Quranic Reflection No. 449. Āyat 40:75 – Types of Happiness

ذَٰلِكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَفْرَحُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَبِمَا كُنتُمْ تَمْرَحُونَ
Dhālikum bimā kuntum tafrahūna fil-ardhi bighayril-haqqi wabimā kuntum tamrahūna
That is because you exulted on the earth unjustly and because you behaved insolently.
(Sūrat al-Ghāfir, No 40, Āyat 75)

On the Day of Judgment those who will be punished will be informed about the actions they performed while in this world. The above verse tells us about one of the things they will be reminded about – the fact that they exulted unduly on the earth. They behaved arrogantly as a result of the happiness they felt. They became intoxicated with their happiness and it made them heedless. Their evil actions made them happy. They found pleasure in their stance against the Prophets and their messages and reveled in their oppressive behavior.

The word ‘farah’ means joy and happiness, a natural happiness that occurs but needs to be expressed appropriately. The word ‘marah’ in the last word of this verse refers to an extreme form of happiness leading to pride. Happiness is a natural emotion and is desired by the human being. Islam, being a religion based on the nature of the human being, has talked about happiness and its role in life. It encourages positive forms of happiness and regards limits and balance as necessary for the emotion of happiness, as is the case for all emotions.

Happiness in Islam is praised sometimes and condemned sometimes, depending on the type of happiness and its cause. Happiness and rejoicing has been mentioned in several Quranic verses and Hadith. A few of these are:
• A well-deserved happiness – All command belongs to Allah, before this and hereafter, and on that day the faithful will rejoice (Q 30:4-5).
• Happiness for worthy things – Say: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy – in that they should rejoice; it is better than that which they gather (Q 10:58). Amirul Mu’minīn has advised: Treat your families to some fruits every Friday, so that they rejoice on Fridays (Mīzān al-Hikmah, H.1,353)
• The insolent rejoicing of Qārūn (Korah) – When his people said to him: Do not exult, surely Allah does not love the exultant (Q 28:76).
• Rejoicing in inaction and disobedience – Those who were left behind were glad on account of their sitting behind Allah’s Messenger (Q 9:81).
• Being happily satisfied with the transient things of the world – and they rejoice in this world’s life, and this world’s life is nothing compared with the hereafter but a temporary enjoyment (Q 13:26). Amirul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) has said: Whoever does not grieve over what he misses and does not revel over what comes to him acquires asceticism from both its sides (Nahjul Balāgha, Saying 39)
• Delight of our deceased relatives-  Abu ‘Abdullah Imam al-Sādiq has said: Amīrul Mu’minīn said: ‘Visit your dead ones, for they are happy with your visitations, and let one of you seek his need by the grave of his father, and by the grave of his mother, with whatever he supplicates for them’ (al-Kāfī, Ch.85, H.49).
• Happiness at the unhappiness of others – If good befalls you (O Believers), it grieves them (i.e. the hypocrites), and if an evil afflicts you, they rejoice at it (Q 3:120).

Happiness can be a positive emotion, but it must be regulated so it does not go overboard. Extreme and unjustified happiness is often a key to many immoral behaviors. It makes a person lose all inhibition. An excessively happy person can perform actions which he would not do otherwise. Such happiness takes a person away from God and prevents him from seeing reality. Happiness must be within the twin borders of gratitude to God and responsibility for the source of happiness.

Be happy in life but do not be exultantly happy. Be happy for the right reasons: For being a servant of a Gracious Lord, being blessed with awareness and insight; all the many blessings life has to offer, and for so many different joys . . .  all of which lead you towards God, the source of all eternal happiness.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’ati, Tafsīr Nūr