Do Not Envy Each Other

One’s etiquette in social situations is the key foundation to having strong relationships with others. This article is the fourth in a series taken from the On Demand Course: Discussion on Sulami’s Adab of Keeping Company.

Allah says:

إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ إِخۡوَة 

“Believers are plainly but each other’s own brothers” [Quran, 49:10; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Do Not Envy Your Brother

Envy is to wish that another not have the blessing that Allah has blessed them with. Do not envy the other. Do not envy them for the traces of Allah’s blessings upon them.

You may view something as a blessing, but in reality, it is not so. The person could be struggling with their faith. You may see the traces of the blessings in their life. It can be a trial for them too. Always hold them in a good opinion. 

You may have other blessings that are equal or greater. There is no need to envy the things others have. It is not meant for you. Allah is the One who gives.

Do not look at what other people get whilst neglecting what Allah has granted you. This is a type of lack of contentment with Allah. Be humbled and grateful.

Look on With Love

How do we look at the other person? With the eye of fraternity, love, and mercy. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Beware of envy because envy eats away good deeds just as a raging fire consumes firewood.”

Envy is destructive. Spiritually, it eats away your good deeds and it corrodes faith. It also eats away at your happiness and contentment, and it harms relationships because people do not trust those who they feel are envious of them. Envy is to wish that another not have the blessing that Allah has blessed them with. It can be conscious or unconscious. 

If another person got the promotion and you have that feeling that, “I wish I had it instead.” That is envy. It hurts you, religiously, and emotionally, it will harm relations and it becomes a character trait. 

Praise Allah for His Blessings

There are some duties that the believer should have when they see someone else with a manifest blessing: First, Praise Allah. Say: Alhamdulillah. Secondly, be happy for them. Thirdly, pray for them. Particularly if you feel any pang of envy, pray for their religious and worldly good. Fourthly, if it is something you wish you had, then ask Allah for it or the like of it.  

Seek to get to the point where seeing them happy makes you happy. Envy is one of those traits that as you get older, can get more intense. The nature of the qualities of the heart is that they are either strengthened or worsened. 

It is particularly important with your peers. With your siblings, envy is much easier. Whether conscious or unconscious. There can be envy at the level of friends as well as those in the same profession. 

One of the things that preempt envy is to practice preferring others to yourself. If you and your friend get to the restaurant, have them order first. Actively practice deferring. Once in a while, when you buy something, buy it for them, not for yourself. 

Also, mind your own business. If someone got a really good job be happy for them. Do not ask for too many details. Even comparing one spouse’s work to another spouse’s work.

Do Not Envy Your Brother

Positive Envy is when you see Allah blessing someone with something and you want them to like it, but you do not want them to lose that blessing. That is fine. 

However, one should be very careful about it. First, you have to get rid of negative envy, whether it comes in direct or indirect ways.

You have to be careful not to subtly wish that the other did not have a particular blessing. The key thing is starting from a place of not being envious of that person or people in general.

Confront with the Liked

Do not face others with anything they dislike. Do not make people feel uncomfortable. It may not sever the ties between you but the other may not hold you close to heart. The believer acts in a manner that is caring, merciful, and loving. Face people with the things that they like. 

Allah says:

وَقُولُوا۟ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنا 

“And say gracious words to people.” [Quran. 2:83; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Of proper manners is asking people about things that they are interested in. Even if they are not of interest to you. Part of caring for someone is to care about the things that they inquire about. 

The believer cares. They hold interest. 

Think Highly of Each Other

Interpret the states of others and their affairs in the best of ways, insofar as possible.  This arises from having a good opinion of others. Do not interpret things in a negative way.

If you are having a barbecue for a specific group of friends and your neighbor shows up. Do not assume he smelt the barbecue and came because he wants some. Welcome them. Maybe they just wanted to borrow some milk. 

Take also the example of seeing someone at a buffet. They may have many items on their plate. Some may even comment to them, “Someone is hungry.” However, they could be loading their plate to take food for their elderly parents.

It is related from some of the Sahaba, “Interpret your brother’s affairs in the best possible ways. Unless they do something that is overwhelmingly clear.”

Be Reasonable

You do not deny the obvious. If someone punches you in the face, it is not reasonable to think they are simply stretching. However, in most things, there are many possibilities. So why choose the negative possibility? 

Make seventy excuses for another. If you fail to find an excuse, then blame yourself. Anytime you have a negative thought, think about the other possibilities. Exert yourself in having a good opinion of people.

In particular situations, one may wonder why certain people did not contact you. A lot of times we underestimate the kinds of problems other people are facing. Perhaps they were not well. 

Avoid suspicion. Do not pry into people’s private affairs. If for example someone lets you use their browser, do not look at their history. If you happen to see something questionable, ignore it. There is a possibility that other people use their devices too. 

If you go beyond that and pry into people’s private affairs, you are the one who for sure sinned, not necessarily them.

Renounce Worldliness

A man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said, “Tell me about something I can do that will make Allah love me and make people love me.”The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded, “Renounce worldliness, and Allah will love you, and renounce what people have and they will love you.”

Worldliness is all those things that busy you away from Allah. Renounce what people have, not only of the good but also renounce the affairs of people in this sense of prying into them. Rather, care for their good. 

Don’t be a people-watcher.