They do not call it the ‘green eyed monster’ for no reason. Jealousy is a terrible and monstrous emotion that snakes its way through society. Jealousy consumes you, it impacts your thoughts and your sense of self-worth, and it can destroy relationships and burn bridges.
Oddly enough jealousy is an intricate and complex human emotion that is also very natural. It seems ironic that an emotion that is likened to a monster is also seen as natural. But jealousy is a familiar emotion on the spectrum of humanity. It does not make you a bad person when you envy what someone else may have, when you are upset that your coworker got the promotion instead of you or that all your friends are settling down and you are still figuring out your path. Jealousy can actually motivate you to do better and achieve the goals of people you envy.
The real issue is when jealousy becomes a consuming force that prevents you from being grateful and dismisses the blessing Allah (SWT) has given you. Speaking from experience, I know for a fact how overwhelming and controlling an emotion like jealousy can be.
Jealousy is a familiar emotion on the spectrum of humanity.
As Muslims we are taught to always give thanks to Allah (SWT) for his bounty – but how can I do that when my friends are going on trips to Europe, or someone else has more followers than me? How can I be thankful when every time it seems like I am in a good place in my life, a friend of mine appears to be doing better – better clothes, better job, better relationship and better money? It makes me angry. It makes me so sad. It makes me resentful. It makes me depressed. Jealousy soon becomes a dark cloud hanging above me, leading me to become bitter and ungrateful.
However my jihad is not with the emotion of jealousy, rather it is with continuing to recognize and be grateful for the bounty and mercy that God has bestowed upon me. But in a world full of instant likes and social influencers, and when jealousy is a natural feeling, how do we overcome this jihad?
In the Qur’an jealousy (or hasad in Arabic) is seen as a disease of the heart – and is a problem that has plagued humans since the dawn of time. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Do not be jealous of each other, do not boycott each other, do not hate each other, do not contrive against each other. Be all of you brothers to each other, O Servants of Allah” (Dawud: Book 14: Hadith 2653).
Yet, despite the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) as simple as it may be, humans (yes even Muslims) have allowed hasad to enter our hearts and cause us to turn against one another.
Comparison isn’t the thief of joy for no reason. When you compare, you lose sight of what you are truly blessed with and seek to achieve a level of material spirituality. You know, the kind of comfort and solace where material goods validate your ego (nafs) – but only temporarily. So it leaves you seeking more.
And I get it – it’s easy for someone to say “don’t be jealous” but what do they really know? Do they know that heavy feeling in your heart that impacts your mood, causes you to be snappy towards loved ones and lowers your sense of self-worth just because someone else appears to be better than you?
I do. I know how you feel because I feel those same emotions. I struggle with the exact same feelings. But instead of telling you not to be jealous, I ask that you re-frame your jealousy within the context of the words of Allah and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH). Understand that jealousy can motivate you but when you linger in the emotion for too long, “…verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” [Abu Dawood]
When you let you jealousy devour your heart, you extinguish its light of faith in Allah.
Seeking comfort in material goods to satisfy your egos (nafs) can only appease your sense of jealousy for so long but inevitably we will continue to face challenges and someone else will always have something better. Allah (SWT) says,
“We have certainly created man into hardship. Does he think that never will anyone overcome him?” Quran, 90:4–5.
We will face hardships and the subsequent emotions, but take the time to realize how these emotions impact your being. Our hearts are fragile and tender. When you let your jealousy devour your heart, you extinguish its light of faith in God. Do not let envy deprive you of your gratefulness to our Creator, instead work towards bettering these emotions.
So, how then do we deal with the emotions of hasad? How can we overcome this jihad of overlooking the blessings of Allah (SWT)?
Speaking from personal experience I have found the following to be helpful:
1. Letting go of negative energy
Although social media is fantastic, it can be draining. Taking a break from Facebook was so cathartic and the best thing I could have done. I also started letting go of friends that did not inspire or encourage me to be better. That was really hard to do but it was important. When I let go of these two avenues of negative energy, the hold of hasad on my heart began to loosen.
2. Recognizing and truly appreciating what I have
journaling inconsistently writing a list of things I was grateful for. Over time my mentality changed and instead of thinking, “I really wish I had this” my mindset changed to, “I am so lucky to be blessed with this.”
3. Seeking comfort in my salat (prayers)
I came back to my original jihad – daily prayers. When I bowed my head down in submission to God I asked Him to help me with the heavy burden in my heart. And even though I also struggle with establishing regular prayers, I continued to come back to Allah (SWT) and ask Him for His help.
Remember that God will not abandon you.
I understand that feeling of loneliness and sadness that rises when you envy others. I understand the hurt and pain when you see your friends exclude you as if those years of friendship meant nothing. I understand the sense of hopelessness you feel when you work so hard to achieve something only to have someone else get there first. I understand your struggle.
I want you to know it is okay to feel the way you are feeling. It is OK to let hasad sit in your heart and for your emotions to churn like violent waves. But then you must LET. IT. GO. Let those feelings go because it is not worth it. Recognize that challenges will happen, you will be let down, someone will be better than you. But remember that God will not abandon you and take comfort in knowing that every storm runs out of rain for Allah (SWT) has said:
“Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast? And We removed from you your burden. Which had weighed upon your back and raised high for you your repute. For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” – Quran, 94:1-5.
For indeed with hardship – there will be ease.