Gratitude lies at the core of man’s relationship with Allah. It may be expressed by the heart, tongue, through deeds, words and gestures. As to the gratitude flowing from the heart, it is the proper response for innumerable divine favours. A grateful person is always mindful of being indebted for Allah’s bounties, big and small, and articulates his feelings t every step to express gratitude.
This feeling of constant gratitude has a very significant bearing on man’s deeds, For he is pleased to do the deeds that please Allah, his benefactor. Conversely, he is averse to anything that amounts to ingratitude in response to a divine bounty. One who truly appreciates divine bounty. One who truly appreciates divine bounties can never reconcile himself to abusing them by acting against Allah’s will. If someone gives us a weapon that can help us to defend ourselves, only a wicked person would abuse that weapon to hurt the one who gave it. One who truly appreciates divine bounties is never ready to abuse them in the cause of Satan. Umm al-Mu’minin A’ishah made this point in her letter Amir Mu’awiyah; ‘A person blessed with some favour owes the minimum obligation of not abusing that favour against his benefactor.’
To develop a constant feeling of gratitude and a sound consciousness on this count, the first and foremost ask is to constantly acknowledge and declare the favours bestowed upon by Allah. It is a general human weakness that if someone is afflicted with some misfortune, he is continually mentioning it which he constantly enjoys. He disregards these as if these do not exist. Such a person is not likely to appreciate the favours done to him by his benefactor. To overcome this weakness, we should devote a little time every day to reflect on the bounties we enjoy and to study divine signs scattered around us. We should reflect too on what our state would be if he had not been blessed by Allah with the favours we are currently enjoying. If we had not been endowed with eyes,, ears, limbs and brain, we would not have been able to accomplish anything. We would have led a miserable life.
Another equally important point to remember is that Allah has granted us innumerable favours even though we have not deserved them. By definition, Allah is not obliged to do us these favours, and we can never repay Him in any measure for His bounties. While cannot repay Him, he can deprive us of His favours whenever He will, and there is no one to stop Him from doing so. A king may be reduced to a pauper; so he should not dismiss a lowly person, for Allah may degrade us to the same position, we should constantly praise Him for His favours to us.
Another help in encouraging gratitude is not to look at those who have been blessed with more than us, but at those who have been blessed with less. Those who fail to do this are always complaining of their difficulties and problems and are never blessed with satisfaction or contentment. Even when their lot improves, they do not experience true contentment . This is because it is impossible to be in a state that is in all respects better than that of everyone else. The only way to express our gratitude to Allah is to be constantly mindful that we are servants of Allah – some of His servants are not granted as much as we ave, and others are favoured with more than us.
The wisdom in that approach is well illustrated by an anecdote related by Shaikh Sa’di. While travelling he reached Damascus in a miserable condition. He did not have any money to buy new shoes to replace his old ones. It pained him that he was unable to buy a pair of new shoes. With these thoughts he entered the mosque where he observed a lame person, without feet. On seeing this, he immediately fell into prostration, thanking Allah profusely for having provided him with feet, if not with new shoes. This incident identifies the perspective in which we should look at things. Those with a feeling of gratitude observe numerous manifestations of Allah’s favours which then fill them with greater gratitude. However, there are others who are always complaining of what they do not have, and are therefore unable to thank Allah for the many blessings He has bestowed upon them.
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