All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his companions, his family and all those who follow them in goodness.
Allah says in Surah Ibrahim Verse 7:
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِى لَشَدِيدٌۭ
And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ “
Referring to the verse, Allah ﷻ did not pin down the favors that He will increase. The scholars, however, mention that it is not restricted to an increase in materialistic sustenance only, but it also adduces to an increase in our spiritual sustenance such as the ability to do good deeds and the spiritual elevation that we experience.
Life is a constant challenge and people complain about hardships, negativity and depressions. So how do we attain serenity? The answer to this question is by being in the state of thankfulness (Shukr). It is easier said than done. Nevertheless, gratefulness is the key to unlock the gateway of happiness.
It is not sufficient to be thankful to Allah just by doing lip-service; by reading some supplications after the prayer or by mentioning some words here and there which is most common among the children. And because nobody is teaching them the deeper meaning of being thankful (shukr) and praising Allah (hamd), they end up doing lip-service throughout the time.
When we reflect on the life of Prophet Sulayman (as) or Solomon as mentioned in the Qur’an, one of his distinguishing feature was that he was always in the state of recognition and gratitude. Allah says in Surah an-Naml Verse 15-19:
وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا دَاوُۥدَ وَسُلَيْمَٰنَ عِلْمًۭا ۖ وَقَالَا ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ٱلَّذِى فَضَّلَنَا عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍۢ مِّنْ عِبَادِهِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And We had certainly given to David and Solomon knowledge, and they said, “Praise be to Allah, who has favored us over many of His believing servants.”
The scholars mention that praise (hamd) in this verse also denotes gratitude (shukr). The Qur’an introduces these two prophets to us and mentions, first and foremost, how they were thankful servants to Allah ﷻ.
وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَٰنُ دَاوُۥدَ ۖ وَقَالَ يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ عُلِّمْنَا مَنطِقَ ٱلطَّيْرِ وَأُوتِينَا مِن كُلِّ شَىْءٍ ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ ٱلْفَضْلُ ٱلْمُبِينُ
And Solomon inherited David. He said, “O people, we have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from all things. Indeed, this is evident bounty.”
Notice how Sulayman (as) acknowledges that they have been taught (by Allah) and not that they have learned (by themselves). That is being in a state of recognition to the bounty of Allah.
وَحُشِرَ لِسُلَيْمَٰنَ جُنُودُهُۥ مِنَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلْإِنسِ وَٱلطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ
And gathered for Solomon were his soldiers of the jinn, men and birds, and they were [marching] in rows.
حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَآ أَتَوْا۟ عَلَىٰ وَادِ ٱلنَّمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌۭ يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّمْلُ ٱدْخُلُوا۟ مَسَٰكِنَكُمْ لَا يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَٰنُ وَجُنُودُهُۥ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
Until, when they came upon the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not.”
فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكًۭا مِّن قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِىٓ أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَىَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَٰلِدَىَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَٰلِحًۭا تَرْضَىٰهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِى بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِى عِبَادِكَ ٱلصَّٰلِحِينَ
So [Solomon] smiled, amused at her 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.”
The scholars comment that Sulayman (as) was not amazed because he could hear the ant speaking, as he has heard animals speaking before. He smiled because he recognized that it was Allah ﷻ who gave him the ability to hear the animals speaking and he expressed his happiness by smiling. Not only did he thank Allah for the blessings, but he thanked Allah for giving him the ability to thank Him and also, he thanked Allah on behalf of his parents, who were both pious people.
One of the birds who was in the army of Sulayman (as), the Hoopoe (Hud Hud) brought news that there is a queen and her army worshiping the sun. Therefore, Suleiman (as) invited her to accept Islam.
Allah says in Surah an-Naml Verse 38-40:
قَالَ يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمَلَؤُا۟ أَيُّكُمْ يَأْتِينِى بِعَرْشِهَا قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتُونِى مُسْلِمِينَ
[Solomon] said, “O assembly [of jinn], which of you will bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?”
Sulayman (as) wanted to bring the throne of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba- Yemen before she and her army become Muslim.
قَالَ عِفْرِيتٌۭ مِّنَ ٱلْجِنِّ أَنَا۠ ءَاتِيكَ بِهِۦ قَبْلَ أَن تَقُومَ مِن مَّقَامِكَ ۖ وَإِنِّى عَلَيْهِ لَقَوِىٌّ أَمِينٌۭ
A powerful one from among the jinn said, “I will bring it to you before you rise from your place, and indeed, I am for this [task] strong and trustworthy.”
قَالَ ٱلَّذِى عِندَهُۥ عِلْمٌۭ مِّنَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ أَنَا۠ ءَاتِيكَ بِهِۦ قَبْلَ أَن يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَءَاهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِندَهُۥ قَالَ هَٰذَا مِن فَضْلِ رَبِّى لِيَبْلُوَنِىٓ ءَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ ۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِۦ ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّى غَنِىٌّۭ كَرِيمٌۭ
The one who had knowledge from the Scripture said, “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.”
One of the pre-condition to be in the state of gratefulness is by staying away from negative people. Instead of reminding you of Allah, you will hear them complain all the time and they will draw you to their negative energy. This is a tool against tranquility and thankfulness. Parents should ensure that their kids are watching and hearing good things all the time in order not to generate negative substance in them; whether it is programs, movies or songs that contain negative connotations. Rather, one should worry about his own state and his relationship with Allah and that is paramount.
Psychologists have perceived a systematic way of remaining positive; that is to write down all the good things that happen to you throughout the day and reflect upon them. Try this for a month. For each positive thing you recognize, thank Allah, for it is He who has bestowed these blessings upon you. They added that within a month, this will help you change and replace your negative thoughts into positive ones.
We ask Allah ﷻ to give us the ability to thank Him. ﷻ.
(Summary of the Jumu’ah Khutbah delivered by Imam Didmar Faja at UICA on the 03/23/2018- Formatted by H.Fawaaz Hossen)