The Three Foundations of Happiness

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Nāṣir al-Saʿdī

An explanation for the Muslim on the meaning of true happiness and the three foundations upon which it is built.
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Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Nāṣir al-Saʿdī (d. 1376 AH) was asked:

[Q]: I want you to guide me towards a path that combines happiness in this world and in the hereafter. For the souls and the conduct of those who have been raised [in the falsehood of agnosticism] do not return from it without a strong stimulus. Rather, it is only through a strong desire in their hearts [for change] that they would be attracted [to a different way], or if fear and a terror is awakened within them such that they are subdued [from their ideology].

[A]: By Allāh, you have come upon the object of your search in this dīn. For in it—by Allāh—there exists everything you could ever desire or want. It is the [only] religion that has combined the happiness of this world and the hereafter along with that which is nourishing and enjoyable to the heart, soul and body. There is no fathomable desire that a soul could possess except that this religion has addressed it. There is no means of happiness except that this religion has attained it. It comprises that which is covetous to the soul, from which their eyes derive pleasure. I shall make this clear to you.

Know that the enjoyment you seek has three foundations:

  1. Comfort, tranquillity, serenity, happiness, and delight that is felt by the heart through removal of its stress and sadness.
  2. Feeling satisfied and serene with the physical boons granted to the slave [of Allāh].
  3. Utilisation of the bestowed blessings in a way that garners happiness and exultation.

The one who has been granted these three articles and uses them in the appropriate manner has indeed obtained everything that has been sought by the hopeful. For what we have mentioned here encompasses enjoyment in its entirety.

True Attainment of Happiness and the Serenity of the Heart

As for the enjoyment and happiness of the heart and the removal of that which vexes it: Its attainment is through complete and utter īmān in everything which Allāh has called his servants to have belief concerning. This includes īmān in His oneness in being described with attributes of perfection. Such that the heart is full of His exaltation, glorification, testifying as to His right to be worshipped, and engaging in that worship. Turning to Him in repentance and sincerely dedicating one’s apparent actions and innermost thoughts seeking the countenance of the Most High. One must then follow this with sincerely advising other slaves [of Allāh] desiring nought but goodness for them, carrying out everything in one’s power to benefit them, and treating them with goodness. It also includes being in constant remembrance of Allāh, constantly seeking His forgiveness, and repenting to Him.

Whomever is granted engagement in these matters will find his heart full of guidance, mercy, light, and happiness coupled with the removal of that which he finds abhorrent, stressful, or depressing. His state is but a small sample of the enjoyments of the hereafter.

The people of this level [of happiness] feel no envy for the enjoyment and control possessed by the kings and authority figures of this worldly life. Rather, in their estimation, what they have been granted is many levels above that which the people [of this worldly life enjoy].

This intense enjoyment of their hearts is something unknown, not fully appreciated except by those who have tasted and sampled it themselves. As the poet says:

“Only one who has tasted the enjoyment of a people truly understands it.
The one granted this understanding has departed, having purchased
the very soul [of this enjoyment].”

This was but a summary of the path towards the happiness of the heart, upon which all other enjoyments are predicated.

Appreciation for the Bounties of Allāh and Deriving Satisfaction From Them

As for the second matter: Indeed, Allāh has granted His slaves strength and welbeing from which he is able to attain money, a spouse, progeny, a place of authority and other [benefits]. Regarding these things, mankind is split into two categories:

  1. Those of whom these articles of enjoyment are but a trial for them, a means towards vindictiveness and spite.
  2. Those who experience them as a gift, full of goodness, who only seek to increase in their share of it.

As for the people who ascribe themselves to the religion of truth, they meet these blessings with gratitude to Allāh, in a state of jubilation in the face of His blessings, and they utilise it to further aid themselves in the obedience of the Granter of these blessings. For they know that it is one of the greatest paths towards the pleasure, goodness, and reward of their Lord if used in the manner for which it was prepared and created. They are pleased with Allāh in every conceivable way. They know that everything they have been granted is from Him and that the wisdom behind His laws and predestination is perfect and sound. His exerted control [over His creation] is out of an all-encompassing mercy. It is only out of abundant blessings that He gives to [His creation], for he is more merciful to them than they are to one another.

It is due to their knowledge that what they have been granted has come from [Allāh] whose matter is as described, that they derive complete satisfaction with whatever they have, whether it be very little or abundant. Their hearts are so full of serenity that they do not seek the attainment of or even to be acquainted with that which has not been predestined for them. For if true tranquillity, satisfaction, and pleasure should occur with that which Allāh has granted, then a life of happiness has truly been attained.

