The Everlasting Blessings of Gratitude – Part 2

Friday Sermon delivered By Didmar Faja

Dear believers! Gratitude to God is one of the significant essentials of the character of the believer. Through gratitude, man, not only receives grace form God, but also gains His consent, which is a significant achievement for the believer. A major quality, which distinguishes a believer from a non –believer is the fact that the believer is a grateful servant of God, while the non-believer is ungrateful. The believer realizes that everything he/she possesses is a gift from God, including the faith and the ability to perform righteous deeds, for that he thanks the Almighty and becomes a grateful servant of Him. The non-believer denies God, therefore, he/she would not attribute the blessings received in life to God, therefore he/she becomes an ungrateful creature of God and focused in self-praise. Interesting is the fact that in the Quran, Allah defines the believer by using the word grateful (shākira) and the non-believer as an ungrateful (kafūra).

Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful.”[1]

The positive quality of the believer of being grateful to God, also leads him/her to become less centered individual, instead becomes appreciative to others. As a result, this quality humbles the believer and improves the good relations with others.

In his book El-Risālah fī al-Tasawwuf, Qushayri states the definition of shukr by mentioning, “Showing gratitude means: attributing the blessings to the rightful owner, while remaining humble.”[2]

Man, may not necessarily reject the Creator in a direct way, but may be disdainful of His blessings. This makes one invulnerable from the Creator and indicates one’s separation from God, but not vice versa. God continues to give the proportioned share of sustenance to everyone, regardless of them being grateful or not.

Solomon (pbuh) was a prophet of God who received abundant blessings from Him like no one else on earth. Among these blessings was the ability to control the jinn.[3]  In one occasion, Solomon requested to have the throne of princess Bilqis[4] brought in front of him before she would arrive at his palace. A jinn demanded to bring it as fast as twinkling of an eye. Many people when they receive abundant wealth and status forget to be grateful to the Provider. That was not the case with Solomon. He remained thankful to Allah for giving him such a grace and never forgot that all that blessing he possessed was a test for him. Allah states in the Quran,

“Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, “I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.” And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, “This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.”[5]

The prophetic Wisdom of Solomon (pbuh) should make people understand that health, wealth, family and work, all are blessings through which man is tested, but unfortunately most people who possess them are ungrateful. In the Quran also written,

“It is Allah who made for you the night that you may rest therein and the day giving sight. Indeed, Allah is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people are not grateful.”[6]

In life, many of us have people who demonstrate special care. Between us and them there is love, friendship and respect, which often are expressed through various gifts. In most cases these gifts do not symbolize financial assistance but a gesture of appreciation. Now, let’s think about the Creator who deserves to be thanked over and over again. He creates man by giving him what he needs and is Powerful to make him realize the importance of it. At the same time, He provides to the human some essential necessities for which man is completely uninformed. Doesn’t he deserve to be thanked more than anyone else?

Everywhere in the world, there are those who establish a sound capital but forget God and the doors leading to Him. They think that the more they have, the better they will do in eliminating life obstacles. Many forget, or are unaware that the more knowledge, material, status and power they possess the more ungrateful, rebellious and arrogant they become, except those who humble themselves because of their sincere connection with God.

The believers are grateful to Allah for the blessings they receive, for that, they achieve an intimate relation with their Creator and they make the world a better place. As for the ungrateful ones, the ego and materialism distances them away from God, therefore, they can’t even help themselves, let alone the others.

I will mention another story from the life of the Prophet Solomon (pbuh), who also had the ability to hear and talk to the animals and control the wind. When an ant felt the approaching of Solomon and his army, she told the other ants to leave quickly so they won’t be stepped over.  When Solomon heard her, he smiled and asked the Lord to make him a thankful servant, not only for the blessings he received, but for the blessings of his parents as well. Allah mentioned his beautiful supplication in his Quran,

 

“So [Solomon] smiled, amused at her [ant’s] speech, and said, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants.”[7]

Prophet David (pbuh) is recorded ta have said: “O Lord! How can I even thank you, while I won’t reach this state of gratitude except through your grace? It was revealed to him, “O David! Don’t you know that your possession of blessings is from me? He said, “Yes, indeed Lord.” God said, “I am pleased to (consider) that from you as gratitude.” In a similar way, through the same chain of narrators, Prophet Moses approached his Creator, “How can I thank you when even the least blessing you have bestowed on me won’t repay it even with my all deeds. The revelation came to him, “O Moses! You just thanked me.”[8]

The mentioned examples should make as all comprehend the strong awareness of God possessed by the messengers of the Almighty. That should also make us be continuously aware about the blessings of God and be sincere thankful servants of Him.

According to Qushayri, scholars divide the thankfulness into three categories.

  1. Expressing gratitude through the tongue. This is an easy action, although God’s rewards are great. It involves the remembrance of God by uttering the words of praise al-ḥamdu li-llāh, or other similar phrases.
  2. Expressing gratitude through the body and limbs. In his Risālah, Imam Qushayri states that this type of expression consists of the limbs and the body, remaining in loyalty and service of the Almighty by staying away from what is forbidden and fulfilling the religious obligations.
  3. Expressing gratitude through the heart. This category consist those of the high ranks among the believers who distance their hearts from matter and draw closer to the Oneness of God (tawhīd), while remaining humble to Him at all times.[9]

A quality of those who are constantly grateful to God is that they do not focus much on the blessings but on the Giver of blessings. Perhaps this is the purpose of receiving the blessings in the first place. In many Quranic verses Allah mentions about the blessings he sends to humanity and concludes these verses by stating, “Perhaps you will be grateful (Lacallakum tashkurūn).”[10]  For this, Imam Qushayri mentions the statement made by the mystic scholar al-Shibli, “Being grateful means to be mindful not to blessings, but to the Giver of the blessings.”[11]

It is said that the possessor of knowledge expresses gratitude through words, the devotee through deeds and the mystics through patience and condition of the spiritual state (ḥāl).[12]

Dear brothers and sisters! One of the names of God is “The Preventer” (al-Mānic). The way the submitted servants of God relate to this divine name is that they are grateful to Him, even when he takes some blessings from away them or when He prohibits the consumption of a certain product; they know that behind that prohibition lies a divine wisdom. Therefore, they remain contantly in a state of gratidtude upon receiving or loosing.

Our Lord! Make us among those who thank You with all their being! Amin!


[1] Q. (76:3).

[2] Ibn Abd al-Kareem Hawaazin Kushejri: Risaleh fi ilm al-al-tasawwuf, Dar al-Sha’b, Cairo, 1989, pg.312.

[3] Creatures essentially made from fire, invisible to the human eye.

[4] Queen of Yemen who married Prophet Solomon.

[5] Q. (27:40).

[6] Q. (40:61).

[7] Q. (27:19).

[8] Bayhaqiy: Al-Jami’ li shu’ab al-Iman, v. 6, hadith 40101, pg. 239-40.

[9] Qushayri: Al-Risalah fi ilm al-Tasawwuf, pg. 313.

[10] Look Q. (30:46), (2:52), (2:56).

[11] Qushayri: Al-Risalah fi ilm al-Tasawwuf, pg. 312.

[12] Ibid.

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