IMAX movies, cable TV, 24-hours news channels, music, amusement parks, spectator sports, computer games, shopping sprees, vacation trips, dating, all night parties, recreational drugs, etc. The list of entertainment options these days are endless. The non-working, waking hours of many are consumed by such activities. “Work hard and play hard!” is their motto in life. It seems that humanity is craving for an elusive inner pleasure which these activities provide only temporarily. The repeated cravings for them become deeper and deeper until they often results in additions, compulsive disorders, living beyond one's means and crime. No wonder the rich among us are busy amusing themselves to death while the poor are envious of their glittery lifestyles and resort to any means to follow them.
In 1995, I studied a small classic book called Chimia As-Saada (The Alchemy of Happiness). It is a book of Islamic spirituality in which Imam Ghazzali (R) outlines the secret of ultimate happiness. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimiya-yi_sa'%C4%81dat ). Living a life devoted to Allah (SWT) not only fulfills the obligation we have as Muslims, but doing so gives us the sweetness of faith, which satisfies the inner cravings of the soul of a Believer. He does not have the need of endless entertainment and many such activities may become repulsive to him. A person who experiences this satisfaction is a true ascetic (zahid). His life is blessed and he can feel true happiness without the need for cheap thrills. Al Ghazzali gives the analogy of a riding animal when describing the body. He says that the soul is the rider, riding on the riding animal (his body) heading for a final destination (The Hereafter). According to him, a person should take care of the body, its needs and pleasures, just as much is needed for its purpose of taking the rider to the destination safely.
The Seerah of the Prophet (SWAS) is punctuated with moments when he and his Companions amused themselves. This sort of halal fun is necessary for the physical senses so that they can relax and become capable of taking greater burdens of responsibility during the journey of life. It is also beneficial in keeping cordial relations and attracting people to the Truth. The Prophet (SWAS), his companions and his family watched the performance of Abyssinian entertainers inside the masjid. The Prophet (SWAS) used to make jokes (not based on false statements). He used to have light moments with his family members, running races with his wife. He used to interact with children, inquiring about their games. Yet despite all this, he did not have the urge to keep himself amused like we do nowadays. Regarding his personal pleasures, he is reported to have said:
“Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i)
Thus a person who understands the meaning of life and has the capability of unraveling spiritual mysteries, will have an inner eye to see dimensions of reality which are not apparently visible. His soul will long for increasing this insight. He will find inner pleasure in pursuing a path of discovery. He will enjoy the process of piecing together a large jigsaw puzzle of the most beautiful landscape. As he nears completion his excitement and anticipation grows. Until he finally puts the last piece. For a Muslim the last pieces will be put together in Jannah when he will have the Ultimate Pleasure from seeing the “Face” of Allah (SWT). It is that pleasure which we must all be striving for and only in its pursuance will we find burst of real joy in our mundane earthly lives.
Don’t you enjoy the feeling when you give charity, read a good book, see your mother smiling at you after you obey her, hear you children recite Quran, understand a difficult concept, see Allah (SWT)’s wisdom in your life, travel, experience and contemplate on Creation, share nostalgic moments with your extended family members, joke with your wife, get appreciated for giving good advice, act justly, fulfill obligations, fall in prostration, etc.? All these actions in our worldly lives are acts of worship and obedience to Allah (SWT) that make us naturally happy and satisfied in themselves. They are a foretaste of the Ultimate Pleasure awaiting us in the Hereafter. As we grow in obedience we develop insights about the reality we are part of, creating a perpetual cycle of obedience and satisfaction.
By doing such acts regularly and systematically as the Prophet (SWAS) did them, we can hope to find the most optimum pattern for happiness which can be achieved. Doing so entails implementing the Sunnah in our lives. A life patterned on such pleasures will have no desire for other forms of entertainment. It will free us from sins, wasting resources, destroying our nafs, selfishness, adopting bad habits, setting bad examples for others, degrading oneself, living a life of borrowed living, addictions, compulsive disorders, etc. It will heal the wounds of material disparity in our societies.
Realize, my friends, that the human soul has been created for its destiny to experience the Ultimate Pleasures of Jannah. It is in our nature to try and fulfill this desire somehow. Most people try to fulfill it by ephemeral means which leave them thirsty with a never quenching thirst for more. These means are harmful for our bodies, souls and societies. The real means of achieving happiness is to prepare for the ultimate happiness of the Hereafter. In living a life devoted to Allah (SWT) in the systematic way we learn from our Prophet (SWAS) we will find deep pleasures which come with understanding reality of our journeys. This understanding and pleasure is elusive to those who fail to submit themselves. A person who is hooked on to these pleasures will be satisfied from the simple blessings of this life and has no perpetual need for abominable amusements.