How can I get rid of jealousy?

Details of the Question
How can I get rid of jealousy?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Jealousy means being jealous of other people, envying and begrudging them. People with such feelings are called “jealous”.

Jealousy is one of the fatal illnesses of ethics which cannot be cured. A jealous person grieves upon any goodness and positivity in other people’s lives, and even desires them to lose them all, begrudging them. If they do not lose them, jealous person’s grief increases. It is said that “Jealousy is such an illness of soul that no doctor can find the cure for it. Yet only Allah can help it.” For this reason, jealousy is a disgusting moral quality which invalidates and exterminates a Muslim’s good deeds.

Jews and Christians are always jealous of Muslims. As they are not on the right way and cannot benefit from Allah’s kindness, their jealousy increases when they see Muslims’ good deeds which they do for the sake of Allah. They plan various tricks and plots for Muslims. However, Muslims do not deserve these evils of them; contrarily, they wish goodness for them. Eventually, they always fall into holes which they dig up for Muslims. However, they cause great controversies and conflicts amongst believers. Exact punishment for the most of them will be given by Allah, the Supreme, on the Day of Judgment.

A jealous person is never peaceful and at rest because he wants people to lose what Allah endowed upon them. It is not jealousy but protectiveness to want people to lose what is not useful for them but harmful. Wanting a religious functionary, who uses his knowledge in order to gain prosperity, high position and to commit sins, to lose his knowledge is a feeling of protectiveness. And it is not jealousy, either, to want those, who use their wealth for harams, cruelty, to destroy Islam and to spread bid’ahs and sins, to lose their wealth but it is protectiveness of religion. If someone has got jealousy in his heart and still grieves over it and wants to get rid of it, it is not a sin. Memories and thoughts that exist in heart are not considered to be sins. It is out of one’s control for memories and thoughts to come into one’s heart. If one does not grieve over jealousy in his heart or if he is jealous because he wants to be, it is a sin and haram. If he shows his jealousy with his words and actions, it is a greater sin. It is said in a hadith: “Humans cannot get rid of three things: negative suspicion, belief in bad luck and jealousy. When you are suspicious of something, do not act accordingly. When you think there is bad luck with something, do it trusting Allah. Never hurt someone you are jealous of!”

Belief in bad luck means that something can bring on bad luck and negative suspicion means suspecting something or someone to be bad. It is understood from this hadith that having jealousy in heart is not haram. What is haram is to consent to it and to want it to continue. As it is said in Hadiqa, “Thoughts in heart are in five degrees:

1- They do not stay in heart for long and they go away; they are called “hajis”.

2- They stay in heart for a short time and they are called “hatir.”

3- They cause hesitation whether to put them into practice or and they are called “hadithu’n-nafs.”

4- They are preferred to be put into practice and they are called “Hamm.”

5- They are strongly and determinedly preferred; they are called “azm” and “jazm”.

In the Quran, feeling of jealousy and possible outcomes of it are not underestimated. It is absolutely thought-provoking that the main reason of the first murder of humankind, which occurred between Adam’s two sons (1), and of Joseph’s being thrown into the well by his brothers (2) is the feeling of jealousy. The Prophet (pbuh) states “arrogance” which caused Iblis not to prostrate before Adam, “greediness” which caused Adam to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree and “jealousy” which caused Adam’s son Cain to fight and murder his brother and also caused Joseph’s brothers to throw him into a well as three things that are the sources of all sins. Therefore, jealousy is a bad characteristic, which is condemned.

It is essential to try to get rid of them by continuing invocation, supplication and worshipping. It is a duty to be aware of its evilness, paying attention to Allah’s warnings and advice, and to try to get over this illness. Prophet Jacob’s older sons planned a trap against their little brother Joseph all together and they put it into practice. Their aim was to destroy Joseph. However, Allah chose Joseph and blessed him with prophethood and sovereignty. He made his brothers submit to him and got them under his sovereignty. Because of their jealousy of Joseph, their trap worked against them. And this is an obvious evidence of Allah’s wisdom and might.

