The secret of happiness

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

So important is the concept of ‘happiness’ in our lives that many people – even dating back to the days of the Greek philosophers – considered its pursuit to be the very purpose of existence.

Indeed, the Qur’an itself speaks of happiness as being one of the rewards of those whom Allah chooses to admit to Paradise. He says of the martyrs in Aal-’Imraan, verse 170,

فَرِحِينَ بِمَا آَتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ
They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty

And of the reward of the pious believers [al-Insaan, verse 11],

فَوَقَاهُمُ اللَّهُ شَرَّ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَلَقَّاهُمْ نَضْرَةً وَسُرُورًا
So, Allah saved them from the evil of that Day and gave them a light of beauty and joy.

What becomes immediately apparent upon reading the Arabic text (but once again obscured in the translation) is that two very different words have been used to convey the idea of happiness: فَرِحِينَ fariheena, which is conjugated from the noun فَرَح farah, and سُرُور suroor, and this is prevalent throughout the Qur’an. This is because there are two very different types of happiness being referred to.

فَرَح farah generally refers to transitory delights or pleasures, as is the case in bodily or worldly pleasure. For this reason, most times that فَرَح farah appears in the Qur’an, it is being censured, as in the story of Qarun [al-Qasas, verse 76],

إِنَّ اللهَ لا يُحِبُّ الَفِرحِينَ
Indeed, Allaah does not like the fariheen

But when the source of the farah is specified in the Qur’an, as in the verse from Aal-’Imraan mentioned above, the meaning becomes restricted (muqayyad) and it is no longer censured.

But perhaps a greater distinction between the two lies in the manifestation of the happiness. Whereas the expression of farah is external and with clear outward signs, suroor refers to the expansion of one’s heart with delight or pleasure wherein is quiet or tranquility, and as such it has no external sign. This is indicated by the root from which the word stems – س ر seen raa’ – the same root as the word سرّ sirr, or secret. So suroor is a secret happiness, known to one’s heart but not always seen by others, as Ibn ‘Abbas said in reference to the above verse from al-Insaan, “The نضرة nadrah is on their faces, and the سرور suroor is in their hearts.”

Such distinctions exemplify yet another example in which the translation fails and the original prevails.

42 Responses to The secret of happiness

  1. It makes me happy to see a new post here.

    //JJ

  2. Masha Allah!
    What a come back. My Allah grant all of us eternal suroor

    Jazak Allah!

  3. Jazakallah Khair for sharing your knowledge. MashaAllah, your knowledge is source of inspiration to people like me. I would request if you could post more frequently even if it is “one liner” of knowledge :-)


    Tanveer

  4. excellent content as usual in you, go on posting !

  5. Masha Allah, a much needed post.

    Could another difference be that masroor always implies a source that produces suroor in the heart of the masroor whereas farih / farhaan does not necessarily imply that because the latter is not a passive participle to which something is done? In other words, masroor conveys the meaning of being made happy by something, whereas farih / farhaan conveys the meaning of just being happy whether there is a source or not. This means that farah could refer to happiness that is not real or genuine. Put differently, masroor implies a happiness that emanates from a source and envelops the heart of the person that engages with the source, and farih / farhaan implies a happiness that begins with the person and may or may not be directed at an object. What do you think? Also, I suppose bringing in words like السعادة (as-sa’aadah) would open up all kinds of other possibilities, wouldn’t it?

    Just a small query. In which sense do you use the word “verb” in “fariheena, which is a verb corresponding to the noun …”?

    Otherwise, jazaaki Allahu khayran for all your well-written and inspiring posts.

  6. i got usefull information thanx for writting

  7. Assalamau alakum,

    Hey sister can you try to post an article every two weeks at the least.

  8. Jazakillah ahsanu jazaa`. I like the connection to the root س-ر-ر . Post as little or as much as you wish – it is always a pleasure to read! Keep me in your du’aas. Barakallahu feeki.

  9. A beautiful and enlightening post, as always :) May Allah ennoble your hear with suroor, and ever increase your love and wisdom. Ameen.

    Ya Haqq!

  10. great to see a new post. and a good one at that.

  11. wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmat Allaah,

    Johan, thank you.

    sheepoo, wa iyyaakum. Ameen.

    Tanveer, wa iyyaakum. I will try to do so bi idhn Allaah.

    leandro, thank you. I will try!

    Ibn Uthman, your post was well thought out and insightful, jazakum Allaahu khayran. The difference you mentioned is related to the forms of the words (passive participles versus verbal nouns) in general, and in terms of this you are correct. However, I was looking at the distinction between the basic meanings of the root words, even though my examples happened to use a passive participle and a masdar. So it would apply equally to masroor (passive participle) as it would to suroor (masdar).

    You are right also that sa’aadah would bring in different possibilities. I contemplated including it in the post but the distinction was from a different light, which made the post rather long. Basically, the root س ع د (from which come the words sa’aadah سعادة and sa’eed سعيد) and the opposites shaqaawah شقاوة and shaqiyy شقي are used in the Qur’an to specifically refer to those who are basically on the right and wrong tracks in the deen, and therefore will be rewarded or punished in the hereafter. An example highlighting this is from Surah Hood, verses 105-108 (http://quran.islamicnetwork.com/quran.php?q=11:105-108).

