By Marwa Mehboob.
It was a weekend and my morning ritual had changed in previous months from waking up and checking all social networks and email, to only checking Instagram. But on this day, I didn’t even touch my handy and went straight to making coffee. Normally I would stand in the kitchen scrolling through feeds and clicking notifications, but on this day I flipped the pages of one of my favorite books. With a cup of coffee I went straight to my room as I placed my coffee on the table, there was a knock at my door and my eldest daughter came in. That morning her expressions were quite different signaling her curiosity which was yet to be known. I asked her if she could assist me in some of my office assignments. As we got busy in our work, my daughter started to share her routine experiences both at school and home. She was amazed and to an extent confused as well. Most of her thoughts revolved around the uncharted terrain of cyberspace which has taken humanity from a state of sanity to insanity but with a complete acceptance of giving ease and building a concentrated environment for the people of this planet. Now, the question arises what and where was the actual state of human contentment rests? Was it decades ago when there was no such thing which could bring a person near, sitting thousands of miles away from you or today when the term distance has lost it’s actual meaning.
Most people won’t admit how much social media means, or has meant, to them. For me, social media has been my life since 2010. Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to garner attention and to build an affective community. After six years of heavy social media use nearly every waking hour of every single day, it was time for a break. I was fed up with losing control of my feeds. I was upset with my diminishing social reach due to networks bursting at the seams with users. So i decided to not being social for at least a month which wasn’t an easy chore for a social media edict. Finally with a confident ferocity I removed Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and finally Instagram from my handy.This would be the first time since 2010 that I wouldn’t have the Twitter and FB apps on my set. Suddenly I felt an immediate feeling of independence and self-determination. My daughter was astonished to know the level of my determination and her next question was MOM, did you find yourself in state of contentment after being away from the realm of information?? My answer was not a very big YES. …Of course it wasn’t easy to worn off anything so fast. Yes I told her that this very time without the bombardment of feeds from FB, twitter and it is quite beneficial as I can see and feel the things around me with my own natural strength without being dependent on any app.
This was the moment when we both got engaged in a debate of how we could find a right path to satisfy our un peaceful souls. Being her mother I wanted to pass on something which she could and she should adopt in her life as a principle of contentment.
That’s my personal experience which has converted into my sturdy belief that a person who is content with what Allah the Almighty provides him enjoys tranquility, satisfaction and peace of mind as he does not long for what others have or desire what he does not possess. I may be spiritually motivated but I believe that we are not meant to live these useless busy lives we live. So I am of the opinion that anyone who goes against the grain and tries to live a minimalistic life is no lazy or lacking passion, ambition, given up on life etc but actually the opposite applies. We now look back on our financially tight years as being rich with family fun and togetherness, because we learned the value of being content. We filled these times with library books read aloud, giant packing boxes to play in, family walks, backyard fun together as a whole family, our excitement to watch planes land and take off. Whatever we went through, my mother could always put a cheerful face on it and make us all laugh and enjoy ourselves in spite of hard times. What i need to tell you is, Contentment also comes from being resourceful with what you have, instead of pining over what you don’t have the means to acquire. Start injecting contentment by doing little things e.g., when you could not afford new plants for the backyard, just fill the empty spaces by learning how to propagate the ones you already had. When you could not afford birthday cards or presents, make them. When you could not afford dresses for your daughter, make those as well. When you could not afford to go to some entertainment, try to make your own fun, and plenty of it. Because of these experiences your children will not get spoiled or jaded rather they shall be able to create or find enjoyment in any situation.
Islam is a complete code of life. I feel that my writing is incomplete without a fragrance of Islamic teachings which encourages Muslims to endure with patience the many trials and tribulations of existence. We as Muslims also work toward contentment by expressing gratitude and praise toward Allah and believe Muhammad SAW is the perfect embodiment of such virtues. Prophet Muhammad SAW advised his Ummah to have contentment when he said, Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest person.
Patience and prayer share a relationship in Islam. They both have a strong influence on a person’s output. Especially they pave the way towards deep contentment. In a way, that prayer and patience requires Muslims to surrender to the will in Islam, surrender means obedience to the various tenets established in the Quran and hadith. Patience , also called as essence of praise and prayer are two such tenets that provide solace for Muslims by instigating and strengthening their level of contentment and trust.
Recently, I have realised the importance of another aspect i.e Minimalist. The fact, how the minimalist lifestyle works with me, it makes me feel great despite the backlash I get about not being too ambitious. Money and material wealth is not the end to all goals. There is life in happiness. After few years of working I have realized that I have reached my contentment with a peaceful life, a job where I am treated right, a humble salary, happy office hours. Minimalism allows you the flexibility to pursue the type of life you want. It allows us to not judge ourselves against others but measures us against our own life goals and desires.
Once our basic needs have been met, money contributes very little to our overall happiness and well-being. But more than that, there are actually a number of inherent dangers in possessing riches. Or maybe I should say at the very least there are better things to be than rich. And we would live more fulfilled lives if we began chasing after them with as much intensity as we seek riches. One of the leading factor is contentment. Money comes and goes sometimes quickly. But contentment rises above our circumstances and offers happiness regardless of our financial state.
My girl, I have come to this understanding. Often in our pursuit of wealth and bigger bank accounts, we sacrifice freedom. We think riches will provide greater freedom for our lives, but we rarely recognize how much freedom we have actually sacrificed in our attempt to simply find more of it. Adopt the fruitfulness of being selfless, connected, perseverance which would lead you to achieve gratitude, generosity, and contribution. And that is the real goal to live lives of joy and fulfillment and help others to do the same. Don’t bring yourself into a phase where you get that feeling of misery and feel disconnected. Remember, contentment does not mean apathy or slothfulness or that we have to be stingy, distress and anguish. True contentment is a real, even an active virtue not only affirmative but creative. It means using the available means in accordance with Islamic conjunction.
I strongly believe that cooperation and sharing are the cornerstones of both freedom and of peace. It has been said by some, that the American dream has become the American nightmare. The sad truth is, that we are living a nightmare when even our dreams must be in accordance with some predetermined standard.
For now, my child, I think we better should contend ourselves to this healthy debate and learn to live with the minimal possessions and gratitude than constantly quarrelling and striving for more and more. Good luck for your journey!!!
Marwah Mehboob writes on social and political issues and is a media analyst. She can be reached at Twitter; @marwahmehboob