Pleasure and Happiness

A pleasure is something one can share, one can buy. It is related to attachment and is a worldly thing while surur, joy, is for its own sake. The bird sings because its nature is to sing, irrespective of whether the hunter is hunting it or the neighborhood is giving it extra food. A pleasure is a result of something that has occurred. A person is lonely, then he meets a companion who echoes much of what he believes in – that is a pleasure. Someone was hungry, there was emptiness in his stomach and it was filled with food – that is a pleasure. Pleasure is like neutralization: the negative and the positive meet and are neutralized.

Joy is something else; it is the negation of the negative. Joy occurs when what was considered to be desirable has been recognized as being ‘wahm’, illusion. Negation of the negative is positive and that is the normal state of man. It is for this reason that man inherently seeks joy. He knows pleasure, he knows it is purchasable, but he does not readily know the way to joy. Man seeks happiness because it is his real nature. He is unhappy because he has been telling himself that he needs a certain something to be happy. He constantly runs after it, but as soon as he gets it, he desires something else.

The door to the abode of joy is the recognition of how to unknot what one has knotted. That is why it is said that the source is a secret within a secret. A desirable thing is in itself a wahm. The recognition of the wahm is the negation of it. And if the negation is genuine, then the root of joy is being nourished from within. That is the soil in which the tree of contentment will grow. Contentment is a tree that nobody can transplant into anybody else. One has to, through one’s own labor, nurture it and make it grow.

Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri from the book ‘The Mercy of Qur’an and The Advent of Zaman – Tafsir of Surat Ankabut, Rahman, Waqiá, Mulk’