This article highlights lessons from the Quran that can be instrumental in guiding us to maintain our spiritual sanity and connection with Allah, especially when things seem to be going right in our lives. For many, life may seem in order when one is blessed with wealth, children, health, and respect from those around us. Such worldly blessings can create the illusion of one living in a virtual paradise of sorts. However, such a comfort zone can blur people’s visions and deviate them from the right path.
Although many of us know that Quran has ample wisdom to help us navigate out of the turbulence in our lives, there is wisdom for those as well who get distracted by their wealth and other blessings. Based on the wisdom in the Quran, the following are some of the mistakes that we should be wary of making when blessed with many bounties.
Mistake # 1: Presuming that success is predictable
There are times when one snaps on to the wheels of success and attains a perfect momentum. Success becomes predictable and always in sight. We see this in the businessmen who become confident of their deals, writers who are sure of creating their next best sellers, rulers who start thinking that they are invincible, and so on. In Surah Al-Kahf, Allah provides us an example of a conversation between two people, one of whom Allah had blessed with a lot of wealth. He was quite proud about his possessions and considered it his paradise. The man used to say to himself (as mentioned in the Quran):
Then he entered his “Paradise”, while he was unjust to himself, and said, “I don’t think that this wealth of mine will ever perish.”
Quran (Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 35)
It is during such moments of absolute confidence that we should remind ourselves of Allah’s power to bring things to a halt in the blink of an eye. We can observe this in the many examples where rulers lost their kingdoms, businessmen who became paupers, and so on. Allah tells us in the Quran:
And Our Commandment is but one, as the twinkling of an eye.
Quran (Surah Al-Qamar, Verse 50)
So, let us be wary of becoming too confident with our comfort zones because regardless of what (and how much) we have been blessed to date, the next moment’s success is dependent on Allah’s will alone.
Mistake # 2: Solely attributing one’s efforts and intellect to ones success
Many of us achieve success by working hard. It is especially during those moments of enjoying success when Satan can delude us to attribute our successes solely to our tireless efforts and to our powerful intellect. Doing so would be to deny Allah’s favors upon us. We see this happening to Qarun, whose example Allah has mentioned in Surah Al-Qasas. Allah tells us in His book that He had provided Qarun with a great amount of wealth but instead of thanking Allah, Qarun attributed all those riches to his intellect. The Quranic verse below highlights his arrogance:
He (Qarun) said: “This has been given to me only because of the knowledge I possess.” Did he not know that Allah had destroyed before him generations, men who were stronger than him in might and greater in the amount (of riches) they had collected. But the Mujrimoon (criminals, sinners, etc.) will not be questioned of their sins (because Allah knows them well, so they will be punished without account).
Quran (Surah Al-Qasas, Verse 78)
We tend to forget that whether it was our efforts, intellect, or simply a miracle that gave us our success – they are all blessings that Allah bestows on His servants. How many people do we we know of who are not blessed with the ability to work hard or to use their intellect or are bestowed with any miracles? And even if some are bestowed with such blessings, they are not always guarantors of success. Let us, therefore, not forget that Allah alone blesses us with not just the successful outcomes but also with the means (ability to work hard, intellect, etc.) to achieve those outcomes and if He wills He can bestow success irrespective of any of the above.
In continuation of the earlier example from Surah Al-Kahf, the proud man’s wise companion reminded him of his reality in the world in the following verse.
His companion rebuked him during the conversation, saying, “Do you disbelieve in the Being Who has created you from clay (i.e. your father Adam), then from out of Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge) and then shaped you as a man?
Quran (Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 37)
The lesson is that when things seem to be going well, we should never let pride or arrogance infect our souls. We should never forget about who we really are, the temporary nature of all blessings and provisions in life, and the reality of the Lord to Whom we all will return.
Mistake # 3: Forgetting the poor and needy
In Islam, the poor have a right to a portion of ones wealth. Giving from that wealth to the poor, therefore, should not be considered as a favor to the poor. Rather, giving to the poor is an obligation, exercising which shows our submission to Allah that in turn further makes us eligible for more of His blessings. For example, Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam and ongoing charity can lead us toward more of Allah’s blessings. In such situations, we should be wary of getting in Satan’s traps as he can easily push us in rationalizing that since we earned that wealth, the poor has no rights over it.
In Quran, Allah reminds us of the people who are the righteous in Surah Adh-Dhariyat and one of their attributes is the following:
And in their properties there was the right of the beggar, and the Mahroom (the poor who does not ask the others)
Quran (Surah Adh-Dhariyat, Verse 19)
While giving from our wealth in charity is a recipe for success, withholding charity can lead us to destruction. Whether Allah destroys the wealth that one has or deprives one from other blessings is up to Him. Consider the following hadith of the prophet (s):
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There is no day on which the people get up but two angels come down and one of them says, ‘O Allah, give in compensation to the one who spends (in charity),’ and the other says, ‘O Allah, destroy the one who withholds.’”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1374; Muslim, 1010.
The point to remember is that charity is quite essential and the future of our blessings and provisions can be tied to our giving or withholding. The One who has the power to grant, not only can grant more but also has the power to take it away.
Mistake # 4: Wealth and happiness does not necessarily imply Allah’s happiness and satisfaction
In the same Surah, the person who was happy to be in his paradise told his companion that he didn’t believe in the day of resurrection but even if it did come, he was sure to enter paradise in the hereafter as well. In one of the tafsirs it is mentioned that since he enjoyed all the blessings in this life, he reasoned that Allah must have been happy with him. The Quranic verse for this is the following:
“And I think not the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, (on the Day of Resurrection), I surely shall find better than this when I return to Him.”
Quran (Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 36)
The examples that we see around us in this regard are numerous. Just because the tyrants and wrongdoers are enjoying their time on earth does not imply that Allah is happy with them. Allah has given them their time after which they will be sure to meet their abode.
Conclusion – Lessons Learned for Success and Happiness in Islam
To conclude, we can highlight two lessons from this article. First, when Allah grants us the blessings that we enjoy in our lives, we need to adopt a thankful attitude. We learn that from the same surah where the proud man’s companion advises him to instead appreciate Allah’s blessings on him. The Quran says:
It was better for you to say, when you entered your garden (your paradise): That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no power but with Allah…”
Quran (Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 39)
Also, for those of us who have been blessed with provisions and blessings, we should use those blessings to work righteously and build our place in the hereafter. This does not mean that we should not use that wealth for halal and legal enjoyment in this world. This is what Allah told us in the Quran when narrating the story of Qarun. He says:
But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not the Mufsidoon (those who commit great crimes and sins, oppressors, tyrants, mischief-makers, corrupts).
Quran (Surah Al-Qasas, Verse 77)