Faith, Practice

Have you ever pondered your place on Earth and given thanks?

In this world of constant and instant gratification, hedonism and materialism, how often do you manage to just pause for a moment and be grateful for the innumerable blessings bestowed upon you?

Let me put it another way, looking at just the first two minutes of a typical day, you will be baffled by the blessings taken for granted. As you awake from a trouble free and deep sleep, without the worry of warfare, burglary, crime and so on, and you inhale that first breath of consciousness, neglecting to think of the number of people who didn’t awake from their slumber, have you remembered to thank God? As you proceed to perhaps check your latest smartphone for messages, and then roll out of your comfortable bed with your limbs intact and fully functional, able to hear the morning birds chirp and be hit by the glorious sunshine as you draw the curtains, have you remembered to thank God?

I hope you get my point; before we have even truly got our day off to start, as it were, there are already so many gifts granted to us by God, which we have become accustomed to, that we no longer even think to be grateful for them. In hadith al Qudsi (the divine traditions), it is said,

Each day I send down to you My bounties, but you are not thankful to Me for them. You are not content with little or are you satisfied with much. Oh, son of Adam! Not a single day misses but that your provision comes to you from Me, and not a single night passes, but that My angles give Me accounts of your bad deeds. You eat My provision, and you still disobey Me; but still, when you call Me, I still answer you. From Me, good bounties descend upon you and from you, sinful deeds come up to Me. How good a master I am and how bad a servant you are!”

Take a step back and ponder on where you fit in this world.

  • If you’re reading this article, you are amongst the 85% of the world who are literate (UNICEF Adult Literacy rate 2015)
  • You’re almost certainly part of the 90% of people who have access to safe water, as well as the 67% of people who have access to a toilet (statistics from Water.org)
  • Chances are, reading articles on this website, means you belong to the 24% strong global Muslim community (Wikipedia 2015).
  • And, if you don’t require glasses to read this article, nor for daily life, then you’re from amongst the fortunate 35% of the world who have 20/20 eyesight (uihc.org).

I won’t insult your intelligence with further percentages and demographics, but if you compound those stats, you belong to the most fortunate 4.3% of the plane. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, and those of you who are partial to some statistics will realise that the facts above are not mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, what is absolutely clear is that if you did start to try and count your blessings (as the phrase goes), you would most definitely struggle, and more importantly, you will begin to understand just how fortunate and blessed you are – and the idea of gratefulness really should hit home. It is of great significance, therefore, that an entire chapter of the Quran, the fifty-fifth, is named ar-Rahman – meaning the most merciful or bountiful. In fact, the term Rahman comes from the root word rahm, which is thought to be the state of a foetus in the womb of its mother, where it is in the most blissful state receiving constant sustenance from its nurturer. Throughout this glorious chapter, God constantly challenges the reader, “and which of the bounties I have provided do you overlook?”

Or go to the first chapter of the Quran, sometimes referred to as Surah al-Hamd, and the very first word is Alhamdulillah – which means, all praise is for Allah. Whilst thanks is offered after receiving and recognising a favour, praise goes beyond, and encompasses those things you are unaware or heedless of. The Quran therefore, from the get go, encourages us to thank God and remember the graces He has given to us, so that we may build that relationship with Him and thus preventing us from becoming prideful and arrogant, lest we think we have created our own ‘good fortune’. Moreover, Allah has instructed us in chapter 2, verse 152; “remember me and I will remember you, and thank Me, and do not deny me”. The act of being grateful is something God wants and likes from us, and in addition, for doing so He will reciprocate with remembering us, and surely there cannot be anyone better than Him to remember and provide for us.

In our very busy and fast paced lives it can become so easy to not only forget to be grateful and give thanks for the multitude of opportunities and blessings we have been endowed with, but also to forget that these are all, ultimately, from Allah. As the prophet Muhammad has said, “Allah does not open the door of thanks for His servant and keep the door of increase shut”. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say we should thank God out of anything but sincere gratitude, but it highlights the absolute mercy of God, that even when we thank He loves to then give more.

Thankful is the least we can be, and that in itself allows us to become more humble, in tune with God and ultimately content – and nothing makes the human being happier than the feeling of contentment. Maybe we don’t have all the latest gadgets, or the fastest car, or the largest house, or even the most extravagant food, but for sure we already have more than we can be thankful for. I leave you with the words of Ali ibn Hussain, known for his emphatic supplications, through which he encapsulates the beauty of giving thanks, “So how can I ever achieve thanksgiving?! For my thanking You requires thanksgiving in itself. Whenever I say, ‘to You belongs praise [thanks]’, it becomes thereby incumbent upon me to say, ‘to You belongs praise [thanks]’”.

And surely God is all-knowing.

Muntadhir is a teacher in secondary school in the UK.

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