In an age where people’s lives are so transparent for many to view via social networking sites, often “stalking” can lead to envy as we compare our lives to the lives of others. So as we gaze at the photographs of our friends’ weddings, holidays, newborns, spouses or homes, envy maybe nurtured within us. If we hear news of someone doing well in their exams, or gaining a job promotion, envy may grow within us. Envy may perhaps initially be indiscernible within our hearts. But on closer inspection we realise we wish we had what they enjoy and we would feel pleasure at the thought of them losing that blessing. And because these are just feelings which we harbor, and not actions which we commit, we consider envy to be harmless and benign. Yet envy is the root to so many other evils. It is the root to backbiting, scorning, hurting others feelings and possibly even breaking friendships and relationships.
Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed envy eats up good deeds just as fire consumes wood.” [Ahmad]
On the one hand you may be a veritable factory of good deeds. You may be earning heavy rewards equitable to the mountains and with sincerity equivalent to the oceans in depth. You may be reading lots of Quran and praying Salaah. You may have fasted in the month of Ramadaan. You may be working for your local community voluntarily, keeping ties with your relations. Yet on the other hand, because you envy others for the blessings bestowed upon them by Allah (subhana wa ta'aalla), you may come to find on the day of judgment that your good deeds have been burnt to ashes. And as fire quickly consumes and burns wood, the envy you harbour will also quickly burn and consume your good deeds.
"And those whose scales (of good deeds) are light, they are those who lose their ownselves, in Hell will they abide. The Fire will burn their faces, and therein they will grin, with displaced lips (disfigured)." (Surah : 103-4)
These people will enter the hellfire not because their scale of good deeds will be empty. They will be in the hellfire because their scale of good deeds was not heavy enough. If we do not recognise and combat the feeling of envy in our hearts, we may be end up with the same fate: a light scale of good deeds and residence in the hellfire. So what can we do to combat this?
Tips to combat envying others:
1. Start to LOVE for others what you love for yourself and TREAT others as you would like to be treated yourself
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "I swear by the One in whose Hands is my soul! None of you will believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." (Bukhaari & Muslim)
None of us truly can claim to believe until we love for others what we love for ourselves. So even if we don’t have that beautiful home, that lucrative business, that successful career, that degree from a prestigious institution, that spouse or those children, because we would love this for ourselves, we wish for others to enjoy these blessings too. Why? Because this feeling of loving for others what we love for ourselves, identifies, depicts and brands us as a believer. And it is this feeling, which differentiates those who consider themselves to be believers from those who in actuality are believers. Once fostered within, it is hard to envy those whose happiness becomes your happiness.
Abdullah ibn Umar ibn Al-‘Aas (radiAllaahu 'anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Whoever would love to be saved from the Fire and entered into Paradise, then let him die with faith in Allah and the Last Day, and let him TREAT the PEOPLE the WAY he would LOVE to be TREATED.” [Musnad Ahmad, Number 6768, Sahih]
If we really wish to be saved from the Fire then we should not envy others for the blessings bestowed upon them just as we would wish for others not to envy us.
2. Make Du'a for others to get what YOU want for yourself
Imagine if we found out the Imaam of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah right now made a specific Du'a for us, would we not be genuinely pleased with this? If you pray for another Muslim, Allah (subhana wa ta aalla) will bless you with something even better, the Du'a of an angel for you to have the same. So when you see others with something that you would wish to have make Du'a for Allah Almighty to bless them with more and Allah Almighty will bless you with more.
Abu ad-Darda narrated that The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "The Du'a of a Muslim for his brother (in Islaam) in his absence is responded to. There is an angel in front of him that has been assigned to him. Every time he makes a du'a for his brother with good, the angel assigned to him says, “Amin! And to you the same”.” [Sahih Muslim]
A friend of mine whenever she had a need for herself she would make Du'a for her friends who needed the same and she would often be granted it too, at times even before the person she even made Du'a for. So if you see someone who has that which you wish for rather than envying them, make Du'a for them to be blessed with this and with more and Allah Willing, Allah will appoint an angel to pray for you to have this too.
3. Understand the REAL value of what you are envying others for
What you may be envying others for regarding their worldly matters may be of no benefit to you in your afterlife and may be insignificant in the eyes of Allah Almighty. Having that person’s bigger house, nicer car, better paid job, four kids and beautiful spouse may not get you Jannah and may make it easier for you to enter the hellfire. So why wish to have them?
“Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one's] hope.” (Surah : 46)
Put things in perspective. Understand you may have in your life what is best for you. They may have in their life what is best for them. Having someone else’s life may not make you happy in this world or the next.