In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
Life, a creature of Allah, comes in different colours and shades. Sometimes in life, Allah withholds what we want or what we think we deserve. Rather, He gives us what we need at the time that is best for us. Accepting what we have, especially in comparison to the bounties of others, is usually a herculean task. For this reason, and due to the weak nature of man, we often find ourselves grieving over the favour that Allah, Azza wajal, has bestowed on others. And this is a negative envy.
The negative envy – an emotion that occurs when one lacks another’s superior quality, achievement or possession – is greatly discouraged in our religion due to many reasons. When one envies another, it is either he desires the quality he admires in the latter or he wishes that the latter loses this quality.
Envy, whether negative or positive, can be a primary source of unhappiness and a waste of energy, especially in today’s world where people portray their lives in ways other than it actually is. How unfortunate it is then that we grieve over an illusion, and we allow this impurity of the heart to destroy our good deeds.
In a hadith narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, who said that the prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,
“Beware of envy, because envy consumes (destroys) the virtues just as fire consumes firewood,” or he said “grass” (Abu Dawud).
This shows us the impermissibility of this behavior as well as the resultant effect which falls on the envious. Hence, It should be made a principle to envy no one and remain content with what one has, because there is aways a side of the story that the onlookers are oblivious of.
Imagine these scenarios:
- The man in the neighbourhood whose beautiful car you envy, actually uses it as an interstate transport vehicle to feed his family.
The brother who is a Hafiz and recites the Qur’an so flawlessly, made countless mistakes and repeatedly lost his memorization before achieving the status of Hafiz.
- The multi talented sister with the bubbly, cheery personality, who seems to be able to do everything you envy so much, is actually battling depression. Yet she seems so perfect that you begin to hate her!
- The lady in your class with the designer clothes and shoes, hasn’t bought a scarf in years. The items you envy are hand-me-downs from wealthy relatives.
- The dreamy couple that can’t seem to get enough of themselves, lunge at each others throats behind close doors.
That one person who always gives the perfect advice and seems able to fix everything and everyone, cant fix their own lives.
There are endless list of scenarios where we envy people because we think their lives are perfect, but not everything is at it appears. This is the reason contentment is the key to personal strength. We must be happy with that which Allah has willed for us and firmly believe in the justice of the Almighty in the distribution of His bounties.
Moreover, if we take an honest look at our lives, we would see that we are much more gifted and talented than we realize. We will even be more shocked to realize that these bounties are peculiar to us alone. Hence, what is left for us as part of our acceptance of the Qadr of Allah, is to embrace these bounties, develop them and be thankful for them.
At this point, it is worthy of mention that for a Muslim to wish for him/herself a blessing which someone else has without wanting it to be taken away from that person is permissible. This is a type of positive envy.
It is reported that the messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:
“There is no envy except in two cases; (towards) a person whom Allah has granted knowledge and who rules by it and teaches it to the people and a person to whom Allah has granted wealth that he spends in the cause of Allah” (Bukhari and Muslim).
In conclusion, envy may not be harmful if we are in envy of something good, but if we spend our lives grieving over what others have, while we are ungrateful for ours, then it is time to ask ourselves this million dollar question: Is our grieve an illusion?
We ask Allah to grant us contentment in whatever we possess, and to safeguard us from envying others. We ask Allah to protect us from the evil eyes.
Author: Halimah Sadiya Muhammad
Editor: Umm Naml