Expressing Gratitude to Almighty Allah
By Amin Ahsan Islahi
A Leading Muslim Scholar — India
Gratitude lies at the core of man's relationship with Almighty Allah. It may be expressed by the heart or tongue, or through deeds, words, and gestures. As to the gratitude flowing from the heart, it is the proper response for innumerable divine favors.
A grateful person is always mindful of being indebted for Allah's bounties, big and small, and articulates his or her feelings at every step to express gratitude. This feeling of constant gratitude has a very significant bearing on everyone's deeds. This is because a grateful servant finds great happiness in doing the deeds that are pleasing to his or her Benefactor and Master — Almighty Allah.
Conversely, he or she is averse to anything that amounts to ingratitude toward a divine bounty. One who truly appreciates Allah's bounties and favors can never reconcile oneself to abusing them by acting against Allah's will. If someone gives us a weapon that can help us to defend ourselves, only a wicked person would abuse that weapon to hurt the one who gave it to him. One who truly appreciates divine bounties is never ready to abuse them in the cause of Satan.
Importance of Gratitude To ALLAH
Showing gratitude to the Almighty Lord is part and parcel of having faith in Him. This means that a person who is ungrateful to Allah has no true faith in his or her heart. On the other hand, a servant who thanks Allah for His blessings will receive even more of them. This is related in the Qur'an as follows:
(And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.) (Ibrahim 14:7)
Furthermore, that Satan vowed to lead most of humankind to be ungrateful to their Lord clearly indicates how important gratitude to Allah is. He, the accursed, measures his success in achieving his malicious goal by making us thankless to our Lord. What he said is related in the Qur'an thus:
(Then I will certainly come to them from before them and from behind them, and from their right-hand side and from their left-hand side; and You will not find most of them thankful.)
Having realized this, we should exert our best efforts to be among the grateful servants of Allah with whom He is well pleased.
How To Attain It?
We cannot repay Allah for His countless favors. Mercifully, Allah allows us to enjoy His blessings, though He can deprive us of all favors whenever He wills.
To develop a constant feeling of gratitude and a sound consciousness of Allah'sboundless favors, the first and foremost task is to constantly acknowledge and appreciate those favors He ceaselessly bestows upon us. It is a general human weakness that if someone is afflicted with a misfortune, he or she keeps complaining about it to others. However, a person refrains from speaking about the numerous bounties that he or she enjoys. He or she closes his eyes to these blessings as if they do not exist. Such people are not likely to appreciate the favors granted to them by their Benefactor.
To overcome this weakness, we should devote a little time every day to reflect on the bounties we enjoy and to study divine signs scattered around us. We should also reflect on the fact that we would be in an extremely deplorable state, if our Lord did not bestow upon us the countless favors we are currently enjoying. If we had not been endowed with eyes, ears, limbs, and brain, we would not have been able to accomplish anything. We would have led a truly miserable life.
Another equally important point to remember is that Almighty Allah has granted us innumerable favors even though we do not deserve them. By definition, Allah is not obliged to bestow these favors, and we can never repay Him in any measure for His bounties. In the Qur'an, Almighty Allah tells us:
(And if you would count Allah's favors, you will not be able to number them; most surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.)(An-Nahl 16:18)
Indeed, we cannot repay Him for His countless favors. Mercifully, Allah allows us to enjoy His blessings, though He can deprive us of all favors whenever He wills. There is no one to stop Him from doing so. Therefore, we should be thankful for the granting of a blessing and for being able to enjoy it for a long time, without losing it. A king may be reduced to a pauper, so he should not dismiss a lowly person. A strong and healthy person may lose his or her strength in a moment; so, he or she should not misuse his or her strength in oppressing others. Likewise, a wealthy person who leads a luxurious life may, by Allah's will, be a destitute person who is helped by and dependent on others.
Almighty Allah is able to do all things. He grants honor to whomever He wills and degrades whomever He wills. So, if we enjoy a privileged, respectable position in life, we should be grateful to Him for His grace and mercy. We should constantly praise Him and remember His favors. Conversely, if an affliction befalls us or a favor is taken away from us, we have to show patience and submit to Allah's will.
To attain gratitude, we should not look at those who have been blessed more than us, but those who have been blessed less, and they are so many. Those who fail to do this are always complaining about their difficulties and problems, and are never blessed with satisfaction or contentment. Even when their lot improves, they do not experience true contentment. This is because it is impossible for one to be in a state that is in all respects better than that of everyone else.
If we always remember that we are the servants of Almighty Allah, some of His servants are not granted as much as we have and others are favored with more than us, we will be grateful and content. These noble attributes — gratitude and patience — are dealt with in a hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, "How amazing is the affair of the believer. Everything is good for him and that is for no one but the believer: If good times come his way, he is thankful and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he is patient and that is good for him." (Authenticated by Al-Albani). Thus, it is evident that a believer should possess these two traits. In the following verse Almighty Allah mentions both of them:
(Most surely there are signs in this for every patient, grateful one.) (Ibrahim 14:5)
Moreover, the wisdom in that approach is well illustrated by an anecdote related by Sheikh Sa`di. He said that while he was traveling he reached Damascus in a miserable condition, he did not have any money to buy new shoes to replace his old ones. It pained him that he was unable to buy a new pair of shoes. With these thoughts he entered the mosque where he observed a lame person, without feet. On seeing this, he immediately fell into prostration, thanking Allah profusely for having provided him with feet, if not with new shoes. This incident identifies the perspective in which we should look at things. Those with a feeling of gratitude observe numerous manifestations of Allah's favors, which then fill them with greater gratitude. However, there are others who are always complaining of what they do not have and are, therefore, unable to thank Allah for the many blessings He has bestowed upon them.