Without doubt life today is so hectic that many of us are desperately seeking for some peace of mind and contentment, but sometimes it is difficult to find. The daily pressures of life bring on their own stresses and strains, but sometimes that lack of peace is as a result of our own doing.
Many of us have those human weaknesses that tend to look at the world in a manner that brings about negativity into our lives. Many of them can be and are self-inflicted because of our human weakness: they can range from our desire to imitate others, to compete with them and to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, as it were. Very often we envy them, harbour jealousy and ill feelings towards them or even simply because we think we are superior to them.
Wealth is one of life’s necessities but it is not life’s final goal. Wealth itself is not bad and the problem is not the money – but the love of it. It is natural for us look to for a more comfortable life for us and our families and will strive and work to move up in life; to get a better car, a better home, better clothes and all those worldly desirables on our human ‘want’ list. Nothing wrong with that, but the danger lies in when we make it our sole objective in life to achieve those things by any means possible, this can lead to unquenchable greed and brings with it the many stresses.
Too often when chasing those dreams, we cross the line and are liable to put our upbringing and our primary Religious responsibilities on the back burner. ‘The mutual rivalry of piling up the good things of this world diverts you from the more serious things, until you visit the grave’. (Quran 102: 1-2), And, Alluring to men is the love of things they covet- women and sons, hoarded treasure of gold and silver, highly bred horses, well-bred cattle and land. This is the provision of this world’s life; but nearness to Allah is the best of goals. (Quran 3:14)
The starting point of achieving a degree of peace is from within. This means that we have to re-examine and learn how we look at and see life, and react to its situations. The main ingredient is self-reformation, how we look at life is the building block of how we will cope with that life. But the most important thing in seeking peace is to find peace within ourselves first, only then we can begin to feel more confident to tackle the issues out there. To find that peace and contentment we have to start with our Creator as dealt with in last week’s column, then we have to look at ourselves and changes we can consider to bring about that peace.
Let us start with the basics:
Do Not Be Jealous: We all have experienced how jealousy and envy can disturb and play havoc with our peace of mind. For example you know that you work harder than your colleagues in the office, but sometimes they get promotions; you do not. You started a business several years ago, but you are not as successful as your neighbour whose business is only a one year old. There are many examples like these in everyday life. Should you be jealous? No. Remember, a person's life is shaped by their destiny, which becomes their reality.
If you are destined to be rich, nothing in the world can stop you. And if you are destined to be poor, then no matter what you do, you will only be what you are destined to be. You will gain nothing except more stress by blaming others for your misfortune. Jealousy will not get you anywhere; it will only take away your peace of mind and create more hatred towards others.
“And in no wise covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn; but envy not one another and ask Allah for His bounty’. (Quran 4:32). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘Do not compare yourself against nor envy those who have more than you, but rather compare yourselves to those who are less fortunate or have less than you, in that way you will appreciate the favours of your Lord’.
Next we have to learn to forgive and forget: This is the most powerful aid to peace of mind, but also challenging and difficult to achieve. Often we develop ill feelings inside our heart for the person who insults or harm us. We nurture those grievances resulting in loss of sleep and develop medical ailments such as stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and importantly peace of mind. We further aggravate stress in ourselves by remembering, and reminding ourselves of the very persons that caused us harm.
Sometimes we bear grudges that get passed on from one generation to another sometimes the new generation is not even aware of the circumstances to the grudges. Get over this bad habit. Life is too short to waste in such trifles. Forgive, forget, and march on. Love flourishes in giving and forgiving. ‘…but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah…..but indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs’ (Qur’an 42:40-43)
Also Do Not Interfere in Other People Business Unless Asked to: Most of us create our own problems very often by interfering in others people’s affairs. When hear scandalous gossip of our neighbours, friends and others, we want to dig up and hear more juicy titbits. Sometimes this becomes our obsession simply because our egos want us to rejoice and feel that we are better than ‘them’.
Sometimes we interfere for the wrong reasons, we do so because somehow we have convinced ourselves that our way is the best way, we tend to think that our way is the best way and those who do not conform to our thinking must be criticized and steered to the right direction, i.e. our direction. This interference can cause a backlash and add to an already stressful situation. However there is a fine line between interfering and try to help those who genuinely need help and guidance. It should be borne in mind that a Muslims responsibility is to guide those who have veered from the path of righteousness.
Prophet Muhammad said: ‘You help your neighbour if he asks for your help; you support him if he requests your support…….you comfort him when he is afflicted with misfortune’. Allah has created each one of us in a unique way. No two human beings can think or act in exactly the same way. Be patient with one another, and mind your own business and you will keep your peace. The proof of a Muslim’s sincerity is that he pays no heed to that which is not his business.
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.