Al-Ghazali on Seeking True Happiness

Written by R on . Posted in From Kube Shelves

Seek Felicity

The otherworldly felicity we are concerned with is
subsistence without end, pleasure without toil, happiness
without sadness, richness without impoverishment, perfection
without blemish and glory without humiliation.

In sum, it is everything that can [at the same time] be
conceived of as sought and seeking, desired and desirous,
eternally and forever, such that it is undiminished by the
passage of time and successions of generations.

Indeed, if the whole world was full of gems and a bird was to
pilfer one of them every one thousand years, then the
gems will be exhausted but everlasting eternity
would not be diminished a bit.


No matter how plentiful they are, the good and enjoyable things in this world are finite. In fact, even the bad things are finite. Worldly pleasures, often conflated with happiness, are dependable on finite components. Even when they are wholesome and there is nothing controversial about them, or about how they are acquired, they are always incomplete and lacking. Material fulfilment is temporary in its very nature and the physical pleasures cannot be maintained, even when wealth and good health are at one’s disposal. One cannot eat continuously, for example, because food is plentiful and tasty, even if one does not care about health issues. Eating continuously is not sustainable. Everything that one builds will inevitably wither away in time, and all those beloved to one will either leave one or one will leave them, just as every accumulated wealth, big or small, will one day be left behind.

  

 

It is foolish to prefer what is finite and perishable to everlasting life, perpetual happiness and infinite rewards, where no effort is required. An abode where there is no striving or toil, where all joys are eternal, without any negative associations as in this worldly life. It is important not to confuse wealth with the state of happiness. Material wealth does not translate necessarily into happiness, for there are many people who are comfortable financially yet lead a miserable life. Many of them end up committing suicide due to a lack of meaning in their lives. Yet, material wealth does not necessarily preclude happiness, nor could it be automatically considered antithetical to a fulfilling spiritual life. It all depends on what is going on in one’s heart, and not on what is available in one’s bank account. The heart may be obsessed with material wealth to the extent that this prevents one from tending to one’s spiritual needs.

Muslims are, for instance, enjoined to perform the Pilgrimage to Makkah and circumambulate the Kabah, the first house established for the worship of Allah. This pillar of Islam is required once in a Muslim’s lifetime if he or she is capable financially and physically. Yet, many choose to
circumambulate the malls and the marketplaces time and again, often buying unnecessary things, or simply walking around as if time is not the most precious ‘commodity’. What is life if not the sum of these moments, whether utilised properly or not. But leading a purposeless life is not about time, it is about the path one charters.

Not using time properly is an act of ingratitude towards Allah who has gifted one with life. Is death not an end to time in this life? Is wasting time not a kind of death of the wasted months and years? Why, then, does one lament and feel a deep sense of sorrow for the former form of death but not lament or feel a deep sense of sorrow for the latter form?

This excerpt is from our upcoming title ‘A Treasury of Ghazali – A Companion for the Untethered Soul

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