By Ahmad Faizuddin
People often judge someone by what they see from his or her appearance. Our images provide the first impression of how people perceive us. The way we see ourselves is called self-image; the way we think others see us is known as projected image; and the way others actually perceive us is called public image. Regardless of how we see ourselves and how people see us, it is important to have a positive self-image, self-confidence, and social etiquette.
Richard Templar in his book entitled The Rules of Life: A Personal Code for Living A Better, Happier and More Successful Kind of Life (Expanded Edition, 2010) described specific rules how we see ourselves and other people including partners, families and friends in daily life. According to the author, generally in life people are categorised into two: those who have mastered the knack of successful living and those who still struggle with life. The former is mostly content, happy, healthier and getting more out of life. While the latter is not so happy and not enjoying life as it should be. The secret of happy life lies in choosing simple things and lives by the rules in every day of our lives.
The rules of life must be adapted based on our upbringings, ages and situations. According to Templar (2010), the most important ones of all are personal rules. One of the first rules is “you’ll get older but not necessarily wiser.” Wisdom is not about making no mistakes at all. But it is about learning to live with our dignity and sanity intact.
The next rule is to “accept what is done is done.” Nobody is perfect for we make mistakes. What we need to do is just to move forward and get on with our life. Another rule is to “know what counts and what doesn’t.” Most of the time, life gives you things that are important and a whole lot of things that aren’t. So focus and do more of what that counts.
To measure how we are doing, what we are doing, and where we are going, we need to dedicate our life to something. In doing so, there are rules such as “be flexible in your thinking,” “take an interest in the outside world,” “be on the side of the angels, not the beasts,” “only dead fish swim with the stream,” “change what you can change, let go of the rest,” “aim to be the very best at everything you do, not second best,” “don’t be afraid to dream,” “if you are going to jump off a bridge, make sure you know how deep the water is,” “don’t dwell on the past,” “be consistent,” “dress like today is important,” “have a plan,” “get used to stepping outside your comfort zone,” “know where true happiness comes from,” “know when to let go, when to walk away,” “maintain good manners in all things,” “shop for quality, not price (if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it),” and “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
All of the above-mentioned rules are in line with the Islamic way of living a happy life. There are some kinds of skills in Islam that every Muslim needs to practise in order to succeed in both personal and social lives.
The first skill is to smile with heart and initiate greetings to others. In Jami’ Tirmidhi, ‘Abdullah ibn al-Harith narrated that he had never seen someone smile at the other’s face as the Prophet Muhammad SAW used to do. Smiling is like the salt for food or an arrow that strikes into the innermost depths of the others’ hearts. It follows by hand shaking and friendly welcoming to others. In a hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik, Prophet SAW said, “The people of Yemen are approaching and they have softer hearts than yours.” Anas added, “They are the first who came with hand shaking” (H.R. Abu Dawud). More specifically, “Those who are nearest to Allah are they who are first to give a salutation” (H.R. Tirmidhi). Thus, be the one who is first to smile and initiate greetings.
The next skill needed to live a happy life is to say something good or remain silent. This is as the Prophet SAW said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, he should speak good or remain silent” (Muwatha’ Imam Malik). Good words are powerful magic that could win the hearts of thousands people even our enemies. Allah SWT mentioned in the Qur’an, “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend” (Q.S. Fussilat 41:34).
The best example of speaking good or remaining silent is the Prophet Muhammad SAW himself. Abu Abdullah Jadali reported that he asked ‘Aisyah RA about the manners of the Messenger of Allah. ‘Aisyah replied, “He (SAW) was never indecent of speech or of manners. He never spoke loudly in the markets. And he never returned evil with evil, but he forgave and overlooked” (H.R. Tirmidhi).
There are many other skills that Muslims should look upon in order to achieve a happy life. They include but not limited to being a good listener, having a neat and modest dress, and being generous in helping others. Prophet Muhammad SAW always listened attentively to his companions’ stories and never interrupted them until they finished their speeches. In terms of dressing well, Prophet SAW mentioned, “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty” (H.R. Ahmad). Allah SWT mentioned in the Qur’an that the best garment is the clothing of righteousness (Q.S. Al-A’raf 7:26), thus Muslims should cover their private parts (‘aurat) (Q.S. An-Nuur 24: 31) and lengthen the garment (Q.S. Al-Ahzab 33: 59).
Finally, the secret of happy life lies in how we treat others and ourselves in good manners. Muslims are advised to do good deeds in this world as Allah commands in the Qur’an, “And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good, indeed Allah loves the doers of good” (Q.S. Al-Baqarah 2:195).
From the Islamic perspective, all of our good deeds will be rewarded accordingly and considered as charity (shadaqah). Abu Dharr RA reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Smiling to your brother’s face is a shadaqah. Commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is a shadaqah. Guiding a man who is lost on the land is a shadaqah. Leading the blind is a shadaqah. Removing a stone or thorn or bone from the road is a shadaqah. Filling the water into your brother’s empty bucket is a shadaqah” (H.R. Tirmidhi). ***