بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Nafsiya Reflections: The Destroyer of Pleasures
Growing up we learned to compare ourselves; from the moment we stood on our own two feet, stumbling across the floor for the first time, or trying to hold a spoon to our mouths and somehow ending up with food to our eyeballs. We would watch our surroundings, copying everyone around us, Subhan Allah. We eventually learned words, learned a dialect, an accent, a language, two languages; constantly comparing ourselves to our environment, coping to fit in, to live. It came naturally. We started copying our parents and growing up we began imitating our friends. It became a habit.
What then happens when that habit starts taking us down the wrong path? When did comparison become destructive? When does comparing ourselves to one another harm us or grow envy within us?
Today, almost each and every one of us has a social media account - if not four. Each and every one of us, follows different pages, accounts, follows different lives. Lives of friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, and a bunch of people we don’t even know.
“How does she have the time to do all that?”
“Another car? Ma sha’ Allah, business must be good”
“They look like they have their life together”
Then slithering in, come the questions or remarks we say to ourselves.
“Why do I feel like I live in a different dimension, a different realm? My life doesn’t resemble that to the slightest.”
“If only my life was that easy”
“I am so incompetent, I should have quit trying a long time ago.”
Suddenly comparison becomes a destructive tool we harm ourselves with. Our self-identity, self-worth becomes dependent on the outcome of our actions in dunya. Our value in ourselves becomes what we have accomplished or what we haven’t, a measuring stick with which we assess those around us. It’s not us looking into our own strengths and weaknesses anymore, it is us comparing our inner selves to the externals of others. When one continuously does this it can take him or her down what seems to be an uncontrollable downward spiral. A spiral into misery, into ingratitude. Atho BilAllah.
The messenger peace and blessings be upon him said,
" الْمُؤْمِنُ الْقَوِيُّ خَيْرٌ وَأَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِ الضَّعِيفِ وَفِي كُلٍّ خَيْرٌ احْرِصْ عَلَى مَا يَنْفَعُكَ وَلاَ تَعْجِزْ فَإِنْ غَلَبَكَ أَمْرٌ فَقُلْ قَدَّرَ اللَّهُ وَمَا شَاءَ فَعَلَ وَإِيَّاكَ وَاللَّوْ فَإِنَّ اللَّوْ تَفْتَحُ عَمَلَ الشَّيْطَانِ "
“The stronger believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive to seek that which will benefit you and do not feel helpless. If something overwhelms you, then say: Qaddarallah, wa ma sha'a fa’al (It is the decree of Allah and what He wills He does). And beware of (saying) ‘If only,’ for ‘If only’ opens the door to Satan.”
See that is what we fall into. If only I did this, if only I had that, If only it wasn’t so, if only, if only, if only!
We compare ourselves to that Mom who seems to “have it all together”, or our school mate who just got that new Mercedes. It doesn’t motivate us anymore, doesn’t inspire us, but rather discourages us, cripples us. We sometimes even end up not being happy for those individuals but rather envious of them. Envious of the life they are creating while we seem to be stuck in quicksand, drowning in our own problems, in our own psyche.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
"لَا حَسَدَ إلَّا في اثْنَتَيْنِ: رَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ مَالًا فَسُلِّطَ علَى هَلَكَتِهِ في الحَقِّ، ورَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الحِكْمَةَ فَهو يَقْضِي بهَا ويُعَلِّمُهَا."
"Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it."
We must be aware of envy. For envy burns good deeds like fire burns wood. And that is not something we should take lightly. For in those moments of loneliness, when there aren’t any believers around to remind us of the Generosity of Allah, one may easily fall into such dark feelings.
Ibn Umar reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, prohibited isolation, that a man spend the night alone or travel alone.
Al-Tabari said, “This is discouragement in the form of discipline and guidance, as it is feared that one alone might succumb to loneliness and isolation, yet it is not unlawful. The lone traveler in the wilderness and likewise the lone resident in his house are not safe from succumbing to loneliness, especially if one is afflicted by bad thoughts and a weak heart.”
Sometimes it is precisely that. We are dwelling in our own thoughts, scrolling through social media, as evil thoughts resonate deeper and deeper within us. Or we keep thinking and dwelling on what others have and we don’t. Dwelling in what is missing to “complete” our lives. Looking “up” when we should be looking down.
The prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him said,
” انْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ أَسْفَلَ مِنْكُمْ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ فَوْقَكُمْ فَهُوَ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ لاَ تَزْدَرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ"
“Look at those who have less than you and do not look at those who have more, lest you should belittle the blessings of Allah (that you already possess).”
To become motivated, we need to recognise the blessings that are already in our lives before we look to attain more of them.
Allah SWT says in surat Ibrahim, ayah 34,
[وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا]
“...And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them...”
And also in Surat Ibrahim, ayah seven, Allah SWT says,
[وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ]
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor];...”
In such challenging times we must refocus our thoughts, refocus our priorities. Taking a step back from all that provokes such feelings. Deactivating accounts, “unfollowing” those who don’t inspire us, who don’t push us to be our better selves and lower our gaze from looking over the fence. And never forget the advice of our beloved prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him,
" أَكْثِرُوا ذِكْرَ هَاذِمِ اللَّذَّاتِ "
“‘Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures,’ meaning death.”
We got to remember this is merely dunya. For in the end, once we get what we so desperately wanted, we are just going to want something more. It is the nature of man. That is why it is crucial that we realign ourselves with what truly matters now. To let go of dissecting all the little dunya matters and focus on the end. On the reason behind our existence in the first place. The reason we are all here. The reason we were created. We must realize that it will all end, all our worries, our inadequacies, our fears, our accomplishments, our pleasures, they will all be put to an end. And we will be left with the only thing that truly matters, what Allah SWT saw in us. How Allah SWT saw us strive whole heartedly, physically and psychologically. To improve for His sake, and that is good enough for Him, Jala Jalaluh.
[رَّبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا فِي نُفُوسِكُمْ ۚ إِن تَكُونُوا صَالِحِينَ فَإِنَّهُ كَانَ لِلْأَوَّابِينَ غَفُورًا]
Your Lord is most knowing of what is within yourselves. If you should be righteous [in intention] - then indeed He is ever, to the often returning [to Him], Forgiving. [Israa': 25]
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