What Is Happiness in Islam?

Question and answer details
All the rules of Islam go against the natural urges of the human being, so how can it be a realistic religion? How can God create instincts in us, and then forbid us from doing things we feel like doing? Islam says no drink, no love and no fun… so how do you live? Is there any kind of delight that you are permitted to enjoy? What is happiness in Islam?
Salem Al-Hasi

Salam (Peace) Dear Dominick,

Thank you for this interesting question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

In order to answer your question, please allow me to bring forth some facts that are related to the main issue of this question.

The first fact, which I would like you to be aware of, is that, in contrast with other faiths, the general rule in Islam is: ‘Everything is halal (permissible) unless it was made haram (forbidden) by the shari`a (Islamic law). Therefore, haram (forbidden) is the exception and halal (permissible) is the principle.

Secondly, the Islamic Law was not revealed to restrain people, confiscate their freedom, or to make their life hard and miserable. On the contrary, it was revealed to serve an important purpose, which is the “interests of people.” Thus, anything made haram (forbidden) by Islamic Law was made so for the interest of people.

According to Muslim scholars, the interests of people are: faith, life, intellect, wealth, along with family and lineage. If you study the Islamic Law, you will discover that all its rules focus on preserving these five ultimate objectives.

So, for example, as Allah prohibited suicide to preserve one’s life, He also prohibited drinking alcohol to preserve one’s intellect. And, as God forbade compulsion in religion to preserve one’s faith, He also prohibited adultery to preserve one’s family kinship and the clarity of one’s lineage.

In addition, Allah (God) did not forbid anything that is completely useful. On the contrary, the harmfulness of what Allah prohibited, to the individual and/or the society, is greater than its usefulness.

Take for example alcohol and sexual relations outside marriage - if that is what you meant by drink and love - the danger and harm they both cause to the individuals and to the society is greater than the temporal enjoyment one gets from any of them.

Furthermore, in many rulings Islam is not different, but shares a large number of these rules with other faiths and even with some civil laws…

Thus, what Islam prohibited, especially the examples you mentioned in your question, although lawful in some societies, are forbidden in many faiths and not appreciated in all the civilized societies. As a matter of fact, such acts are considered social illnesses; many rules and regulations are dedicated to decrease their presence among people.

Hence, it is safe for me to say that the thesis that you began your question with is a fallacy. The truth is that Islamic rules do not at all go against the natural urges of the human being.  

As a matter of fact, the central role of the Islamic rules is to cultivate the human behavior and to enable humans to master their natural urges, instead of being enslaved by them.

The above mentioned brings us to your question about the wisdom behind Allah’s creation of human instincts and then forbidding people from doing what they feel like doing. We Muslims believe that this worldly life is not the eternal life; it is only a life of deeds, in which we continuously live the struggle between good and evil, in ourselves and around us.

We Muslims also believe that Allah (God) has created us for one purpose, which is servitude. Yet, Allah did not create us to be robots… He created us with intellect, feelings, will, and granted us the freedom to choose and act.

Further, through prophets and messengers, as easily traced in all divine scripts, Allah clarified to humanity what is good and what is evil. Then, He gave each one the will and ability to pursue.

Human instincts are part of our nature. This nature, without the divine teachings and values, will lead us astray. Thus, as it shares with other faiths, Islam’s teachings and rules are meant to elevate the human soul above the desires and inclinations to the level, in which, one becomes able to fulfill the purpose of the creation.

Without divine teachings, Man becomes easily enslaved by these instincts, and then descends to the nature of lesser creatures…

Let’s not neglect the fact that although God forbade the negative ways of fulfilling and responding to the human instincts, He allowed for a positive way to do so. For instance, Allah prohibited any out of marriage sexual relationships.

Still, He made marriage permissible and put rules and teachings for it, whereby human instincts are fulfilled and at the same time human interests are preserved as well.

In conclusion, as described by one of our scholars:

“Man was created of the best stature, on the best pattern of creation, and given a very comprehensive potential. Accordingly, he has been sent to an arena of trial where he will either rise in degree to the highest of the high, or descend to the level of the lowest of the low. Always open to Man are the two ways to infinite ascent or to infinite descent.”

The only true and real joy of life - for a devoted Muslim - is to enjoy his/her human nature, within his/her devotion to the transcendental view, in which he/she believes.

Thus, the teachings and rules of Islam simply work as guidance for those who want to ascend. Hence, real happiness, dear Dominick, does not exist in materialistic temporal enjoyment or in how much we own of that.

True happiness is in the fact we live our life as humans [elevated beings] and succeed in fulfilling the mission of our creation, which is servitude.

Allah knows the best. I hope this helps answer your question. 

Salam and please keep in touch.

Useful Links:

The Promise and its Conditions

Divine or Man-made Law?

About Love in Islam…

A Noble Sentiment or "Fake Love"?