The Virtues of Being Gratitude
In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Gratitude is a noble character which holds a high ranks among the people of righteousness, and this is because belief is comprised of two halves; one half is gratitude and the other is perseverance.
Gratitude is to acknowledge being treated well by Allāh; it is also to praise the One who has done one many favors. It also entails displaying the effect of the favors of Allāh upon a person by believing with one's heart, uttering praise and glorification of Allāh by ones tongue, and to use one's limbs in the worship and obedience of Allāh. If only a few favors are worthy of a great deal of gratitude, how would the case be when favors are abundant? People are either grateful or ungrateful.
• Allāh parallels it if we remember Allāh He would remember us.
Allāh Says: “So remember me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”. [Al-Baqarah, 2: 152]
• Allāh parallels it with belief.
He Says: “What would Allāh do with [i.e., gain from] your punishment if you are grateful and believe?” [An-Nisā’, 4: 147] Meaning, if you fulfil the rights due to Allāh and the reason for which He has created you by gratitude and belief, He will not punish you.
• Those that practice gratitude to Allāh are those who are chosen to be granted His favors.
He Says “And thus We have tried some of them through others that they [i.e., the disbelievers] might say, 'Is it these whom Allāh has favored among us?' Is not Allāh most knowing of those who are grateful?” [Al-An’am, 6: 53]
• Allāh has classified people into being either grateful or ungrateful; the worst matter in the scale of Allāh is ingratitude whilst the dearest things to Him are gratitude and the grateful.
Allāh Says: “Indeed, We guided him [i.e., man] to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful” [Al-Insan, 76: 3]
• Allāh tests His slaves in order to see who will practice gratitude and who will not.
Allāh informs us about what Prophet Sulayman (‘alaihissalam). said when He Says: “…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.” [Al-Naml, 27: 40]
• Allāh promises increased favors for those who are grateful.
He Says: “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.'” [Ibrahim, 14: 7]
• Allāh loves gratitude and the deeds of the grateful.
He Says: “If you disbelieve – indeed, Allāh is Free from need of you. And He does not approve for His servants disbelief. And if you are grateful, He approves [i.e., likes] it for you…” [Az-Zumar, 39: 7] The grateful people mentioned in the verse are those who remain steadfast upon belief during trials and who do not retreat or recant on their belief. Some people verbally thank Allāh during times of ease, but during trials they give up their faith. The truly grateful are those who express the true condition of their hearts during trials by remaining steadfast and continuing to thank Allāh by their tongues, hearts and limbs. Additionally, this verse clarifies that the pleasure of Allāh is achieved by being grateful to Him.
• Allāh did not make the reward for the grateful subject to any condition, as He did for other acts of worship, which He conditioned to His will; rather, Allāh immediately mentions their reward.
He Says: “…And Allāh will reward the grateful.” [Al’Imran, 3: 144] and also: “…And We will reward the grateful.” [Al-‘Imran, 3: 145]
• Allāh informs us that one of Satan’s primary objectives is to prevent humans from being grateful.
He says: “[Satan said] 'Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You [i.e., Allāh] will not find most of them grateful [to You].” [Al-Araf, 7: 17]
• Allāh describes His grateful slaves to be little in number.
He Says: “…And few of My servants are grateful.” [Al-Saba’, 34: 13]The reason being that many people enjoy blessings and bounties from Allāh, but fail to practice gratitude to Allāh.
• Allāh praised the first prophet sent to man on earth, Prophet Noah (‘alaihissalam) due to him being grateful.
Allāh Says: “O descendants of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah. Indeed, he was a grateful servant.” [Al-Israa’, 17: 3]This is as an indication that we should imitate him (‘alaihissalam).
• Gratitude is the first instruction given to man as soon as he begins to comprehend.
Allāh Says: “And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.” [Luqman, 31: 14]
• Allāh specified it as one of the main qualities of a person who sets himself as a good example for others to follow.
He says regarding prophet Ibrahim (‘alaihissalam): “Indeed, Ibrahim was a [comprehensive] leader, devoutly obedient to Allāh, inclining toward truth, and he was not of those who associate others with Allāh. [He was] grateful for His favors. He [i.e., Allāh] chose him and guided him to a straight path.” [Al-Nahl, 16: 120-121]
Therefore, gratitude is one of the objectives that man is commanded to accomplish.
