In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful
Leading a happy, blessed and meaningful life
What is your life like?
"Enter the garden, you and your wives; you shall be made happy." (1)
If your life is like most Muslims, it is made up of bits and pieces of both religious and secular activities: salat, exercise, work, eating, conversations, entertainment, sleep. Add up the pieces day after day, year after year, and you end up with an entire life split into millions of fragments, with no connecting thread. This fragmentation creates personal disharmony, creating untold tension and anxiety. Over time, the fragments pile up and begin to suffocate your nafs, the inner you that craves focus, purpose and direction. Is it any wonder that after forty or fifty years of struggle through such disjointed days we wake up and suddenly wonder, "Is this what life is about? Am I really happy?"
A happy life is goes hand in hand with a meaningful life, and we all want to live meaningful lives. We constantly strive to make our mark on our Ummah, to contribute something worthwhile to our world.
By acknowledging that within your body is a Nafs Al Kamilah -- a nafs that can give your life purpose and lift it above the mundane pursuits of everyday life, you begin to put the pieces of your fragmented life in order. You see your life from a larger perspective, and are able to sanctify every moment -- not only while you are studying or praying or doing charitable acts, but while you are eating and sleeping, at home or at work, while away on business or on vacation. Instead of carrying out your daily activities mindlessly, you discover the righteousness within each of them.
Unity - the key to happiness
A'isha (ra) related that The Messenger (saws) used to say: Observe moderation in doing deeds, and if you fail to observe it perfectly, try to do as much as you can do and be happy for none would be able to get into Paradise because of his deeds alone. (2)
To be a happy, wholesome and healthy person, your body and nafs must work in perfect harmony. This means uniting the body and nafs to fulfill the mission for which we were all put on earth: to lead a meaningful, productive, and virtuous life by making this physical world a home for Allah (swt).
The body and nafs, however, are in constant conflict: the body basically looking to satisfy its needs with the nafs looking for transcendence and unity. The first step in dealing with this conflict is to acknowledge that the struggle exists, and be aware of the two distinct forces. Thinking that we are a single entity leads to confusion and despair: One day we are virtuous and the next we are selfish; one day we are motivated, the next we procrastinate.
The only way to unite body and nafs is to accept that Allah (swt) is in contol of everything. The nafs, because of its transcendent nature, can rise above selfishness more easily than the body, and can discipline the body, through salat and study, to recognize its true mission. Only then can the body rise to its true prominence -- when it serves as a vehicle for the soul instead of acting under its own power, with its selfish wants and needs. Once the body recognizes the soul's dominance and makes peace with its twin sister, the tension can be properly harnessed.
The happy life. The meaningful life.
It is not enough to acknowledge your Nafs Al Kamilah, you must actualize it by partnering it with the body by performing sadaqah and providing zakat: to a neighbour in need, to listen to a friend in distress, to help provide food or clothing to someone who cannot afford it. These become more than simple good deeds; they become vital nourishment for your nafs and a means of putting your physical body to good spiritual use.
Abu Hurayrah (ra), who said that The Prophet (saws) said : "Spend on charity, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you."(3)
True happiness is the fusion of body and nafs dedicated to a higher cause, a cause that benefits our Ummah and gives meaning and inner peace to the individual in the process.
When you awake in the morning, while you are still lying in bed, think for a moment: What does it mean to be awake and alive? Begin each day with a prayer; thank Allah (swt) for the new day. Acknowledge your nafs. Think about what you would like to accomplish that would make today a meaningful day. If you train yourself to do this every morning, you will immediately begin to see your life in a new, sharper focus.
You should end your day just as you begin it. As you prepare for sleep, review the day and how you used it opportunities. Recognize that Allah (swt) has put you here for a purpose, and that all your activities should express that purpose. Go to sleep with the resolve that no matter how good or bad today was, tomorrow will be better. By doing so, your sleep will be more peaceful, and your waking more meaningful.
"And those who are blessed shall be in the Garden: They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: a gift without break." (4)
2) Sahih Muslim: Book 039, Number 6770
3) Hadist Qudsi: related by Bukhari and Muslim
4) 11.108 .