Islam and the Happiness Revolution

Khalid Safir, UK

The Quick, One-Step Guide to Happiness

It is often believed that religion teaches you to make your life miserable in exchange for paradise in the next life. That is not true. In Islam, the Holy Qur’an explains ‘But for him who fears to stand before his Lord there are two Gardens’ [1]. Gardens are metaphors for paradise, one in this life and the other in the next. Thus, any Islamic teaching to achieve paradise will make you happier in this life as well. 

Fear of God (Allah), as mentioned above, is the root of all wisdom. It is the fear of losing even a little of Allah’s love by doing something bad. Fear of Allah opens our eyes to the internal compass we were born with, our conscience. This compass directs us to good life choices which inevitably lead to happiness. So, fear of Allah is a one-step guide to happiness. 

The More Detailed, Three-Step Guide to Happiness

However, a one-step guide to happiness might be difficult to follow as this method requires you to be constantly aware of your conscience, a tall order. A gradual method that enables you to follow the one-step guide to happiness has been given by Prophet Muhammad (sa) in these three steps:

‘You will not enter Paradise (have happiness) until you believe; and you will not believe until you love each other. Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.’ [2]

Each of the above steps gives you some level of happiness, as well as leading you to the next step up. Higher steps produce higher levels of happiness. Let me explain the logic behind these steps. 

Step One: Turning the happiness switch on

As you may have noticed, the steps really begin with ‘Spread peace between yourselves’. ‘Spreading peace’ is a loose translation from the original saying in Arabic, of the act of spreading the ‘Salaam’. The Salaam is a greeting that Muslims offer when meeting each other. That greeting is ‘Peace be upon you’. This is an ancient practice that precedes Islam, practised by some Christians and Jews. When you offer someone peace in this way, it means you wish that person well. You promise not to harm them in any way and hope they will continue having inner peace. What has that got to do with achieving happiness for yourself? 

Offering everyone you meet peace, will make you happier. This idea is in line with modern sociological studies which show giving makes us happy. A great TED talk entitled ‘Money can buy happiness’ [3] explains how giving makes you happier than taking. In a similar way, offering peace to everyone has a similar effect. This simple practice switches on the happiness potential in your head.  

Step Two: Realising we are all brothers and sisters

The second step is to love everyone. If you have done the first step, you will already be experiencing the second. 

Happiness is not in things but in relationships. Loving everyone means to love people without expecting anything in return, that is what love is supposed to be. When you do not expect anything from people, you do not get frustrated when they do not do things you were hoping they would. Less frustration means more happiness for you. And there are even more benefits to spreading love. When you love everyone, your relations with people will inevitably get better and so will make you even happier.

Selfless love also begins to raise you to a higher perspective. You realise that if people are bad to you it is because they are not happy. As they say, ‘hurt people, hurt people’. As you grow in happiness, you will not hate people with a toxic attitude but love and pity them instead. With such love in your heart, you will begin to treat everyone with sympathy, as if they were all your brothers and sisters. 

Next will begin something rare. Once you are kind to everyone, you will start being kind to yourself. Most people never think they are enough. That is why they keep buying things – to demonstrate that they are of some worth. When we are kind to others, we realise the wisdom in the saying of Prophet Muhammad (sa) ‘Your self has a right upon you’ [4]. It might seem odd to refer to yourself in the third person, but it is a clever way of pointing out that ‘your self’ is like any other person and so is equally deserving of the love you give to other people. If you are a loving person who sees someone working tirelessly without a break, you would feel compassion for them and suggest they have a break. Yet, with ourselves, however hard we work, a voice in our head keeps telling us that we are never doing enough. That thought process, of never feeling like you are enough, is a product of materialistic thinking. The Holy Qur’an gives expression to this never-ending thirst for more, in the words ‘their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water until, when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing.’ [5] This verse of the Holy Qur’an describes the chasing of material desires like the chasing of a mirage. You think that something you do not yet have will finally make you happy, but when you finally get it, as with a mirage, you realise that happiness is not there.

Step Three: Love is the key to an open mind

The final step is to believe. Believing is to be open to truths that lead to happiness. But people do not follow truths, even if they are logical and for their own benefit. Arrogance gets in the way. By following the previous step, you will become more loving. When you love people, you will be more willing to listen to them. The opposite is also true – when you hate people then you refuse to listen to them. In short, before love enters your heart, you will be resistant to happiness truths. By believing in Islam, or even in the original teachings of religions around the world, you will find happiness truths.

The ultimate happiness truth is Allah. When you become aware that Allah is the Sustainer of every atom in the universe, who drives the clouds to recycle your water and maintains your inner universe of lungs, heart and brain to keep you alive, then you will find the only real goal of life – that is to be at one with Allah. As you realise your insignificance, all false pride will fall away, the pride that keeps you hostage to public opinion. When you find Allah, you will start to know the most beautiful light. ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the Earth… Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will.’ [6]

This is Just the Beginning

This article only lays out the path. As you follow that path, you will see that the teachings of Islam will help you with every step, from finding purpose, to relationships to even saving the environment. Islam came to bring us the happiness revolution. 

About the Author: Khalid Safir is a school teacher, software entrepreneur and happiness teacher.


[1] The Holy Qur’an 55:47

[2] Sahih Muslim 54:

[3] Money can buy happiness: Michael Norton at TEDxCambridge 2011

[4] Sunan Abī Dāwūd 1369:

[5] The Holy Qur’an 24:40

[6] The Holy Qur’an 24:36