By Imam Murtadha Gusau
Friday, March 1st, 2019
In The Name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
All praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid and we ask for His forgiveness. We seek Allah’s refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whosoever Allah guides, there is no one who can misguide him; and whosoever Allah misguides, there is no one who can guide him.
I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, who has no partner; and I testify that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His slave and Messenger.
My beloved people! Know that, gratitude (shukr) is about expressing thanks and appreciation to those who do any favour to us. Obviously, none can come close to our creator, Allah, who gave us everything. As the Qur’an states:
“Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion.” [Surah Infitar, 82:7]
As humans, Allah has bestowed on us the nature to be grateful and we should thus express that gratitude not just to Allah but to the people whom we deal with as well. In many places in the Qur’an, Allah divides people as being grateful and as ungrateful to motivate us to join the camp of those who are grateful. In one of such verses, Prophet Sulaiman said, as stated in the Qur’an:
“…then when (Sulaiman (Solomon)) saw it placed before him, he said: “This is by the Grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his own self, and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his own self). Certainly! My Lord is Rich (Free of all wants), Bountiful.” [Surah An-Naml: 40]
Having a sense of gratitude is thus a great blessing and those of us who instill that sense within themselves not only seek Allah’s pleasure but embody a sense of happiness, relieving us of the many pressures and anxieties. Although the blessings and benefits of gratitude are many, this post highlights certain important ones that you should recognise and use as a means to motivate that sense within yourselves.
Dear brothers and sisters! Gratitude is knowing that whatever we have is from Allah. Gratitude helps us focus our minds on Allah, something that has unfortunately become so difficult today on account of life’s distractions and attractions. Gratitude, therefore, corrects our perceptions by reminding us that everything that happens to us doesn’t happen because of its own volition and thus we shouldn’t take matters for “granted.” Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah.” [Surah al-Nahl, 16:53]
He also says:
“And He found you poor and made you rich (self-sufficient with self-contentment).” [Surah al-Duha, 93:8]
Let us therefore constantly remind ourselves of Allah’s bounties by expressing our gratitude to Him in prayers and at other times.
Gratitude helps in warding off punishment from Allah. Not recognising Allah’s blessings can prevent us from gaining His pleasure. We know that if Allah were to punish us for our negligence, He would be justified for it. He says in the Qur’an:
“If Allah took mankind to task by that which they deserve, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth; but He grants them reprieve unto an appointed term, and when their term comes – then verily Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves.” [Surah Fatir, 35:45]
At the same time though, Allah provides us a way to escape that punishment by being thankful to Him. He says:
“Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him. And Allah is Ever All-Appreciative (of good), All-Knowing.” [Surah An-Nisa :147]
Gratitude, therefore, is not an option and we should clean our hearts to thank Allah for everything that He has provided us.
Gratitude also helps us to slow down and to enjoy what we have rather than always waiting for the next wish to come true. Gratitude also can help us recognise that we already have enough of what many people have for long been yearning for. We must therefore tame our Nafs (soul/live) to understand that if we can’t find happiness in the blessings that we have today, then we won’t be happy with what we get tomorrow. You see, gratitude is a sense of fulfillment that comes not from wanting more but rather from a sense of knowing that Allah has already blessed us with what we need. In one of the Hadiths the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“…if the son of Adam has one valley, he will wish that he had a second, and if he had two valleys, he would wish that he had a third. The stomach of the son of Adam will be filled only with dust (i.e., he is never satisfied)…” [Reported by Imam Ahmad in Musnad and in Sahih al-Jami’]
So, let’s use gratitude to learn to enjoy what we have rather than fretting over what we don’t.
Gratitude sought by exercising patience against unlawful desires prevents us from harmful consequences later. This was very aptly addressed by Imam Ibn Qayyim, who stated that:
“Patience in resisting desires is easier than patience in dealing with the consequences that result from going along with desires, because it either leads to pain and punishment or it prevents a more complete pleasure,…or it deprives one of a blessing, having which is more pleasurable and better than fulfilling desires,…or it cuts off an oncoming blessing, or it has a negative impact on one’s character that will remain, because deeds have a great impact on one’s character and behaviour.” [See Al-Fawa’id, page 139]
Gratitude trains our minds to focus on the right things in life. It’s akin to walking in a room filled with various coloured items and focusing only on items of a specific colour. If you do so, your mind will be able to easily mask the other colours as you focus on items of that specific colour. Our life is no different. When we let our minds look for problems, we see plenty of them. Instead, if we rather look away from problems and focus on possibilities and go for solutions, we will get those too. Let’s, therefore, use gratitude to motivate ourselves to find possibilities and solutions and not the negatives associated with problems.
Gratitude helps us recognise other people’s favours to us. The Prophet through his sayings made it quite clear that expressing our gratitude to Allah by thanking Him also involves that we thank people who do favours for us. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said as narrated by Abu Hurairah:
“He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah.” [Ahmad and Tirmidhi]
He also said:
“Whoever does you a favour, then reciprocate, and if you cannot find anything with which to reciprocate, then pray for him until you think that you have reciprocated him.” [Abu Dawud]
In another Hadith, he said:
“Whoever has a favour done for him and says to the one who did it, ‘Jazakallahu Khayran,’ has done enough to thank him.” [Classed as Sahih by Imam al-Albani in Sahih al-Tirmidhi]
Let’s therefore ensure that we do our part to sincerely thank our families and those who have done good to us.
