وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكۡرَهُواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ۬ لَّكُمۡۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
“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]
“Those who believe and work righteousness and believe in what was sent down to Muhammad (s) – which is the truth from their Lord; He remits their sins, and blesses them with contentment.” [Qur’an; 47:2]
“He is the one who places contentment into the hearts of believers to increase their faith in addition to what they have.” [Qur’an; 48:4]
Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Successful is the one who has entered the fold of Islam and is provided with sustenance which is sufficient for his needs, and Allah makes him content with what He has bestowed upon him.” [Muslim]
On the authority of Abu Abbas Abdullah bin Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: One day I was behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) [riding on the same mount] and he said, “O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” It was related by at-Tirmidhi, who said it was a good and sound hadeeth. Another narration, other than that of Tirmidhi, reads: Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. Recognize and acknowledge Allah in times of ease and prosperity, and He will remember you in times of adversity. And know that what has passed you by [and you have failed to attain] was not going to befall you, and what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease. [40 Hadith Nawawi]
“Richness does not lie in the abundance of (worldly) goods but richness is the richness of the soul (heart, self).” [Sahih Muslim]
“The world compared to the Hereafter is but like what one of you gets when placing his finger into the sea, so look at what you draw from it.” [Tirmidhi]
“Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a nutfah (a drop), then he becomes an alaqah (clot of blood) for a like period, then a mudghah (morsel of flesh) for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows his soul into him and who is commanded with four matters: to write down his rizq (sustenance), his life span, his actions, and whether he will be happy or unhappy (i.e., whether or not he will enter Paradise)…..” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to supplicate, “Allahumma inni as’alukal-huda, wat-tuqa, wal-‘afafa, wal-ghina (O Allah! I beseech You for guidance, piety, chastity and contentment).” [Muslim]
Narrated Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), “A complete month would pass by during which we would not make a fire (for cooking), and our food used to be only dates and water unless we were given a present of some meat.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d: I heard Ibn Az-Zubair who was on the pulpit at Mecca, delivering a sermon, saying, “O men! The Prophet used to say, “If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if her were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents to Him.” Ubaj said, “We considered this as a saying from the Qur’an till the Sura (beginning with) ‘The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you . .’ (102.1) was revealed.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Narrated Hakim bin Hizam: I asked the Prophet (for some money) and he gave me, and then again I asked him and he gave me, and then again I asked him and he gave and he then said, “This wealth is (like) green and sweet (fruit), and whoever takes it without greed, Allah will bless it for him, but whoever takes it with greed, Allah will not bless it for him, and he will be like the one who eats but is never satisfied. And the upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (taking) hand.” [Sahih Bukhari]
‘Abdur-Rahman bin Aban bin ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan narrated that his father said: “Zaid bin Thabit departed from Marwan at mid-day. I said: ‘He has not sent him out at this time of the day except for something he asked.’ So I asked him, and he said: ‘He asked me about some things we heard from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say: “Whoever is focused only on this world, Allah will confound his affairs and make him fear poverty constantly, and he will not get anything of this world except that which has been decreed for him. Whoever is focused on the Hereafter, Allah will settle his affairs for him and make him feel content with his lot, and his provision and worldly gains will undoubtedly come to him.” [Darussalam]
When a Muslim is faced with a circumstance that causes him unease or displeasure, he may endure it through contentment or through patience. The difference is that while patience is a duty, contentment is a praiseworthy characteristic beyond even patience.
Contentment is reached through knowledge and love, because when one accepts that their affliction has been sent from the One they love, it becomes possible to avoid falling into despair and be content instead.
As the hadith mentioned above of Abdullah ibn Abbas indicates, it is pertinent to keep in mind that whatever missed us was not meant to reach us and whatever reached us was not meant to miss us. This knowledge brings peace of mind and what is required of us is only the appropriate reaction rather than pity or regret.
Extracts from the book Purification of the Soul:
Being patient involves restraining the self and preventing it from giving into resentment, in spite of any suffering that it experiences–in the hope that any misfortune which afflicts it will come to an end–as well as restraining the limbs from behaving badly out of impatience.
Being content, on the other hand, involves feeling at ease in accepting the Divine Decree, and being unconcerned with when any suffering will stop, even though it is being experienced. Being content alleviates any suffering by reason of the heart’s immersion in the spirit of certainty and knowledge. If the contentment increases in its intensity, then it removes the experiencing of any suffering altogether.
It has been reported on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “When Allah loves someone then he tests him. As for whoever is content–Allah will be pleased with him. And as for whoever is discontented–Allah will be displeased with him.”
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Whoever is content with what he has, Allah will make it enough for him and give it blessing; and whoever is not content, Allah will neither make it enough for him nor give it blessing.”
It is quoted of Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) in the book “Al-Fawa’id”:
“Nothing is more beneficial for him than abiding by the judgments of Allah, even if it is difficult for him at the beginning, because all of its outcomes are good, delightful, and pleasurable. In the same way, nothing is more harmful for him than committing what is forbidden, even if he loves it. All its outcomes are pain, grief, evil, and misfortune.”