By Naila Naiyyar
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.
- Jealousy is the fear of losing something /someone to a third party.
- Ghitbah is where the envier wishes to possess the same blessing without it being removed from the envied. This type of envy is permissible.
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:
- 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!”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.