Perhaps the most important question we ask ourselves in the stillness we sometimes find ourselves in is: Am I Happy?
We see people all around us barely able to keep themselves on an even keel, children barely able to have respect for their elders and teachers, and all of us collectively feel battered and worn out by the constant toil that is modernity. For it is modernity that has promised us happiness – but only if we acquire that thing, achieve this career milestone, or secure celebrity or recognition (promotions, certifications, likes, retweets, etc.). Even our self-help gurus lead us up a blind-ending path by telling us to wish ourselves to happiness with nothing more than the power of positive thinking. More dangerously, they tell us to celebrate and glorify the self. It is a fool’s errand. The self, as Islamic tradition informs us, is at default a faculty that incites to evil (nafs ammarah bi su’ ). Life lived at this mode is precisely the kind of life the Quran warns us about.
Indeed, in A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Truly Happy Life, the author reminds us that the life of the ego is a kind of false life in which happiness is necessarily unattainable. The life OF the world is not true life because it is a life of diversion and heedlessness. Even the Ancients such as Socrates recognised that the unexamined life is not worth living. By contrast, life IN the world that is in obedience to God and is lived out unceasingly with acts of goodness and service to others is true life, and is capable of attaining happiness. And for this kind of life, even as we appreciate its temporal fleeting nature, acts of goodness echo into eternity. The Hereafter is where happiness truly exists, by the Grace and Pleasure of Allah.
A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Truly Happy Life is a deceptively short work. It is the arena for the methodical ruminations of an Islamic thinker on the question of a truly happy life. Based resoundingly on the Quran, Prince Ghazi takes readers systematically through the existential (why), circumstantial (when), agential (where), affective (how) and anthropological (who) aspects of the question of Life, and of Happiness. More than that, the work reminds us, in a very accessible way, firstly of the potentialities of the self that is beyond the default setting: the self-reproaching soul (we may call this the conscience) and the soul at peace (nafs al-mutmainah). These potentialities are accessed in our tradition by the science of the purification of the self or tasawwuf. Secondly, Prince Ghazi’s work reminds us that for happiness to arrive at our hearts, we have to turn our attention away from the self and serve others. We have to learn to give our time, our love, our money, our possessions, if we want to experience happiness in this world.
A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Truly Happy Life, like his previous book, A Thinking Person’s Guide to Islam, is for every contemporary Muslim to read. Prince Ghazi’s books have helped many readers think seriously about their condition and to hold themselves to account. It is our hope that the books will be of benefit to you too.
A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Truly Happy Life
Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad