It is natural for human beings to seek happiness and success: things that bring us joy and bliss. We constantly ask questions like, “What makes us happy?” “How can we truly be happy?” “What is success?” and “Is Happiness interlinked with success?” as we rethink the purpose of our lives.
We may find the answers to these questions by pondering on the eternal guidance that our beloved Prophet Muhammad left us with. Through the Quran, and studying the life of the Prophet, we can find some lessons on how to achieve happiness and attain success in our lives.
For many people, success could mean attaining their financial goals, getting the ideal career, becoming well-known and respected, or maybe even meeting the right partner. In this view, success is a subjective manifestation of a person's life goals, which vary from person to person. But the Quran also contains clear definitions of what success looks like.
As Muslims, we believe that there are two parts to life. Our life does not end in this world but continues to the next - The Akhirah (Afterlife). Success, therefore, means to be successful in this life and the next. This can mean being successful financially or academically in this world, as mentioned above, while also achieving a successful outcome in the Hereafter, thus, the Paradise. This outlook of success can be seen in the Quranic supplication we often make after our prayer: “Our Lord! Grant us the good of this world and the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”
It's crucial to remember that, even if we strive for achievement in both worlds, our concept of success in this world shouldn't come at the expense of our success in the Hereafter. For instance, we should refrain from obtaining financial fulfillment through morally dubious activities like gambling or unethical labor that includes violating the legal rights of others.
“These are the ones who trade the Hereafter for the life of this world. So, their punishment will not be reduced, nor will they be helped.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:86)
On the other side, there are also some who, despite not enjoying financial security or perhaps even experiencing injustices, stuck to their moral principles and persevered through the difficulties. Allah assured these people of their unavoidable prosperity in the Hereafter: “And be patient! Certainly, Allah does not let the rewards of those who do good go to waste.” (Surah Hud, 11:115)
The Quran also describes the qualities of those who are successful, which perhaps can guide us to develop virtues in our lives as well. Such as in Surah Al-Mukminun: Successful indeed are the believers: those who humble themselves in prayer; those who avoid idle talk; those who pay the Zakat; those who guard their chastity; except with their wives or those that their right hands possess, for then they are free from blame, but whoever seeks beyond that are the transgressors; (the successful believers are also) those who are true to their trusts and covenants; and those who are (properly) observant of their prayers. These are the ones who will be awarded. Paradise as their own. They will be there forever. (Surah Al-Mukminun, 23:1-11)
We need to strive to achieve success in this world, as this is the place for us to harvest our good deeds to reap our eternal rewards in the Afterlife.
Undoubtedly, there will always be challenges in life, but that does not mean that one cannot experience a good life. The Quran particularly mentions ‘a good life’ in Surah An-Nahl: “Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely bless them with a good life, and We will certainly reward them according to the best of their deeds.” (Surah An-Nahl, 16:97)
Muslims hold the view that Allah has predetermined our life timelines as well as our providence in this world by His knowledge and mercy. We must be careful not to let the difficulties we confront fill us with hopelessness and despair. Have trust and keep making dua for the best outcome possible, based on what you know and what you may not.