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Pursuing Happiness in Sydney

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By Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

Australia Trip Update:

C4//1Today’s update includes a summary of today’s lecture, an announcement of an online seminar for non Muslims and a potential manual, including details of tomorrow’s lecture.

This evening I delivered a lecture in front of a packed audience at Auburn Gallipoli mosque in Sydney. The topic I addressed was “In the pursuit of happiness”. What follows is a summary of the lecture:

Most of us want to be happy. We want to be content, live in ease, enjoy the company of our friends and family, and not be bogged down with the stresses and strains of daily living. This is why if you were to ask the average person why they want to get a good job, they would probably reply, ‘to earn enough to live comfortably’. If you questioned them further and asked why they want to live comfortably, they would say – just like the rest of us – ‘because I want to be happy’. Happiness is an end, not a means. It is the final destination, not the journey. We all want to be happy, and we seek ways to ensure that we achieve a happy state.

What makes people happy varies from one person to the next: some work away for years to add degrees and career credentials to their names; some work night and day to achieve that perfect figure; some want the comforting love of a spouse or bustle of a family; some go wild with friends every weekend after a tough week at work; some devour lifestyle magazines to get a home looking up to standard; the list is endless. Whether it’s through money, status, other people or just a good time – everybody is involved in trying to ‘get happy’, live happy, and eventually just BE happy. Which begs the question, what is true happiness? If it exists, where does it lie and how do we get there?

To answer these questions consider the following. Imagine that while reading this you have been sedated against your will. Suddenly you wake up and find yourself on a plane. You are in first class. You have your own cabin. The food is heavenly. The seat is a flatbed, designed for a luxurious comfortable experience. The entertainment is limitless. The service is out of this world. You start to enjoy all of the facilities. Think for a moment, and ask yourself this question: am I happy?

How can you be… you need some questions answered first. How did you even get on the plane? Where is it headed to? If these questions remain unanswered, how can you ever be happy? Even if you started to enjoy all of the luxuries at your disposal, you would never achieve true happiness. Would that frothy Belgian chocolate mousse on your dessert tray be enough to drown out the questions? It would be a delusion, a fake type of happiness, only achievable by deliberately ignoring and suspending these critical questions.

Apply this to your life. Now ask yourself, am I happy?

Our coming into existence is no different to being sedated and thrown on a plane. We never chose our birth. Yet some of us do not ask the questions or search for the answers that will help us achieve our ultimate goal: happiness.

Where does our happiness lie?

Happiness lies in our inwardness, in knowing who we are, and finding the answers to the critical questions: why are we here? Where are we going? We are not just animals. We cannot be content living by just reacting to our instincts. In this light, the human being is like a cosmic orphan. We ask the question: why. Obeying our hormones and mere physical needs will not bring happiness. To highlight this, reflect on the following example.

Imagine you were one of fifty human beings in a small room with no entry or exit. You have 10 loaves of bread, and there is no way to obtain food for 100 days. What do you all do? If you react to your instincts, there will be blood. If you try to answer the question ‘how can we all survive?’, it is more likely most of you will, as you will think of ways to do so. Extend this example to your life. Your life is far more complex and has many more variables, which can dictate almost infinite outcomes. Yet some of us just follow our carnal needs. Our jobs may require Ph.D.s or other qualifications, and we may wine and dine with our partners, but all of that is still reduced to survival and procreation. Happiness can be achieved if we answer the critical questions, and find out who we are.

So, why are we here?

The answer is simple, yet profound. We are here to worship God. Worshipping God means loving Him, obeying Him and knowing Him. To know your Lord is to know yourself. Worshipping God is the ultimate purpose of our existence; it frees us from the slavery of ourselves, others and society. As God, in the Qur’an, presents us with a powerful example:

“God puts forward this illustration: can a man who has for his masters several partners at odds with each other be considered equal to a man devoted wholly to one master? All praise belongs to God, though most of them do not know.” The Qur’an, 39:29

If we don’t worship God, we still end up worshipping many ‘gods’. Think about it. Our partners, our bosses, our teachers, our friends, the societies we live in, and even our own desires, ‘enslave’ us in some way. Take for example social norms. Many of us define our sense of beauty based on influential social pressures. We may have a range of likes and dislikes, but they are shaped by others. Ask yourself, why am I wearing these trousers or this skirt? Saying you like it is only a shallow response, the point is why do you like it? If we keep on probing in this way, many will end up admitting ‘because other people like it and other people think I look nice’. Unfortunately, many of these people will hold these views because they have been influenced to: L’Oreal: Because I’m worth it.

In this respect we have many ‘masters’ and they all want something from us. They are all ‘at odds with each other’, and we end up living confused, unfulfilled lives. God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, who loves us more than our mothers love us, is telling us that. He is our true master, and by worshipping Him it truly frees us.

Where are we headed to?

We either accept God’s mercy, thereby attain eternal happiness and bliss in paradise. or we reject His mercy. Rejecting God’s mercy is a form of Divine alienation, which means the fire. God cannot force us to choose paradise. He has given us free will to make our own decision. The responsibility rests on our shoulders.

A Seminar for Non Muslims!

I will be delivering an online seminar on the above topic in November. The seminar is open to all non Muslims. So please invite your friends and colleagues. Here are the details:

Monday, 17 November 2014, 7:30PM.

Registration web link http://www.onereason.org/happiness/

Potential Manual!

After the lecture I spoke with some university students. One of the students has compiled a manual that articulates the rational foundations of Islam. The manual heavily relies on the notes from the “Dawah Power” course I delivered last year in Australia. We agreed that we would spend a few hours together this week to review and improve the book. If it looks promising I will consider of making it a joint Mission Dawah publication. Watch this space.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s event

Tomorrow I will meet one of the Sydney outreach teams and in the evening I will deliver the lecture “Islam and the Secular Mind” insha’Allah. Follow this link https://www.facebook.com/events/289817331212352/ to register for the lecture.