Gratitude isn’t about ignoring our problems. On the contrary, gratitude helps us to be patient, accepting of life’s trials, and accordingly trains us to seek personal fulfillment with less. Gratitude thus makes us “low maintenance” in our demands and expectations. This trait reduces our burden on those around us, making our company more pleasing to others instead of leaving us always unhappy, more demanding, and impossible to please because of unending requirements.
Gratitude is going beyond words and instead thanking through our actions. We see this in the example of the Prophet whose sins were forgiven by Allah although he continued to strive for His pleasure. It was narrated that the mother of the believers, Aisha said:
“When the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) prayed, he would stand for so long that his feet would become swollen. Aisha said: O Messenger of Allah, are you doing this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins? He said: “O Aisha, should I not be a thankful servant?” [Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Let’s, therefore, pray the extra nawafil as one way to thank Allah for His blessings.
Gratitude helps increase one’s blessings. Allah says:
“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe.'” [Surah Ibrahim, 14:7]
Let’s, therefore, make thanking Allah part of morning and evening remembrances (Azkars) to get more of Allah’s blessings in our lives.
Gratitude helps us to get the pleasure of Allah in the hereafter when in Paradise we express our gratitude to Allah for His blessings to enter us into paradise. Imam Abul-Abbas al-Qurtubi said:
“…gratitude for blessings – even if they are few – is a means of attaining the pleasure of Allah, may He be exalted, which is the noblest situation of the people of Paradise. When the people of Paradise say, “You (Allah) have given to us what You have not given to anyone among Your creation,” Allah will say to them: “Shall I not give you something better than that?” They will say, “What is it? Have You not brightened our faces, and admitted us to Paradise and saved us from Hell?” Allah will say, “I bestow My pleasure upon you, and I will never be angry with you after that.” [See Al-Mufhim lima ashkala min Talkhis Kitab Muslim vol. 7, page 60-61]
What better reward can we expect? So, why not be grateful to Him for what He has provided us day and night?
My respected people! The importance of gratitude was emphasised by the Prophet when he took the hand of Mu’adh Ibn Jabal and said:
“O Mu’adh, by Allah I love you, by Allah I love you.” Then he said, “I advise you, O Mu’adh, do not fail to say this after every prayer: O Allah help me to remember You, to thank You and to worship You properly.”
The Arabic version of this Hadith is the following. Let’s ensure that we memorise it and recite it after every prayer:
“Allahummah A’inni Ala zikrika wa shukrika wa husni ibadatika.”
My people! Remember that being grateful is not an option and being one brings us closer to those whom we thank and appreciate.
– 12 Reasons for showing thankfulness to Allah
1. We can never count Allah’s Blessings
Be ever grateful to Allah for everything that you possess including your wealth, families, health, status, intellectual abilities and life. Allah says:
“Is, then, He Who creates comparable to any that cannot create? Will you not, then, take heed? For should you try to count Allah’s blessings, you could never compute them.” [Surah An-Nahl, 16:17-19]
2. Shaitan’s primary mission is to make human beings ungrateful
From the very beginning of the human being’s creation, the issue of gratefulness and thankfulness to Allah has been debated. After refusing to bow to Adam, Satan (Shaitan) said:
“Then I will certainly come to them from before them and from behind them, and from the right-hand side and from the left-hand side, and You (Allah) shall not find most of them thankful.” [Surah Al-Araf, 7:17]
3- The opposite of Shukr (gratitude) is Kufr (disbelief)
In many places in the Qur’an, Allah compares the terms shukr and kufr:
“Then remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject Me.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:152]
And Iman (faith/belief) implies shukr or gratefulness as opposed to kufr or ungratefulness. A kafir or disbeliever is ungrateful to the Being Who has given him everything, whereas a Believer is one who is ever thankful for all that Allah has given him.
4- We thank Allah for our own benefit
If you are ungrateful, Allah is unaffected. If you become grateful, then you have taken the first step towards becoming a true Believer. It is for this reason that the Prophet exhorted us to:
“Love Allah as we benefit from His grace.” [Tirmidhi]
And Allah reminds us:
“And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for the benefit of his own self.” [Surah Luqman, 31:12]
“For surely if it was not for the grace of Allah on you and His mercy, you would have been among the losers.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:64]
5- True worship means sincere thankfulness to Allah
Allah explained in the Qur’an that the only people who truly worship Him are those who give gratitude to Him, so those who are not among the people of gratitude are not among the people of Ibadah (worship and obedience):
“… and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him you worship.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:172]
6- Shukr (Showing gratitude) leads to Allah’s pleasure
Allah has told us that His pleasure may be attained through gratitude:
“If you are grateful, He is pleased with you…” [Surah Az-Zumar, 39:7]
And the Prophet, Peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Allah is pleased with His servant if, when he eats something, he thanks Allah for it, and when he drinks something, he thanks Allah for it.” [Muslim]
7- Gratitude is a purpose of our creation
“It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affection: that you may give thanks (to Allah).” [Surah An-Nahl, 16:78]
8- Shukr (Showing gratitude) is a quality of success in this life and in the Hereafter
Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet said:
“There are four qualities, whoever is given them has truly been given the best in this world and the next. They are: a grateful heart (that is thankful to Allah), a remembering tongue (that mentions Allah often), an enduring body (to persevere through the trials), and a faithful wife.”
