The Holy Prophet Islam gave a brief but timeless piece of advice:
“Look down on those who are less fortunate than you, but do not look upon those who are more fortunate than you, lest you disparage the blessings Allah has bestowed upon you.” (Muslim Sahih)u can, on the other hand, read jealousy quotes to learn more about some of the phrases.
Looking at individuals who are “below” and “above” alludes to material affluence and prestige.
This life lesson is more relevant than ever. Our postmodern society promotes materialism, fosters jealousy, and places a premium on riches and social position as the ultimate goals in life.
Social media is influencing generations, which, regrettably, encourages users to compare their lives to others, drift towards a hedonistic lifestyle, and chase financial ambitions with greater passion.
Studies have demonstrated that when materialistic aspirations remain fundamental to a person’s life, depression, well-being, and even physical health are negatively impacted.
As American psychologist Tim Kasser phrased it:
“Our initial research revealed that when young individuals state that financial success is relatively fundamental to their objectives, they also report low well-being, high distress, and trouble adjusting to life.” Although the findings do not prove that materialistic ideals create unhappiness or that other variables are at play, they do point to a striking conclusion: the American dream has a dark side, and the chase of wealth and stuff may be undermining our happiness.” (Page 9 of The High Price of Materialism)
“Adults who prioritised money, image, and celebrity had lower self-actualization and vitality, as well as more despair, than those who prioritised other values.” Furthermore, they reported much greater bodily symptom experiences. People who considered it was vital to pursue things, fame, and good appearance had greater headaches, backaches, aching muscles, and sore throats than those who were less focused on such goals. This was one of the first clues to us of the ubiquitous negative correlations of materialistic beliefs — not only are people’s psychological well-being and physical health worsened when they focus on money.” (P. 11 in ibid.)
Richard Eckersley, a fellow at the Australian National University‘s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, summarised the situation as follows:
“Traditional (or universal) values are undermined, if not reversed, by modern Western civilisation. Individuals are urged to put themselves at the centre of their moral world, weighing everything from personal relationships to tax payments in terms of “What’s in it for me?” This encourages a preoccupation with escalating personal expectations and unsatisfied desires as new ones emerge.
“As consumerism expands beyond the acquisition of things to include the betterment of the individual, marketing’s purpose is to make people unhappy not just with what they have, but also with who they are.” Once our basic requirements are covered, much consumption today is concentrated on the vices, with little in the virtues — feeding on jealousy, to say nothing of greed, lust, and other moral dangers. We can’t protect other elements of life from the moral ramifications of rising consumerism.” (Pages 50-51) Well & Good: Morality, Meaning, and Happiness
Morality is also greatly harmed by individualism and consumerism. When we compare ourselves to others – what they have vs what we lack – an ugly element of the human condition emerges, and modern civilisation acts as a breeding ground for it: envy.
The Holy Prophet specifically advised against focusing on others’ wealth and prosperity, instead of reminding us to be grateful for what we already have by considering those who have not. If this counsel is not followed, humanity’s darkest parts will be revealed.
Envy – or, as the German term schadenfreude better describes it, “pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another” – leads to humans going beyond “jealousy” and into a phase where they feel “pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”
According t Richard Smith of the University of Kentucky,
“When we lack another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession, and either desires it or wish that the other lacked it, we have envied.” We feel inferior, desire, hatred, and ill will towards the advantaged person when we are envious.”
Envy, greed, and jealousy are all born through looking at other people’s success or material possessions and not being appreciative of what we have. The Prophetsa advised us to be careful of being grateful for what we already have, as many others do not have the comforts we do. The phrase “All praise belongs to Allah” appears at the start of every Islamic prayer for a reason.
We may control the inner Satan by being aware of the type of culture that has developed, examining our thoughts, and then acting on the Prophet’s guidance.
Drowning in celebrity culture, slaving away for financial prosperity, and comparing our lives to those of others on social media only leads to emotional, bodily, and spiritual pain. It is harmful to be ungrateful for what we have and then to be envious of others.
“If you are grateful, I will undoubtedly shower more favours on you; but if you are ungrateful, know that My punishment is harsh indeed,” Allah the Almighty states in Surah Ibrahim, verse 8.
The Promised Messiahas noticed two aspects of this verse while commenting on it: one must be appreciative for what they have and also ensure that they disseminate good and seek betterment for others. If someone is not appreciative and acts immorally or viciously towards others, “God Almighty steals their blessings and punishes them,” according to the Quran. (Badr, April 23, 1908, Vol. 7, no. 16, p. 6)
As Muslims, we must take a step back, be observant, and act on the Prophet’s counsel by looking at people who do not have the luxury or luxuries we do in a society that serves as a fertiliser for materialism and worldly wants. Comparing our lives and enviously observing others’ comfort, prestige, or fortune can only lead humanity down the dark path of despair, immortality, and ungratefulness.