Look at these poor women and children sitting on the ground, waiting for the potato harvest to be finished. To kill the time, some of the women chat and joke with one another. Others keep quiet, looking on as some seasonal workers, men and women, poor like themselves or even poorer, dig out the potatoes while others put them in wooden or plastic boxes. Other workers, men and women, carry the boxes on their shoulders to the trucks outside the field. Near the trucks are a few cars and a few men. One car and one man stand out. Anyone can tell who the eye-catching man is. He is evidently the farmer. The eye-catching car is his.
This man is the Star of the Day. The men would wish to be like him, having what he has. The women would not easily refuse to marry him or accept him as an in-law. He has such a vast field worth a lot of money and such a splendid car and he wears such smart clothes and glasses and everybody is speaking to him politely and addressing him as haaj! Maybe he has got other things elsewhere. His wife might be shopping, at this time, at some mall or other or maybe playing golf or perhaps having a sauna at a 5-star hotel. His children, if he has any, must be at expensive schools… How lucky he and his family are!
Now, how about you? Wouldn’t you be jealous of somebody who has got vast fields or a splendid house or an expensive car? What would you feel when you hear that someone has won a lottery jackpot, 200 million euros or so? I don’t like to be rude, but I daresay I know the answer. When a coin falls to the floor and you hear the jingle of the coin, you forget all about all things, at least for a fraction of a second, even if you have a healthy sum in an account and tons of gold. That’s human. If you see, for the first time, a friend, a colleague or even a sibling wearing a stunning piece of clothing, driving a nice car or walking hand in hand with a beautiful person, chances are you’ll feel kind of slight pain in your breast. That’s jealousy and that’s human.
If this jealousy lasts a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, that’s a small problem. It can be fixed, apparently. If it lasts longer than that, it may probably develop –God forbid! – into a painful illness. So how can one avoid it?
Let’s go back to the farmer’s story. We have one man, the Star of the Day. We’re not going to talk about all the wealth he may have. We’ll focus on the land and the potatoes.
Starting with the land, it needs workers to prepare it; maybe others, men and women, to do the sowing, etc. It may need an engineer or specialized technicians. It certainly needs people to transport something or other, etc, etc. On the harvest day, there’s more work for more people. When the harvest is finished, those poor women and children sitting by and waiting patiently will be allowed into the field to glean the leftover potatoes … The “good” potatoes will be transported and distributed to markets, supermarkets and small shops. Some will be exported or processed, etc, etc. See? The farmer won’t eat all his potatoes! It’s people like you and me who’ll eat the potatoes. The children of those poor women will be happy to eat those “bad” potatoes. And who knows? Some of these poor women’s children may become, one day, maybe less rich, but much better, in one way or another, than the children of the Star of the Day. Then, the money that this one man will earn from the potatoes will go into other people’s pockets: hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc. You can’t count how many people will benefit in one way or another from that farmer’s potatoes. You can’t count, for example, how many kids will be happy to eat the chips made of those potatoes. Not to mention the other “lucky person”, the owner of the potato chips factory and his employees…
You need to stand between two vast potato fields in order to meditate on all this. Think about the seasonal workers who were happy to find work in those fields. These workers, who have families of their own, were paid, whatever the pay. Others were not paid. God, for example, who says: "Let man consider his food : How We pour water in showers. Then split the earth in clefts. And cause the grain to grow therein. And grapes and green fodder. And olive trees and palm trees. And garden closes of thick foliage. And fruits and grasses: Provision for you and your cattle ." (Abasa : 24-32) "And He it is Who sendeth the winds, glad tidings heralding His mercy, and We send down purifying water from the sky. That We may give life thereby to a dead land, and We give many beasts and men that We have created to drink thereof. And verily We have repeated it among them that they may remember, but most of mankind begrudge aught save in gratitude." (Al-Furqan : 48-50) "Allah is full of pity, Merciful toward mankind." (Al-Baqara : 143) He said mankind, not believers. Think about that too. "He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding." (Al-Baqara : 296) You say why shouldn’t I be that Star of the Day? Why should I have less than him? Read this first, it’s God speaking: "Is it they who apportion their Lord's mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labor from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass." (Az-Zukhruf : 32) Now, consider this. Is that Star of the Day the only person who has such a vast field in the area? Just go a little further and you’ll find not only larger fields belonging to richer persons, but also dazzlingly beautiful homes. Each time you sigh (and say) “I wish I had such a beautiful dwelling!” you’ll see another one, more beautiful, then another one, much, much more beautiful. It’s like a man obsessed with beauty looking for a beautiful woman in a big city, each one makes you forget all about the others.
Then go a little further and you’ll find an asphalt road. Stop for just a few moments and you’ll see not one, but many cars you’d desire to have for yourself. Who then would you be jealous of?
That asphalt road will lead you, past large farm houses, to a poultry factory. Will you be jealous of the owner of this factory too? If you can, sit down on a rock near this factory and meditate. How many people work in this factory? How many families do they support? How many people, jobless people, would be happy to find work, even seasonal work, in this factory? Ask yourself: how many chickens and eggs does this factory produce every day? How many people will buy, transport… these chickens and eggs before they land on your dinner table? How many other people will eat that factory’s chickens and eggs?