9- Being grateful and patient in times of difficulty
Everything that happens to us – even events that we may consider to be personal afflictions or natural disasters-are from Allah. Therefore, in times of calamity and distress, there will be some good for us, provided we respond appropriately. The Prophet said:
“How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him -and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing. If he receives some bounty, he is grateful to Allah and this bounty brings good to him. And if some adversity befalls him, he is patient, and this affliction, too, brings good to him.” [Muslim]
10- Allah’s Mercy is for all, but most people will remain ungrateful
He shows and gives mercy to all, even those who continue to be ungrateful and rebellious towards Him:
“Indeed Allah is the possessor of bounty for all people but most people do not give thanks.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 243]
11- Most people subconsciously thank Allah
Reflect upon your own life and you will find innumerable occasions when Allah’s `hand’ has been holding you and helping you. So often, believers and even atheists subconsciously use the expression ‘Thank God’, without realising the full implications of our words.
12- Shukr (Showing gratitude) leads to abundance in Allah’s favours
If you appreciate Allah’s favours, He has promised increased
Rahmah or mercy for you. Allah’s reward for your gratitude is unlimited and unconditional:
“If you are grateful, I will surely give you more and more.” [Surah Ibrahim, 14:7]
– 3 Ways to express gratitude (Shukr)
Dear brothers and sisters! The classical Muslim scholars have indicated gratitude (Shukr) can be shown in three ways:
1. Gratitude (Shukr) of the heart (Qalb), which is achieved by harbouring and intending good for all of Allah’s creation.
2. Gratitude (Shukr) of the tongue (Lisan), which involves celebrating the praises of Allah, such as utterance of Alhamdulillah, and expressing gratefulness to Allah with our tongue.
3. Gratitude (Shukr) of the limbs (Jawarih), which is fulfilled by using our external senses to do good. Every time Allah gives us a blessing, we must use it in a way that benefits humanity and that pleases Allah.
– If you’re not thankful to people you’re not thankful to Allah
My great people! Prophet Muhammad, Peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah.” [Ahmad and Tirmidhi]
What’s interesting is that he did not mention limit thankfulness to relatives, only Muslims or believers. He used the Qur’anic term “Nas” which means all human beings. So the attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness to each and all, Muslim or non-Muslim, neighbour or non-neighbour, is the way to be thankful to Allah.
This reflects a winning attitude toward life. Life would be miserable if we only counted the people who do bad things. We can keep worrying about them or start counting the jewels of humanity that are all around us and start recognising each good thing they have to offer. Anytime anyone does any favour, a little courtesy and you say thank you in a way that your whole face is smiling, not just your visible teeth and your eyes are in their eyes, you offer your best self.
There is thank you and then there is the real thank you. Sometimes, thank you come out without us even thinking about them. We receive many of those all day long and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s common courtesy and somewhere in your subconscious, you mean it as well, giving and receiving it casually.
In this world, many of us watch sports on television more than we play, laugh at comedy on the internet instead of being humorous and joyful with each other. Perhaps this is why, very often, our expressions of thankfulness often reflect this distance we have from others, a lack of direct contact where we barely look at the person we are being grateful for as we mutter “thanks.”
I don’t hate many things in life. I actually don’t remember anyone I hate. Hate to me is not casual. It’s a very strong word. But I feel very bad when I say thank you and the person on the other side says “uh huh.” I really feel like telling this person, “Look at me! I really mean it!”. But I don’t. So if you are on the receiving end of thank you, you should really respond in a better way. Allah has guided us in the Qur’an to do better. When you greet someone, respond with something better [Qur’an, 4:86]. And that is what most humans do. But it may be a good idea to remember that when you, in a busy day, get a thank you, take a half second to say “you are most welcome!” in the best possible manner with the presence of mind and heart.
In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us that:
“If you are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you…” [Qur’an, 14:7]
Interestingly, this applies to human beings as well. When we are grateful to others, they are more than willing to help us and do good for us. Think of that nice boss or co-worker who helped you move up in your career or that professor or teacher who went out of their way to help you with a difficult class. They helped you over an extended period of time and it’s likely you expressed your profuse thanks for their help.
Let’s stop practicing “auto pilot thanksgiving” and start expressing heartfelt thanks, to Allah and His Creation.
It is one small way we can not only reconnect with people beyond tweets and texts, but it will also deepen our relationship with Allah.
Praise be to Allah, the Ever-Living, Who does not die, and Peace and Blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and Companions.
Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau sent this piece from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com