Habit No 1: Discontentment
No matter what you have in life, you feel that it's not enough. You want a better job, a bigger house and more cars. Your spouse is not beautiful enough, and you only have two children whereas your friends have three or four. You are pretty but not as pretty as your cousin.
Discontentment is the biggest killer to happiness, because instead of being satisfied with what you have, you always feel short changed and miserable.
Islam asks us to be contented with whatever Allah has ordained for us, good or bad. It does not mean that we should be complacent and relinquish all efforts, but rather, we should adopt the psychology of understanding that Allah gives or withholds from us, for our own benefit – but only if we believe!
We will never get everything we want in life, no matter how much we try. The same way that a good parent will never give his child everything he wants due to a wisdom that the child has yet to comprehend, it is the same when Allah withholds something from us.
We know that gratitude is a keystone to a good relationship with Allah, and we cannot practise gratitude if we are discontented. It sounds cliché, but while you are miserable at the amount of taxes you have to pay, think of those who do not even have a job. While you are unhappy about your quarrelsome spouse, think of the widows in Gaza whose husbands were randomly shot dead without warning. While you are dissatisfied that your dinner was too salty, think of the refugees in Syria who had to resort to eating cats and vermin in order survive because they were literally starving to death. These are not exaggerated examples, this is the reality of today's world.
If you are reading this, think of those who are illiterate, have no electricity and will probably never afford a computer or smart phone in their lives.
Perfection and complete fulfilment is only found in jannah. Meanwhile, Allah has given us imperfect lives to test our faith in Him. Being a grateful slave is one of the ways of attaining happiness in this life and the next.
Here is some news for you – if you cannot learn to be contented with what you have, you will never be happy with life. You will live and die in emotional agony.
Contentment is not dependent on what you possess - you can be the richest man in the country and still be discontented. You can be a Hollywood star, with looks, wealth, fame and a fairy tale spouse, but still be miserable (the alarming rates of suicide, substance abuse and divorce rates speak for themselves). One of my friends observed the behavior of customers at a luxury car outlet – even though they already had their fleets of Ferraris and Porches, they came to the car showroom with their eyes full of misery and poverty for what they saw on display!
Why? A discontented person will always focus on the single lacking element and ignore the ninety nine wonderful things that Allah gave him. He always looks for what he doesn't have and wants it, instead of being happy with what he has.
A hadith illustrates this characteristic perfectly:
"If the son of Adam were to possess two valleys of riches, he would long for the third one. And the stomach of the son of Adam is not filled but with dust. And Allah returns to him who repents." (Muslim)
Discontentment is one of the worst traits of mankind, is despised by Allah, was the beginning of Iblis's downfall, and the cause of much personal destruction and ruin over history.
Learn to be happy with the small blessings in life. Look around you, and say "Alhamdulillah" about your circumstances and situation instead of feeling defeated and dissatisfied. Magnify the simple pleasures and blessings in life. Be grateful and appreciative to the people around you, instead of feeling that they are constantly letting you down. Most importantly, be a grateful slave to Allah.
Contentment is truly the biggest key to happiness, no matter what your station is in life! That is why Islam repeatedly emphasizes the importance of patience and gratitude. Try and live out these principles, and your life will change.
Here's another secret – the more you thank Allah, with total gratitude and sincerity, the more He will give you! And the less grateful you are to Allah, the less He will give you. Try it out if you don't believe us!
If you think lack of contentment is very small, to some early people it is the mother of all evils. It generates animosity, hate, greed, and it even leads to people killing and oppressing each other. It starts with a seemingly insignificant habit and it ends destroying nations and mankind. When you look around today, you can see that the greed of a few individuals or nations, and what it does to the rest of the whole group and mankind.