Gratefulness to Allah Almighty
By Dr. Jasser Auda
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.
In his well-known book, entitled: “Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom)”, Sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ata'illah As-Sakandari (rahimahullah) says:
“You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for it, and you tie it to you firmly when you do. And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”
If We Thank Allah He Will Multiply The Blessings
One of the universal laws of Allah Almighty which govern the issue of providence with all its kinds is that if we thank Allah, He will multiply the blessings or replace them with something better. Allah says, “If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more”. (Ibrahim 14: 7)
All the blessings would not be attained unless by Allāh wills. If you do not thank Allah for His blessings until you reach the level of excellence, Allah will put you to tests.
Allah acknowledged that we will not be able to count all Allah's blessings. Allah says, “And should you try to count Allah's blessings, you could never compute it”. (Ibrahim 14: 34)
The Ungrateful Will Be Severely Punished.
Every Muslim should thank Allah Almighty for whatever He gives him; the ungrateful will be severely punished: “But if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!” (Ibrahim 14: 7).
The Arabic word 'kafartum' verse means being unthankful to Allah’s bounty and blessings. It does not mean disbelief in Allah, as the literal meaning implies, but it shows the gravity of this flaw. Non-thankfulness, then, is another flaw that Ibn `Ataa’ is teaching us about in this word of wisdom.
Sheikh Ibn `Ata’ (rahimahullah) says: "You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for it, and you tie them to you firmly when you do". The one who thanks Allah Almighty for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly. Allah's promise of rewarding those who thank Him is a true promise. It is a guarantee for the continuation of your blessings or more. It does come with one condition, however, which is to thank Allah for these blessings.
Thankfulness Can Be Offered Through Actions.
Thankfulness is not only limited to saying “Al-Hamdullilah (Praise to Allah)”. However, thankfulness can be offered through actions. Allah says: “Labor, O David's people, in gratitude towards Me”. (Saba’ 34: 13)
Thankfulness through actions requires that everyone should ask himself the following: What am I going to do with this blessing? Am I going to use it in a good way? Am I going to contribute with it to good causes? Or am I going to waste it, which is a form of denying the blessing?
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) advised us to appreciate others by thanking them. Those who failed to appreciate others Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) cautioned them and said: “Anyone who doesn’t thank people has not grateful to Allāh.” (Recorded by Abu-Dawud and Tirmidzi)
The Prostration of Thankfulness is another way to thank Allāh for His bounties. When a Muslim receives a bounty, hears good news or is rescued from a trial, he gets down on his knees, puts his forehead on the ground thanking Allāh for His favor.
Abu Bakrah (radiyallāhu`anhu) narrated: “When anything came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) which caused pleasure (or, by which he was made glad), Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) prostrated himself in gratitude to Allāh." [Recorded by Abu Dawud]
Therefore, if you do not thank Allah Almighty for His blessings with sayings and actions, you will risk losing them. But if you thank Allah, you are tying His blessings to you firmly.
Then the Sheikh Ibn `Ata’ (rahimahullah) says: "And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests". Thus, if you do not thank Allah for His blessings and advance to Him until you reach the level of excellence, Allah will put you to tests. By putting you to tests, Allah is giving you chances so that you can reach the level of excellence. This is also a universal law.
Allah Elevates You And Purifies Your Heart Through Tests.
When you are afflicted with tests, you will draw closer to Allah and He will forgive your sins. Allah says: “And, indeed, We tested them [the hypocrites] through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves”. (Al-Mu’minun 23: 67)
When Allah Almighty puts you to tests, you have to humble yourself, and pray to Allah. Allah also says about the hypocrites: “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves [of Allah]”. (At-Tawbah 9: 126)
Allah Almighty does not want to punish you by testing you. But He wants to draw you closer to Him and to make you count His blessings which He bestowed on you. He wants you to thank Him by your tongue and actions.
When Allah puts you to a test by losing some blessings, He is testing you by a ‘touch of chastisement’, as the other verse says. Every one of us has billions of uncountable blessings. When Allah Almighty puts one of us to a test by losing one, two or even five blessings, he feels that he is faced with a severe crisis. While in reality he has billions of blessings which Allah is bestowing on him every moment.