When you think about these things you may realize that you are, in fact, a king, yes a king! See how many people serve you! That Star of the Day (the poor farmer) and the owner of this poultry factory and the people working for them……………are all servants of YOU! They serve YOU. You can’t count the people who are serving you everyday! The clothes you are wearing, who made them for you? Did you sew them up yourself? The watch you’re wearing, your mobile, your laptop, your car, etc, etc, etc. Aren’t you a king?
If you only think about one thing, one aspect of your life, you may see only the bad side. You may be quick to conclusions. "As for man, whenever his Lord trieth him by honoring him, and is gracious unto him, he saith: My Lord honoureth me. But whenever He trieth him by straitening his means of life, he saith: My Lord despiseth me." (Al Fajr : 15-16) Idem for other people. You may see only one aspect of their life. Who told you, for example, that the Star of the Day is happy? Not every smiling person is happy. Even a happy-go-lucky comedian who makes millions of people happy with his gags may end up taking his own life, to everybody’s surprise.
Recently, we Muslims around the world celebrated Eed al-Adha. Did everybody enjoy eed in the same way? Well, many people did sacrifice a sheep but couldn’t eat from its meat simply because they are ill. Other people, with healthy stomachs and bodies, couldn’t afford a sheep for eed. Too expensive for them. Who should envy the other : one who can’t eat from his sheep or one who can’t buy a sheep in the first place?
What does God say about this? He says: “We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned.” (Al-Anbiyaa : 35) Some people are tried with evil, others with good, but it’s all trial. You can’t go to Heaven without being tried on earth. “Or think ye that ye will enter Paradise while yet there hath not come unto you the like of (that which came to) those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with earthquake, till the messenger (of Allah) and those who believed along with him said: When cometh Allah's help? Now surely Allah's help is nigh.” (Al- Baqara : 214)
Now, let’s go back to the story of eed. You all know how the story began. It began like this: “And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast. Then, when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face, We called unto him: O Abraham: Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good. Lo! that verily was a clear test. Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim. And We left for him among the later folk (the salutation): Peace be unto Abraham! Thus do We reward the good. Lo! he is one of Our believing slaves.” (As-Saffat : 102-11)
The story of eed began with a trial, and what a trial it was! Abraham (peace be upon him) had to show, with concrete acts, who was dearer to him: his only son or God!
It was a trial for Abraham. It is today a business opportunity for millions of people around the world. I needn’t lecture you on the economic impact of Eed al-Adha on the whole society, believers and non-believers alike. And as you all know, Eed al-Adha coincides every year with Hajj. Do you know how many people profit economically from Hajj-related activities? (Non-Muslim) European travel agencies, for example, compete for Muslim clients desiring to perform Hajj or Umrah. Besides the economic aspects of it, you can imagine the positive social impact of such religious occasions on millions and millions of people.
Sweet potato may be good per se. but it may be better if it’s one among other ingredients in a dish. Red pepper, or capsicum, may be 'bad' per se, but it could be fine as one ingredient. Instead of looking at one ingredient, look at the end dish. Instead of looking at beauty, money, health, etc., each one separately, look at the whole picture, at the whole of what God gave you out of His bounty. “Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring, and stored up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), and cattle and land. That is comfort of the life of the world. Allah! With Him is a more excellent abode. Say: Shall I inform you of something better than that? For those who keep from evil, with their Lord, are Gardens underneath which rivers flow, and pure companions, and contentment from Allah. Allah is Seer of His bondmen, Those who say: Our Lord! Lo! we believe. So forgive us our sins and guard us from the punishment of Fire; The steadfast, and the truthful, and the obedient, those who spend (and hoard not), those who pray for pardon in the watches of the night.” (Al-imran: 14-17) “And whatsoever ye have been given is a comfort of the life of the world and an ornament thereof; and that which Allah hath is better and more lasting. Have ye then no sense?” (Al-Qasas: 60)
Instead of looking at what the Star of the Day or the poultry factory owner have, look at the beauty of the land, look at God’s creation, and see how God is Great. Instead of envying anybody, ask God of His bounty. "And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things." (An-Nisaa : 32)
God says: “And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer.” (Al-Furqan : 20) Most people fall into two groups: those who are 'better' than you will look down upon you; those who are like you or 'worse' than you will envy you. Why should you care about what other people have if you are happy with what you’re doing? Life is not only money, marriage and children. A good life is one that you live everyday with a feeling that if you lost something in the past, you are gaining other things at present and may gain more in the future. Then remember that "Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein that We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected. And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favor (with their Lord). Each do We supply, both these and those, from the bounty of thy Lord. And the bounty of thy Lord can never be walled up. See how We prefer one above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment." (Al-Isra : 18-21) God provides both believers and nonbelievers. But true believers know, not only believe, that "the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment." (Al-Isra : 18-21)
The problem is, feelings and emotions are sometimes stronger than knowledge and convictions. It’s not easy for anybody to deal with the feeling that his boss or superior is less qualified than him. It’s not easy for a handsome man to understand why his beautiful beloved should marry an ugly man. It’s not easy for a black woman to understand why she should be black, or for a successful engineer to understand why his only son should be handicapped.
