The concept of happiness and its reality
The meaning of happiness
Roger Du Pasquier
A Swiss Journalist and Thinker
The religion of happiness and tranquility
“I used to ask myself: why do Muslims feel overwhelming happiness in their lives despite their poverty and backwardness?! And why do the Swedes feel miserable and distressed despite their ease in living, prosperity and progress?! Even in my country, Switzerland, I used to feel the same as I felt in Sweden, although it is also a prosperous country and the standard of living there is high!! Faced with all that, I found that I needed to study eastern religions, and I began to study Hinduism, but not convinced of it very much, I started to study Islam. What attracted me to Islam was that it does not conflict with other religions, rather it accommodates all of them; because it is the seal of all the religions. My realization of this fact began broadening with the widening of my readings,until it was firmly fixed in my mind.”
Happiness is a word about which people differ regarding its meaning. Some see it as another word for pleasure, comfort, wealth, high position or fame… It is for this reason that so many people consume their lives traveling through various paths in search of happiness. Happiness is a feeling that stems from within oneself when one feels satisfaction, bliss, tranquility, contentment and joy. People, however, differ on their view of happiness, since each person has a different temperament, different interests and aspirations, and even their communities differ. Some, therefore, see that happiness lies in being rich, living in a nice house, in prestige or health. Others feel that the route of happiness lies in having a good spouse and children, in work or studying, while others may see it in the proximity of the beloved, getting rid of any source of annoyance, in spiritual chasteness or in helping the poor and needy. The strange thing, however, is that when you ask many of these people: are you really and honestly happy? They would answer in the negative!!
An Iraqi- Jewish lecturer
Happiness of humanity
“It should be borne in mind that modern Western civilizations fail to satisfy the soul and to produce human happiness. It pulls the people down into an abyss of misery and confusion; because the efforts of modern science are directed at destruction and annihilation. It is, therefore, far from being perfect, or from being a means of service to humanity, as it was during the reign of Islam.”
You can see then that the definitions of happiness vary from one person to another and from one community to another.
The happiest people in the world
Some international authorities have even designed a set of degrees they have called ‘the ladder of happiness’ in order to gauge which people are the happiest. They conducted several investigations and different questionnaires. The results were a surprise for everyone. It was found that the people of the United States are the most miserable and the most unhappy, and that that country came to stand at the bottom of the ladder, even though we are all aware of the extent of welfare which the individual American enjoys in their country. It was also quite shocking to learn that the people of Nigeria obtained the highest degree on this ladder of happiness, thereby indicating that they are the happiest people in spite of the extreme poverty they are suffering!!! These are the results of a survey conducted by the American Newsweek magazine on the happiest peoples in the world .As mentioned above, on top of the list, which included sixty five countries, came the Nigerian people who are impoverished, most of whom are Muslims, followed by the peoples of Mexico, Venezuela and El Salvador, while the developed countries, on the other hand, to the surprise of the authors of that report, occupied a low position on their ladder of happiness. We may reflect for a long time on the confession of the Americans who were interviewed in the report; that happiness is not about riches and money , which seems a surprising remark in such a pragmatic society that was founded on the extremist forms of capitalism. These results prompted the same magazine to investigate the phenomenon of the spread of religion in the United States .A new questionnaire was formed concerning the American’squest in search of happiness through casual meditation formulas, which are taken as doses for treating tired souls.
Perhaps this issue, about what happiness is and how one should attain it, is faced by many of those who try to define it. For example, Plato considered happiness to lie in the virtues of the soul: wisdom, courage, chastity and justice. According to him, a human being is only completely happy when his soul returns to the other world. Aristotle, on the other hand, considered happiness as a gift from the One God (Allah), and that it consists of five dimensions: physical health, soundness of the senses, access to wealth and making good use of it, success in work and achievement of aspirations, soundness of the mind and of belief, as well as a good reputation and being accepted by the people. In psychology happiness can be defined as a reflection of the degree of satisfaction in one’s life, or as a reflection of how frequently one experiences pleasant emotions .Yet, the question still remains about this difference regarding the concept of happiness. What is happiness? How can I be happy? Is happiness attained only through pleasure?
