Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can complain because roses have thorns or you can rejoice that the thorns have roses.”
Most people fall into the first category of complainers: always visualizing the negativity in any situation and despairing when things don’t go the way they plan. Very few consciously choose to see things from a different/positive perspective. Life is a fascinating cocktail of events, good and bad, with rejoicing and grieving, achievements and failures. But our attitude towards these situations decides the impact they have in our life, constructive or destructive.
A study conducted by Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinologist at Stanford University, found that even listening to someone else complain for 30 minutes resulted in elevated levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.
From an Islamic perspective, a believer must manifest beautiful patience in the face of trial, which means we must submit to Allah and be content as soon as it happens. The Prophet said, “The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
And Allah already informed us that our life will be full of tests, as this is part of the reason we were created,
“[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving,” [Quran: Chapter 67, Verse 2]
In reality, every test is a blessing in disguise – it may be that a test is Allah’s way to bring you back to Him; it may be that a certain hardship draws you nearer to Him; it may be that a calamity you’ve suffered is a punishment that decreases your sins in the Hereafter. Rather than complaining, we should welcome our hardships for they are a sign that Allah loves us. Complaining creates resentment in the heart towards Allah and is a very unhealthy state of mind that only brings us more suffering.
Why do people complain?
There are a number of reasons why people feel the need to complain. Allah has mentioned that every human will be tested in various ways during his/her life. Let’s explore the different hardships one may suffer which causes complaining.
Reason 1: Unexpected calamities
Humans are generally hasty and ungrateful. The moment a calamity strikes, the person tends to forget all the blessings that he had been bestowed with and starts complaining. But, whenever a calamity befalls us, we must remember that it is from Allah and it is a part of our qadr (destiny). Allah says:
“No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah, is easy.” [Qur’an: Chapter 57, Verse 22]
Allah has told us that He would test us in health, wealth, and with our children to see how we respond. Each soul will go through its share of trials. So during a calamity, we must remember to be grateful to Allah to earn the reward here and in the Hereafter and assert our true faith in Him.
Reason 2: Lack of wealth and possessions
This seems to be the number one cause for people to complain. Allah describes the man as greedy until he meets his grave. Each person desires for a bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger business and so on. The Messenger said,
“Narrated Hakim bin Hizam: I asked the Prophet (for some money) and he gave me, and then again I asked him and he gave me, and then again I asked him and he gave me and he then said, “This wealth is (like) green and sweet (fruit), and whoever takes it without greed, Allah will bless it for him, but whoever takes it with greed, Allah will not bless it for him, and he will be like the one who eats but is never satisfied. And the upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (taking) hand.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
One should strive hard in his work and accept whatever he earns through it with a cheerful heart. Because greed is like a bottomless well, no matter how much you fill it, it will never be full. True comfort and happiness lies in the contentment of the heart and not in possessions.
Reason 3: Health issues
Suffering from health issues, especially chronic illnesses, can make a person lose patience and resort to complaining. In this case, the person must remind himself that it may be that Allah loves him. He should recall the hadith of Prophet in which he said,
“There is nothing (in the form of trouble) that comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that there is decreed for him by Allah good or his sins are obliterated..” [Sahih Muslim]
A Muslim should bear his health issues with patience keeping in mind that they are a way of cleansing.
Reason 4: Problems in society
Author and philosopher, Steven Parton, explains his theory of neuroplasticity that the brain re-wires itself based on whatever it is repetitively exposed to, i.e. negativity and complaining breeds more of the same. He says “…if you’re always complaining and belittling your own power, in reality, you will not think you have the power to change it. And thus it will never change.” Such a phenomenon can be easily noticed in society. People often complain about the streets and beaches being dirty, for example, but no one ever wants to take the responsibility to rectify the problem. It is because their brains are accustomed to the idea of complaining, rather than proactively trying to bring about a change. We must all shift our attitude from complaining to correcting.
