Happiness in the Quran guides us towards what the true meaning of happiness and felicity is; something which all human beings seek regardless of their ethnicity, culture, religion, or age. Some of the verses that can shed some light on this topic will be discussed in this article.
Topics covered in this article are:
What Does Happiness in the Quran Mean?
يَوْمَ يَأْتِ لَا تَكَلَّمُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ فَمِنْهُمْ شَقِيٌّ وَسَعِيدٌ ﴿105﴾
The day it comes, no one shall speak except by His leave. [On that day,] some of them will be wretched and [some] felicitous. 1
According to this verse, there are two groups of people on Qiyamah: the wretched and the felicitous or happy.
The happiness or saʿādah (سعادة) of anything is for it to attain the good of its existence so that it can reach its perfection through it and, as a result, experience enjoyment and pleasure.
In a human being, who is a creature formed of the body and soul, felicity means to attain and be blessed with physical and spiritual good.
The Outcome of Those Who Attain Happiness in the Quran
وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا فَفِي الْجَنَّةِ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا مَا دَامَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ رَبُّكَ ۖ عَطَاءً غَيْرَ مَجْذُوذٍ ﴿108﴾
As for the felicitous, they will be in paradise. They will remain in it for as long as the heavens and the earth endure—except what your Lord may wish—an endless bounty. 3
As mentioned above, Heaven is the abode of those who attain happiness and felicity according to the Quran.
Is Wretchedness and Happiness in the Quran Essential?
The wretched and the felicitous are not essentially so; rather, it is their deeds that decide their fate on the Day of Judgment and is a state human beings acquire for themselves.
The verse also indicates a very subtle point through the use of its verbs. The verb for wretched is an active verb whereas that for felicity and happiness is a passive one.
This indicates that human beings choose wretchedness voluntarily through their actions; however, happiness and felicity is not possible except through God’s help. Undoubtedly, this help will only come to those who take the first steps on this path voluntarily, thereby making them worthy of such help. 5
Free Will and Happiness in the Quran
Happiness and felicity is something that all human beings are searching for and we all seek it in particular places or things. It refers to the availability of the tools of evolution and growth of a person or society.
Therefore, whoever has more means available to him/her in terms of spiritual, physical, familial, environmental, and cultural conditions is happier. However, the main foundation for a person’s felicity and happiness is his/her own free will and desire. It is he who can provide the necessary means to build himself and even society. It is a human being himself who can fight against or give in to the factors that lead to wretchedness. 6
Happiness in the Logic of the Prophets
According to the logic of the prophets, happiness and wretchedness is not something that is essentially present in a human being. Even the deficiencies present in one’s environment, family, genes, etc., can be changed in the face of a person’s decision and will.
Anything other than this would result in predetermination and the negation of free will; something that Islam does not believe in. 7
Factors that Lead to Happiness in the Quran
According to the Quran the following are the factors that lead to true happiness:
Patience and Fear of God Leads to Happiness in the Quran
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا ﴿8﴾
For the love of Him, they feed the needy, the orphan and the prisoner,
إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّـهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا ﴿9﴾
[saying,] ‘We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We desire no reward from you, nor thanks.
إِنَّا نَخَافُ مِن رَّبِّنَا يَوْمًا عَبُوسًا قَمْطَرِيرًا ﴿10﴾
Indeed we fear a frowning and fateful day from our Lord.’
فَوَقَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ شَرَّ ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَلَقَّاهُمْ نَضْرَةً وَسُرُورًا ﴿11﴾
So Allah saved them from that day’s ills and graced them with freshness [on this faces] and joy [in their hearts]. 8
The abrār (أبرار) or the good doers, who in these verses refers to Ali b. Abi Talib, Lady Fatima and their sons, Hasan and Husain (peace be on them), feed the needy for two reasons:
- For God’s sake
- In fear of God
The happiness that we bring for others in this world results in happiness for ourselves in the Hereafter. 9
The word nadra (نضرة) refers to apparent happiness which manifests in one’s face while surūr (سرور) refers to inner happiness, i.e., in the heart. 10
Factors that Lead to Happiness in Hadith
According to narrations, some of the factors that can lead to happiness or those that constitute true happiness are the following:
Grasping the Hereafter
According to Ali b. Abi Talib (peace be on him):
I have not benefited from any saying after the sayings of the Prophet, apart from this one, ‘Verily man feels happy when he manages to grasp something that he was about to miss, and he is saddened when he misses something that was within his grasp. So let your happiness lie in all that you can seize of the Hereafter, and let your regret lie in all that which passes you by of it. 11
Cheering up orphans
The Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) has narrated:
There is a place in Paradise called the House of Happiness which none shall enter except those who cheered up the orphans from amongst the believers.
Making Others Happy
- According to Imam Ali (peace be on him):
By the One whose Hearing encompasses all voices, no sooner does one fill somebody else’s heart with happiness than Allah creates a special grace for him from that very happiness, such that when he is faced with a calamity, he is able to pass over it like water flows over a slope, until he chases it away as wild camels are chased away.
- Similarly, Jaʿfar b. Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him narrates):
When Allah will raise the believer out of his grave, another presence will also come out with him and walk ahead of him, and whenever the believer will come across one of the terrors of the Day of Resurrection, the presence will console him saying, ‘Do not worry or be saddened…’ and the believer will ask, ‘Who are you?, at which it will reply, ‘I am the happiness that you used to bring upon your fellow believer.
Happiness in Islamic Philosophy
Happiness and felicity is also something that philosophers discuss including Muslim philosophers.
Happiness is intertwined with and defined through pleasure and freedom from pain. Muslim philosophers believe that pleasure and pain are both a matter of knowledge and understanding. When a person knows something to be pleasant and feels happy with it in their soul, without any conflict or negativity, understands it, and understands that it is pleasant, this will bring a person pleasure. 12
For example, if a person sees a beautiful flower but cannot smell its fragrance because their nose is blocked, he would not derive any pleasure from its scent. Pleasure is not simply to come across something pleasing and beautiful; rather, apart from this, one must also be able to recognize that it is pleasant. Or for example, if something has multiple facets, one of which is pleasant while the other is not so for us, we would understand it, but not enjoy it or feel some pleasure but more pain; such as something good for my health, but which tastes bitter.
Therefore, according to Muslim philosophers we derive pleasure from something that we understand to be pleasant insofar as it is pleasant.
So pleasure (and pain) and, as a result, happiness = reality + understanding of that reality. 13
Who Has the Greatest Joy and Happiness?
Those who have the most understanding of the greatest and most beautiful being, i.e., God have the most joy and happiness.
Therefore, the greatest joy is for prophets and is in reflecting on God as they among the creatures have the highest knowledge of this perfect being.
The reason why we do not derive happiness from reflecting on Him is because of our lack of knowledge of this most pleasant being. 14
If we want to gain the highest happiness, we need to get to know God better and as we do and reflect on Him, this will bring us the greatest joy in this world and the next.
The material world and material pleasures are not happiness in the Quran or according to Islam.
In Islamic teachings, true happiness is in belief of God and knowing Him and doing good deeds as a result of which we would attain the blessing of Heaven in the Hereafter. Happiness is also linked with the term success which has been discussed in another article and if, interested you may refer to it.
- [11: 105]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 11, pp. 21 & 22
- [11: 108]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Hud. Verse 108
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 9, pp. 236 & 238-9
- Ibid. p. 250
- [76: 8-11]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Insan. Verses 11-18
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Foundation. Vol. 11, p. 478
- Translation of Mizan al-Hikmah [Scale of Wisdom]. Narrations under the section title happiness (السرور)
- From a series of lectures titled: How to Attain Personal Felicity by M. A. S. Lecture 1