Dealing with Envy

By Naila Naiyyar

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Envy is a feeling of displeasure that sets in upon knowing of another person’s achievement, success, fame, influence or possession, all the while feeling discontent and inferior about one’s own self. The envier may even wish that the blessing be removed from the envied.

Side notes:

 

Envy is a disease of the heart which can ruin one’s peace. Envying indicates low self-esteem and a sense of inferiority, as the envier feels unable to achieve what the envied has achieved.

Envy has no positive or constructive influence on the envier. In fact it causes resentment, bitterness, and if not controlled, then eventually, depression, anxiety and possibly even suicide – May Allah protect us. The envier may even go a step further and harm the envied as he can’t stand seeing him enjoying his milestones.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Envy consumes good deeds just as fire consumes wood, and charity extinguishes bad deeds just as water extinguishes fire. Prayer is the light of the believer and fasting is a shield against the Fire.” (Ibn Majah)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Beware of envy because envy consumes (destroys) the virtues just as the fire consumes the firewood,” or he said “grass.” (Abu Dawud)

Due to the competitive world we live in where we are programmed to compare and compete with others. And so the envier wonders how the envied has managed to achieve a milestone when he/she has not, despite taking several efforts.

However, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has encouraged envy (ghibtah). But only in the following cases:

He said, “Envy is justified in regard to two types of persons only: a man whom Allah has given knowledge of the Qur’an, and so he recites it during the night and during the day; and a man whom Allah has given wealth and so he spends from it during the night and during the day.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Feeling envious (without wishing for the other to lose his blessing) in these cases is encouraged in Islam due to its noble nature of pleasing Allah using the blessings provided Him.

As for the impressible type of envy, here are some coping strategies that we can employ:

 

Coping Strategies

 

  1. Count your Blessings

You are gifted in ways different than others and are blessed with a life worth celebrating. You are unique and don’t have to live life like everyone else. Sit down in a quiet and comfortable place and think of all that you have been bestowed upon by Allah Almighty; do not ignore even the smallest of things. This activity will make you realize that you are indeed valuable; and will question yourself, “why am I sulking over this (envy) and making my life miserable when I already have so much!”

 

  1. Stop comparing

You must realize that there will be people who will always have it better than you. And then, there will be people who don’t have what you do. Why not compare yourself to them?!

If you compare yourself with those who have what you don’t, you will feel as if you don’t have anything at all. Amazingly, the people who you envy might in turn, be wishing for things that you have! You see, everyone can’t have everything.

Have a look at this hadith and ponder over it. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah. (Ibn Majah)

 

The only time you should look above you is when you see people attaining authentic knowledge of deen and doing good deeds to Please Allah.

 

  1. Avoid people who value the wrong things

Stay away from those who are ‘obsessed’ with and gauge their success with nothing but the latest gadgets, branded clothes, or eating at high-end restaurants, valuing neither time, morals, etiquettes, nor good manners. Instead, choose people who are always grateful to Allah with whatever they have.

 

  1. Beware the consumer culture and materialism

No matter where you look, the marketers will tell you that if you don’t have what your neighbor has then you are the biggest loser. It’s not wrong to be ambitious or struggle to make yourself better and enjoy the blessings of Allah in this world, but it should not be at the expense of your peace of mind and soul.

 

  1. Learn to be happy for people

People enjoy their blessings because Allah planned to give them those blessings in the first place. By not being happy for them, we are actually complaining to Allah of His Will! Instead, congratulate them and give them gifts.

Conversely, ask yourself: How would you feel if people envy you for your blessings?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Another time, he said, “…Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and enter the garden should die with faith in Allah and the Last Day and should treat the people as he wishes to be treated by them…” (Muslim)

 

  1. Identify the trigger points

Analyze what’s making you envy and feeling insecure. Is it something that you greatly value, something you have been working on too long but haven’t been successful in? Try to work even harder to achieve it and leave the rest to Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices by overbidding against one another; do not hate one another; do not harbor malice against one another; and do not enter into commercial transaction when others have entered into that (transaction); but be you, O slaves of Allah, as brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him, nor does he humiliate him. Piety is here, (and he pointed to his chest three times). It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother-in-faith: his blood, his property and his honor”. (Muslim)

 

  1. Make Dua when you hear good news about others

Ask Allah to bless them even more and Protect form from evil eye. Ask Allah to make you content of all His Decisions and bless you with even better than what they have. And the best part is when you make dua for anyone, the angels say Aameen too!