In God’s eyes there’s no difference between a black woman and a white woman, between a handsome man and an ugly man, between a successful engineer and a street vendor, between a disabled person and an able-bodied person. They all have souls. They are all judged on the basis of their deeds: good deeds and bad deeds. Being black, ugly or disabled –that’s ‘the first creation’ "We mete out death among you, and We are not to be outrun, That We may transfigure you and make you what ye know not. And verily ye know the first creation. Why, then, do ye not reflect?" (Al-Waqi'a : 60-62) "No soul knoweth what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do." (As-Sajda : 17)
People don’t go to the weekly market because they love the marketplace. They go there to sell things. They sell their goods to get money. They want the money to buy other things: food, clothes, etc. There’s always some ‘end’ (purpose) at the end. Well, the hierarchy which is painful to many of us is, if we think about it objectively, vital. Hierarchy in any economic, political, social, administrative or familial structure is absolutely vital for the normal order of things; otherwise, if everyone started obstructing, to please his own ‘ego’, what other than havoc, chaos and anarchy shall we have? If everybody were rich, who would work in the fields or in mines or in factories? For things to be easier for US, for you and me, there should normally be a rich man who has a factory or a farm or a mine, then other people to work in the factory, farm, mine, etc., people with different ranks, one higher than another in rank, so that everybody will 'accept' to do his 'small' job. Also, some people are better at some things than others. Can any French native speaker be a good teacher of French Grammar ? Can any good football commentator be a good football coach ? Can any professor of Management make a good company manager? "Lo! thy Lord is Knower, Wise." (Yusuf : 6) Our salaries are not mirrors of our 'merits', they don’t necessarily reflect what we really are worth. They are the means, not the end. The end is good deeds and bad deeds. While you are working, doing any kind of work, even reading this article, God is watching you. He is counting your good deeds and bad deeds to see which place, good or bad, you deserve to live in for eternity after death. Your deeds are objective criteria to decide your ultimate fate. "And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a lecture from this (Scripture), and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book. Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve. Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah ; that is the Supreme Triumph. And let not their speech grieve thee (O Muhammad). Lo! power belongeth wholly to Allah. He is the Hearer, the Knower. Lo! is it not unto Allah that belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth?" (Yunus : 61-66)
If you are a nonbeliever and have a big mind that would be beneficial to millions, billions, of people (via a mega computer or oil corporation, for example) it’s no problem at all for God to make you a mega-billionaire and a mega star.
“Whoso desireth the life of the world and its pomp, We shall repay them their deeds herein, and therein they will not be wronged. Those are they for whom is naught in the Hereafter save the Fire. (All) that they contrive here is vain and (all) that they are wont to do is fruitless.” (Hud : 15-16)
If you think that you deserve more than what you have already and you believe in gardens with flowing rivers and houris, it’s no problem for God, either, to give you more in this life.
“No soul can ever die except by Allah's leave and at a term appointed. Whoso desireth the reward of the world, We bestow on him thereof; and whoso desireth the reward of the Hereafter, thankful, We bestow on him thereof. We shall reward the thankful.” (Al-imran : 145)
Now, if you have some free time this weekend, go see the nearest potato fields and poultry factory and sit on a rock to meditate on what I’ve been saying to you. Breathe clean air and enjoy God’s beauty and think about this:
"Know that the life of this world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion. Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, which is in store for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of infinite bounty. Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being Lo! that is easy for Allah. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters." (Al-Hadid : 20-23)
And remember our Prophet’s words:
“No one should be jealous of anything except two people –a man whom Allah has blessed with knowledge and he teaches it; and a man who has money and he spends it in the sake of Allah.” (Bukhari) He also said: (كُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ لِمَا خُلِقَ لَه) “Everyone will find it easy to do such deeds that will lead him to do (accomplish the task(s)) that he was created for.”
Remember that being content with what you have does not mean you shouldn’t be ambitious.
Finally, instead of looking on God as a foe who is always foiling your plans, you'd rather look on Him as a friend who knows better what is good and what is bad for you. "And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen." (Ash-Shura : 27) “Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself.” (An-Nisaa : 79) “And whatever of comfort ye enjoy, it is from Allah. Then, when misfortune reacheth you, unto Him ye cry for help.” (An-Nahl : 53) "Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves." (Yunus : 44)
"O mankind! Ye are the poor in your relation to Allah. And Allah! He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. If He will, He can be rid of you and bring (instead of you) some new creation. That is not a hard thing for Allah." (Fatir : 15-17)
“O mankind! There hath come unto you an exhortation from your Lord, a balm for that which is in the breasts, a guidance and a mercy for believers.” (Yunus : 57)
"Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things. Thou causest the night to pass into the day, and Thou causest the day to pass into the night. And Thou bringest forth the living from the dead, and Thou bringest forth the dead from the living. And Thou givest sustenance to whom Thou choosest, without stint." (Al-imran : 26-27)
Mohamed Ali Lagouader