Gratitude (shukr) is about expressing thanks and appreciation to those who do any favor to us. Obviously, none can come close to our creator, Allah, who gave us everything. As the Quran states: “Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion” [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 Quran, 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 Quran, “. . . 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” [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 Allahs 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 recognize and use as a means to motivate that sense within yourselves.
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 Quran: “And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah” [al-Nahl 16:53]. He also says, “And He found you poor and made you rich (self?sufficient with self?contentment)” [al-Duha 93:8]. Let’s 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 recognizing 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 Quran: “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” [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” [(An-Nisa, Verse #147)]. Gratitude, therefore, is not an option and we should clean our hearts to thank Allah for everything that He has provided us.
Gratitude helps us to slow down and to enjoy what we have rather than always waiting for the next wish to come true. Gratitude can help us recognize that we already have enough of what many people have for long been yearning for. We must therefore tame our Nafs 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 Ahmad, 5/219; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1781). 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 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 behavior.” [Al-Fawaa’id (p. 139)]
Gratitude trains our minds to focus on the right things in life. It’s akin to walking in a room filled with various colored items and focusing only on items of a specific color. If you do so, your mind will be able to easily mask the other colors as you focus on items of that specific color. 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 recognize other people’s favors 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 favors 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, Tirmidhi). He also said: “Whoever does you a favor, 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 Dawood (1672). In another hadith, he said: “Whoever has a favor done for him and says to the one who did it, ‘Jazak Allahu khayran,’ has done enough to thank him” [Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh 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 Aa’ishah said: “When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) prayed, he would stand for so long that his feet would become swollen. ‘Aa’ishah said: O Messenger of Allah, are you doing this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins? He said: “O ‘Aa’ishah, should I not be a thankful slave?” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (4557) and Muslim (2820). 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’” [Ibraaheem 14:7] Let’s, therefore, make thanking Allah part of morning and evening remembrances (adhkars) 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. Abul-Abbaas 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.” [Al-Mufhim lima ashkala min Talkhees Kitaab Muslim (7/60, 61)]. What better reward can we expect? So, why not be grateful to Him for what He has provided us day and night?
Gratitude’s importance was emphasized by the Prophet when he took the hand of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal and said: “O Mu’aadh, by Allah I love you, by Allah I love you.” Then he said, “I advise you, O Mu’aadh, 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 memorize it and recite it after every prayer.
Allahumma A’inni Ala dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ibadatika
Finally, remember that being grateful is not an option and being one brings us closer to those whom we thank and appreciate.