Contentment in Islam
Shaykh Hamid delivered this lecture about contentment as part of his series Weighing Down the Soul at the Imam Hussain Islamic Centre in September, 2014. He discussed what contentment is, the psychological and spiritual benefits of contentment, and how to become content with what you have.
Contentment (قناعة) is defined as: sufficing with little; sufficing with basic needs; being satisfied with what one has. It is used in traditions to mean satisfaction, for instance: Imam Ali (a) in a letter to Uthman bin Hanif: “Would I be satisfied (قانع) for them to call be the Commander of the Faithful while I do not participate in their daily difficulties?”
Positive Effects of Contentment
Honour: Imam Ali (a): “Nobody is more honourable than a person who is content.”
Infinite Treasure: Prophet Muhammad (s): “Contentment is a treasure that does not dissipate,” (Rawdah al-Wa’idin, p.456) or: “Contentment is money (mal) that does not finish.” (Ibid)
Increase in Thankfulness: Prophet Muhammad (s): كن قانعا تكن اءشكر الناس – Be content to be the most thankful of people. (Jami’ al-Sa’adat, v.2, p.122)
Negative Effects of Not Being Content
Dishonour: Imam Sadiq (a): “How ugly it is for a believer to desire something which will dishonour him.” (Kafi, v.2, p.139) Allamah Majlisi states that this is begging from others without seeking from Allah.
Constant Worry: Prophet Muhammad (s): “Whoever has his eyes on the property and wealth of others will face an extended period of sorrow.” (Bihar al-Anwar, v.70, p.171)
How to Obtain Contentment
- Compare oneself with those less fortunate (not better off) – visit sick, visit impoverished
- Compare oneself with difficulties that one had in the past and with the histories of civilisations
- Overcome addictions – addiction is a sign that one is not focusing on the world, but trying to escape
- Live simply: no extravagance; no israaf – “Eat and Drink, and do not be extravagant. Verily, he does not love the extravagant.” (Quran, 7:31)
- Be Grateful: thank Allah for everything that you have, make a habit of that.
- Be one with Nature: Look at greenery and large bodies of water