    Regarding your query, the word “verb” was used in a mistaken sense. Jazakum Allahu khayran for pointing it out. I originally used another ayah in which the verb yafrahoon was used then changed it and forgot to change that part. Now changed al-Hamdu lillaah.
    raees, you’re welcome.

    MB, wa ‘alaykum al-salaam. I try every weekend to write something but am never able. I will try harder in shaa’ Allaah.

    Yaser, wa iyyaakum khayr al-jazaa’.

    darvish, thank you. Wa iyyaakum, ameen.

    harkabir, thank you.

  12. “But perhaps a greater distinction between the two lies…”

    Perhaps you meant “lines” instead of “lies”

  13. Assalam ‘alaykum,

    ibnmasood, I think thats fine English. She didn’t mean to say between the two “lies” ie untruths or “lines” as in the ayat but the verb to lie as in to lay upon, place of eg My book was lying on top of my bed. Moderation lies between extremes, etc. The idea that a physical object lays somewhere can be extended for ideas in English as well eg- In Christianity, salvation lies in accepting Christ as one’s savior. In this case you can re-render the sentence into:

    “But perhaps a greater distinction between the two ‘can be found’ in the manifestion of…”

    Wallahu a’lam.

  14. Jazaakillaahu khayran!

    فَرَح farah generally refers to transitory delights or pleasures, as is the case in bodily or worldly pleasure. For this reason, most times that فَرَح farah appears in the Qur’an, it is being censured

    I’ve been wondering why that was the case! Baarakallahu feeki for clearing that up.

  15. Jazaakumallahu khayran sister. A real blessing to have you back.

  16. Jazakillah khair….that was beautiful alhamdlillah…I love reading your posts …may Allah give u jannat-ul-firdaus and increase your knowledge.Ameen

  17. this was great reading jazakallahu khayr

  18. Wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa Rahmat Allah,

    Understanding the intricacies of the Arabic language is indeed a great blessing from Allah–May He grant us understanding of His words and in the deen generally.

    I am not a linguist–though the friend who sent me the link to this post is mashaAllah VERY good with analyzing root words–but I’ve always wondered whether we can really grasp the full meaning of Allah’s words when we take them out of the ayaat. For example, “fariheen” in ayah 76 of suratul Qasas (that you posted above) takes on a different meaning when you read the full ayah (as opposed to reading only the segment posted). And, in the same respect, there are words that have been used to convey more than one meaning. For example, we were recently taught about the various meanings of “ummah”: a community (Al-A’araaf, ayah 159), religion (Yunus, ayah 19), or a portion of time (Hud, ayah 8). I’m guessing that all of those meanings can be derived from the root, but how would a person decide which meaning was appropriate without reading the entire ayah? My understanding of the Arabic language is clearly more shallow than yours, so I am just wondering…WaAllahu a’alem.

    Having said that, I completely agree that the translations will always fall short and the original will always prevail. They are His words, and even in suratul-Baqarah He tells us we will never be able to produce a surah like it.

    SubhanAllah wa be-hamdihi SubhanAllahil-atheem.

    Jazaakum Allahu khayran.

  19. As salaam alaikim.

    Excellent post. Glad that I popped through again!

    I have posted my 5 pence in a khutbah piece for today — come by insha’Allah if you have some time to read it.

    Ma’as salaama,

    nuh ibn

  20. masyaallah a good post to ponder upon. reminds me of our circle in manipal.miss it much.

  21. beautiful mashaAllah… this one goes next!

  22. This is excellent post. jazakallahu khayr

  23. very good….
    You have excellent thinking ,
    It inspired me alot..

    Thanks

  24. JazakAllah khayr for the excellent blog. I will return to posting very soon in shaa’ Allaah.

  25. True indeed that happiness is we wish for but each of us has different definition of happiness and that depends on what are the things that could make us happy – the thing that makes me happy could be not interesting to you..

  26. Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  27. Keep up the great posting, I love your posts!

  28. jazza kum ullah brother for sharing such a great information, i am really agree with u, the islam is the perfect way to meet the success
    and every problem can be solve in quran

  29. mashallah it really is the secret of happiness and we all should prepare our self for the day of judgment

  30. Islam is the realign of trough and we as Muslim should bring the right prospective of Islam and let people know the true Islam and respect other realigns as well and mashallah what a post doing a great job and may Allah bring more happiness in your life as well

  31. Masha-Allah this is a very good post and I learned something from it, jazak Allah kahir. My Allah reward you and I for seeking good knowledge during this blessed Ramadan. Ameen

  32. As salamu 3laykum
    Hope your are fine sister, and Allah grant you for more knowledge, and for us too.
    Did you only teach arabic now ? No more linguistic research ?
    I did a semantical analysis and the morphem SR in arabic (and even hebrew).
    With etymology research, we can’t find anymore synonym in arabic.
    The letter sin is the mark of an “ongoing” (mark of the time progression in grammar), the letter R is the process of the Head. This hebrew-coptic letter was first designed like a head. More to say about the derivation of the letter, but it introduce the second word : Ruh (spirit) and then new word like F-RH. This word means the person don’t conrole so much what happen to him, maybe execisse attitud, but the other express more diration, more internal, as you said “secret”.
    We need knowledge and linguistic methodology to follow these studies sister. So follow your work here, إن شاء الله, or join our discussion, with even programmar working on new tools to analyse Arabic. There is a clear mechanims (SR) which dwell it, and the 21th century is arabic.

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