Happiness, surah al Kawthar and surah al Tin

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A number of people have asked whether I am still writing this blog. The answer is definitely. However, the number of postings depends on my activities. In 2010, I started focusing on the Western literature on happiness. Since 2010, I have started three projects: i) I am attending weekly lessons of Arabic grammar to be able to understand Islamic references in the original language, ii) I am attending weekly fiqh lessons with a IIUM scholar and iii) I am focusing on tafsir [explanation] of the Qur'an. In particular, there are two surah that appear very "simple", that most Muslims have memorized and yet have a very deep meaning. The first is surah al Kawthar and the second is surah al Tin. These surah are important because the Western obsession of "happiness as satisfaction of the Self" leads to the paradox that "if the Self always wants more, we can never be happy with what we have". The Islamic perspective is to be grateful with what we have (surah al kawthar) and to know that Allah has created us with the ability to attain Paradise (surah al Tin). Whether we achieve that ultimate destination depends on whether we can develop an internal victory (faith) and an external victory (good actions). This leads me to the two major projects that I have undertaken. The "Internet assignment" is still going on and about 100 students should complete that assignment this semester. The Productive Teens project is still running and the pilot projects in SMK Hillcrest and SMK Sri Gombak seem to be working. At SMK Sri Gombak, we have had feedback from the parents, the counsellors and the facilitators. Everybody agrees that the students are changing for the better. At SMK Hillcrest,students have taken their "private" time to shoot videos on weekends - I have yet to meet the parents to find out if the students involved changed their behavior at home. This leads me to conclude that "good actions" combines individual psychology (learning about Islam, setting personal religious goals, managing time,...) and social psychology (friends we hang out with, projects we get involved in....). For Muslims who are weak in faith (like the kinds in the SMKs we are working with), it is easier to use group dynamics to help them move from negative disruptive behaviour to neutral behaviour. At a later stage, they can clarify their understanding and their practice of Islam. And Allah knows best.

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