In a world that has become so rushed, when news feeds are filled with images of war torn lands and displaced and starving children, when families are struggling financially and divorces and broken marriages, are almost common place, happiness seems almost unattainable in this atmosphere. On a personal note, as a working mom with 2 overly active children, the stresses of motherhood, work, and home can at times be overwhelming. When adding to that, I still home-school my children when it comes to their Islamic studies, the pressures of daily life can leave one feeling inadequate and incapable. This gives rise to a feeling of despondency and then dissatisfaction with ones daily routine, and contributes to a sense of unhappiness.
It was then without any hesitation that I accepted the challenge to review the following book: How to be a Happy Muslim by Sheima S Sumer. The fact that the author is herself a qualified and experienced counsellor, means that this book is a very well written manual on how one can go about achieving a sense of inner peace. It is well structured and has both personal anecdotes, as well as narratives from the Quraan and the sunnah.
The advices are clear and easy to apply. The book does not leave much room for a victim mentality. It highlights the fact that one should always take responsibility for your own mental attitude. It provides simple exercises in which we can re-evaluate and implement coping mechanisms for our own personal life stressors. What tended to stand out for me, was constant reminders about gratitude. We’ve often heard the phrase ‘Count your blessings’ and this book gives easy steps in which to implement this. It by no means discounts the negative and\or traumatic events which a person may be exposed to, however, it does give step by step instructions on how to overcome these factors. The book constantly encourages you to take control of your actions, to realise and recognise that you and only you are responsible for your emotions.
Ultimately, happiness is a choice and the author very clearly and cleverly gives a muslim believer the tools in which to choose this state. I have read self-help books which focus on attaining contentment before, but I had always felt that for me personally something was lacking in those. The fact that this book is faith-based and gives constant reminders and encourages personal reflection from an Islamic perspective was for me that final piece of the puzzle. This book will give one the tools necessary to reconnect to Allah, the Creator of Happiness!
A personal favourite was the ‘Happiness Hints’ generously sprinkled throughout the text. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that reading this book will magically make your problems disappear, or that since reading it I am now blissfully happy…but if you implement the advices accordingly, it does give you the ability and coping mechanisms to find a level of inner peace. It helped me to see things clearer, and to move away from a ‘poor me’ mentality to one where I am now in charge of how I feel…and Alhamdulillah for the first time in a long time I feel happy!
As parents we very rarely put ourselves first, in the long list of priorities we hardly ever even feature on the list, but I’ve come to recognise that in order to give the best of myself to others, I first need to ensure that I’m in a place where I can do that. This book has helped to harness my own sense of inner peace better, and in doing so, ensures that I am capable of thereafter giving off my best to my children.