Beyond Materialism

The famous comedian Jim Carrey is noted to have said: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” What do you do in life when you get everything you wanted? What happens when you wake up every morning with everything you ever wanted? You begin to question “Is this it?” Most people chase money, wealth, success and fame, in hopes that it will bring them happiness. Once they attain it, the person is disappointed and thinks to themselves “That’s it? That’s what all the hype was about? I don’t feel happy or fulfilled.”

The Illusion of Success

We often find celebrities and wealthy people fall into depression and resort to digressive behaviors. Recently, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian with 23 gold medals opened up about being depressed and considering suicide. One might imagine that winning gold, not once but 23 times, at the Olympics might have resulted in happiness. We all know that this is not the way humans work, we are never satisfied. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said “If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys. Nothing fills his mouth but the dust of the grave, yet Allah will accept whoever repents to him.” (Bukhari). If we attain all the targets of our wants, the “want” will not go away.

The Endless Pursuit

It is human nature to always want more and never feel completely satiated. The achievement of wanted things does not remove the human tendency toward constant striving for wanted things. In fact, it reinforces the tendency. When was the last time you got more and wanted less? It is fine to want things, but a wise person recognizes that obtaining a want does not equal long-term happiness. Materialism, fame, wealth, and status are not the source of happiness and can never fill a spiritual or emotional void. This sounds very cliché, but those who have these things testify to this fact.

The Ephemeral Nature of Desires

People quickly normalize what they have. If you get a brand-new car, at first, it is an amazing car. After a few months, it is just your car. After two years, you are ready for another kind of car because yours is getting kind of boring. In other words, having a new car went from making feel very happy, to being just a thing that you would willingly trade away, just to feel that surge of happiness again. Becoming famous, rich, or getting what you really wanted will quickly become your norm once you have had it for a while. Then you will need to come back to whoever you were before that. If you were not happy before you got your want, getting it will not keep you happy beyond that initial, but temporary, rush.

Discovering True Happiness

How do we find happiness and fill the emptiness inside? It is important to be happy with who you are now. This is not to say that you should not work on improving yourself, but to not be so hard on yourself and feel valuable for simply being human. This also requires that you live in the moment and enjoy the blessing you have. If one is constantly worried about getting more in the future, they will naturally always be in a state where they belittle what they currently have. Think of all the things that are most important in your life. Things that money cannot buy. Your health, your children, spouse, parent, or close friend. At the end of life, no one looks back and wishes they worked more or made more money. Rather, they wish to have spent more time with family or touched more people’s lives.

Finding Contentment

This is why the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “When a human being dies, all of his deeds are cut off except for three types: an ongoing charity, knowledge from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes supplicates for them”(Muslim). Each of these three items touches people’s lives. It is important to recognize that what we have is already great. There is a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him that “Contentment is a never-ending treasure.”

The Pursuit of Happiness

Take a moment and look at your life. You will realize that you have everything, but something is missing. It is this missing thing that drives us to keep wanting and never be happy. We seek to keep fulfilling that emptiness or itch by seeking more things, achievements, gold medals, money, sex, or a high. What is missing is something that we already have, but we tend to belittle. We lost sight the joy of being human and connecting with ourselves, laughing with family and friends, enjoying nature, a simple meal, and the little things that play a big role in our life.

Discovering Your Purpose

Without knowing what you want in life, what you love, or your purpose, you will continue to be lost. One cannot buy purpose, it must be found. Once you find it your happiness will be based on that purpose or connection, and not anything outside of it. That makes you rich in your heart. The ultimate purpose in life is to worship and connect with God. I have created jinn and man for no other purpose than to worship Me (Qurʾān 51:57).

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