- 29 Nov 2020
Gratitude in Islam
Watercolour painting by ShabinaGallery
Being grateful is so important for our health and wellbeing and is a highly esteemed virtue in Islam. Without sincere gratitude we would deprive ourselves of spiritual advancement and a lack of gratitude can be detrimental.
Definition of Shukur
Shukr (Arabic: شكر) is an Arabic term meaning thankfulness, gratitude or acknowledgment and is a highly esteemed virtue in Islam. The term may also be used if the subject is God, in which case it takes the meaning of "divine responsiveness".
Shukur in an Islamic Context
When the subject of shukr is God, the concept signifies requiting, forgiving a person, or regarding the person with content, satisfaction or good will; and thus, necessarily, "recompensing". In fact, the Arabic saying shakara 'llāhu saʿyahu mean "May God recompense, or reward, his work or labour".
One of the beautiful names of God is al-Shakūr, meaning "He who approves, or rewards, or forgives, much; He in whose estimation small, or few, works performed by His servants increase, and who multiplies His rewards to them". The Qur'an refers to Him by al-Shākir.
God is considered al-Shakūr in the sense that He widely extends His favours. God's shukr is not to be considered thankfulness in a literal sense. Rather God's shukr is a recompense to man for doing good.
Prophets: the Qur'an provides narratives of the prophets of God as individuals of gratitude. Their thanksgiving is exemplified by their obedience and faithfulness to God:
• Abraham’s obedience and faithfulness were tokens of his gratitude to God;
• Noah is described as a man of gratitude;
• The endowment of Solomon with supernatural gifts to accomplish the ends for which God appointed him, was so that he would be grateful.
Shukr in Sunnah (tradition)
It had been narrated that when a pleasing event happened to the Messenger of God ﷺ, he would say, “Praise be to God for this blessing,” and when a distressing event happened to him, he would say, “Praise be to God at all times.”
It was reported that: One night that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was with ‘A’ishah R.A., she said to him, “O Messenger of Allah, why do you exhaust yourself when God has forgiven you your former and latter sins?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “O ‘A’ishah, shouldn’t I be a grateful servant?”
The hadith collections include various reports of Muhammad ﷺ expressing gratitude to God. He fell down prostrate to God three times during the Hijra from Mecca to Medina. He is also reported to have done this after Gabriel informed him a favour God had bestowed upon him. Muhammad ﷺ used to do this to thank God for his good health, especially when he met those afflicted with illness. Other instances on which Muhammad ﷺ prostrated in thanks was when there was military success and when somebody notable became Muslim.
Conditions for Shukr
There are three conditions to a proper and complete praise of God:
1) To know God as the Giver of bounties
2) To be pleased and satisfied with what He has given you
3) Not to use His bounty in the way of disobedience to Him.
Reality of Shukur
In a Sufi context, shukr is an internal state and its external expression. It is considered a station of the wayfarer
Practical application of Shukur:
- Serving others
- Taking care of Orphans
- Assisting the deprived and the Needy
- Showing gratitude to others.
Significance of Shukur:
- It leads to the enhancement of blessings
- A sign of Worshipping Allah (AWJ)
- Gives us peace of mind
- It is a way of remembering Allah (AWJ)
- Being disobedient to the commandment of Shaitan (devil) and obedience to Allah (AWJ)
- A sign of accepting Allah (AWJ) as the provider of favour
- Gaining the pleasure of Allah (AWJ).
How to Achieve Shukur
1) focus on the good in your life and not what you perceive to be bad.
In order to be truly grateful, we need to focus on all the blessings we have in life. We need a mindset change from scarcity to that of gratitude and appreciation.
When you constantly focus on how little you have of something, such as knowledge, money, food, people, relationships etc, or when you are always thinking about how many things are “going wrong” in your life, how many “problems” you have, how “tough” your life is, you are carrying a scarcity mindset.
