How to Neutralize Envy

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Daybreakk. From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; And from the evil of the witchcrafts when they blow in the knots; And from the evil of the envier when he envieth.” (Quran, 113 [The Dawn], 1-5)

Now let us briefly examine some ways that envy (hasad) can be expunged from the heart:

1. In order to eliminate this ill feeling, merely being aware of the true extent of its destructive nature is enough. However, in addition, it should also be remembered that one who harbours hasad against a believer becomes guilty of further sins: these can include cheating a believer, refusing to give them good advice, becoming a bad example by not practicing Islam properly, and becoming a tool of Satan by being gladdened at the losses of others. The seriousness of this sin cannot be underestimated. In other words, as we saw above, it is a sickness that destroys the purity and sincerity of the heart, as well as its good feelings and good deeds. [Abu Dawud, Adab, 44]

2. A constant fire burns within the heart that harbours hatred and this will eventually consume that person. For resentment that is born of envy increases as the object of envy continues to receive blessings, until the envious person’s heart contracts; they start to lose sleep as they fall into the grip of this deadly disease. This is a condition one’s enemies rejoice to see. As Bediüzzaman Said Nursi wrote, envy oppresses and destroys the envious one, not the one who is envied. The feeling of resentment will barely touch the one who is envied, not affecting them at all. [Nursi, Mektubat, 2, 471] Thus, the intelligent thing to do is to realize that all accounts will be settled at the end of time as God is the Ultimate Judge, and to try to be freed from hasad, which is a useless emotion. In truth, hasad itself will be punished on the Last Day too, so meditating on the Judgment is helpful in more than one way. [Ghazali, Ihya al-Ulum al-Din, 3/440–2]

3. Another way to cure the “sickness” of hasad is to refuse to carry out the negative actions that are urged by these feelings —in fact, by doing just the opposite we can gain mastery over such emotions. This means that we should recognize that by doing wrong to the person we feel resentment or hatred against we are falling into a trap that has been set for us by Satan; knowing this, we should force ourselves to overcome our ego and do good to these people instead. This means that when feelings of resentment impel us to act in an unpleasant manner with those we dislike, we must fight this feeling and be humble instead. Again, if these negative feelings cause us to want to be miserly with them, we should be generous in spite of our feelings. Acting in this way will both eliminate these negative emotions as well as creating another effect. The other person will feel happy and think well of us. This can actually create affection and, with time, eradicate the sickness of resentment and envy.

Although these actions at first are difficult to carry out, with practice they become second nature, a part of one’s personality. Of course, this situation will not please Satan and he will try to interfere in these positive developments. He may inspire in us feelings of distrust of any good action on the part of the other person, thus putting doubts and fears into our minds. However, a believer will know that these are just the whispers of Satan, the Accursed One, and that he and his designs will come to naught. By making an effort to do good to the person we can seek refuge in God and ask for patience. [Ibid., 3/445–6]

4. It does not befit a believer to tie their heart to passing things in this temporary world; therefore, there is no reason for a believer to feel slighted when these things belong to others and not to them. It may help to restore a balanced perspective to remember that God’s eternal blessings are far more valuable than the fleeting material possessions of this world. This can go a long way in helping abate resentment.

5. Someone who feels resentment stirring in their heart should make sure that they do not manifest it outwardly; this requires discipline. Indeed, if we “let resentment out” we will grow accustomed to it; this is not something that we can allow to happen. Every person must keep their own hands, mouth, eyes, tongue, and ears under control at all times.

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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