Issue 95 / September - October 2013
Happiness and Virtue: A Prophetic Example
M. Fethullah Gulen
Happiness is an ideal for which everybody longs. People endure all kinds of sacrifice for its sake. But what exactly is happiness? Is this question not one of the biggest enigmas bewildering mankind?
To some, happiness may be physical love and intimacy; to Caesar, it was fame and glory; to Pharaoh, it was protecting his might and position; to Korah, it was possessing masses and masses of fortune and treasure. None of these, however, is either real happiness or a means to happiness. Those who seek true happiness through these means have always fallen into delusion and disappointment.
Real happiness is to be saved from both material and spiritual dishevelment and wretchedness, and for the heart to be settled in perfect confidence and repose. Those who look for it by the seaside, on mountain tops, or in secluded woods or bays have always been mistaken. In fact, these can also be counted as the means of happiness for ordinary people, people who do not know any other way to satisfy and rest their soul. However, real happiness and felicity requires no need for a specific time or place. Happiness can be found everywhere with everyone, attributable to mankindÔÇÖs inner luminance and freewill. Every person, whenever they want, can attain happiness by setting sail to the eternal climates of their hearts with their unbounded flying soul. This is true, especially if the treasure of the heart is equipped with the purest and most lucid of thoughts. To paraphrase Samuel Boyce, the author of The Rover, or Happiness at Last, how fortunate is the person who holds such a shrine in the depths of his heart.
Surely, in order to be felicitous, the soul, the inner-self of a person, should be well-equipped, and the heart should be furnished with pure and exalted thoughts and emotions. Then the elating memories of the past and hopes of the future that are pertinent and accomplishable should be considered together. As a result, it will be possible to resist evil, to control carnal and lustful feelings, and to reinforce uplifting emotions and adorn every stage of life with meritorious deeds and behaviors. After all, the only principle of living a moral life is to conduct virtuous and meritorious deeds. In this respect, the happiness we seek can never be considered separate from virtue, and it is the result and reward of virtuousness.
The only thing that can elevate and uplift the spirit and keep the heart alive is to have virtuous thoughts and to strive on the path to becoming virtuous. To mention happiness without carrying any thought of virtuousness is meaningless and vain.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, that exclusive person who impressed the seal of felicity in our lives, was utterly virtuous and contentedly happy. He was so resolute and determined that in his whole life, he never, not even once, consented to anything that was not approved by the Exalted Creator. He was so righteous and honest that he was never unfair and never acted unjustly to anyone, even in insignificant matters. He was so attached to the most high, heavenly worlds, and was satisfied with sublime reflections and manifestations to such a degree that he never preferred any worldly flavor to virtuousness. He acquired such an outstanding capacity of perception and comprehension that he did not, not even once, fall into hesitation when distinguishing good from bad. He always remained respectful to peopleÔÇÖs ideas, but never felt any need for any exhortation. He used to solve even the most complicated matters very comfortably and easily, and he used to instantly elevate those who were trapped in inadvertence and misguidance to a virtuous and meritorious state. In all his statements, intelligence and wisdom were side by side; he was absolutely resolute about things that he knew were acceptable and right. He was so God-conscious and pious that the lucidness in his behaviors and attitudes, the tenderness and pureness in all his actions and treatments, were all admiringly elegant and gentle; they were even envied by angels. Boasting and arrogance burnt away and melted in his soul, and they never had the opportunity to be revealed. He never used to retort any condemnation directed against him; he endured all this and, with the utmost care, avoided blaming people. Timidity has never come close to his environment, and he never experienced anything like anxiety, apprehension or hesitation. As he was never discouraged from his mission when he had to face his own tribe, he also remained unfaltering when he had to settle accounts with others. His room, his bed, his clothes and his food were so simple that only the poorest could live like him. And he was the most humble, among a community of humble men and women. His fellowship was unprecedentedly steady, firm, and powerful. His faithfulness was so graceful and generous that everybody felt gratitude and indebtedness towards him.
He was perfectly equipped with all these qualities and was outstandingly virtuous. Just as he was virtuous, he was also tranquil, serene, and happy.
To be able to acquire a conscience as lucid and pure as his, we should take him as an example and adorn ourselves with these qualities of virtuousness and never allow thoughts, which carry the reflections and colors of our souls, to be putrefied or soiled.
Yes, adopting and acquiring all these sublime merits and attributes can only make us virtuous. Then the doors of real happiness will be opened to us. However, any defect or shortcoming shown in this way will appear as a rupture in our world of virtuousness and, consequently, will blur our felicitous world. Just as it is necessary to keep the water clear by not throwing anything dirty in it, establishing the tranquility and happiness of the soul can only be possible if it never leaves virtuousness, even for a moment.