It is true that while many of us possess so much, beyond our basic needs, a sense of contentment never settles within us. As much as this is the case with tangible things like having a house, a car, fancy clothes, and a variety of food choices, it can take shape in the form of intangibles, too. For instance, we often find ourselves complaining and ranting over things that seem to be consuming us in terms of our energy and responsibilities. And, parenting definitely tops our lists!
Shifting our Paradigm
The word gratitude, in Arabic, is captured as Shukr. And, while we most commonly tend to associate it in a conventional perspective, that is being in a state of thankfulness for what you receive, it is very different from an Islamic point of view. In the Islamic context, shukr or gratitude extends well beyond the general notion of thankfulness.
According to Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, a well-respected Islamic jurisconsult, theologian, and spiritual writer, shukr is when we manifest gratitude in the following ways;
- shukr bi'l qalb or gratitude expressed by the heart
This is when we express gratefulness through feelings of subordination and submissiveness towards Allah.
- shukr bi'l lisan or gratitude expressed by the tongue
This is typically done through verbal praise and acknowledgment for the blessings bestowed by the benefactor.
- shukr bi'l badan wal ar'kan or gratitude expressed by the body and limbs
This includes the expression of gratefulness through acts of obedience and unwavering devotion.
This concise, yet comprehensive, definition of gratitude combines both outward expression and inward experiences, which together exemplify our character.
Allah says in the Quran:
"Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful"
(Surah Al-Insan, 76:3)
In lieu of this Quranic verse, it is evident that being grateful sets apart a true believer from those who are ungrateful for the bounties and blessings bestowed upon them by their Creator. And, through this, we can also establish that being grateful encapsulates the essence of worship. With reference to the Seerah or life and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, narrated Abdullah bin Amr, the Messenger of Allah said:
"’Praise be to God’ is the beginning of thanksgiving, for the man who does not praise God has not thanked Him."
The Virtues of Expressing Gratitude
Although most of us admit that being grateful is very important, when it comes to practicing and manifesting it through inward and outward expression, we tend to falter and stumble. Sometimes unable to recognize it while at other instances taking things for granted, we involuntarily overlook the many benefits that are tied to being grateful. Even research suggests that expressing gratitude brings with it a greater sense of physical and emotional well-being for the individual.
Here are some other benefits which are associated with shukr or gratefulness.
1. Brings greater reward from Allah.
Allah says in the Quran:
"No soul can ever die without Allah’s Will at the destined time. Those who desire worldly gain, We will let them have it, and those who desire heavenly reward, We will grant it to them. And We will reward those who are grateful."
(Surah Al-Imran, 3:145)
Our faith is put to its true test when we are faced by hardships and challenges. It is in those weak moments that being grateful can bring about the greatest reward for a believer. One also needs to acknowledge that Allah’s love, mercy, and affection towards His creation extends in unusual ways. For instance, when He conceals our faults. It is out of Allah’s mercy and generosity that He not only continues to forgives us but when we express our gratitude, He blesses us abundantly and hides our shortcomings from others.
Our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, reiterated gratitude in context to fasting, saying:
"A grateful eater is equal to a patient fasting person."
2. Instills feelings of contentment.
From a conventional perspective, we know that practicing mindfulness and gratitude brings positive energy and trail of thoughts. This is because naturally when we shift our focus on recognizing the good in contrast to the bad, it automatically makes us feel content and happy.
Similarly, when we express gratitude to Allah through acts of devotion, patience, words, and also charity, it makes us humble, content, and more grateful.
3. Acts as a shield against Hellfire.
One of the qualities of the disbelievers is that they are ungrateful. And, such people fail to recognize Allah's blessings at all costs. They overlook His traits of compassion, mercy, and generosity. Regarding them, Allah mentions clearly in the Quran:
"And ˹remember˺ when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more. But if you are ungrateful, surely My punishment is severe.’”
(Surah Ibrahim, 14:7)
We know that one of the virtues of charity is also that it will shield us from the Hellfire and, since the act of charity is a way thanking Allah, we can safely establish that manifesting gratitude will help keep us away from falling into the pit of self-destruction.
4. Strengthens our faith.
When we develop the habit of consciously praising our Lord and thanking Him for His blessings and mercy, we automatically feel the difference in our lives, in terms of contentment and happiness. And, we feel spiritually uplifted.
Contrastingly, at times there are negative events which also bring along blessings in disguise. And hence, it is important to stay grounded in those moments, consider them as blessings and likewise express gratitude for those, too. For instance, when experiencing a mid-life crisis or going through divorce. In this way, when we place our difficulties in life into context by recognizing that our challenges are temporary and could have been worse, we are better able to “bind” or preserve our blessings, through the rope of shukr. Resultantly, this draws us closer to Allah and strengthens our trust in Him, alone.
"And be patient! Certainly Allah does not discount the reward of the good-doers."
(Surah Hud, 11:115)
By reflecting on the Greatness of Allah and His perfect attributes, we can surely attain peace and greater reward in this world, and the Hereafter.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.