By Sheikh Hamid Waqar
A Muslim’s gratitude towards Allah is of such importance that he should strive night and day to be thankful of the Lord’s bounties. Being grateful is expressing one’s satisfaction of Allah’s blessings, either verbally or through action. There are many verses of the Quran and traditions from the Noble Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (a) that define what gratitude is and its level of importance.
One must have a certain level of understanding before he can be grateful. He must be able to recognize both the blessings that have been given to him and the one who has sent these blessings. One can only be grateful to Allah if he recognizes a certain blessing, such as health, and determines that Allah has graced him with this blessing.
In order further one’s comprehension of this matter, the term blessing must be defined. Religiously speaking, a blessing is anything that brings one closer to Allah. Therefore, one item can be a blessing for one and a curse for another. Take wealth for example, one’s wealth will be a blessing if he uses it in such a way that it brings him closer to Allah. But, his wealth can be a curse if he uses it for haram purposes or does not give enough charity.
Thus, a blessing does not always have to be pleasant. Sometimes a misfortune in life can bring one closer to Allah. In this case, this misfortune would be considered a blessing. The English phrase ‘blessing in disguise’ points to this sort of bounty. For instance: “His accident was a blessing in disguise because it gave him a new perspective on life; a perspective leading him towards Allah.”
Hence, when the Prophet (s) faced something pleasant he would say: “Alhamdulillah for this blessing.” When he would face something unpleasant he would say: “Alhamdulillah in every state.” In addition to this, the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) have discussed the issue of gratitude towards Allah in great detail. Take the following traditions as examples:
Imam Sadiq (a) has said: “Every single breath you take necessitates an essential thanks from you, or rather a thousand thanks or more.” There are a couple of noteworthy points found in this tradition. First, “every single breath necessitates…thanks.” This means that no matter how small the blessing might seem one must express his gratitude to Allah (Of course for those who are drowning or choking, one small breath would not seem small at all). Second, the phrase “or rather a thousand thanks or more” points to the fact that one must be grateful for the ability to thank Allah for each breath. Then, he must be grateful for being grateful, and so on.
Imam Ali (a) has said: “When Allah bestows bounty upon a servant, no sooner does the latter feel thankful for it in his heart than he becomes deserving of increase therein before the expression of thanks has even reached his tongue.” The Imam is showing the believers one of the secrets to increasing the amount of blessings that Allah gives him. The secret is being grateful to Allah. Whenever one is grateful, Allah will add to his blessings. This is similar to another tradition by the Prophet (s) that states: “Allah does not open the door of thanks for His servant and keep the door of increase shut.”
There are various methods of expressing one’s gratitude towards Allah. The easiest way is verbally praising Him. Imam Sadiq (a) said: “The thanks of any blessing, no matter how big, is praising Allah.” Higher levels of gratitude include refraining from sin and worship. Imam Sadiq (a) said: “Being thankful for a blessing is staying away from sin.” Regarding worship, Imam Ali (a) said: “And a group worships Allah in thanks; these are the free worshipers.”
Therefore, when one recognizes the blessings that he has been given by Allah, it is incumbent upon him to verbally praise Allah and then try to refrain from sin as an expression of his gratitude. It is essential that one try his best to remember Allah’s bounties and be thankful for them. Allah states in the Quran: “If you are grateful, I will surely enhance you [in blessing], but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is indeed severe”(14:7).