Imam ibn Al-Qayyim mentioned that gratitude is one of the ranks of belief, which can be extracted from the fifth verse of Surah Al-Fātihah: “It is You we worship and You we ask for help.” Then he mentioned the following additional points regarding gratitude:
- It is one of the highest ranks of belief.
- It is higher than the rank of contentment; and nobody can be content without being grateful.
- Allāh praises the grateful.
- Allāh promises the grateful the best of rewards.
- Allāh makes gratitude a reason for attaining more of His bounties.
- It is a means to preserve the favors of Allāh upon a person.
- It is one of the main objectives that a slave must accomplish.
- It is extracted from Ash-Shakur, which is one of the Names of Allāh, and which implies gratitude.
- Those that are grateful are very few in number.
- Gratitude results in more favors from Allāh.
Gratitude is having ones heart devoted to loving the One bestowing the favors, having the limbs continuously obedient to Him and having the tongue repeatedly mentioning Him, praising Him and glorifying Him. Gratitude entails the following three things:
1. One should realise the favors bestowed upon him and have it present in his mind constantly, because this leads him to remember the Bestower of favors and therefore being grateful to and loving Allāh, who is of course the Bestower of favors. This would therefore make one exert more effort in worshipping Allāh.
2. One should receive favors with humility and express his need to Allāh, the Bestower of favors, and mention that he is unworthy of the favors bestowed upon him, and that it is only due to the Grace and Kindness of Allāh that such favors were bestowed.
3. One should praise Allāh, the Bestower of favors, and this is done in two ways:
- Generally: To describe Allāh as being generous and kind.
- Specifically: To mention His favors upon one.
- There are two points regarding the issue of mentioning and talking about favors from Allāh:
- To mention all that Allāh Has bestowed upon one.
- To utilize these favors in His obedience.
- People fall into three categories with regards to the favors from Allāh:
- Those that are grateful and praise Allāh for bestowing them upon them.
- Those who are ungrateful and do not mention them.
- Those who express that they are worthy of them, when in fact they certainly are not.
An-Nu’man ibn Al-Basheer (radiallāhu’anhu) said: “He who does not thank Allāh for small favors will not thank Him for great ones; and he who does not express gratitude to people (for doing him favors) will not express gratitude towards Allāh. Appreciating and mentioning the favor bestowed upon one from Allāh is gratitude, and not doing so expresses ingratitude.” [Ahmad]
This should be done in front of people and between a person and himself (i.e., to himself) but if people are of the envious type, then one should conceal such favors, and he would not be ungrateful in this case, because he is simply concealing them in an attempt to prevent an evil from befalling him, such as an evil eye or an evil plot from the envious, and it must be known that to prevent harm from afflicting man is an objective set forth by the Islamic Sharī’ah.
There is no way one can do anything to repay the favors bestowed upon him by Allāh , except that he should continue to praise and thank Allāh for having bestowed them upon him, as well as utilizing these favors for the pleasure of Allāh .
What is our duty towards Allāh with regards to the favors He bestows upon us?
- Being submissive to Allāh.
- Loving Allāh.
- Acknowledging that He is the Bestower of all favors.
- Praising Him.
- Utilizing these favors in a way that pleases Him.
Does the way of expressing gratitude towards Allāh differ, just like the favors themselves differ? Yes; gratitude can be expressed by the heart, the tongue and the limbs.
