“I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay,” (Qur’an, 7:12).
Among the most intriguing aspects about the Qur’an is that it constantly urges the reader to reflect, understand and remember aspects about the reality of life. In the aforementioned verse, the reader is reminded of the source of envy.
“I am better than him!” That was Iblis’s answer when he was asked why he disobeyed the order of God. He envied. Envy is the root of many conflicts we see around us all the time; whether between family members, at work places or between friends.
The problem is that this state of envy results in one’s inability to see things as they are. Iblis saw the external being of Adam, alayhi as-salaam—peace be upon him, but he didn’t see the internal. He saw Adam (as) made of clay. He didn’t see the heart of Adam (as) that surrenders to His Creator, subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He, with utmost love and humility.
Observe what Adam (as) said upon disappointing God (swt): “Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers,“ (Qur’an, 7:23).
When Adam (as) made a mistake, he immediately repented out of fear of losing the connection and love of his Beloved (swt). But when Iblis made a mistake, he became arrogant and argumentative, unable to see the wisdom beyond. Similarly, when people are hateful and envious, they judge others by their external appearances, unable to look beyond.
“I’m better. I deserve this more. We are right, they are wrong…” This is what one thinks in moments of arrogance and envy forgetting that by doing so, they’re trading the beautiful qualities of humility and trust in God (swt) that characterizes the sons of Adam (as) with the heated envious qualities of the one who was made of fire!
Humility, patience, softness and trust in God (swt)—this is the beauty of the state of Islam (surrendering with peace). Envy; however, fills a person with explosive negative energy and may force him/her to focus on revenge rather than productivity and moving on with life. Why waste one’s time on that?
So, whenever you’re in a situation in which you’re tempted to become envious, remember:
- Both the good and the bad are a test from God (swt). “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving,” (Qur’an, 67:2).
- You may hate that something happened or didn’t happen: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not,” (Qur’an, 2:216).
- If you sincerely deserve something, put your trust in God (swt), He will definitely reward you: “And be patient, for indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good,” (Qur’an, 11:115).
- Remember the reality of this life. “And whatever thing you [people] have been given – it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?” (Qur’an, 28:60).
There is beauty and wisdom in that the Qur’anic revelation that begins with this verse: “Recite in the name of your Rabb who created (96.1).” Rabb comes from the same root as tarbiya’ which refers to educating. This invites the human being to read life, read reality and read the self through its Creator, the Supreme Educator, the All-Knowing (swt). To put matters in perspective, read and understand life through His Wisdom and with His Help (swt).
So find comfort in approaching Allah (swt) with love and humility. Find comfort in remembering and reciting His words in prayers and asking of His (swt) ease, mercy and blessings after prayers. Find comfort in the company and remembrance of Allah (swt): “Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured, ” (Qur’an, 13:28).
May Allah (swt) remove any irritating envy from our hearts, may He place the coolness of His sakeena (rest and serenity) upon everyone’s hearts and may He keep us focused on and reminded of our destination. We belong to Allah (swt), and to Him we shall return.