Friday reflection: On gratitude

Friday reflection: On gratitude

By Muneeb Nasir

“Praise be to God” (Al-Hamdulillaah) are truly the words of a thankful person.

This phrase punctuates a religious Muslim’s lexicon.

Counting one’s blessings, being thankful and grateful to God, is essential to our well-being.

Expressing thanks and being grateful are consistently associated with greater happiness.

Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve our health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

The Muslim 13/14th century theologian, Imâm Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah related in his work, ‘Patience and Gratitude’, this parable  about recognizing God’s blessings from Salman al-Farisi, the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) companion.

Salmân al-Fârsî relates: “There was a man who was given many of the luxuries of this world, and then they were taken away from him.

But he continued to praise and thank God until everything had been taken from him, even his bed.

And then he still praised and thanked God.  Another man, who had also been given many of the luxuries of this world asked him, ‘What are you praising and thanking God for?’

The man said, ‘I am praising and thanking Him for blessings which, if others asked me to give them to them in return for all that they have, I would never give them up.’

‘What can they be?’ asked the second man.

‘Can’t you see?’ asked the first man. ‘I have my eyesight, my tongue, my hands, my feet...’”

Al-Hamdulilaah (Praise be to God) are the words of every thankful person and are the words of the Prophets and the righteous according to Ibn Abbas, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and renowned for his knowledge of the Qur’an which he quotes to support his contention:

… Noah said, “Praise be to God, who delivered us from the wicked people,” (Qur’an, 23:28).

And Abraham said, “Praise be to God, who has granted me Ishmael and Isaac in my old age: my Lord hears all requests!” (Qur’an, 14:39).

And David and Solomon said, “Praise be to God, who has favoured us over many of His believing servants.’ (Qur’an, 27:15).

And God said to His Prophet (Muhammad), “say, ‘Praise belongs to God, who has no child nor partner in His rule. He is not so weak as to need a protector. Proclaim His limitless greatness!” (Qur’an,17:111).

And the residents of the Garden will say, “Praise be to God, who has separated us from all sorrow! Our Lord is truly most forgiving, most appreciative,” (Qur’an, 35:34).

And the last of their prayers is, “Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds,” (Qur’an, 10:10).

Imâm Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah goes on to say that what secures a blessing is gratitude based on three supports – inward recognition of the blessing; outward mention and thanks for the blessing; and its use in ways that pleases God to whom it truly belongs and who truly bestows it.

God offers good news on how gratitude enriches life: “…If you are thankful, I will give you more,” (Qur'an, 14:7).

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and a beloved teacher and author, has written and spoken eloquently on the subject of gratitude.

He advises, “Gratefulness is one of the keys to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.

If we concentrate on what we don't have, we will never, ever have enough. In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

Let’s develop the attitude of gratitude – focus on what we have - not  what we do not have or what we wished we had; and let’s be thankful and grateful to God and use these blessings in ways that pleases Him.