When the order to “seek refuge with Allah from the mischief of the envious one as he practices envy” (3), which was sent down in surah al-Falaq, is taken into consideration, it is better comprehended how serious the destruction the feeling of jealousy and envy can cause to society is. It is also important that the incidents in question, that is to say, incidents told in the Quran, were experienced between brothers. That is to say, if the feeling of jealousy can cause one to murder his brother, what else can it not cause other people to do?

If we come to think of anarchy, moral corruption and cultural deterioration which are progressing in an increasing rate day by day and which turn this world into an uninhabitable place in the light of these verses, we can see the feelings of hatred and jealousy, which depend on various natural causes, between different groups of people due to various kinds of discrimination practiced by authority groups, who are directed to do so as a result of various thoughts and philosophies which came into our country from outside. To be clearer, today’s restlessness, theft, robbery and anarchy are outbursts of piled feelings of hatred, jealousy and revenge which have been formed in hearts as a result of discrimination such as reactionary-intellectual, revolutionist-bigot, progressive-retrogressive, fascist-revolutionist, Turk-non-Turk and Sunni-Shia and discriminations practiced by authority groups depending on these groupings, which have been imposed on our people for years.

Jealousy is the result of hatred and hatred is the result of anger. Therefore, behaving in a way which would decrease anger will decrease hatred and eventually will decrease jealousy as well. Jealousy means not consenting to Divine Decision. For this reason, a jealous person, first of all, risks his faith. Jealousy is an illness that kills the one who envies before the one who is envied.

It is usually jealousy that causes fights between people and conflicts and arguments between colleagues. Indeed, jealousy, as a result of excessive egoism, is the thought of “they must not have got what I have not.”

It is not jealousy to wish to have something which other people have got without wanting them to lose it. It is called longing (envy). Longing is a nice feeling. (It is explained in our other book titled “Güzel Ahlak Esasları ve Kazanma Yolları: Essentials of High Ethics and How to Earn Them”.)

Jealousy also sweeps away thawabs earned from worshipping one has practiced. A hadith says: “Avoid being jealous. Know that jealousy wipe out thawabs just like fire wipes woods out; it sweeps them away.” (4) Another hadith recorded by Ibn Majah says: “Jealousy eats up thawabs just like fire eats up woods. And charity (sadaqa) sweeps faults away just like water extinguishes fire.” Therefore, our religion expects believers to spend every moment of their lives in a way with which Allah would be pleased, as a requirement of their belief. This situation prohibits belief and jealousy to be together. The Prophet (pbuh) explains it in a hadith as follows: “An unbeliever and one who has killed him cannot come together in Hell; the fire of Hell and dust in a servant’s stomach which was swallowed on the way of Allah cannot come together; belief and jealousy cannot come together in a servant’s heart, either.” (5)

Being jealous of something/someone means, in a sense, considering Allah’s decision to be inappropriate. Whoever considers Allah’s decision to be inappropriate and does so consciously, becomes an unbeliever because he happens to deny Allah’s wisdom and justice by thinking so. This situation can lead to unbelief. For this reason, a jealous person is in conflict with Allah in five ways. These conflicts are as follows: A jealous person is angry because of the boons other people have got. He is angry with Allah’s way of sharing bounties to people. A person who is jealous of boons and bounties Allah has endowed upon other people sounds like saying to the Lord: “Why did you deliver these boons and bounties like that?” Although Allah gives freely from His bounties to anyone He likes, he wants to be stingy with Allah’s bounties. He wants to cause difficulties to the dear people of Allah upon whom He has endowed boons and bounties. By being jealous, he indeed helps Satan, who is the enemy of both him and Allah.

