Choices, Objective Responsibility, Positive Emotion
Issue 894 » May 13, 2016 - Shaban 6, 1437
Ta-Ha (Ta-Ha) - Chapter 20: Verse 50
There is evidence to indicate that each of us is born with a distinct, unique temperament, which influences many aspects of our developing personality. Temperament is seen as: "Relatively consistent, basic dispositions inherent in the person that underlie and modulate the expression of activity, reactivity, emotionality, and society." It has its origins in the genetic codes that guide the development of the brain, and elements of it are apparent from birth. Within a few months after birth, temperamental individuality is clearly established. This character then influences a person's relations to, and interactions with, the environment. The environment may have an impact upon the personality as well.
Allah indicates this natural, inherent characteristic of humans in this verse. Although the word 'form' may refer to those aspects that are common to humans, it also applies to traits that differ from one individual to the next. This adds to the diversity in experience and is part of Allah's plan in creation. For example, some people may be more extroverted, preferring social connections, while others may be more introverted or reserved.
While certain aspects of personality are genetic, experience and the choices that we make also shape who we are. Allah created humans with the potential for both good and evil. The test for every human being is to choose which of these characteristics we will support and develop, and which we will attempt to control or eliminate.
"Psychology from the Islamic Perspective" - Dr. Aisha Utz, p. 98
In a hadith, the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated: “Indeed, this religion is easy, and no one will ever overburden himself in religion, except that it will overcome him.” [Bukhari] That is, religion in its essence is not something beyond people’s power to carry out. By planning our time, putting things into order, and receiving support from one another we can easily carry it out. However, if one makes religion unbearable, that person should not forget that he or she will be overcome. One should take the issue in such a way that they will be able to carry out their practices during their youth, maturity, and old age alike; so that they can practice religion not as an individual, but as a family and a society. There can always be some people who totally dedicate their entire lives to serving in the name of righteousness and Divine truths, who totally forsake the world and are totally indifferent to anything other than serving faith. If such people do not try to impose their subjective case on others around them, there may be no harm in their preference.
As Abdullah ibn Amr ibn As was an outstanding Companion with respect to his piety and God-consciousness; he was also one of the people who listened to and understood the noble Prophet in the best way. This blessed Companion would spend his nights standing at Prayer and spend his days fasting. Sometimes, he would not eat anything for two or three days in a row. Imagine what happens to a person who observes such a life of devotions. If he is married, he neglects the rights of his family. For example, a man who stands in Prayer until dawn may not have the opportunity to see his children and have a talk with them. He may be neglecting other responsibilities as well. Hence, on hearing about the situation of his Companion, the Messenger of God told him to sleep for a part of the night and pray during the rest, to fast on some days and not to fast on others; then he warned Abdullah that in addition to God’s right of worship, there are other owners of rights upon him, such as his own self, his family and guests, and that every rightful one should be given their rights. [Bukhari] With this warning, the beloved Prophet not only draws attention to the significance of objective responsibility that one can handle, but also to the necessity of good time management and putting things to do into order.
"Working hours of the devoted souls" - Fethullah Gulen
Positive psychology, as supported by extensive research has shown that performing positive actions increases positive emotions (happiness) and results in the elevation of our well-being. It has been shown that engaging in acts of kindness, expressing gratitude, and having a positive attitude are key behaviors that contribute to flourishing. For example, building of positive emotions into a school curriculum involved having kids write gratitude letter to their parents, learning to savor good memories and experiencing how gratifying kindness is to the giver. The results were truly life transforming and many of the valuable qualities could be seen reflected in other aspects of their lives.
Essentially then, it is through acts of giving and kindness that generates the most immediate formation of positive emotions, filling us with vibrant feelings, happiness and peace. Furthermore, positive emotions go further than just give pleasant feelings, they are an indication of the accumulation of our psychological growth.
Not only do actions like kindness towards others, speaking warmly to parents, giving charity, or any and all other forms of selfless acts, generate greater “happiness” but every detail, big or small, is significant and like a ripple effect, shapes and contributes to a larger reality.
"Quran: A Muslim's guide to Positive Psychology and Flourishing" - Sumayya Mehmood & Taufik Ali Valiante