Thankfulness and Gratefulness (Shukr)

(Keywords: Thankfulness,  Gratefulness, Gratitude, Thanksgiving, Ungratefulness, Thanklessness, Ingratitude, Blessings, favors,  Shukr,  Thanking God,  Gratefulness for God, Pride, Concept of Thankfulness)

 

  قال الله عز وجل: { وَسَنَجْزِي الشَّاكِرِينَ} آل عمران 145. ـ

    God the Exalted says: { And We shall reward the thankful} (Surah 3, verse 145).

   وَعَنْ أبي يَحْيَى صُهَيْبِ بْنِ سِنَانٍ رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسولُ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: «عَجَباً لأمْرِ المُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ لَهُ خَيْرٌ، وَلَيْسَ ذَلِكَ لأِحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِن: إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ، وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خيْراً لَهُ» .  رواه مسلم. ـ

    Narrated Suheib Ibn Sinan -may God be pleased with him- that the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- said: “How wonderful is the case of a believer, for there is good in every affair of his, and this is not the case with anyone else except for the believer.  When a good thing happens to him, he thanks God and that is good for him; and when a trouble befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.”  Related by Imam Muslim.
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Thankfulness and Gratefulness to God are great treasures for the believer.  As human creatures, we see God’s blessings in everything we have in our daily life.  We see God’s blessings in our eye-sight, in our sense of smell, in our hearing, in our hands and our feet, and in every single part of our bodies.  We see God’s blessings in our food, in our drink, in our house, in our cars, in our clothes.  We see God’s blessings in our health, in our comfort, in our security, in our money, in our provision, in our children, and in Everything.

        Imagine losing the eyes for one day, even one hour, how would we feel?  Imagine losing food for one meal, how would we feel?  Imagine getting sick for one hour, how would we feel?  Imagine losing home for one day, how would we feel?   Indeed, we would feel very sad and regret what we lost.

        We tend to take these blessings for granted and forget to thank God for them.  Many are just happy to have good health, comfortable living, and just forget about feeling grateful and thank God.  Therefore, God said:

  قال الله عز وجل: { وَقَلِيلٌ مِنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ } سبأ 13. ـ

       God -the Exalted- also says: {But few of My slaves are thankful} (Chapter 34, verse 13).

As Muslims we must thank God for every single blessing that He bestowed upon us.  Every single blessing needs thanking God for it.  We must realize that these blessings are not due to our effort and hard work, rather they are a grant by God, and so they need to be thanked for.  Take for example, our health.  We tend to forget we are healthy until we get sick.  Only then do we realize the value of health.  And only then do we return to God and ask for health.

The question then is: why should we not thank God for health when we are healthy and well.  Why do we have to wait until we lose it and then think of the blessing we have lost!


 

     It is in human nature that s/he is ungrateful or thankless, as mentioned in the coming verse.  Man likes to enjoy blessings, but forgets about thanking God for them, thus being ungrateful.  And when man is faced with a problem, his self immediately leads him to ungrateful thoughts and he starts complaining and protesting, forgetting all the other blessings he still enjoys.  God the Exalted says in Qur’an:

    قال الله عز وجل: { إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ * وَإِنَّهُ عَلَى ذَلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ * وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ} سورة العاديات 6-8. ـ

    God -the Exalted- says: { Verily, man to his Lord is ungrateful.  And verily to that he is a witness.  And verily he is intense in the love of wealth} (Surah 100, verses 6-8).

      It is in human nature that he likes to enjoy blessings or good things, but forgets about thanking God; the One Who granted him all those things.

It is in human nature that when he is given 100 good things and then denied 1 time, he only remembers the one time he is denied while forgetting the other 99 times he is given!

It is in man’s nature that when he is given good things for 100 years and then denied 1 year, he is thankless and ungrateful and only remembers the 1 year while forgetting the other 99 good years!

And it is in human’s nature that when he gets sick for a short while, he is thankless and ungrateful while forgetting that he was healthy most of the time.

 

People are like that because they love good things excessively.  They only want good things and never want any bad thing.  But this life is a test to see how people act and react in the time of ease and difficulty, in the time of health and sickness, and in the time of security and fear.  Then on the Day of Judgment, people would be either rewarded or punished based on their action; whether they believed or disbelieved, whether they showed gratitude and thanked God for His blessings or were ungrateful and were thankless, and whether they were patient or impatient.


 

   There are two groups of people with regards to Gratefulness and thankfulness: 1) Ungrateful and thankless, and 2) Grateful and thankful to God.

The first group are ungrateful, thankless and do not admit God’s favors upon them.  When they have blessings, they just enjoy them with no care about thanking God.  But when they don’t have a blessing or lose the blessing, they complain, protest, and blame others.  And that leads them to impatience, dissatisfaction, and finally to pride and denial.

While the second group are grateful and are always thankful even when times are hard.  When they lose a blessing, they take time to think about the problem.  They think about the many other blessings they have, and rationalize their loss.  Maybe they lost the blessing because of their sins, or maybe it was a test, or maybe it is better in the long run.

