Keeping envy at bay
By Ruhie Jamshaid
There are many diseases of the heart that sway us from the right path but one of the worst is clearly 'hasadí or envy. There are many things that invoke envy in the human soul. When we see a thing of beauty, for example, and see someone we know possess it, often feelings of envy overcome us. We feel a sense of jealousy at not being the oneís to possess that thing of beauty. Our veins and arteries constrict and a burning sensation engulfs our bodies and souls. Envy can ignite when we see someone else possess wealth, good looks or even children.
Islam counts envy amongst some of the worst of sins and it stems primarily from disbelief. If we allow the disease of envy to manifest within our hearts, our mind and body get affected too and we are propelled to react wrongly in our actions. We corrode spiritually and move further and further from acting fairly and righteously. For instance, we may despise a relative in our heart simply because they are wealthier than us for instance. This negative feeling of envy may propel us to wish this relative ill and not accord any help to them. Such negative actions eventually take us further and further from the path of Allah subhaanahu-wa-taíala.
"Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood." [Abu Dawood]
We must be aware of our envious feelings and nip them in the bud when they manifest within us. We will be able to do this when we realise and accept from deep within our hearts that all things are ordained and controlled by Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala.
'By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it!' (Al-Shams 91:7-10)
Allah Almighty has His ways. He may choose to keep someone childless but on the other hand, bless someone with several children. The reason why He chooses to do something He does can only be known to Him. We can only guess. Perhaps he chooses to give someone children as a test and may choose to save the childless from this test. Perhaps He may be aware of a certain weakness in his servants and decides that it is best for the childless couple to stay childless. Perhaps He wishes the childless couple to adopt (sponsor) a helpless child and give him or her true guidance and a loving home. It is important to know and accept that there is always wisdom in the Almighty's decision because He knows us like no one else does!
'Allah favoured some of you over others with wealth and properties. Do they deny the favours of Allah?' [Soorah an-Nahl, 16: 71]
'Do they envy men for what Allah has given them of His Bounty?'[Soorah an-Nisa, 4: 54]
Often, we also envy beautiful people. We envy the attention and better prospects they may be accorded to. But through the story of Prophet Yousuf (Alaihis Salaam), we know that even beauty can be a great test. Due to our beauty, we may attract the attention of unwarranted people and that too for the wrong reason. When beauty is such an overpowering characteristic, it can shade one's personality. Negative people may be attracted to this beautiful person and this in itself can be a form of test. The beautiful person may find him or herself devoid of true, sincere friendships and may be subjected to loneliness. This person may even be prone to arrogance hence resulting in the corrosion of one's soul as arrogance is yet another major sin. Beauty can eventually be a bane rather than a boon! Therefore, it is important to be content with what Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala has given us and avoid all forms of envy.
Even wealth can be a great test for the rich man! As onlookers, we may envy someone's huge mansion or the fleet of cars and servants that line their home. But it is not necessary that a rich man is a happy man. One may be given wealth but there may be many other forms of tests and problems faced by the wealthy. Wealth can also be given to an individual as a test from Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala. The poor will not be asked about the Zakat they gave on the Day of Judgment but the rich man will!
There are more chances of sinning and going away from God for the rich than the poor, as many stories of the prophets, such as Prophet Noah (Alaihis Salaam), have shown! The poor will be forgiven many things due to their circumstances but the rich will have to answer for their every penny. Wealth can never guarantee inner contentment, and inner contentment is far more valuable than dollars in the bank!
There can be many other practical reasons why some are blessed with wealth, others with intelligence, yet another with looks and others with many children. For instance, wealth may be given to one group of people so that they may help their poorer and less fortunate brothers and sisters in Islam. Intelligence may be given to someone to help propagate a discovery beneficial to the whole world and the Muslim Ummah. Someone may have beauty so that people are attracted to this person and he/she can do daawah more effectively for the sake of Islam. Someone may have children because these children are meant to contribute to the cause of Islam in the long-run.
'It is We who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks, so that some may employ others in their work. But the mercy of your Lord is better.' [Soorah az-Zukhruf, 43: 32]
Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala is never unfair! He has balanced all the schemes of things. No one has everything altogether. Someone may have beauty and brains but no inner peace. Someone else may have hordes of wealth but remain childless. Someone may appear to have all the good things in life at one point in time but they may have gone through many tragedies in their younger days. Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala knows what is good for us, when it is good for us and why it is good for us. Our job really is to focus on our prayers and belief in Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala, to do charity to ward off evil and gain good merits in our deen, and to simply follow the dictates of our beautiful and meritorious religion, which is Islam.
The only thing, perhaps, that we are allowed to envy, is someone else's sense of Taqwa (piety) and iman (faith) and to pray that Allah subhaanahu-wa-ta'ala blesses us too with this inner belief in Him. With an inner sincere belief in Him, we will eradicate all the diseases of the soul and achieve inner peace and contentment Insha-Allah, in whichever and whatever situation we are in. The ability to keep envy at bay, after all, is an enviable thing.