Expressing gratitude by the heart: This is by knowing that Allāh is the Bestower of these favors, and this is something that is very important when cultivating children, so that they know where favors come from, as Allāh Says: “O Mankind, remember the favor of Allāh upon you. Is there any creator other than Allāh who provides for you from the heaven and the earth? There is no deity except Him, so how are you deluded?” [Al-Fatir, 35: 3]
Again, knowing and recognising the favors, as well as their source, is the initial step and it precedes thanking Allāh. Recognising favors such as the favors of being able to move, walk, work, exercise, sleep, eat etc. all branch from the great favor of being healthy. The favor of being humans; the favor of being Muslims; the favor of being guided; the favor of being well-mannered; the favor of being a Prophet (when it applies for those whom Allāh Has chosen) are also great ones to reflect on. This issue is very important to mention when calling people towards Allāh. Allāh repeatedly reminds us in different parts of the Quran of His favors upon us. He says: “…And [He] subjected for you the ships to sail for you through the sea by His command and subjected for you the rivers. And He subjected for you the sun and the moon, continuous [in orbit], and subjected for you the night and the day. And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor [i.e., blessings] of Allāh, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” [Ibrahim, 14: 32-34] There are many other verses in the Quran in which Allāh reminds us of the favors that He has bestowed upon us. One way of calling people towards Allāh is to remind them of the favors of Allāh upon them, so that they may be grateful and not to be amongst those about whom Allāh says: “…And Allāh is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.” [Al-Baqarah, 2: 243] Some people attribute favors to other than the actual source, like Qarun, who said when he was reminded of the favors of Allāh upon him: “…I was only given it because of the knowledge I have'…” [Al-Qasas, 28: 78] It is arrogance that leads to such a reaction, which results in misery for such people, because Allāh says: “And whatever you have of Favor – it is from Allāh …” [An-Nahl, 16: 53]
Expressing gratitude by the tongue: One's tongue reflects what he conceals in his heart, and thus when his heart is overwhelmed by gratitude to Allāh, the tongue will naturally constantly utter praise and gratitude to Allāh. One should ponder upon how the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform Dzikir, or supplications and remembrance of Allāh, to see how much gratitude and praise they contained;
• Whenever the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) woke up, he would say: “All praise is due to Allāh, Who has brought us back to life after He has caused us to die, and to Him is the return.”
• Whenever he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would retire to bed, he would say: “All Praise is due to Allāh who has fed us, provided us with drink, satisfied us and given us protection. Many are those who have no one to provide for them or give them shelter.”
• Some of his regular morning and evening supplications were: “O Allāh! Whatever favor me, or any of Your creation has, is solely from You; there is no partner with You; All praise and gratitude is due to You.”
• He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would ask forgiveness saying: “I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge the favors that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins, so forgive me.”
• All his supplications would begin with the praise of Allāh, which He is very worthy of.
• He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would begin all his speeches by praising Allāh.
• The opening supplication for prayer, Surah Al-Fatihah, supplications whilst bowing and prostrating, and his supplications after concluding his prayers, were all filled with praise and gratitude to Allāh.
• Whenever he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) wished to eat, drink, travel or sneeze, he would praise Allāh and thank him.
• On one of the nights when it was the turn of ‘Aishah (radiallāhu`anha)to be with him, she began looking for him in the dark by feeling around with her hand, then her hand touched his hands and she heard him saying: “O Allāh ! I seek protection against Your Wrath in Your Pleasure. I seek protection in Your Pardon against Your punishment; I am not capable of enumerating praise of You. You are as You have lauded Yourself”.
Expressing gratitude by the limbs: Any righteous deed or act of obedience which the son of Adam performs is a form of expressing his gratitude to Allāh, the Lord. There are different means of performing gratitude of the limbs; one of which is when one practices the instruction of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he said: “When you get up in the morning, charity is due from every one of your joints. There is charity in every ascription of glory to Allāh; there is charity in every declaration of His Greatness; there is charity in every utterance of praise of Him; there is charity in every declaration that He is the only true God (worthy of worship); there is charity in enjoining good; there is charity in forbidding evil. Two rak’at of Dhuha (i.e., forenoon prayer) is equal to all this (in reward).” Thus, any of the things mentioned in the above narration is a righteous deed which reflects gratitude to Allāh. One should exert all efforts to thank Allāh using all his limbs and should never feel that he has thanked Allāh enough, or that he does not need to do it again the next day.
There is no contradiction between thanking people and being grateful to Allāh, because Allāh commands us to thank and reward those who do us favors, the foremost of them being one's parents, as Allāh says: “…Be grateful to Me and to your parents…” [Luqman, 31: 14] The problem is when one thanks people and abandons thanking Allāh; this is a great disaster. Additionally, there is a difference in the manner in which one thanks people and thanks Allāh; one should be submissive and humble whilst thanking Allāh because this reflects servitude, while on the other hand, one cannot do so with other humans; one should instead supplicate for their forgiveness and praise them. One who does not thank other people is evil and it is unlikely that he would thank Allāh and express gratitude towards Him.