Avoiding jealousy means not begrudging people of their possessions, wealth, positions and prosperity. Whereas it is permissible to envy people (to desire to be like them) in religious matters, it is impermissible to be jealous of people in worldly matters. It is because jealousy causes the jealous person to backbite and try to destroy the one whom he is jealous of; thus, it causes him to be unfair and cruel. Backbiting, cruelty and unfairness cause one’s thawabs to go away. All of these result in the increase of boons and thawabs of the envied person and in the increase of damages and despair of the envious one. The situation of such people is expressed in the Quranic verse as follows: “they lose both this world and the Hereafter.” (6)

A jealous person also backbites someone whom he is jealous of and thus commits a second sin. And sometimes he attacks possessions of the person he is jealous of or even the person himself. On the Day of Judgment, thawabs of the jealous person are going to be taken away from him and given to the person whom he was jealous of, in return for hardships he gave to him. Ten folds of thawabs are given to the one who practices good deeds in the worldly life. Jealousy sweeps away nine of them, leaving only one of them back. No other sin other than unbelief can sweep away all good deeds of a Muslim.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says:

“You are infected by the illness of the previous people. It is jealousy and hatred. It shaves. Know that when I say it shaves, I do not mean it shaves off your hair. It shaves off the religion. I swear with the One who holds my soul in His hand of power that you cannot get into Heaven unless you believe. And unless you love each other, your belief is incomplete. Shall I tell you what can help you to love each other? Spread peace (salam) among you.” (7)

In another hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) says: “Ask for your needs from the wealthy ones in secret because wealthy ones are envied.” And you will be envied, too, when others find out that your needs have been met.

Being jealous does not change Allah’s decision. Therefore, a jealous person grieves and bothers in vain because of his jealousy. Besides, he earns sins which are a burden on him. Caliph Muawiyah advised his son as follows: “Avoid jealousy because it causes more damages to you than to one whom you are jealous of.”

Again, Caliph Muawiyah said: “I can please everyone, except for the jealous one because he wants people to lose their boons. (As long as I have got what he is jealous of, I cannot please him no matter what I give to him.)”

Jealous people have never reached their desires and they have never been respected by anyone. Jealousy causes despair and shortens lifespan.

One who is envied by others is not harmed by it, neither in this world nor in the otherworld. He even benefits from it. However, a jealous person wastes his life in despair. As he sees no decrease but even increase in the boons of the one whom he is jealous of, he becomes restless. One should give presents to the one whom he is jealous of and praise him in order to get rid of jealousy. He should be modest to him and pray for the increase of his boons. (8)

The Prophet, in his Farewell Sermon, wants us to avoid jealousy, which damages feeling of brotherhood and prevents the brotherhood of Ansar-Muhajir from being spread all over the world and which blocks awareness of being Ummah, emphatically.

“(O believers!) Do not be jealous of each other, do not hate each other, do not turn your backs to each other, and do not spoil each other’s trade. O servants of Allah! Be brothers! A Muslim is the brother of other Muslims (regardless of his color, language, place of birth, social statue and gender). So they cannot be cruel to each other, cannot betray them and cannot leave their call for help unanswered and cannot insult (humiliate) them either. Allah does not care about your bodies and wealth but cares about your hearts and deeds – he said taqwa is here, taqwa is here, taqwa is here; pointing his heart - . It is enough to humiliate his Muslim brother to be regarded as a bad person. A Muslim’s blood, possessions and honor are haram to other Muslims.” (9)

How to Get Over the Illness of Jealousy

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“It is impermissible to envy anyone, except for these two people: One is the wise person who makes judgments with the wisdom that Allah has given to him and who also teaches it to other people. The other is the wealthy person who spends his wealth, which Allah has given to him, on the way of Allah.” (10)

The word which we translated as “envy” in the hadith must be understood in this way: “It is permissible to desire to have what Allah has given to these two people.” It is fair to think “he has got that thing and I want that thing too.” Jealousy can be seen in all actions and feelings, even in worshipping. Its cure is to consent to the Divine Apportionment and to recite the surah of Yusuf a lot, to learn lessons through it.

The way of getting over jealousy is described as follows in another hadith:

“There are three things; nobody has ever managed to get over them: Bad luck, negative suspicion and jealousy.” When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was asked about the way of getting over them, he said: “When you think of bad luck, do not quit the thing you like. When you are suspicious of something/someone, do not investigate. When you are jealous, do not act accordingly.”

In this sense, it is possible to get over negative suspicion and jealousy by not going after them. Hasan al-Basri says: There is nobody who has no jealousy inside. Whoever gets over it and does not become cruel going after that feeling is not jealous.

