Expressing gratitude to the Almighty is the foremost basis of our relation with Him. This expression pertains to the heart, the tongue and the deeds we do. Expression of gratitude by heart means that it should be brimming with thankfulness to God for His innumerable bounties and favors-much like the udder of the goat brimming with milk. This parable, it needs to be appreciated, doesn’t stand only for example. It is very near, in essence, to the linguistics of the Arabic word ‘shukr‘: The heart, when filled with gratitude, impels the tongue to pour out words of gratitude for the Almighty whenever he comes across His favors and blessings or are reminded of them, just as a cup brimming with water overflows with the slightest of a stir.
A heart teeming with gratitude has a profound affect on the deeds of a person. He relishes every deed that satisfies his urge to be thankful. Similarly, he develops an aversion for deeds, which reflect ingratitude to an evident or a veiled favor of God. If a person truly acknowledges a blessing, he is never willing to use this blessing against the liking of its bestower. Suppose, someone gives us a torch to save us from stumbling in the darkness or gives us a sword to protect ourselves from an enemy or gives us a vehicle to save us from the bother of walking, then only a very ungrateful and thankless person can use these very sources to break into the house of his well wisher and massacre his family. Likewise, a person, who is mindful in acknowledging favors, can never use the Almighty’s favors for the cause of Satan. Ayesha (rta), in a letter to Mu’avia (rta), has referred to this reality in the following words: ‘The least obligation of a person who has been blessed with favors is that he ought not use these favors in disobeying the bestower.’
To keep this feeling of gratitude alive in our selves we need to observe the following.
First, we should always be mindful of all that God has blessed us with, apparent or hidden. This is a common trait of man that he wails when faced with the slightest of a problem and blindly ignores the continuous favors befalling him as if they never existed. A man, who doesn’t have an eye for blessings and their importance, and isn’t aware of their use, cannot appreciate the bestower and cherish thankfulness towards him. To eradicate this unresponsiveness, a man may portion out a section of his daily time to contemplate all the visible and hidden blessings of God scattered throughout the universe. He should imagine, while meditating, what if he hadn’t been blessed with those bounties? What if he had been deprived of sight, born dumb or with hands benumbed and feet paralyzed? Above all what would he be like without the gift of reasoning?
Second, we should realize that we are blessed with what we didn’t deserve, nor did God owe us. Neither did we earn anything nor can we. The Almighty can withdraw all from us. What can one do if felled from the crown to the stillest doom? For this very reason we shouldn’t leave an unfortunate man unnoticed and must mind that God can replace him with us. It is only His grace that we are spared the plight.
Third, we should not only look towards those privileged rather we should compare ourselves with the less fortunate. A person who heeds only to those blessed more than he is, never satisfies in his lot and is always complaining. He is denied true happiness in life, no matter how large fortunes he owns? After all he couldn’t be raised above all. So to remain thankful towards Allah, in a most befitting way, is possible only when we look towards those who, in spite of being created by the same Allah, lack a lot what we are blessed with abundantly.
One of Sheikh Saadie’s anecdotes elucidates the matter cogently. During one of his journeys, he tells, his shoes wore out. He became aggrieved for he couldn’t buy a new pair. Hobbling along he came to a mosque where there was an amputee, who had no feet at all. Suddenly, the impulse of gratitude swelled his heart and he knelt down in order to offer up thanks to God for the feet gifted him.
Saadie has beautifully made us understand how to view the world in order to be grateful. People, who see the world Saadie’s eyes, find every now and then innumerable signs of His graciousness stimulating thankfulness. On the other hand there are those who in spite of having sound health, fret on not having the most modern car. These people can never be grateful in the real sense.
Adapted from Ameen Ahsan Islahi’s “Tazkiyyah e Nafs”