loose translation) Smiling is also charity.
Smiling is for free! We can at least give this. Smiling should be a natural habit. Some wives are such even in dispute they start smiling. If a child comes towards you smiling, you would not want to scold him. This is a very strong tool. We need to make this a part of our lives.
Hadith: (loose translation) Don’t think small of any deed.
Smiling is a small thing but it has a deep effect. Even if you have to tell something to the helper, you can tell them with a smile. She will do it also and will also not mind it. Bad feelings will not be there.
4. They Seize Every Opportunity
Research also shows happy people seize every opportunity. They make things happen. They look at the positive in every situation.
Positive thinking in deen is called husn e zann – beautiful thinking. Husn e zann is not just for others, but for Allah swt as well as yourself.
Husn e Zann towards others
Don’t judge others instantly, don’t pigeon hole them. Give them benefit of doubt. Overlook their mistakes. Think: I don’t know the whole story. If you see someone sinning, make 70 excuses. You can barely do 4-5. Think openly and be nice to them. Maybe Allah swt will give you opportunity to see good in them.
Hadith: (loose translation) Nabi sws once asked about a man who passed by what the sahabi ra thought of him. The Sahabi ra praised him. Another man passed by and Nabi sws inquired again. He expressed he had a lower status. Nabi sws said even if the men of the first kind were to fill up this world, they would not equate to the second person who had passed by.
I really like those people who don’t think highly of themselves, and others don’t think anything of them either. Mitta hua. Maybe Allah swt thinks very highly of them.
We should have mercy on people. We should give them a second chance.
Husn e Zann towards Allah swt
Allah swt says I do with my servant the way he perceives Me. When we get jealous from people, we are thinking they don’t deserve a thing but in reality we are objecting to the division of Allah swt. It shows we are not pleased with Allah swt. What does it mean to be pleased with Allah swt?
A man asked Musa as how would I know Allah swt is pleased with me? Hadrat Musa as asked Allah swt this question. Allah swt said look in your heart, if you are happy with Allah, He is happy with you. Every relation is like this, but with Allah swt it is especially all the more so.
Hadith: (loose translation) Sahabi ra asked asked how to protect oneself from the anger and wrath of Allah swt. Nabi sws replied don’t get angry yourself.
Husne zann towards Allah swt also means to think that whatever has happened is for the best, it helps you let things go. It is an immensely liberating feeling. Many times people are not able to let go. They spend years thinking why this happened to me or that happened to me.
Research shows people who say “if” a lot; if this happened I would be happier; if that happened etc. This makes people less happy. One is to learn from mistakes that we should do. That I did that mistake I will be careful next time.
Husn e Zann towards yourself
Positive self image. So many women have everything – looks, education, intelligence, financial stability – but they are still unhappy with themselves. They have a low self esteem. Having an I-can-do-it attitude helps; Allah swt has made human the best of creation and I have some good qualities. Every person has some good qualities. Thinking I can do it; Maybe not right now but at some point.
Maybe we have troubles because we make big aspiring duas and have less deeds. So Allah swt accepts the dua and sends trials and tribulations so this girl can do sabr and get that status. Whenever you have troubles think maybe through this trouble Allah swt is teaching me something.
Even through kids, you learn a lot. We get worried we can’t do this or do that. Taking care of kids is not an easy job. 20 years prior to marriage I did not have hilm and sabr like I have now. Some people become more beautiful with age – internally. People can do botox etc but we are all headed on the same path in that we are all ageing. But those who work internally, it’s like cleansing and beautifying our heart; this is something which increases with age. Then outward beauty will not effect you so much.
Once Ibrahim’s as hair started getting grey. Hadrat Jibrael as said this is izzat. Hadrat Ibrahim as said ask Allah swt to grant me more of these! Look at how positive Allah swt has made our deen that even ageing is seen as a good thing.
These people who beautify their hearts are attractive to the heart. You would like to sit with these people. You will enjoy their company.
How to become a positive person
Suhbat: If you spend time with positive people it will rub off on you. Allah swt says be with the truthful. Allah swt did not say listen to them, or read their books. Just being with them has an effect. This side has been proven as well scientifically. Neurocardiology shows that heart has its own thinking process. Everyone’s heart has a magnetic field that goes to several feet.
Some people are always depressed – they are always saying haye haye halaat. This effects others. And women have this a lot in them. Their moods and emotions get effected. When you get nervous you release a hormone which your kids also catch. When you are getting ready, the child cries more. They pick up on these things.
Exercise: This is a habit of happy people. This is also religious. Three things should be taught to children: swimming, horse back riding and..? (archery?)
You can do very light exercise like just walking, it releases endorphins that makes us happier.
5. They Make Friends and Treasure Their Family
Happy people make friends. Your family is your treasure – value them. Happy people have good relationships who support them. Even if they are a few – not the fakebook friends on how many likes I got and how many likes she got. That’s a weird world. Real friendship means an emotional bond.
Hadith: a good friend is like a fragrance seller.
BBC had an article on mean girls. It said mean girls don’t just effect a person emotionally, but also physically effects their health. It can make you ill.
Then treasuring family – so many people damage their relationships with their brothers/sisters on petty issues. When we break ties, Allah swt takes away barakah. Once a woman said I’m not happy everything was going well then we started having problems with this relative and I think they must have done something. I told her maybe try making up with that relative – do sila rehmi. And she did that which did solve her problems.
Your closest friend is Allah swt. Allah swt says He is the closest friend of those who believe. Those who don’t have Allah swt, they don’t have anything regardless of how many amazing friends they may have have.
What does a relationship mean in a nutshell: All our emotions should link to Allah swt – the extremes of our emotions are smiling and crying. If you are not feeling great, still say it, from your heart, Alhamdulillah. You will start feeling great. These are the signs of the wise. Allah swt says He gave Hadrat Luqman as hikmah so he will be grateful to Allah swt.
Once a boy came to a doctor started crying because he had cancer, despite the fact that he had everything. He complained, why me? Doctor said why not you? We have so much but we still complain.
Our thought process can become very positive and so can be our lives.
6. They Give Charity
Research shows people who give charity are happier people. It’s called helper’s high. It’s a human reaction. When you help someone else you enjoy it too. You feel good. Our religion teaches sadqa makes Allah swt happy too. A person with a giving nature gets more from Allah swt. The one who spends on others, he will be spent on (by Allah). What Allah swt gives to us is way more precious.
Hadith: Nabi sws told Hadrat Aisha ra that whatever you have given away that is baqi (everlasting) and that which you saved for us that is fani (it will come to an end).
This is a completely different perspective of looking at things. If you give something to someone randomly they are pleased but the person giving gets even more happiness.
7. They Do Not Value Money Above Other Things
Happy people are those to whom money is a low priority. It does not mean they don’t need it or don’t have it. And those who give more priority to money they have more depression. Dunya is a place of deception. If a girl has made dunya her priority then she should think I am deceived more than others.
This world is a place of enjoyment and deception. The child who plays with their pretend toys, they know it’s not real. They will play with their pretend kitchen set, but when they are hungry they will go to their mother. You can enjoy dunya but don’t make it a purpose of your life. Those who make this world their only priority are never happy. If you get something be grateful and enjoy it. We have seen people who don’t love this world they enjoy this world more. Those who love it, even if the have it, are always worried about getting more of it, or fearful of losing it.