Faith & Values: Aziz Junejo, host of the weekly cable-TV show "Focus on Islam," offers thoughts on finding contentment in our materialistic society.

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What is happiness? It’s something we all want, but how many of us know how to achieve it?

Material wealth is not the answer. We live in a materialistic society, but seriously, an excess of material goods does not bring the sort of long-term contentment, that genuine feeling of satisfaction and peace, that is the foundation for a happy life.

For rich and poor alike, the desire to have more, newer, better, fancier stuff seems to be a fact of human nature. So it is important to know and understand that the unceasing pursuit of material goods can destroy one’s sense of contentment.

The Prophet Muhammad said:

Wealth is not in having vast riches, it is in contentment.

— Bukhari, Muslim

What is contentment? You may picture an emerald meadow with a trickling brook that fills you with a sense of calm. Well, maybe you would be content in such a place — if you could actually spend your life there, but in real life, contentment has more to do with attitude than place.

Money can’t buy it, and poverty doesn’t give it. Contentment comes from being satisfied and thankful for who you are and where you find yourself in life. Believing that inner peace is more valuable than all the world’s riches is a great start.

How often do we find ourselves so involved in the day-to-day activities of working and raising our families that we forget to pause and give thanks for the lives we have and the people we love?

When I was a child I never fully understood the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality. My parents always taught us to be grateful for what we had. It was a part our faith as Muslims; gratefulness touched every aspect of our lives.

My parents worked hard and prospered, but they lived a prudent lifestyle. They were openly thankful for everything they had, nurturing in their children the attributes of appreciation and generosity.

We were always allowed to buy what we needed. Going out to dinner was for celebrations and never taken for granted. Family vacations were spent at the ocean or camping. There was the occasional trip to Disneyland, too. No matter what we did or where our vacations took us, we were encouraged to follow our parents’ example and always be appreciative.

Today, we all are surrounded by advertisements on television, radio and the Internet encouraging us to want things. Advertisers would have us believe our lives are deficient and impoverished without their products — even though by comparison to much of the rest of the world, we in the United States already live like kings and queens.

We should be grateful for and generous with what we have. God says in the Quran:

So hold that which I have given you and be of the grateful.

— 7: 144

Contentment isn’t easy. It takes discipline and effort.

Try volunteering at a food bank, and you’ll treasure the groceries on your shelves.

Help out at a hospital or nursing home, and you’ll be thankful for your health and faculties.

Visit a homeless camp or shelter, and you’ll cherish your family and the roof over your head.

Take the time to appreciate friends and family by concentrating on all the good things about them — and remember to accept their faults as part of their total package. Express your gratitude by giving them a smile, a hug or saying thanks publicly and with sincerity.

I promise, you will feel good — and content.

Contentment is not about money and not about possessions. It is an attitude originating from the heart and reflected in the relationships we have with everyone and everything we value in life.

Welcome it, and you will be at peace with yourself and others, and satisfied with your life as it is right now.

Aziz Junejo is host of “Focus on Islam,” a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to