How big of a sin is jealousy, and what are some ways to protect yourself from it? Is apologizing from the heart really enough? Will the evil eye hurt the person who is being envied?
Before exploring your questions, let us examine a few points on the topic of jealousy and covetousness. It is quite clear, according to the Holy Qur’an, that jealousy, envy, and covetousness must be avoided:
And do not covet the thing in which God has made some of you excel others. Unto men is a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women is a fortune from that which they have earned. [Envy not one another] but ask God of His bounty. Behold! God knows all things. (Surah Al-Nisa 4:32)
In the referred verse, God reminds us to avoid being jealous, envious, or covetous of another person’s blessings and favors when they exceed our own. The life of this world serves as a test, wherein humans shall face both prosperity and adversity. Not only do our tests differ in type, but they also differ in degree. Thus, some humans experience more prosperity than others, and some humans experience more adversity than others. The appropriate response in tests of prosperity is gratitude to God and the correct response in tests of adversity is patience, steadfastness, and perseverance in the way of God. If a person is bestowed with many more favors and blessings than those around him, he must not allow his blessing to induce hubristic behavior because with the additional blessing comes the additional responsibility to use his blessing in the way of God. Similarly, if a person is bestowed with less favors and blessings than those around him, he must not allow his apparent lack of blessing to induce jealousy, covetousness, or hopelessness because he is faced with a test, an opportunity, which if completed with sincere effort and taken advantage of, shall entail its own satisfying reward with the Ever Merciful. Thus, the verse goes on to imply, rather than envying one another for a discrepancy in favors, we should remain grateful for whatever blessings we possess, irrespective of whether or not they exceed others’ blessings, yet we may earnestly request divine favors at any time. The following supplication is an example of how to express this desire:
Our Lord! Grant us that which is good in [the life of] this world and [especially] that which is good in the Hereafter, and save us from the [terrible] doom of the Fire! (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:201)
Finally, we must never forget that all the material blessings we enjoy in this life are only temporary. A believer should always be far more concerned about securing blessings in the Hereafter by cleansing his/her heart, mind and soul. Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, let us now turn to your specific questions.
How big of a sin is jealousy, and what are some ways to protect yourself from it?
Jealousy and covetousness are not major sins (i.e. kabaair), but it remains clear that it must be avoided, and replaced with positive emotions and attitudes. To protect yourself from jealous and covetous feelings, simply tune into another station. Maintain a positive, pious attitude and call to mind the blessings and favors that you enjoy, repeatedly express thanks to God for those favors, and ask him for strength and assistance in successfully completing the tests with which you are faced. We must also remember that we do not have any lien on God’s bounties; we never did anything to deserve them. On the contrary, in His Great Mercy, God made it binding upon Himself to bestow favors and blessings upon us. This fact should automatically fill a despondent heart with gratitude and spiritual joy no matter how difficult and pressing a trial may be. God loves us much more than even our own parents’ love us. Keeping a positive devoted frame of mind that is enhanced by piety is the best way to protect oneself from jealousy, envy, covetousness, and other negative emotions and attitudes.
Is apologizing from the heart really enough?
I am not sure whether you mean apologizing to God or apologizing to a person whom you somehow hurt or offended by making him or her an object of envy. Since jealousy and covetousness tend to be private emotions, I infer that you mean the former and not the latter. It goes without saying that if a person is truly repentant for doing something wrong and, furthermore, sincerely tries to correct and mend his ways, then God will turn to such a person in forgiveness. One should not only apologize to God from the heart, but also strive to avoid the sin and undo the effects of wrongdoing wherever possible. Repenting and correcting one’s behavior will allow a person to develop the recommended positive, pious frame of mind. Also, we may learn an important lesson from the story of Iblees. After disobeying God, Iblees refused to repent for jealous and envious behavior toward Adam (pbuh). Iblees allowed his jealousy for man to accumulate so much that he became depraved enough to vow that he would lead man astray in the path of wrongdoing until the Day of Judgment. Of course, Iblees’ case is extreme, but this story should remind us to be on guard against jealousy, envy, and all other destructive emotions. It is often by continuously indulging in small sins that we unfortunately become more inclined toward bigger sins.
Will the evil eye hurt the person who is being envied?
I am not sure what you mean by the “evil eye.” If by “evil eye,” you mean some kind of social signal that indicates jealousy or envy for another person, then to what extent the object of envy will be hurt and how he/she will respond to jealousy would depend on his/her inner strength, social maturity, and other factors. However, it should be clarified that to send social signalsÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬”intentionally or unintentionallyÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬”to someone for whom jealousy and envy is felt is not to “cast an evil spell” on that person. Jealousy, envy, and covetousness should be recognized as mental, psychologistic states that ought to be avoided and replaced with a grateful heart and a positive attitude.
I hope this helps.
July 27, 2003