Seeking Happiness in a Mirage

A wise person once declared: “Nobody goes down a path of destruction except believing that it is a path to happiness.”

Many of us are simply looking to be happy. However, in the process of seeking happiness (and not always knowing the consequences of seeking it in the places we looking) we only find ourselves incurring harm and greater unhappiness upon ourselves. Hence, the Qur’an reminds us that “If the truth were in accordance with their desires, the heavens, the earth, and everyone in them would disintegrate” (Mu’minun, 23:71).

Don’t I, or others,reflect upon what is truly good for us? Yet people–unknowing of what direction we should take in life–have only our desires to lead us. At times we may even feel enslaved to our base passions and ego which appear to be the only thing moving us forward.  Yet, don’t we know that if our desires are given free reign over our souls they will only mislead it.  Of this God says: “The deeds of disbelievers are like a mirage in a desert: the thirsty person thinks there will be water but, when he gets there, he finds it is nothing” (Light; 24:39).

Worse than “finding nothing” is finding only pain, loss, or becoming even more disoriented on one’s path. Such an experience may feel like we are covered by “shadows in a deep sea covered by waves upon waves, with clouds above–layer upon layer of darkness” (Light; 24:40).

But wherever God wills, there is His Light.

Darkness and disorientation is not a healthy state in life, and it need not be a permanent one. We may feel at times like we are traveling a path of happiness, only to later discover that it was but a mirage, or worse, a path of self-destruction. However, in each journey we have something to learn, and perhaps our life is full of too many journeys to count. I pray that in each journey I learn something about the true path to happiness. Along the way, I also pray that I am learning how to further surrender my base desires for the desire of One whose sustaining power and merciful nature is the true source of my happiness.

“What happened to Ahmad?”: Responding to Muslim Youth at Risk

“Ibrahim,” he asked, “can you speak with me?”  Ahmad*, 19, was a young Muslim man struggling with peer pressure at his community college to drink and engage in sexual activity. I was not the imam, nor was I a chaplain at this time, but I could see in his eyes that he was desperately seeking some good advice and someone who would listen to him.  While Ahmad came from a practicing Muslim home, he did not feel comfortable speaking to them about the peer pressures he faced.  He confessed to me that he had been giving in to them and knew that what he was doing was wrong.  Though he had wanted to seek help for some time from his local imam, he worried that the most the imam would tell him was that what he was doing is ḥarām. Ahmad also felt the imam, who had been raised in another country, would not understand the pressures of growing up in an American society.  He wanted to speak to someone who, he felt, would understand the pressures he faced and not simply offer a legal verdict.

Continue reading ““What happened to Ahmad?”: Responding to Muslim Youth at Risk”

Mind: The Interpreter

Imam al-Ghazali once said, ‎
The tongue is the counselor, the mind the interpreter and the heart is what is affected.

Ghazali’s words present a succinct way of conceptualizing our relationship with the world around us. We are surrounded by various stimuli (including events, people, statements… etc) that, due to our interpretation of them, causes an internal reaction; a reaction that initiates a feeling and subsequent behavior. What matters more often, almost more so than the stimuli, is our interpretation of it. For example, the rubbing of a tree branch along the side of the house. Is is it the wind, or a person outside the home? Whatever you believe it is, will cause you to feel a certain way and behave in a way that may reinforce your interpretation. This is especially apparent when one has a misunderstanding about others, and then treats the person based upon this wrongful assumption.

Often times incidents we consider negative are actually due to misunderstandings; maybe through blowing it out of proportion, not placing it within a more broad perspective, or seeing it as falling short of unreasonable standards. Sometimes we don’t know how we should interpret something, and we find ourselves confused or mentally exhausted.

At this time we might seek the help of another; hoping they can help put things in the right perspective. In many instances this may work and we may start to see things in a way we had not before, a way broader than we had previously conceived. Or, we may find ourselves still stuck with our skewed perception.

Continue reading “Mind: The Interpreter”