What is appropriate for a believer is to hate it and to try to send it away when he feels jealousy inside; just like what he does when he feels the urge for committing harams. Badiuzzaman gives the following advices on how to get over this feeling:

“The cure for envy: Let the envious reflect on the ultimate fate of those things that arouse his enmity. Then he will understand that the beauty, strength, rank, and wealth possessed by his rival are transient and temporary. Their benefit is slight, and the anxiety they cause is great. If it is a question of advantages enjoyed with respect to the Hereafter, they cannot be an object of envy. But if one does envy another on account of them, then he is either himself a hypocrite, wishing to destroy the goods of the Hereafter while yet in this world, or he imagines the one whom he envies to be a hypocrite, thus being unjust towards him.”

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who addressed all times until the Day of Judgment, who offered solutions to the problems of all eras and described our day, expresses the hardships believers today experience so clearly: “When one of you looks at someone who is superior to you in terms of wealth and disposition, he should also look at someone who is inferior to him. It is necessary to do so as not to underrate the boons Allah has endowed upon you.” (11)

In another hadith similar to this one, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says: “Spend little time with the wealthy people. Otherwise, it helps you only to underrate Allah’s boons upon you.” There is the cure of an important illness in this hadith. Actually, when one looks at someone superior to him, he cannot be sure if he is not going to be jealous. And the cure of this illness called jealousy is to look at people inferior to you. This will help you to consent to what you have got.

Another hadith that is to complete our topic is as follows:

“There are two traits; whoever has got them, Allah records him as grateful and patient. Whoever looks at people inferior to him in terms of worldly matters gives thanks to Allah for the superiority he has got. Whoever looks at people superior to him in terms of religious matters begins to follow them. Whoever looks at people superior to him in terms of worldly matters grieves over what he has not got and thus he is not recorded as grateful and patient.”

As it is stated in the hadith above, a believer should always look at people who are inferior to him in terms of worldly matters so that he can be grateful. And he should look at people who are superior to him in terms of deeds, taqwa and faith so that he can realize his flaws and can try to correct them. When we think of this situation from the reverse angle, immorality and fornication would increase; people do not hesitate to kill each other in order to gain worldly wealth and position.

It depends on a good self-discipline for one to save himself from this trap. That is to say, if one can turn the projection onto himself and grows the habit of taking care of his own flaws, he decreases this risk. It is possible to get over all these traps by finding good examples for us and by trying to be like them. It is appropriate to wish to gain knowledge and wealth in order to use them appropriately.

One should supplicate saying “O Lord! Do not let me be jealous, let me be one of whom others are jealous!” It is because a jealous one sees a kind of perfection, which he has not got, in the person he is jealous of. And that is why, he is jealous of him. Be patient with the jealousy of the jealous one. Your patience kills him.

What are the disadvantages of jealousy?

Another way of getting over jealousy is to know what it is and to know its negative effects on our worldly and otherworldly lives.

Those who are not upset by their own losses but by other people’s gains set the most extreme example of commercial ignorance. They are little poor losers writhing in jealousy.

A man of wisdom says: “Jealousy is an ambition that makes one insane. It makes him roam from place to place, instead of keeping him at home.”

When people infected with this illness evaluate the boons such as faith, knowledge and wealth, they deal with it reversely. They desire wealth and high position first. Then they desire body health and lastly, knowledge and faith. However, can a small piece of faith be compared to an extra piece of knowledge? Can a little bit of superiority in knowledge be weighed together with body health? Can body health be compared to wealth?

This is a strange mystery and a great wisdom. With this mystery, greedy and jealous people spend their time being busy with wealthy people and so they leave scholars, dervishes and righteous people alone. However, they are the ones who have got the real wealth.

Badiuzzaman offers an advice in order to get over jealousy: “Let the envious reflect on the ultimate fate of those things that arouse his enmity. Then he will understand that the beauty, strength, rank, and wealth possessed by his rival are transient and temporary.” (The Letters)

It is the foolishness of thinking that the one of whom you are jealous and the worldly boons he has got are everlasting which cause the illness of jealousy. Rationally, everyone knows that it is impossible; however, once the feelings begin to rule, the poor mind can do nothing but just writhe in helplessness.