In this mindset, people choose to look past all the things that are going “right” in their life, all the MORE they have of something, all the ease and comfort they have in their life. That kind of mindset is so toxic and unproductive because it starts a vicious cycle:
- Negativity and scarcity mindset makes you overlook all the positive things in your life
- The good things in your life get overshadowed by all these problems you choose focus on
- And focusing on the problems in turn makes you even more negative and ungrateful.
- There’s just no end to it:
- You get the job, then what? You start focusing on how “single” you are.
- You get married, then what? You worry about “not having any children”.
- You are blessed with children, then what? You shift your focus on “not being able to buy a house”.
- You buy a house, then what? By that time your children have grown up, you focus on how “your child is not building the career you want him to.”
I can go on and on and I’m sure you can too because the majority thinks like that. Like Allah (AWJ) said: most of us are ungrateful people. That is not something to brush off easily. It’s actually quite serious because people who are not internally grateful can never succeed in life.
“The ungrateful never prosper.” [Qur’an Surah 28, Ayah 83]
2) Be grateful for everything big or small.
Everyone is grateful for the big things in their life- at least for a moment before they totally forget about it. But being grateful for the small things too? That’s when it really counts.
Like how easy it is for you to take a shower. Your tap can pour both hot and cold water with one tiny flick. Whereas for some people, they have to first travel a long distance to get water, spend a good 20 mins to heat it up, drag the water buckets to the shower, mix it with cold water and then use it. A tenuous process.
It’s these little things we take for granted that we need to think about more. And praise Allah (AWJ) for them.
Allah (AWJ) says in the Quran: “Exalt Allah for having guided you and that you may be grateful.” [Qur’an Surah 2, Ayah 186]
3) Faith increases patience
Holding on to our Deen in the times of fitnah today, has been compared to grasping hot coal. So let’s not underestimate the value in being grateful for our faith. The stronger our faith is, the more patient we become until we only focus on the good as we know everything comes from Allah (AWJ) for our own good.
4) Show gratitude towards others
The Messenger of Allah (AWJ) said: “Whoever is not grateful to the people, he is not grateful to Allah.” [Tirmidhi]
As much as we want to just be grateful to Allah (AWJ) alone and never mind the people sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. It can be hard to be grateful to the people around you especially when you’re angry at them because of something. Or if they irritate you, or if you don’t like them… Gratitude doesn’t take into consideration any of those emotions.
Being grateful to Allah (AWJ) is so much easier because He is always doing favours upon you. But if our hearts can’t feel thankfulness towards people, especially our parents we can’t sincerely feel grateful to Allah (AWJ).
Start appreciating little things people do for you, tell them you’re grateful and do more in return for them.
5) Do not compare yourself with people you perceive to have more
The Messenger of Allah (AWJ) said: “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” [Ibn Majah]
Your words are a mere reflection of your heart. Comparison belittles your own esteem. You don’t need comparisons to validate yourself. There are many people in the world who would give anything to be where you are!
6) Stop Complaining
People love to complain and rant on about everything that’s going seemingly wrong in their lives and then at the end saying “But, Alhamdulilah for everything.", this in itself is a contradiction!
What you say is what you feel, and you have to feel gratitude, not just say it. If you are complaining most of the time, that means you don’t internally feel grateful for everything good in your life. Most people complain when faced with a problem. When we focus on problems we complain more and this creates feelings of ingratitude.
Gratitude converts every situation into a win-win situation for a Muslim.
7) Daily Habit for Being More Grateful
Notebooks available soon @ ShabinaGallery.com
Every evening we should be taking an account of ourselves. You could start writing a notebook on the things you are grateful to Allah (AWJ) for. Below are some examples:
- Take a moment to appreciate the people around you.
- Think about 3 things you’re grateful for that you’ve never really given much thought to before.
- Pick one person you’re grateful for. Now get super-detailed and list out at least 3 reasons why.
- One material thing you’re grateful for and why? List out at least 3 reasons.
And finally, remember - Don’t just do this once and go back to complaining. Remember you’re in this for the long haul and gratitude should become inherent.