If you were to truly grasp their characteristics as described here, you would come to the realisation that a good life comes from deriving satisfaction from the provisions provided by Allāh, and from your heart reaching a state of serenity through His remembrance and engaging in acts of obedience to Him. This is because even if one of them was to possess only a very small amount of strength, health, money, spouses, or progeny, he would still be able to derive comfort and happiness for two reasons:

  1. He is satisfied with what he has been granted and his soul has no interest in being acquainted with or yearning for what he has not been given.
  2. The reward of Allāh he hopes for in this life and the hereafter in return for the acts of worship he engages in with his heart, which are more plentiful than many physical acts of worship. For worshipping Allāh through the realisation and admittance of His many bounties, deriving pleasure from them, hoping that He allows their continuity and further perfects them, that He makes them a means for the attainment of more blessings, and a path towards eternal happiness—there can be no doubt that the heart being in such a condition is itself from among the greatest acts of obedience and the most exalted ways of gaining closeness to Allāh.

So how far is the happiness of a person who worships with the soul of this dīn and enjoys a life of happiness from the one who meets the blessings [of Allāh] with mindlessness, refusing admittance of the bounties bestowed by the Granter of blessings, instead descending into sadness, despair, and depression? The one who, if one of the desires of his soul is fulfilled, he derives no pleasure from it. Rather, he only looks to be acquainted with and yearns for what others possess.

Such a person moves between states of wretchedness due to his firm attachment to physical pleasures. If he is granted a thing in a way that is incongruent with his desires and hopes, he becomes severely stressed. Such a person will find himself in a state of perpetual stress and worry. This is because the desires of the soul are of many kinds. If one of them is fulfilled, another may not be. It may also be that a single thing acts as a source of both happiness and sadness. Thus, his serenity is contaminated with dreariness, his happiness mixed with despair. So where is the life of true happiness for such a person? The life of happiness belongs only to the people of insight and discernment who meet everything with acceptance, satisfaction, and pleasure.

Proper Utilisation of the Blessings of Allāh

As for the third matter, it concerns the utilisation of blessings. The companions of the true religion utilise the blessings and bounties bestowed on them while simultaneously being in a state of gratitude and happiness. Their intention is only to use it to strengthen the fulfilment of the very purpose of their creation through engagement in acts of worship and obedience. They know that whatever finances they use to support themselves, their families, progeny, or friends, is money that has indeed coincided with its proper place and fulfilled its ultimate purpose.

Thus, their spending of even large sums in this path does not overtly concern or worry them. Rather they say: This is the most appropriate way of spending my money. This is the most compulsory of responsibilities that I have been tasked with. This is from the best of recommended actions. This is from the greatest things I have put forth for which I hope to receive back from Allāh for He, the Most Gracious and Fulfiller of His Promises, said:

وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ
But whatever thing you spend [in His cause] – He will compensate it; and He is the best of providers
[Al-Sabaʾ 34:39]

His expectation of the reward of Alllāh through spending his earnings is a source of continuous comfort for him. Regardless of the types, kinds, or people he spends his money on, for he is mindful of his (ﷺ) saying: “Indeed, you are rewarded for everything you spend from your finances for which you seek the Countenance of Allāh even for that which you have placed in the mouth of your wife.”1

For one whose description is thus, his enjoyment of the worldly life is actual, not contaminated by dreariness of any kind. This is because he lives in hope for the reward from Allāh in the worldly life and in the hereafter. Furthermore, it is easy for him to take from his wealth and spend it correctly. Just as he finds ease in many of his affairs.

As for the one who utilises the blessings of Allāh with greed and mindlessness— never taking time to acknowledge His blessings or bounties. He derives no happiness from the bounties of Allāh because they are from Allāh. Rather, his happiness is centred around those bounties coinciding with his own personal desires. He does not intend to use them to aid him in carrying out acts of obedience to Allāh, nor does he intend in his attainment of them or his spending from it, reward from Allāh. Sadness and despair lie constantly in wait for such a person! For he will descend into depression upon the slightest unfulfilment of his personal desires! Even if his desires are fulfilled, if their fulfilment does not match the way he had originally surmised in every way, he will still experience despair! If his own child or friend should desire a thing from him like clothing, be it a base need or extra, it grieves him [to part with his money]! Only spending from it eventually through exerted effort. When it leaves him, he feels like a part of the happiness of his heart is lost with it. This is because he loves that his money remains. It saddens him that it should be deficient in any way. The matter is in no way less constrained by an expectation for a reward from Allāh.

Such is the case for one not completely overcome with stinginess. As for the true miser, his relationship with his family, children, and friends is but a perpetual state of despair, torment, sadness, and depression. This is because he possesses no īmān that would ease his spending from his wealth, nor a generous soul that would refrain from turning away from acts of munificence. So how great is the presence of such a torment! How it persists! Where, then, is such a person relative to the other who enjoys a life of goodness?

All of this has come from the examination of only these three matters, which form the foundations of all enjoyment for the truly intellectual. It has been made most apparent to us that the companion of true faith is the possessor of unbridled success through experiencing real enjoyment, unmarred by the darkness of despair.

Endnotes: 

1 Authentic: Narrated by al-Bukhārī: 56 and Muslim: 3177

Source: Al-Naṣīḥah al-Rabbāniyyah: 20-26
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: January 15, 2023
Edited: January 15, 2023

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