Hedonism is generally known as the philosophy of pleasure. It is a doctrine of study and academia revolving around pleasure and happiness as the highest rank of good. It is also regarded as a devotion to pleasure and happiness as a way of life. Hedonism has its pros and cons, just like any other form of academia. However, it does receive some bad reputation for the idea of individualism in hedonism. The idea of hedonism is that an individual devotes their life and their actions to pleasing themselves and doing what makes them most happy without regard to any other effects. The main point of the argument is the “without regard to any other effects”. This means that the way of life of hedonism is to engage in any activity that pleases you without consideration of its effects, specifically negative effects, on others. Therefore, causing many scholars to consider hedonism as a complex ethical paradox.
To make it a little easier, take this as an example. Exercising and giving charity is a form of individual happiness, and by default it lingers a good effect on the individual and to others. However, let us take a more individualised example of hedonism. Let’s say the act of eating too much of your favourite, calorie-rich foods? Yes, it makes you happy momentarily but what effects can it have to your body, and ultimately your health if there comes a continuation of this behaviour. Or an even worse example is the utilisation of recreational drugs. We know that recreational drugs (not prescribed medication) can give the effect of a ‘euphoria’ or a exuberant amount of happiness and ease. However what happens once that euphoria ends? What are the effects to the individual, as well as society, once the individual continues to search for that substance that gives them that ‘euphoria’?
There have been many debates and ongoing controversies on the implications of hedonism but here are some things that you should understand going into it :
- It’s not all bad
Hedonism is a doctrine for an individual to make the most out of their current situation by doing anything that they can to be happy. This is ultimately the goal, and quite frankly, it’s not evil at all. The idea of revolving and establishing your life as a positive force and implicating happiness can overall lead to a drastic improvement to your life. We hear about it all the time : chose to be happy, and your life will be better. Therefore the premise and the core fundamentals of hedonism have good intentions. Therefore, hold back any judgement or prejudice first.
- But there can be some negative implications to it
The real issue of hedonism stems from the disregard of their actions to others, and even at most times : themselves. This individualised and personalised way of life is very self-revolved. It caters to the individual and the individual itself. It resonates with a “every man for himself” type of behaviour where their actions are solely for their own benefit. And the negative implications that derive from this is that lack of consideration over the society. We live in a huge ecosystem. Billions of humans live on the same Earth, and although we have no responsibility over them, we do have a role in the ecosystem. Each individual has a role and their actions can lead to either positive changes or negative changes. With a hedonistic attitude, the negative effects of their action could cause detrimental consequences to our ecosystem.
- What does Islam say about all this?
In Islam, it preaches living a life of positivity. Everything that happens to us, wether good or bad is meant to teach us a lesson. Although we might not understand that, Allah (s.w.t) always has a reason. With that in mind, everything has been predetermined in our Qadr (destiny) and it was written by Allah (s.w.t), the Best of Planners.
“Indeed, We sent down to you the Book for the people in truth. So whoever is guided - its is for [the benefit of] his soul; and whoever goes astray only goes astray to its detriment.” (39:41, The Holy Quran).
In this verse of the Quran, it is clear that good deeds and positive actions have been written and taught to us by the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). With those teachings, we can’t go wrong. And the teachings are meant to benefit us, and our souls, but they also benefit the ummah (brotherhood), the people.
“And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, the splendour of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring” (20:131, The Holy Quran).
In this verse of the Quran, it states to redirect your soul and your eyes to pleasing Allah (s.w.t) first. He is the Creator. He is who made us. And our roles on this world is to please Him and to prioritize Him. Yes, it is important to do what is best for us and what makes us happy. However, Allah (s.w.t) is where happiness lies. It is the source of happiness. And once you live a life for Allah (s.w.t) and for His sake, then happy will follow you wherever you may go, without having to cause any negative effects to yourself or others.