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The supplication of a Muslim for his (Muslim) brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: Aameen! May it be for you too.” (Muslim)

 

  1. Examine your intention and goals

What is it that is making you envy? In what way, will achieving it, make you feel enriched, happy and successful? Why not work on what you already have and excel in it? What can you do, the halal way, to achieve what others have? Does your success truly depend on it? Are you sure you will be ‘happy’ once you achieve what the other person has or enjoys.

Work on these questions so that you can manage these emotions in a positive and productive manner.

 

  1. Belief in Qadr/Allah’s Decree

Allah is the one who blesses everyone with what they are destined for and that which is in their best interest.

“Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate.” (Surah Az-Zukhruf; 43:32)

“And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.” (Surah An-Nisa; 4:32)

 

  1. Build up your self confidence

Envy is usually a result of low self-esteem. Be confident of who you are, your achievements and your talents. Work on them to achieve greater heights.

 

  1. Life is a Test

Everything in this dunya is a test; difficult times as well as the blessings. If Allah can Give, He can take it back too. Generally, we humans start boasting about our achievements and forget to thank Allah. So thank Allah and succeed in your tests. As Allah mentions in the Holy Quran, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]”. (Surah Ibrahim; 14:7)

 

Bonus: Envy & Social Media

With the increased trend of people updating statuses and sharing posts about each and everything going on in their life, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of feeling inferior to others.

Topper at the university, landing the dream job, marriage, best wedding coverage, best spouse, latest car, huge mansion, branded clothes, baby shower, birthday parties, outings, check-ins, holiday trips, etc. Everything seems so beautiful and complete for such people, doesn’t it?

Know that no one in this dunya is without issues or problems, and such people have their own set of problems too (conversely, due to this self-advertising and over-exposure they may in fact, be inviting the evil eye towards themselves).  So do not worry too much looking at their status and picture updates. They have just as normal a life as anyone else.

 

Recommended Reading:

Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures

Focus – ‘Where is My Mind?’

By Khalida Jalili

focus

His Personal Struggle

He is sitting in a spacious lecture hall occupied with more than 200 seats; yet, he feels cramped and uncomfortable. He feels the headache coming back again, especially on the right side. He can hear the professor explaining notes on the PowerPoint slide, but his mind is hazy. He puts in effort to listen more attentively to each word and process its meaning.

To his dismay, he simply cannot process the entire lecture. His mind wanders off to the humidity in the room, how much he needs to study for his next exam, the last argument he had with his wife, the tasks he needs to complete for his work, and his hunger – how can he forget that he’s hungry?! So he quietly sneaks out in the middle of the class for the fourth time this semester…

“What is happening to me?” he asks himself, “Why can’t I just pay attention in class?” He decided to go home to rest. Two hours later, after taking a nap, eating, and remembering to pray Salah, he realizes that he had forgotten to attend a work meeting due an hour ago!

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you may be experiencing concentration issues that require attention. The good news is that there are many solutions for this, alhamdulillah!

Possible Health Issues

Struggling with focus does not necessarily mean you suffer from any disorder, as it may simply be a bad habit, especially in our current technology-centered age. However, it is important to know that according to WebMD’s Symptom Checker, memory and concentration deficits are associated with 30 conditions including:

  •    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  •    Alzheimer’s Disease
  •    Anxiety
  •    Brain tumor
  •    Dementia
  •    Depression
  •    Infections
  •    Injury
  •    Medication side effects
  •    Parkinson’s Disease
  •    Schizophrenia
  •    Sleep apnea or sleep deprivation
  •    Stroke
  •    Vitamin B12 deficiency

Health Grades additionally mentions that psychological conditions such as emotional trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and even stress can result in poor concentration. Of course, all of the disorders just mentioned are only diagnosed following the presence of many other related symptoms; lacking concentration does not automatically imply that you suffer from any of these disorders; it is simply one symptom in individuals with these conditions.

What Should I Do?

Most of us do not sit home all day in front of the TV or computer. We may have a spouse, children, siblings, students, or employees we need to spend time with or manage. We have responsibilities regardless of who we are. So whether we spend most of our time at home, in school, or at work, there may come times when we feel overwhelmed. Here are some ways to modify and maintain our environment, mind, body, and soul for better focus:

Environment and Personal Assistants

 

Limit Distractions, Increase Motivation – Choose a quiet environment for work and/or studying purposes. Keep the area you are working in clutter-free so that your mind does not wander off. If your phone distracts you, keep it on silent, power it off, or remove it from your study area. Tell yourself that you will access social media if and only if you have completed your task. Correct intentions are important for gaining reward from Allah, but they are also vital in motivating us to focus on what we need to do; intentions keep us working on what is important despite potential distractions.

