“Knock, knock.”

A British colonial officer in India sips his cup of tea and calls out, “Who is it?”

“It’s me, sir. Your washerwoman. I have come to collect your laundry.”

“Oh sure, how are you?”

“I am fine, sir. Thanks to Allah, a hundred thousand times.”

“And … how are your children doing? And the one who was sick?”

“They are fine, too, sir. All praise is to Allah.

One has malaria. He still has high fever.  But he will get better, Allah willing.

And the other one is quite healthy. Allah is very gracious, sir.  He looks after us.”

“Huh … and how is your husband, I never asked?”

“Oh, he died sir. Six years ago. Allah took him back sir. Allah has a plan for everything.”


A British colonial officer cites this conversation as his reason for embracing Islam.

To a Muslim reader, there is barely anything interesting in that conversation.

The British officer was struggling, like many of us, with the meaning and purpose of life.

He was pondering the best ways to make it through life, and yet always feeling unhappy, without knowing why.

The look of contentment and gratitude on the washerwoman’s face was captivating.

With her worn-out clothes, her sick child and dead husband, her meager income and dim prospects for her future, she seemed quite pleased with life.

She could barely finish a sentence without thanking Allah.

She had what the colonial aristocrat did not.  He could not even understand it.

We all look for happiness. We look so hard that sometimes we even forget what we are looking for, and get deceived by appearances.

Most look for happiness in all the wrong places – in wealth, music, fame and power.

Happiness through bodily experiences doesn’t last or give inner peace.

The body just keeps on wanting more more, and is never satisfied

What then was the secret of happiness?

What did that washerwoman know that so many in the world, never figure out?

Each one of her replies had the answer.

In every situation, she remembered Allah. “For truly, it is in the remembrance of Allah  that hearts find peace.” [The Qur’an 13:28]

Allah says, “Whoever does right, whether male or female, and is a Believer, We will make him live a good life … .” [16:97]

Belief in Allah’s plans and honest work provided inner peace to the washerwoman.

Those who say “I believe” will be tested, just as the washerwoman was tested.

"Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil.” [2:155]

To the Believers, not just hardships but wealth and other good things are also tests.

The Believer patiently perseveres all tests for he knows “there is good in everything” that Allah The Exalted has decreed. [Muslim]

The Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said, “If the Believer experiences a blessing, he is grateful to Allah, which is good for him; and if he experiences an adversity, he remains patient, which is also good for him.” [Muslim]

Allah commands the Prophet (pbuh) to give glad tidings to those, when afflicted with hardships, remain patient and say, ‘To Allah we belong, to Him we shall return.’

Allah The Exalted refers to these Believers as the guided-ones who are blessed and receive His Mercy. [2:155-157]

Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!” [39:10]

In Islam patient perseverance does not imply passively accepting one’s hardships.

The Believer seeks the best way out of his difficulty, supplicates (du’a) to Allah to accept his effort and finally places his complete trust (tawakkal) in Allah The All Knowing to bless him with the outcome good for him.
The Believers know that the purpose of their existence is to “worship” their Creator by adhering to the guidance in The Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). [51:56]

The Believers seek to live Islam as a complete way of life: “O you believe: Enter into Islam wholeheartedly.” [2:208]

They are not deceived by the “amusement and play” of this transitory life. [6:70]

They are not here to seek happiness. To them, happiness is a reward for their obedience to Allah’s commands. [3:170]

They seek eternal happiness in Paradise.

They want “a good ending” (al-Husn al-Khatima) to this worldly life.

They wish to be welcomed thus: ”O serene soul! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing to Allah. Join my happy servants. Enter My Paradise!” [89:27-30]

That’s real happiness in Islam!

By Dr Y Mansoor Marican, Ph. D