Reason 5: Problems in relationships
It is natural and inevitable that differences in nature and opinions occur in relationships. At times, peaceful co-existence seems to be impossible. During such feuds, we end up backbiting each other with continuous nagging and complaining. Through various ahadith and verses of the Qur’an, Allah has commanded us to be good to our families and uphold the ties of kinship. When we get into a conflict with our near ones or are harmed by them, we should aim to resolve, forgive and forget, so that Allah will show us mercy too on the Day of Judgement. Allah says,
“And those who break the Covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives), and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse (i.e. they will be far away from Allah’s Mercy), and for them is the unhappy (evil) home (i.e. Hell).” [Quran: Chapter 13, Verse 25]
Reason 6: Problems with religion
We see many people complaining about religion, sometimes about the duties enjoined upon us, or about the restrictions we have to abide by. Prophet said,
“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” [Sahih al Bukhari]
We should remember that religion is easy. The restrictions in religion are meant for our own benefit and to maintain goodness in the society.
Reason 7: Problems with failures and loss of opportunities
One of the main reasons we complain is because we have regrets about our past. The statement, ‘if I had done that..’ or ‘what if?’ or ‘if only…’ will allow our past mistakes to haunt our present and future, and this attitude shows the weakness of faith. One of the basic tenets of faith is the belief in qadr (predestination).
Prophet Muhammad said,
“And know that what has passed you by [and you have failed to attain] was not going to befall you, and what has befallen you was not going to pass you by.” [Forty Hadith An-Nawawi]
Success is not a destination but it is a long road intertwined with failures. We will gain no benefit by complaining about our past, but we really can benefit by learning from our mistakes.
How can I stop complaining?
1. Realize the power and blessings of Allah in your life
The first chapter of the Qur’an (Surah al Fatiha) with which we begin every unit (raka’ah) of our prayer, is a programming of our soul to avoid the habit of complaining. It is so important to understand this surah, to make our salah more meaningful.
In verse one, we begin by praising and thanking Allah for our blessings because no matter what problems come our way, we are more blessed than somebody else. Even if we do not have shoes to wear, we do have feet to walk, if we are overwhelmed with illness, we are at least not paralyzed from birth. We are literally immensely surrounded by the blessings of Allah .
In verse two, we glorify Allah for His grace and mercy because, after temporary tests and trials, Allah is the One who grants us blessings and rectifies our affairs. In verse three, we declare that He is the King and all affairs are under His control. In verse four and five, we proclaim that to Him only we direct our worship and turn for help.
If we pray salah with khush’oo (attentiveness), then Surah al Fatiha will leave us with no grounds to complain. It will make us grateful to Allah for every blessing He has bestowed on us and it will make our faith firm in the qadr (predestination) and remind us of our purpose in life and destination afterlife, which will put life and its problems in the correct/unexaggerated perspective.
2. Complain to The Creator, not the creation
Sometimes our heart gets overwhelmed with worries and we need to let out some of it. Going around complaining and whining about our problems to people who have no authority to solve them will only waste our energy. Instead, we should adopt a habit to talk about our problems to Allah as He takes the burdens away and descends ease and peace upon the hearts of His created beings. If we must talk to people, we should talk only to those who can benefit us emotionally and provide aid.
3. Make dua to change things
If you are having a tough time in your life then instead of complaining, make dua to the only One who can give you relief, the only One who can make the impossible possible. Prophet Muhammad said,
4. Fulfill your role
Whenever we face a problem in life, we must do three things. First is to seek help from Allah , the Controller of all affairs. Second is to do our part and try our best to remove the hardship, and third is to take help from those who can help us. When problems are encountered by the family or society as a whole, fulfill your role in solving it. Be the first one to inspire the change. In a hadith, it was reported,
Abu Barza reported: I said, “O Prophet of Allah, teach me something that will benefit me.” The Prophet said, “Remove harmful things from the roads of the Muslims.” [Sahih Muslim]
Here the Prophet is teaching that when you do something to help the society, it will benefit you eventually. It is like planting a rose whose essence spreads to all homes.
So to conclude, there really is no good in complaining. It destroys productivity, decreases happiness and increases anger, and can make you lazy and lethargic. As believers, Prophet Muhammad has instructed in various ahadith to avoid complaining and be content:
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” [Sahih Muslim]
May Allah make us all firm believers in the qadr, accepting it in all its forms, good and bad. Ameen!
Do you have tips to stop complaining? Share your advice in the comments section below!