We live in a world that values instant gratification. We want everything now and not later. And when we don’t get what we want right now we become inwardly discontented and continually feel that there is something missing in our lives.
We don’t seem to possess the ability to be happy and contented in the moment. Our minds are either dwelling in the past, filled with regret, sorrow and remorse, or projecting into the future which fills us with fear, anxiety and a sense of foreboding.
But in fact, the moment that we are currently in is all that we have. In the moment there is no past and no future. Our minds may travel to the past or the future, but our bodies will always remain in the moment. And in the moment where the body and mind align, there is no past and no future, but only the NOW. In this NOW there is no suffering because regret and worry have no place to reside.
We also have the tendency to compare ourselves with others. We compare our inner state with other people’s outward state and we become very disaffected. We become filled with envy, self-pity and anger. We begin to hate other people and begrudge them for what they have. Others are seen as healthier, wealthier, prettier, better off, etc….
This kind of thinking causes us to fall into despair and even develop feelings of low self-esteem and causes us to give up on life.
We want out of our suffering but at the same time, we feel trapped.
Here are a few things that we can do to take us out of our predicament:
1) Focus on those who are less fortunate than you and not upon those who are more fortunate.
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Look at those who are beneath [less fortunate] you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
2) Put things into perspective. This life is but a test and is our temporary abode.
Allah says in Surah Ankabut 29:6: “This worldly life is no more than play and amusement. But the Hereafter is indeed the real life, if only they knew.”
3) Consider volunteering or giving in charity to someone in need, but do so directly so that you are in direct contact with the person you are helping. This will soften your heart and cause you to be more thankful for what you have.
4) Associate with the right kind of people, ideally those who are filled with gratitude and are mindful of Allah and are not attached to this worldly life.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The case of the good companion and the bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the blower of the bellows (iron-smith). As for the seller of musk, he will either give you some of the musk, or you will purchase some from him, or at least you will come away having experienced its good smell. Whereas the blower of the bellows will either burn your clothing, or at least you will come away having experienced its repugnant smell.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
One scholar is reported to have said: “Keeping good company with the pious results in attainment of beneficial knowledge, noble manners and righteous actions, whereas keeping company with the wicked prevents all of that.”
5) Minimize your time on social media as these platforms are designed to foment discontent.
Read the article: “5 ways to tame your social media use.”
6) Recall that Allah gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills and this is all part of the divine decree which is an important pillar of our faith. And Allah does this for a reason we don’t always understand.
See Surah Fatir 35:2 “Whatever Mercy Allah accords to people, none can withhold; and whatever He withholds, no other will be able to release after Him.”
And in Surah Ankabut 29:62: “Allah expands provision for whomever He wills of His servants and He restrains for him; indeed, Allah is All-Knowing of everything.”
Also in Surah Taha 20:131 “Do not let your eyes crave what We have allowed some of the disbelievers to enjoy; the ˹fleeting˺ splendour of this worldly life, which We test them with. But your Lord’s provision ˹in the Hereafter˺ is far better and more lasting.”
Also recall that Allah says: “Don’t you know that Allah knows all that is in heaven and on earth? Verily, it is all in the Book. Verily, that is easy for Allah” (Al Hajj 22:70). And, “No calamity occurs on the earth or among yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah” (Al Ma’idah 57:22).
7) Think well of Allah and know that He only wants what is best for you. Know also that ease and comfort and getting everything you desire is not always good for you in the long run as it may cause you to be forgetful and make you feel you do not need Allah for anything.
It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah, may He be exalted, says: ‘‘I am as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers me to himself, I remember him to Myself; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering better than it; if he draws near to Me a handspan, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
And it was narrated that Jaabir (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Prophet (pbuh) say, three days before he died: “No one of you should die except thinking positively of Allah.” [Narrated by Muslim]
8) Remember Allah and make supplication to Him for help with everything in your life.
Allah says in Surah Ra’d 13:28: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction and rest in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction and rest.”
Qatada ibn al-Nu’man, one of the companions of the prophet (pubh) asked Anas which Supplication Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) frequently made. He said: The supplication that he (the Holy Prophet made very frequently is this: “O Allah, grant us the good in this world and the good in the Hereafter and save us from the torment of Hell-Fire.” [Muslim]
Qatada also said that whenever Anas had to supplicate he made this very supplication, and whenever he intended to make another supplication he inserted this very supplication in that.
Developing inward contentment does not come naturally, especially given the social environment we are immersed in, and we have to work on it on a daily basis. This requires real time and effort, but the outcome is worth it if we can attain peace of mind in this troubled world.