A century later, all jealous people and all people of whom they are jealous, and their positions and wealth as well, will be taken over by other people; they will stay with them for a while and then to be taken over by other people.

A man of heart likens this world to a beautiful lady who winks at everyone but never ever marries any of them.

Jealousy also means an objection to destiny. “Or do they envy mankind for what God hath given them of his bounty?” (an-Nisa, 4:54)

Let us imagine a person: He has done his best in order to gain a certain bounty, working within the lawful limits, and has begun to wait for his Lord’s mercy and help after having practiced his actual and verbal supplications. What a believer should do when he sees that a person is endowed upon by Divine kindness is to be happy as if he was the one who was endowed. This is what belief in destiny and Islamic brotherhood requires.

Master Badiuzzaman utters a warning statement for those who prefer jealousy and enmity: “Whoever criticizes Divine Determining is striking his head against an anvil on which it will break, and whoever objects to Divine Mercy will himself be deprived of it..” (The Letters)

There is a very wise sentence: “Allah has given from his bounty” in the Quranic verse. Acting upon this sentence, commentators of the Quran has stated that it is permissible to be jealous of unlawful gains and they said that “it is not jealousy but justice to want people to lose what they gained unlawfully.”

In this sense, if one became rich by stealing, it would not be jealousy to want his wealth to be taken away from him. Jealousy is when one begrudges lawful wealth or position which “Allah has given from his bounty.” and wanting these to be taken away from a believer means to criticize destiny and to object to mercy.

Fudayl bin Iyad’s statement “A believer desires; a hypocrite envies” is both a fine criterion and a great warning for us. One can desire to have a worldly or otherworldly boon others have got; this is not jealousy but longing. Jealousy is when one wants someone to lose what he has got. That is to say, the main aim of a man who is jealous of his rich neighbor is not to be like him, but to see his neighbor poor. And this is a vile and base thought befitting hypocrites only.

However, it is, of course, wrong to label jealous people as hypocrites right away, by misinterpreting this beautiful statement.

Definition of hypocrisy is clear: “Hypocrite is someone who pretends to believe but does not believe indeed.” Is it possible to call a believer, who is jealous, a hypocrite in this sense? So, it is necessary to understand it as “Never be jealous, because it is a vile attribution for hypocrites only.”

A person who loves himself and who knows what is good for him does not prefer to be jealous because jealousy causes one to destroy his own psychology due to not begrudging others’ happiness. It is like stabbing yourself when you are angry with someone else.

“Envy in the first place consumes and destroys the envier, and its harm for the one envied is either slight or nonexistent.” (The Letters)

One should keep in mind that having a worldly boon or superiority is not evidence of his perfection. If it was so, all rich people would be righteous and all poor people would be sinful.

It is not the reality. Worldly boons are a means of testing. Everyone is tested in a way. What matters is the end of this journey. Of course, it is nice to try to be rich through lawful ways or to gain high positions. However, destiny rules over incidents. We might not be able to get what we want no matter how much we work and our rivals can beat us.

We are supposed to trust Allah and to consent to Divine Decision, after doing what we should do and say “so this must be better for me.” Otherwise, we will destroy our spiritual world and we can run the risk of objecting to destiny, being tricked by Satan.

And this has got great negative consequences, which are everlasting.

Footnotes:

(1) surah al-Maidah, 5/27–30.
(2) surah Yusuf, 12/4–10.
(3) surah al-Falaq, 113/5.
(4) Abu Dawud, Adab 52,
(5) Muslim, Imarat, 130, 131; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 11; Nasai, Jihad 8; Ibn Majah, Jihad, 9.
(6) surah al Hajj, 22/11.
(7) Tirmidhi, Sifatu'l-Qiyamah, 57.
(8) İslâm Ahlâkı, M. Hadimî.
(9) Muslim, Birr, 32–34; Tirmidhi, Birr, 18,
(10) Bukhari, Ilm,15; Fadailu'l-Qur'ân, 20, Tawhid, 45; Muslim, Musafirin, 266; Tirmidhi, Birr, 24.
(11) Bukharî, Riqaq 30; Muslim, Zuhd, 8; Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 59.

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