It is related that Ikrimah said: “No calamity (problem) afflicts a slave except as a result of a sin, which God wouldn’t have forgiven him or raised him except with this problem.”  So in the face of difficulties, the believers show patience and thank God instead!  And that leads to acceptance of destiny (Qadr) and the pleasure of God -the Exalted, so God grants them much more.

When the first group get sick, they feel ungrateful and impatient.  They start complaining: ‘Why and how did this happen to me?’ They forget all the good times when they enjoyed good health.  They forget that other people have much worse diseases than them.  They forget their own bad deeds, and only remember their current discomfort.  

While the other grateful group think about it and have patience.  Maybe this sickness is test, or maybe it was a result of their sins, or maybe God wanted to raise their level.  Narrated Jabir Ibn Abdul-God -may God be pleased with them- that he heard the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- say: “No Muslim male or female, or believer (Mu’min) male or female get sick except God the Almighty will expiate and pardon his sins .” (Ahmad).  They remember the many times they were healthy, and they remember the other very sick people.  So they pray God to cure them, and Thank Him it wasn’t worse than that.

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So we see that for every problem or difficulty, a Muslim can either be angry and ungrateful, or accepts it and be thankful to God for all of His blessings.  The first one has no reward; rather he has committed a sin and a major heart sin at that.  While the second one gets rewarded many-fold and attains a high rank.  And if his patience and thanking God are sincere, then God -the Exalted- will take away his adversity and replace it with abundance and plenty by His Grace and bounty.


 

      Some rewards and benefits of thankfulness include:

   1) Keeping and Multiplying the Blessing:

            Thanking God for the blessing makes that blessing continue.  Not only that, but thanking God for it makes the blessing increase.  Like God -the Exalted- mentioned in the Qur’an:

قال الله عز وجل: { وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ} إبراهيم 7. ـ

      God -the Exalted- also says: {And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you thank Me, I will surely increase you (in favor); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe”} (surah 14, verse 7).

Thus, while thanking God for the blessing leads to its continuity and increase, ungratefulness and not thanking God for the blessing exposes it to decrease and loss as mentioned in the verse above.

  2) The Thankful Believers are among the First to Enter Paradise: 

        One of the great rewards of thanking God during times of plenty and adversity is that the person would be among the first group to enter Paradise, as mentioned in the following hadith:

    وعن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما عن رسول الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « أول من يدعى إلى الجنة يوم القيامة الذين يحمدون الله في السراء والضراء». رواه الحاكم. ـ

        Narrated Ibn Abbas -may God be pleased with them- that the Prophet -prayer and peace be upon him- said: “The First group of people to be called to Paradise on the Day of Judgment are those who always thank God; during ease and during hardship.”  Related by Al-Hakim.


 

  One very important fact about thanking is that we should thank by both speech and action.  So we thank God by saying: Praise be to God (Al-hamdu lillah), and by feeling grateful to God in our hearts. 

But action is important too, and we thank God in our actions by avoiding using these blessings in wrong ways or in forbidden things.  If God has given us eyes, then we thank Him for it, and avoid looking at forbidden things like shameless photos.  If God has given us hearing, then we thank Him for it and avoid listening to forbidden things like backbiting.  If God has given us wealth, then we thank Him and avoid spending it in forbidden ways.  And if we did wrong then we immediately repent and promise God not to do it again.  This is the only way for these blessings to continue, that is thanking God for these blessings by speech and action.


 

Finally, we would never ever be able to thank God -the Exalted- fully, but at least we must thank Him as much as we can.  Thanking God only when we get something we like is not true thanking!  We must thank God all the time, when we get the thing we like and when we don’t!   Those who thank God all the time, when they are happy and when they are sad, will have a great reward.  On the Day of Judgment: They will be called by name to enter Paradise first!

So we must learn to thank God all the time, we should feel grateful to God for the many blessings he bestowed upon us.  And when we go to sleep at night, we should try to think of few blessings that God bestowed upon us on that day, and thank Him for it.

It is related that Prophet Moses asked God the Exalted: ‘My God, I can’t thank You fully because my first thanking needs another thanking!’  God the Almighty said: ‘O Moses, your knowledge that you could never thank Me fully but you are trying is thanking enough.’


 

Then, Gratefulness and thanking God for His blessings are obligatory for every believer.  Gratefulness and thankfulness to God have a great reward and are characteristics of the successful ones in this life and the Hereafter.  On the other hand, ungratefulness and thanklessness have severe punishment and are characteristics of the people of loss in both lives.  Thus, we should stop our ungrateful selves from complaining and blaming, and instead should take time to think about the problem or difficulty.  When facing a problem or a calamity, we should suppress the immediate urge to feel ungrateful and angry, rather we should think of the other blessings God has bestowed upon us, we should think of the previous times when God granted us plenty, and we should think that this problem could have been much worse as with some other people. Then we should accept it and thank God -the Exalted- in every condition.

We should strive to be among the thankful, and the praisers who thank God all the time, during easy times and during hard times.  We should thank God to get His great reward, to prolong the blessing, and to get even more!  And God knows best.

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Feeling Superiority

قال الله عز وجل: { إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَنْ كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا} النساء 36.