Wrong concepts of happiness
One is often carried adrift by different pleasures. He leaves no pleasure uncommitted, assuming that if he achieves all that which brings pleasure he would ultimately attain happiness. However, he becomes surprised to learn that by doing so, he is actually growing farther from happiness, instead of nearer to it. This is because the pleasures of this worldly life are diverse and come in different shapes and sizes, and not all pleasures yield happiness. It is because of this that confusion results between the concept of happiness and the concept of pleasure. The fact is that, on the one hand, both of them meet at a point and that, on the other hand, they differ from one another. They are similar in the fact that each brings pleasure, but they differ in that pleasure is reaped in a few moments and its ecstasy is immediately over after the completion of its cause, and then perhaps even regret, unhappiness and misery ensue. Happiness, however, remains with the person for a longer period of time and neither regret nor misery ensues.
The confusion between the concept of happiness and the concept of pleasure is sometimes a misunderstanding of the person himself, for he thinks that all pleasures result in happiness. Fame is a kind of pleasure not matched by any other, for to be famous and known among people one has to always be in the front of gatherings and is often praised by others... all that is a kind of pleasure. Yet how many people who are famous, wealthy, hold high positions or are beautiful, are depressed and miserable and seek treatment from psychiatrists, or take their lives through suicide to end their worries, distress and miseries!?! How many a time have we heard about celebrities who have taken their own lives to get rid of their problems which are dominated by unhappiness and they, thus, decide suicide is the only way out!?! In addition, we find others submerging themselves in sexual pleasures and changing from one partner to another as often as they change their shoes. When you afterwards inquire about them, you find that they have been infected with Aids!! Though forbidden relationships are desirous, they result in the destruction of families and homes, and the corruption of communities and the mixing of lineages. Watching pornography may also bring pleasure, but it results in psychological disasters and a violation of any sacred ties, because it is a glaring assault against the chastity of the society and its immunity. There are also other pleasures derived from food. You may find some have a passion for food that is equivalent to or even greater than their passion for worship. They stuff their faces with meat and sugar, and as a result you find them always visiting the doctor’s or hospitals!!
Sometimes the confusion between the concept of happiness and that of pleasure is intended by certain authorities who try to present various pleasures as the heart and essence of happiness. Their goal is to control the minds and move them in different directions. For example, the person who takes drugs does so in the beginning because of the pleasure he finds in it, but later he realizes that he has become a puppet in the hands of the person who provides him with the drugs!!
Also ads that market different commodities fascinate people, and you find the people everywhere in the markets looking at a new commodity or offer!! Happiness, therefore, is not attained by making everything that one needs available, otherwise the happiest people would be the rich and the presidents. Scientific studies and real life, however, deny this, and perhaps this is because of Allah’s Perfect Justice in the universe. Do you not see that many of the poor and obscure are happy?! Not only that, do you not see that many of the rich find happiness in the intangible things that the poor probably have more of?! Perhaps happiness, then, is in comfort.
No…Happiness is not found in comfort!! Many people think that comfort means happiness and consequently seek comfort that may cause them worry, grief, loneliness and misery instead. One forgets that one often feels happy when the body grows tired. It even sometimes happens that hardship is the very source of happiness, for if, for instance, you were to jump into a well to save a child who had fallen into it, you would feel happy, in spite of all the injuries and pain that result from falling down the well. Do you not see that the hardship endured by scholars and seekers of knowledge during their educational achievements brings them happiness and raises them to high ranks of ecstasy, despite any great hardships they might suffer?!! Another example is of an athlete when he feels happy while practicing sports, despite the sweat pouring out of his body. Next there is the kind of person who seeks to serve the weak and the needy and is happy with that, despite his efforts and the hardship he may encounter in doing so. There is also the man who spends his money, which he himself loves, on the poor and needy. These are all examples of people disregarding their comfort and what they love to find happiness inside themselves.
It then follows from these interactions, different visions and diverse definitions of happiness that one remains bewildered, because of the relentless search for the meaning of true happiness and the method by which one might attain it.
Do you want know The causes of happiness