Progress Report on the Happiness in Islam Project

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We are now finishing Sem 2 2014/2015. I have around 100 students that have submitted the Internet assignment and they have made about 15 videos for the Productive Teens project. I present here a synopsis of the whole project and my latest reflects. I will divide this report into three parts: Part 1: This was the beginning of the project. It started with a comprehensive review of the concept of happiness. After a lot of reading, it boils down to the Western perspective vs. the Islamic perspective. The Western perspective says that happiness is something we create for ourselves. Depending on whether you are into sports, entertainment, politics, or business, you happiness depends on your achievements. A big debate is whether you should achieve what the Society wants (including your parents) or whether you should focus on your personal goals. The Islamic perspective is that happiness is a gift from Allah SWT. The more sincere you are in your relationship with Allah SWT, the more Allah SWT will put that feeling of tranquility in your heart. In Islam, it is understood that young Muslims will naturally seek the Western approach to happiness. They assume that to be happy, you have to satisfy your Self. Eventually, they experience a lot of frustrations. Slowly, they realize that their happiness foes not depend on satisfying their Self but on controlling the Self and aligning it with what is pleasing to Allah SWT. Once they have figured that out, Allah SWT puts that feeling of happiness and contentment in their hearts. Anybody who wants to understand and achieve happiness must therefore understand and appreciate the concept of al qadar. Part 2: This includes all the activities that I made my students. A major activity is to get my students to listen to one Islamic talk on the internet every week throughout the semester. So far, about 1,100 students have done this. About 75% reported feeling happier as a consequence. I would argue that this change is probably a lasting phenomena as their increased in happiness is due to new knowledge of Islam. More importantly, the purpose of the assignment is so that they understand the process of transforming themselves. Their happiness must not depend on others. They must control the process. If they are going through hard times, the natural thing for them to do is to start watching Islamic talks. That will allow them to put thing their difficult experience in the right perspective. Other activities included doing assignments on al qadar and making videos for the Productive Teens project. Making these videos was an opportunity to find the true stories of Malays who had "gotten lost" and whose lives were messed up. They have rediscovered Islam and their lives improved since. These videos allowed my students to see al qadar in real life, as opposed to simply reading about it or hearing about it. This part of the project included a lot of data collection. I used a questionnaire to measure spiritual intelligence. I measure the spiritual intelligence of students at the beginning of the semester (before they watched Islamic videos) and I measured their spiritual intelligence at the end of the semester (after watching Islamic videos). No big surprise, there were significant differences between before and after. This data will be presented at an international conference in August 2014, insha Allah. Part 3: Over the last few weeks, I have become aware that I have fallen into the trap of quantitative data analysis. Although measuring the spiritual intelligence of my students was important (as I concluded in my paper for the conference, developing spiritual intelligence for Muslim employees is a straightforward process); it is a somewhat artificial endeavor. The videos that my students made [which are all on Youtube - from MIP77 to MIP92] are in fact case studies in pain, sorrow and happiness. All the people interviewed started by wanting to create their own happiness. They did things they knew were ethically wrong but they gradually fell into social traps. The experiences range from taking drugs, motorbike racing, to dating and all kinds of experiences in between. Typically, these people did not understand the risk they were taking - they all paid a heavy emotional price (one person attempted suicide). After experiencing this emotional pain, they looked at their Islamic knowledge acquired at school in a new light. What they saw as "old fashioned nonsense" turned out to be wisdom. They simply had to go through the emotional pain to appreciate the wisdom of the Islamic teachings. In the months ahead, I plan to analyse these videos in more detail. For better or worse, we can only discover real happiness after experiencing some kind of emotional pain. I am trying to understand that relationship better

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