By Yaaseen Masvood
The Qur’ān states: “And few of my servants are grateful.” (34:13)
It is from the infinite wisdom of Allah that He chooses to confer certain favours upon certain individuals. How each of these favours manifests itself on an individual would be different for different individuals. Whatever the manner and whatever the quantum of such favours, one should realise that each of these favours is from Allah. And if you should count the favour of Allah, you could not enumerate them, proclaims the Qur’an (14:34). Hence, it is best to understand that these favours one enjoys in this world are purely Divine Bounties from Allah and that these favours should take him/her closer in obedience to Allah by truly being thankful to Him in every manner possible.
Shukr, which in Arabic, means thankfulness and gratitude (to Allah), can be said to be quintessence of Islam, the other being Sabr (patience and perseverance). This is so because there can be no iota of doubt in the fact that whatever one enjoys in this world is from Allah and it is only befitting that the one who enjoys such a blessing shows gratitude to the One Who conferred such a bounty on him/her. These favours could be materialistic well-being, physical faculties, intellectual abilities, social status, spiritual enhancements and so on. They could also be manifest/ hidden, specific/ common and quantitative/ qualitative. Each of these categories of favours needs to be acknowledged with thankfulness and gratitude and failure to do so would be tantamount to utter disdain and contempt of Allah.
It is from the favours of Allah that He not only gave us these benefits but also taught us to be grateful to Him for these favours. On the other hand, it is the plot of the devil to hinder our efforts to do so and to obstruct them in whatever way possible. The devil (Iblees) swore to Allah to deny mankind from being true obedient slaves of Allah, when he said: “Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them to be thankful.” (7:17) It is clear from this verse that the Shaytaan will go all out to attack mankind in a manner that they turn ingrates in the sight of Allah. Allah’s protection is sought!
Being thankful to the favours of Allah and showing gratitude to His blessings is a command from Allah, as He says: “So Remember me, I will remember you, be grateful to Me and never be ungrateful to Me (2:153).” Allah promises more rewards for thanking Him, as Allah says elsewhere in Surah Ibrahim: “If you give thanks, I will give you more.” This means that so long as we remain grateful to Allah for His innumerable favours upon us, we can expect Allah to keep giving more of His favours. For example, if one were to show gratefulness to Allah for the faculty of sight given by Allah by utilising the sight only to please Allah and not to use it in a manner that will earn the wrath and displeasure of Allah, then Allah would continue not only to provide the faculty of sight to the individual, but also give him good quality sight throughout his life, even in his old age, when sight tends to get worse. The same logic could be applied to all such favours.
Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that though Allah deserves all praise and thanks, it does not benefit Him a wee bit and on the contrary, it is we who stand to benefit out of our gratitude to Him. This is also clearly brought out in the ayah: “Indeed, We blessed Luqman with wisdom, (saying): Be grateful to Allah, for whoever is grateful, it is only for their good. And whoever is ungrateful, then surely Allah is Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.(31:12)” This ayah also highlights the fact that Allah commanded Luqman (alaihis salam) to give thanks to Him for all the blessings and favours Allah had given him.
Throughout the Qur’ān, we will find that shukr (thankfulness/gratitude) has been associated with the pleasure of Allah, and ingratitude/ungratefulness with the disbelief/denial of Allah, as Allah says: “If you disbelieve, then verily, Allah is not in need of you, He likes not belief for His servants. And if you are grateful, He is pleased therewith for you.” (39:7)
Allah keeps making a mention of the importance He attaches to the subject on hand by quoting the instances of how He advised the people of the previous prophets. In the beginning of Surah Isra, He says: O offspring of those whom We carried (in the ship) with Nuh, Verily he was a grateful servant. (17:3)” In a similar ayah, Allah says: “Do good, O family of Dawood, in thankfulness. And verily few from My slaves are thankful.”(34:13)
If we analyse this ayah, it becomes clear that Allah did not say “ushkurnee” (which means “Thank Me”), rather He said: “I’maloo shukra” (which means “Do good in thankfulness”). This shows that to be grateful, one needs to do acts of virtue/goodness and to abstain from all forms of vices and disobedience to Allah. (Tafseer Ma’ariful Qur’ān) Merely uttering words of praises of Allah without being obedient to Him in all situations will only mean doing lip service and not fulfilling the spirit of being grateful to Him.
In a famous incident that happened during the time of the second caliph of Islam, Umar bin Al Khattab, he heard a person supplicating to Allah with the words: “O Allah! Make me among the few.” Caliph Umar asked him: “What kind of a supplication is this?” The man said: “I heard Allah saying: “And few of my servants are grateful.” So I call upon Allah to make me among these few. Caliph Umar said: “All of the people know better than Umar.” From this incident, it becomes clear that the trait of being grateful is something that we should constantly seek Allah’s help for.
Although Allah makes a mention of different prophets and the excellent moral characters that they displayed during their life, He praised only Prophet Sulaiman and Prophet Ayyoob, saying they were excellent servants. This was because the former was gratefulness-personified and while the latter was patience-personified. This again shows the importance Islam attaches to being ever-grateful to Allah. While most religions teach ways to worship their gods to fulfil their material needs, Islam is the only religion that teaches to worship God to be thankful for all His favours. (To be concluded)