In every cell in your body, there are countless blessings. In every second you live, there are countless blessings. In every breath you breathe, there are countless blessings. In every glance you make, there are countless blessings. Allah is the One who is worthy of thankfulness. When Allah tests you by losing one or two blessings, He, according to Ibn `Ata’ (rahimahullah), is ‘pulling you towards Him’. By losing a blessing, Allah wants you to return and repent to Him. He also wants you to remember His blessings and reflect on them.
And if you sincerely repent to Allah Almighty, the test is over. Allah says: “And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!” (Ash-Sharh 94: 5-6)
We notice that Allah repeated the verse twice. In another verse we read: “Allah will grant, after hardship, ease”. (At-Talaq 65: 7)
Allah Makes A Way-Out And With Difficulty Comes Ease.
When you are faced with a problem or afflicted with a calamity, Allah Almighty brings ease in the middle of the crisis and also after the crisis. And in any case, if this state of hardship draws you closer to Allah, this is in itself a blessing from Allah.
If one would like to avoid trials at all, one should always advance towards Allah Almighty and never fall into any mistake. In reality, though, this will never happen because we are humans! We cannot maintain thanking Allah all the time and a clear record. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: "Every son of Adam makes mistakes, but the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent". (At-Tirmidzi)
Therefore, Allah is helping us in our journey by putting us to tests in order to give us a chance to repent.
The Excellence Of Gratefulness and Patience.
In order to attain gratefulness, we should not look at those who have been blessed more than us, rather many of those who have been less blessed. Those who fail to consider this are always complaining about their difficulties and tribulations, 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 keep in mind that we are the Allāh’s servant, subjected to His Will that some 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, gratefulness and patience are dealt with in a hadith narrated by Suhaib (radiyallāhu`anhu) who reported: Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) 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." (Recorded by Muslim) Thus, it is evident that a believer should possess these two traits: gratefulness and patience.
The Muttaqun would adhere to the three categories of patience in obedience to Allah, namely: “Patience in doing good deeds”, “Patience in avoiding evil”, and: “Patience with tests”.
1. “Patience in doing good deeds”.
This patience refers that the believer should always be active, without placing hardship on oneself. Allah says:
“Allah has laid no hardship on you in anything that pertains to religion” (Al-Hajj, 22:78).
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) saw an old man walking, supported by his two sons, and asked about him. The people informed him that he had vowed to travel on foot to the Ka`bah. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Allah is not in need of this old man's torturing himself”; and ordered him to get a ride to the Ka`bah. (An-Nasa`ie) It is not considered as a ‘patience’ to cause torture, hardship or harm upon oneself.
2.“Patience in avoiding evil”.
This patience means that a believer should stay away from committing what Allah Almighty has forbidden. For one example, we read in the Qur'an about Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) and one of the tests he was put to.
Allah Says: “And it so happened that she in whose house he was living conceived a passion for him and sought to make him yield himself unto her; and she bolted the doors and said, ‘Come you unto me!’ Joseph answered: ‘May God preserve me!’” (Yusuf, 12:23).
There is a great reward for this type of patience. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) says that one of the seven persons whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is "A man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces for adultery, but he rejects by saying: ‘I fear God’." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3. “Patience with Allah's tests”.
This patience is at different levels, all of which bear the meaning of refraining from something which is forbidden by Allah. The most basic level of patience with Allah’s tests is to refrain from the act of complaining about the test, but to repent and surrender to Allah's Decree. Then, a higher level is to refrain from complaining by your tongue. Finally, the highest level of patience is to refrain even from complaining in your heart.
Refraining from committing sins is a condition for purifying one's heart. Allah says about the hypocrites: “Indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did surrender to their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves” (Al-Mu’minun, 23:76).
When a person faces some problems, then he or she is at a cross-road; either to repent and surrender to Allah, or to fall into sins, which means failing the test.