Additionally, favors and bounties from Allāh are preserved and even increase by one being grateful, but what is it that helps a person to be grateful?
• By observing the condition of those who are lower than you in status, and to remember when seeing those who are higher than you in standard that it is only by the decree of Allāh. Allāh says: “And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you.” [Al-An’am, 6: 165]
• By realising that one will be held accountable for these favors, as Allāh says: “Then you will surely be asked that Day about [worldly] pleasure”. [At-Takathur, 102: 8] Even for bounties as seemingly minor as cold water. Some people, due to their misunderstanding of the concept of gratitude, deprive themselves from enjoying them, whereas in fact they were bestowed upon us to enjoy. Allāh says: “…Eat from the good [i.e., lawful] things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allāh if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:172]
Thus, gratitude cannot entail deeming lawful matters as prohibited, which is one of the principles of the Sufis. If gratitude was a precondition of enjoying the bounties of Allāh, then nobody would have been able to enjoy any of the favors or bounties from Allāh, because no one can do enough deeds to appropriately express gratitude to Allāh for what He bestowed upon us. The solution therefore is to utilize these favors and bounties in ways that please Allāh, and to thank Him and seek His pardon for our shortcomings - and Allāh will accept this much from us.
• By supplicating to Allāh to help us to be grateful to Him, as in the prophetic supplication in which he (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught Mu’adz (radiallāhu`anhu)to say: “O Allāh! Help me remember You, express gratitude to You and worship You in the best manner.”
It is more virtuous to be grateful when blessed with a favor than to persevere when one is afflicted. Allāh loves to see the effects of His favors. Once, Imran Ibn Husayn came out wearing a fine garment, and when he saw how his friends were looking at him, he said: “The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allāh loves to see the effect of His Bounties on His slaves.”
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Eat, drink and give out in charity without arrogance or exaggeration, because Allāh loves to see the effect of His Bounties on His slave.” Therefore, the limit when expressing and showing the effect of the favors from Allāh on oneself is to neither be boastful and proud, nor to exaggerate.
Allāh hates a Kanūd, or an ungrateful person, and punishes him. Imam Al-Hasan said: “A Kanūd is one who remembers the disasters which befall him and always forgets to mention the favors from Allāh (upon him).” This quality is more apparent in women; for example, a woman's husband is kind to her for many years, but as soon as she experiences a minor shortcoming from him, she will immediately tell him that she has never seen anything good from him. This is a form of oppressing the husband, and thus the majority of the dwellers of Hell are women, the reason being that they are ungrateful to their husbands. If being ungrateful to one's husband results in punishment in Hell, how will the case be for those who are ungrateful to Allāh?
`Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz would look at the favors of Allāh upon him and say: “O Allāh! I seek refuge in You from meeting Your favors with ungratefulness or denying them after knowing them, or forgetting them and not mentioning them with praise (i.e., praising You).”
It is also recommended that one prostrates whenever he receives news about a new favor or bounty from Allāh, as was the practice of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Likewise, when Abu Bakar received the news that Musailamah the liar (who claimed to be a Prophet after the death of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was killed, he went down into prostration. Ka’ab Ibn Malik also prostrated when he was given the good news of forgiveness from Allāh after he failed to participate in a battle. On the other hand, this should not be a daily practice, but rather, it should only be done when one receives good news or a new favor. An example of a new favor or good news is the incident when one of the Salaf who was hiding from Al-Hajjaj, prostrated when he received the news of his death, because the death of a tyrant is a great bounty and favor from Allāh. Also, the news of having a new baby, or a Muslim victory over the infidels, warrants such a prostration to be made.
Imām Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimullāh) said: “The religion consists of two halves; one half is represented by gratitude and the other half is by perseverance.” Scholars have disputed regarding who is better, a rich person who is grateful, or a poor person who is patient, but it seems that it is best for the rich person to be grateful, and for the poor to persevere.
[Via Islam Web.net]