Written by Wan Nur Zafirah
I am a NTU Sociology student, who is doing Quran and Hadith studies on the side. The emotional rollercoaster ride I experienced while learning the Quran is expressed through my writings. If you enjoy my pieces, follow me at firaology on Instagram!
“I just want to be happy, and I am good for life.”
For most of us, happiness is an important concept for a successful life. But is happiness really the main purpose in life? What does Allah say about the pursuit of happiness?
The Quran does not talk about the pursuit of happiness. The highest level of happiness that the Quran has ever talked about is contentment and being at peace. However, why does Allah not talk about pursuing happiness when it is an important concept for most people?
Let us walk through the different levels of pursuit in life. As we go up each level, remember that it takes more effort, sacrifice, and energy to sustain the pursuit.
Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness is the lowest of all pursuits. It does not take much for someone to be happy. You can eat your favourite food and you are happy. You can meet an old friend and you are happy. Happiness is everywhere and it is about how you choose to look at happiness. However, Allah reminds us that life is also about struggles too. Verily We have created man into toil and hardship (Al-Quran, 90:4). Hence, if you just chase for happiness, you are in for disappointment.
Pursuit of Cool
People with the pursuit of cool wish to blend in with everyone else so that they are not an object of anyone’s criticism. The way they act and speak is dictated by what others think of them.
Pursuit of Popularity
People with the pursuit of popularity do not just want to blend in, they want to be the centre of attention. Some would go to the lengths of humiliating themselves so that they can go viral.
Pursuit of Prestige
People with the pursuit of prestige want to associate themselves with something that is reputable, such as prestigious institutions and branded items. They want others to know how awesome they are and not by how hard they work.
Pursuit of Money
People with the pursuit of money do not care about what others think. All they care about is how to make money and they would put in an incredible amount of work. They do not mind wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans to attend a meeting as long as profit is the end-product.
Pursuit of Excellence
People with the pursuit of excellence are never satisfied with their own progress. They will keep pushing themselves in whatever they do. They would compare themselves from yesterday and they do not care about the progress of others.
Pursuit of Impact
People with the pursuit of impact do not care if they are at the top, have a lot of money, or whether they have fame. All they want is to do something for others. They want to leave a legacy and they want to make this world a better place. Instead of worrying about what they are going to have, they are more worried about the impact. Excellence is automatic for these people because excellence is not their main goal, but excellence is their by-product. To have that level of impact, we need to push ourselves to be better.
Pursuit of Truth
People with the pursuit of truth are those who pursue justice, a concept that we can never fully see in this world. This level of pursuit is very difficult. When you work towards something you cannot see, it is the hardest thing to do in the world. Even if everyone thinks it is a crazy idea, they keep going because they believe in the idea. A prominent example is the Prophets that came before us. They cared about sharing the truth.
However, we should not be interested in the pursuit of coolness and popularity. The definitions of cool and popularity keep moving across the spectrum, and people are blindly chasing after it. We also should not be interested in the pursuit of prestige. We are associating prestige with the wrong things. Prestige comes from Allah and not from humans. Our Prophets were spit on and made homeless, but they still had prestige. But in the sight of Allah, what pursuit should we take on? The most valuable pursuit to Allah is PURSUIT.
The Value of Pursuit
Humans will have nothing for his own benefit except for the efforts he made (Al-Quran, 53:39). We must be people of pursuit. We have nothing in front of Allah, if not for our pursuit.
His effort will soon be seen. Then they will be fully rewarded (Al-Quran, 53:40-41).
Let's use an analogy. When we prepare our resume for a job interview, we insert the results we have accumulated over the years into the resume. We do not insert the amount of effort and sacrifice we had to give. When you study hard for an exam and do not do well, you are still getting that failure grade. This is how humans see one another. All we see are results. However, Allah is a Judge of Effort. On Judgement Day, Allah is not going to look at our report card based on our results. Allah is going to look at our efforts. No one will appreciate our efforts except Allah. When more Muslim youths can internalise such a mindset, the Ummah has a bright future.
With this information at hand, what should we do? Everyone should have a pursuit of impact. We need to think of what talent and ability that Allah has given to us and how we are going to use that talent to help the people around us. Creating impact does not have to be done in a large-scale setting that makes it difficult for us to sustain. Look around you. Identify what needs improvement and what you can do about it within your abilities and talent. Never underestimate your effort because other people underestimate them. We should stop thinking about results and achievements but think about the most sincere, genuine, and best possible effort. Subsequently, results from Allah will come pouring, but they come on Allah’s timing and not ours. When we chase after pursuit, happiness will come from Allah. When you have pursuit, your life means something. When your life means something, it makes you happy.