At a higher level, patience with Allah's tests requires one to refrain from even complaining about the test. This is called ‘beautiful patience’, as Allah tells us about the story of Prophet Jacob (`alayhis salam), when he said: “I will only show beautiful patience” (Yusuf, 12:18), and “It is only to Allah that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow” (Yusuf, 12:86). Prophet Jacob (`alayhis salam) complained only to his Lord and refused to complain to anyone else.
Being patient with Allah's Decree on the level of the heart is the best type of patience. The believer attains this degree when he or she not only refrains from speaking about the difficulty, but also refrains from agonizing about it in his heart. The soul is always at peace, even at the peak of crisis.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said:"Genuine patience is at the first stroke of a calamity" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
If the believer is patient at the face of tests, he or she will advance in the way of Allah. “Consider the flight of time! Verily, a human is bound to lose himself, unless he be of those who attain to faith, and do good works, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity” (Al-`Asr, 103:1-3).
And in any case, adversity does not last forever. “And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!” (Al-Inshirah 94:4-5).
Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, “When a slave's child dies, Allāh the Most High asks His angels, `Have you taken out the life of the child of My slave?” They reply in the affirmative. Allāh then asks, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’ They reply in the affirmative. Thereupon Allāh asks, ‘What has My slave said?’ They say: `He has praised You and said: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rāji`un (We belong to Allāh and to Him we shall be returned)’. Allāh says: ‘Build a house for My slave in Jannah and name it as Bait-ul-Hamd (the House of Praise)’.”[At-Tirmidzi]
This Hadith points out the eminence of patience and the merit of praising Allāh in the event of a calamity, especially on the death of one's own child. Rather than weeping and wailing, one should submit himself to the Will of Allāh and show perseverance. Such attitude of patience and resignation is highly meritorious and has great reward.
Anas bin Mālik (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, “Allāh is pleased with His slave who says: ‘Al-hamdu lillah (praise be to Allāh)' when he takes a morsel of food and drinks a draught of water.'' [Recorded by Muslim]
The Hadith indicates that to praise Allāh Almighty when eating and drinking is a source of Allāh's Pleasure, no matter whether the quantity one consumes is small or large.
There Are Signs pointed for Every Patient
In the following verse Almighty Allāh mentions both of the criteria: “Most surely there are signs in this for every patient, grateful one.” (Ibrahim 14:5)
The wisdom in that approach is well illustrated by an anecdote related by Sheikh Sa`adi. 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 and it really hurt him for unable to do so. With the feelings he entered the mosque where he observed a lame person, without feet. On seeing this, he immediately fell into prostration, thanking Allāh 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 Allāh'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 Allāh for the many blessings He has bestowed upon them.
Ingratitude Is A Trap Devised By Shaytan.
Ingratitude is a serious trap devised by Shaytan. Indeed, it is a main ambition of his to hinder man from giving thanks. Allāh relates the plot of Shaytan: “He said, ‘By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful’.” (Surah al-A’raf, 7:16-17)
Shaytan promised, in a dialogue with Allāh, to do his best to prevent people from being thankful to Allāh. As the Qur`an makes clear, the efforts of Shaytan concentrate around this goal: keeping man from giving thanks to Allāh. And his plan has indeed proven successful on many: “... Allāh shows favor to mankind but most of them are not thankful”. (Surah Yunus, 10: 60)
Shaytan expresses his explicit will to approach man from this angle reveals the importance of gratitude to Allāh as an aspect of worship. No doubt, abandoning it is sinful in the Sight of Allāh: “And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allāh), I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.” (Surah Ibrahim, 14: 7)
To conclude, one of the most interesting attributes of Allāh is Ash-Shakur meaning that Allāh is the most appreciative. So we should be grateful to the one who endows us with health, family, wealth, peace and security, a nurturing environment and much more. By recognizing Allāh’s bounties by the heart or tongue, or through deeds, words, and gestures, our hearts will find contentment, peace and tranquility.
And Allah Almighty knows Best
[Excerpted from “Ibn `Attaa’ Words of Wisdom (15), Gratefulness to Allah”, By Dr.Jasser Auda, Monday, 21 November 2011via On Islam]