New York - It was a well known practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to continuously thank God for all that happened in his life. He was also grateful to other people and always spoke well of them and of his circumstances. Despite having lived under very harsh conditions in Arabia, with exceptionally limited resources, nobody ever heard Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) complaining. He did not lament his lack of opportunities or blame circumstances such as being an orphan, having to do hard work as a shepherd to survive, or being unable to read and write.
New York – It was a well known practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to continuously thank God for all that happened in his life. He was also grateful to other people and always spoke well of them and of his circumstances. Despite having lived under very harsh conditions in Arabia, with exceptionally limited resources, nobody ever heard Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) complaining. He did not lament his lack of opportunities or blame circumstances such as being an orphan, having to do hard work as a shepherd to survive, or being unable to read and write.
On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad was always grateful. He constantly focused on the good of his life and on the good qualities of other people. As a result, he was able to manifest abundance in all areas of life unlike anyone had seen before, forever changing the world.
It seems astonishing that a single person in the direst of material circumstances could be the source of so much light, progress and abundance. However, the answer lies in Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) exemplary character.
In Islam, we view all prophets, including Muhammad (PBUH), as human beings. Of course, sublime human beings, but nevertheless, entirely human in nature. Therefore, the Prophet’s (PBUH) habits and behaviors can be studied, understood, and adopted by us, applying them to our particular life circumstances. From his example, we can learn to make our lives great contributions to humanity and thus, the biggest forms of worship to God.
There are many treasures among the practices of the Prophet that, when applied to our lives, can make us capable of great success. A key practice is gratitude.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to spend long hours in prayer during the night. His wife Aisha once asked him why he prayed so much since surely his mistakes would be forgiven by God. The Prophet (PBUH), smiling, replied, “Shall I not be a grateful servant to Allah?” Therefore, it seems that gratitude in Islam is the most important purpose of worship.
Gratitude as a practice is emphasized in the Quran in a way that wasn’t in the previous scriptures. It is a continuous theme in the Quran which is central to its instruction for better living, explains Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed. It is one of the greatest contributions of the Quran. Through thinking of the positive events in our lives, the energy in us shifts and we attract more of these events.
The secret to a life of abundance is found in Sura 14, aya 17:
And your Lord had the proclamation made “If you are grateful, I will give you more, but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe indeed.” In The Quran and the Life of Excellence, Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed, discussing this aya, writes that “those who can adjust their thinking to always feel grateful flourish.” This is a very powerful statement: it gives us the formula to thrive.
If we pay attention to the way the aya is written, we notice that the words convey absolute certainty. They express a promise: if we are grateful, God will give us more; if we are ungrateful, unhappiness will follow.
The aya gives us a vitally important message: It teaches us the order of the universe as created by God. It is definitive. We can believe in it or disregard it. That is our choice. But whether we believe in it or not, the law of gratitude works, just as gravity works whether we believe in its existence or deny it.
But how to implement this practice of gratitude in our lives? Dr. Sultan tells us that gratitude has three parts:
First, we must speak the words of thanks. We thank God for all the blessings we see in our lives. We also thank people who help us in any way. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that if somebody is ungrateful to people, he is also ungrateful to God. This makes much sense. We communicate with God through our emotions, and also through His Creation (other people, animals, nature, the universe). Therefore, if we do not feel gratitude in our heart towards people, how can we feel gratitude towards Him? It is not possible. If we pay attention, the creation invariably directs us to its Magnificient Creator.
Second, we must appreciate and feel happy for what we have. The vast majority of us, if not all, can think of many things that make us feel happy, even small things count, like a child smiling at us, or the cafe attendant giving us a free coffee, or bigger things, like our health, or our parents being alive, or the nice house we live in, and, of course, the fact that we are alive right now and given by God the chance to be thinking about gratitude.
Third, we must appreciate what we have, speak well of it, and take good care of it. It seems logical that if we fail to appreciate what we currently have, we will similarly fail to appreciate more of it (we will still be unsatisfied, wanting more in a never ending cycle). Therefore, God will not give us more unless we feel appreciation.
It is important to note that this practice of gratitude does not ask us to pretend that all is well in our lives. There are definitely many things that we can ‘rightly’ feel unhappy about. However, choosing to focus on them does not help us; on the contrary, it brings us more unhappiness. There are always many true sides of all things. For example, I can focus on the fact that my father is alive, physically healthy, loving, tender, and kind, or I can focus on the fact that he is controlling, has a difficult character, is prone to anger and has memory problems. Both of these perspectives are true. But which one will lead me to a more fulfilling relationship and to more abundance of love? Obviously the first approach.
What the aya asks us to do is to consciously direct our attention to the good we have in our lives, feel gratitude for it in our hearts, express our thanks to God and to people, and as a result, experience miracles because this is how the law works.
* This article was greatly inspired by The Quran and the Life of Excellence, written by Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed, by the teachings of Dr. Sultan, and by the group discussions that take place in New York based on this wonderful book.
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