Break it Down – A tip often given by productivity experts is to ‘break down’ any task you need to complete. If you have to study for a test on 10 chapters, for example, you can break it down to studying two, three, or five chapters a day.

Write it Down – Allah revealed an entire Surah titled, “The pen”. If that is not enough to show us the importance of writing, then we must remember that we are humans and therefore bound to forget. Life will be a lot easier if you just write down your to-do list and reminders on paper or even carry it around electronically. This will help you organize and start completing your greater-priority tasks first when you have most energy and focus. Google calendar and Evernote are great personal assistants for this!

Time Yourself – When experiencing concentration issues, especially if accompanied by other symptoms, it is very easy to lose track of time or to not accomplish much within a certain time range. Track your time by setting alarms on your phone, use apps such as Task Timer, or simply write down your start and end times on paper. If you find it difficult to focus after 20 minutes, for example, set your timer for that task for 20 minutes and take a five-minutes’ break before the next 20-minute increment.

 

Body & Mind

 

Exercise Your Mind – Neuroscience research has shown that the human brain is incredibly malleable, so we must “use it or lose it”. According to Debbie Hampton’s article “Neuroplasticity: The 10 Fundamentals of Rewiring Your Brain”, “It’s almost as easy to drive changes that impair memory and physical and mental abilities as it is to improve these things.” Memorizing (no wonder huffaazh have such an incredible memory!), solving crossword puzzles, reading, answering math problems, and learning a new language (Memrise definitely makes this fun) are all excellent ways to exercise your mind.

Exercise Your Body – Exercise, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch May 2013 Issue, is an effective way to increase your concentration and memory. Having the willpower or allotting time for exercising regularly may not always be easy, but if you go against those tendencies and exercise at least twice a week, you will see instant changes, in shaa Allah. You have options to exercise by following Youtube videos or by attending your local gym. Other options include learning martial arts, karate, or simply taking consistent (fast-paced) walks in your neighborhood.

Let Your Brain Rest – Allah created the day and night for a reason. Imagine how life would be if the earth was either always dark or perpetually sunny. Sleep with the intention of giving your brain and body rest so that you can be energized enough to worship Allah during the day. This way, you will be worshipping Allah even though you’re sleeping, subhanAllah! Based on the article Sleep, Learning, and Memory by Harvard Medical School, sleep is essential to paying attention and learning, so do not forget to sleep early tonight!

Watch Your Stomach – Do you feel a difference after consuming a burger with French fries and a soda versus eating salmon, fresh salad, and drinking organically? That’s because our diet has an impact on not just our physical health, but on our mental health as well. You might be surprised at your clarity of mind after implementing a few helpful diet tips.

Soul

 

Exercise Your Soul by Holding on to Prayer and Dhikr- The most essential action that we should always earnestly put in effort to revolve our life around is Salah and worshipping Allah in general. Dr. Bilal Philips said, When we repair our relationship with Allah, He repairs everything else for us”.

When we remember to pray, life will become easier and more peaceful even if it is “chaotic,” in shaa Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “There is none who performs ablution and performs the ablution perfectly and then offers two rak’ahs of prayers concentrating on them with his heart and face except that paradise will be incumbent for him” (Sunan Abi Dawud).

Dhikr is an extremely important nourishment for the soul. Choose at least one dhikr  – whether it’s seeking istighfaar, saying subhanAllah, alhamdulillah, and Allahu Akbur 33 times after Salah, saying the morning and evening du’as, or any other dhikr – and maintain consistency

Shaykh Moutasem Al-Hameedi mentioned in his lecture Sweetness in Prayer that one key to finding khushoo’ – awe, concentration, fear, focus, humility – within Salah is developing khushoo’ and remembering Allah outside Salah.

Remember: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The Mufarridun have gone ahead.” He was asked, “Who are the Mufarridun?” He (ﷺ) replied, “Those men and women who frequently remember Allah” (Muslim).

Create a Routine – The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, ‘Do not take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability” (Bukhari).

Consistency in our actions, according to this hadith, is important; however, this is also important in keeping us focused. If we do not pray regularly, for example, it is more likely that we will forget prayer altogether when something else distracts us. If we set a certain time and place for our daily actions, whether it is praying, studying, or exercising, our mind will maintain focus and we will engage in it even if we are tired.

May Allah bless us with a strong ability to maintain focus in whatever good we do. Ameen.