Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah" (Ahmad, Tirmidhi).
What’s interesting is that he did not mention limit thankfulness to relatives, only Muslims or believers. He used the Quranic term “Naas” which means all human beings. So the attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness to each and all, Muslim or non-Muslim, neighbor or non-neighbor, is the way to be thankful to God.
This reflects a winning attitude toward life. Life would be miserable if we only counted the people who do bad things. We can keep worrying about them or start counting the jewels of humanity that are all around us and start recognizing each good thing they have to offer. Anytime anyone does any favor, a little courtesy and you say thank you in a way that your whole face is smiling, not just your visible teeth and your eyes are in their eyes, you offer your best self.
There is thank you and then there is the real thank you. Sometimes, thank yous come out without us even thinking about them. We receive many of those all day long and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s common courtesy and somewhere in your subconscious, you mean it as well, giving and receiving it casually.
In this world, many of us watch sports on television more than we play, laugh at comedy on the internet instead of being humorous and joyful with each other. Perhaps this is why, very often, our expressions of thankfulness often reflect this distance we have from others, a lack of direct contact where we barely look at the person we are being grateful for as we mutter “thanks”.
I don’t hate many things in life. I actually don’t remember anyone I hate. Hate to me is not casual. It’s a very strong word. But I feel very bad when I say thank you and the person on the other side says “uh huh”. I really feel like telling this person, “Look at me! I really mean it!”. But I don’t. So if you are on the receiving end of thank you, you should really respond in a better way. Allah has guided us in the Quran to do better. When you greet someone, respond with something better (Quran 4:86). And that is what most humans do. But it may be a good idea to remember that when you, in a busy day, get a thank you, take a half second to say “you are most welcome!” in the best possible manner with the presence of mind and heart.
In the Quran, Allah reminds us that, "if ye are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you…” (14:7). Interestingly, this applies to human beings as well. When we are grateful to others, they are more than willing to help us and do good for us. Think of that nice boss or co-worker who helped you move up in your career or that professor or teacher who went out of their way to help you with a difficult class. They helped you over an extended period of time and it’s likely you expressed your profuse thanks for their help.
Let’s stop practicing “auto pilot thanksgiving” and start expressing heartfelt thanks, to God and His Creation.
It is one small way we can not only reconnect with people beyond tweets and texts, but it will also deepen our relationship with Allah.