By Abdel Rahman Aljowzi and translated by Sultan Abdulhameed
By Abdel Rahman Aljowzi and translated by Sultan Abdulhameed
Let us first review how God speaks about gratitude in the Quran:
He says: We shall reward the grateful (3:144)
He says also: Why would God cause you to suffer if you have attained to
faith and are grateful? God always responds to gratitude and is all-knowing. (4:147).
And He says: Only a few of My servants are grateful. (34:13)
God has promised to definitely reward those who are grateful by saying: If you are grateful I shall certainly give you more and more (14:7)
Without gratitude, He has kept His favors conditional to His will. For example: God will enrich you out of His grace, if He so wills (9:28).
Also: He removes the calamity that has befallen you when you call on Him, if He so wills. (6:41)
He says also: And God gives to whom He pleases without measure (2:212).
And He says: Besides this He forgives everything if He so wills (4:48).
Also: And God will turn in His mercy to whom He wills, for God is all knowing, wise. (9:14).
It is narrated in Hadith that the Prophet used to stand in prayer for so long in the night that his feet were swollen. Ayesha said to him” Why do you spend so much time in prayer when God has already forgiven all your sins?” The Prophet replied “Should I then not be grateful to Him?”
Muadh narrated that the Prophet said to him: “O Muadh! You are dear to me so I teach you this supplication. Say, “O my Lord, grant me the capacity for being thankful to you, for remembering you and for excellence in my worship.”
How Gratitude is Expressed
Thanksgiving is expressed with the heart, with the tongue and with your limbs. Giving thanks from your heart is when you think of doing something good for God’s creation. Giving thanks with your tongue is when you praise God.
Expressing gratitude with your limbs is by using them for a good purpose, and not use them to do harm. For example gratitude with your eyes is when you see defects in someone and not publicize them. Giving thanks with the ears is when you hear something bad about someone and do not repeat it.
Giving thanks with your tongue is when you express pleasure with what God has given you. Prophet Muhammad said “Gratitude is when you talk about the blessings God has given you, and to not do this is rejection of faith”
It is narrated that a man greeted Umar ibn al-khattab. Umar replied to his greetings and asked “How are you doing?” The man said” I thank God for how I am”. Umar then said, “This is what I wanted to hear”.
In the early days people used to inquire about each other and their purpose was to give thanks and cause thanks to be given. For the one who expresses gratitude and the one who causes it to be expressed, both are people of faith.
Source of Gratitude
We should know that gratitude, and giving up of ingratitude, is not truly possible without an understanding of what pleases God. This is because being thankful means using what God has given you in ways that please Him, Ingratitude is the opposite of this, you either do not use what has been given to you, or use it in undesirable ways.
To know what pleases God requires a heart with insight, which is extremely rare. That is why God has sent Prophets to make it easier for people to understand.
Anyone who uses what he has in wrongful ways is ungrateful. For example if a man hits someone with his hand without provocation, he is ungrateful for the blessing that his hand is. God has given him the hand to seek benefits and for protection; not to cause pain to others.
Similarly with the eye, if you look at forbidden things you are ungrateful, not only for the eye but also for the sun that gives the light which makes it possible for you to see. The eyes and the sun have been made for you to seek benefits for here and the hereafter, and to avoid things that harm you in the here and in the hereafter.
We should know that the purpose of creation of the world and its resources is that people get to know their Creator through them. And we get to know God by knowing His love. This is attained by keeping Him in your heart as you live your life in the world. You have to give up deceit in your affairs and be always in His remembrance. If you perpetually think of Him, you will eventually know Him and His love. To gain this awareness takes a long time so your body needs to stay healthy for a long time, and the sustenance of the body is through what is in the earth, water and air. Everything in the heaven and the earth, the visible and the hidden resources are for the preservation of your body because the self is riding in the body. It is only through contemplation and worship over a long time that you can gain an awareness that allows you to be so pleased with God that God is pleased with you. It is for this reason God says: I have not created the jinn and human beings to any end other that they may (know and) worship Me. (51:56).
Let us consider another example of how to distinguish between gratitude and ingratitude. Dirham and Dinar are among the blessings of God because life works through them. By themselves they are small pieces of metal but people need them to buy food and drink clothing and transportation. Before the Dirham and the Dinar, people used to exchange goods for barter. However, society is better organized with the creation of money because we can set a price for everything. But God has made money to be exchanged, to give and take, so that people can trade goods in a fair manner.
If you understand this, then you will also understand that anyone who acts against this purpose is ungrateful. For example if anyone hoards currency he acts against the purpose of its creation and is ungrateful.
God has said: Those who hoard gold and silver and not spend them in the way of their Lord, then announce to them a grievous punishment (9:34).
Anyone who makes utensils out of gold and silver is ungrateful, because it is similar to taking a wise man and assigning him to manual work which anyone can do. Everyone knows that pots made of copper or clay serve their purpose very well, but clay and copper cannot do the work of gold and silver. Use of gold and silver for purposes where clay and copper will be adequate is a waste of resources. So it is said in the hadith: “Anyone who eats out of gold and silver utensils is feeding hellfire into his stomach”.
From these examples we can understand the difference between being thankful and not being thankful. In our speech and silence, movement and rest, in everything we do we want to be conscious of the distinction between being grateful and ungrateful.
We say that anyone who breaks off a branch from a tree without a real need for it has acted against the wisdom which has created trees because they have been produced for beneficent function. However, if you broke it for a useful purpose then you did not do harm.
Abdel Rahman Aljowzi was born in Baghdad in the year 511 A.H. His biographers say that he read more than twenty thousand books from the libraries in Baghdad. He authored more than three hundred books on history, philosophy, religion and ethics and taught for forty years. He died in the year 597 A.H.
Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. He is the author of The Quran and the Life of Excellence. Dr. Sultan teaches the Quran at the Muslim Reform Movement Organization in their bi-weekly meetings. He developed the reform method of teaching the Quran which makes its insights accessible to people from a large variety of backgrounds.