Allah the Exalted says: { Verily, Allah does not like those who are proud and boastful} (Surah 4, verse 36).

وعن جندب بن عبد الله رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسولُ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « قالَ رَجُلٌ: واللَّهِ لا يَغْفِرُ اللَّه لفُلانٍ، فَقَالَ اللَّه عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: مَنْ ذا الَّذِي يَتَأَلَّى عليَّ أنْ لا أغفِرَ لفُلانٍ إنِّي قَد غَفَرْتُ لَهُ، وَأَحْبَطْتُ عمَلَكَ» .  رواه مسلم.

قال الْإِمَامُ مَالِكٌ: إذَا قَالَ ذَلِكَ مُعْجَبًا بِنَفْسِهِ مُزْدَرِيًا بِغَيْرِهِ فَهُوَ أَشَدُّ هَلَاكًا مِنْهُمْ،‏ لِأَنَّهُ لَا يَدْرِي سَرَائِرَ اللَّهِ فِي خَلْقِهِ‏.‏

Narrated Jundub Ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A man swore: ‘By God, Allah will not forgive such and such person.’  Thereupon, Allah the Almighty said: ‘Who is he who swears about Me that I will not forgive so and so; indeed I have forgiven him and abolished your deeds.’ ” Related by Imam Muslim.

Imam Malik said: “If he said so out of self-conceit and contempt of others, then he is the one who is ruined because he has no knowledge of people’s inner side and future intention.”

عن عبدِ اللَّهِ بن مسعُودٍ رضيَ اللَّهُ عنه عن النبيِّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « لا يَدْخُلُ الجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ»، فقال رَجُلٌ: إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَكُونَ ثَوْبُه حَسَناً ونَعْلُهُ حَسَناً، قال: « إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الجَمَالَ، الكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الحَقِّ وغَمْطُ النَّاسِ» . رواه مسلم والترمذي.

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Whosoever has a grain of mustard worth of pride in his heart shall not enter Paradise.’  A man asked: “Indeed, a person loves that his dress should be fine and his shoes should be fine.”  The Prophet ﷺ replied: “Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and having contempt for people.”  Related by Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi.

As the above hadith specifies, feeling superior to people is part of kibr (pride), which is a major sin. Indeed, pride is the greatest sin because through it Satan was banished from the Heavens and cursed.  When Allah the Exalted created Adam, He asked the angels to prostrate to him. The angels obeyed while Satan (who used to worship among the angels, and was even known for his great worship to Allah) stood aside and did not prostrate. When asked why he did not prostrate to Adam, Satan replied: ‘I am better than him; I was created from fire while he was created from clay.’  So Allah banished and cursed Satan for his disobedience.

The same concept applies when someone feels superior to other people because of his wealth, social status, intelligence, or any other trait.  We must understand that any blessing is granted by Allah alone, and He bestows it to whomever He wishes. Thus, there is no justification for feeling superior when the distinction is a blessing granted by Allah, and can instantly be taken away if Allah so wishes. Rather the Muslim is instructed to show humbleness and humility, and express his gratitude and thanks to Allah for His special favors. In Surat Al-Kahf, we read the story of a rich man who owned two orchards full with fruits and with a running river. He was once in his green and lush orchard, and looked around with pride and said I don’t think all of this will ever end, and when I die I will get better than this. His companion admonished him not to feel pride and superiority, but to instead thank Allah for His Blessings; but he persisted in his arrogance. That night, lightning struck his orchards and he lost everything because of his pride.

The same is true for religious status. When someone appears more adherent to the rules of Allah and thinks highly of himself or looks down upon others, then he might end up worse than them because he harbors the greatest sin of pride. Indeed, it is only Allah who granted him this gift, but when he attributes his worship to his own effort and looks down on others, then he has fallen in the same trap as Satan. We should abhor and prohibit the sin, but should have goodwill and compassion for the human.  When the Muslim sees a sin being committed, he should advise the wrong doer but should never look down upon the sinner or belittle him, but instead should maintain a positive opinion of him while wishing him guidance and goodness.

Indeed, the Muslim does not reach the full level of Faith (Iman) until he purifies his heart from vices like jealousy, worldly rivalry, hatred, pride, feeling superior to others, belittling others, and the like. In the following hadith, the Prophet  describes the best of people:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Amr, maybe Allah be pleased with them: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked: ‘Who among the people is best?’  He replied: ‘Every person with a makhmum heart and  a truthful tongue.’  The companions asked: ‘We know the truthful person, but who is the one with a makhmum heart?’  The Prophet ﷺ  replied:

‘He is the one who is pious and pure, (in whose heart) there is neither sin, nor transgression, nor malice, nor envy.’ ”

(Related by Ibn Majah and Al-Bayhaqi with a good narration).

Pride led to Satan’s downfall, and it is this same pride that leads to problems in this world and destruction in the next. Arrogance and pride are among the most difficult of traits to remove, but our lives must be permanent, persisting efforts to do just that. By realizing our fragile position and by glimpsing at Allah’s majestic grandeur, we can achieve a level of humility that allows us to fix our relationships with the people and with Allah. We ask Allah for tawfiq.