His Gratitude      

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How was the gratitude of prophet muhammad? What is the gratitude?

“And when your Lord proclaimed: If you give thanks, I will give you more…” (Ibrahim 14; 7)

Gratitude means showing respect and thankfulness to someone for his/her help through actions, words, or thoughts.

Gratitude through words happens by remembering the helper and praising him/her and fulfilling other verbal actions which can be done.

Gratitude through actions means to employ the body and the limbs in the direction of Allah’s contentment. In other words, everybody should protect and help the servants of Allah in the extent of their power and share his wealth with them.

Gratitude of the heart means to know who has given these blessings and to acknowledge His existence.

Junaid al-Baghdadi was taken to pilgrimage by his maternal uncle Sariy al-Sakati when he was seven years old. Gratitude was the topic in one of the scholarly gatherings inside Haram. After everybody in the gathering presented their view, they asked Sariy Sakati to explain his. Sariy turned to Junaid and asked him to speak. After thinking a while Junaid gave the following magnificent answer:

“Gratitude is not to rebel against Allah the Almighty by using the blessings which are bestowed by Him and not to make these blessings a capital for the sinful acts.” (Attar, p. 318)

In a heart where certainty settles and achieves perfection, many great spiritual states manifest themselves. Gratitude is the natural result of this station. Someone who reaches the station of gratitude sees all blessings, hidden and open, which come from Allah the Almighty. Consequently, his love for his Lord increases and he realizes that he is incapable of properly thanking Him.

Knowing the value of kindness, feeling thankfulness to its doer, remembering its doer and praising him are all good manners resulting from gratitude. The following incident is a great example to show us how great the gratitude of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was towards the people who had done something kind to him no matter how little it had been.

Muhammad b. Maslama narrates:

“One day we were with Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). He said to Hasan b. Thabit (r.a.):

“O Hasan! Could you please recite for us an ode from the Age of Ignorance, which is not prohibited by Allah.” He recited a poem from A’sha’, in which he was satirizing Alqamah b. Ulatha. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“O Hasan! Do not recite this poem in my assembly again.” Hasan expressed his confusion saying:

“O Messenger of Allah! Do you prohibit for me from satirizing a polytheist who is with Kaiser?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) replied:

“O Hasan! The one who thanks people most will be the one who thanks Allah the Almighty most. Kaiser once asked Abu Sufyan about me. He did not say nice things about me, but when Kaiser asked the same question to Alqamah, he said very nice things about me.”

Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) expressed his gratitude towards Alqamah. (Ali al-Muttaqi, III, 738-739)

The following narration of Aisha (r.a.) shows how important thanking people is:

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) often told me:

“O Aisha! Could you read some of the couplets that you have memorized?” And I used to tell him saying:

“Which couplets would you like? I know a lot of couplets by memory.” He then would say:

“From the ones about gratitude.” Once I said “May my mother and father be sacrificed for you. A poet said this and that.” And then I recited a poem about the kindness of thanking the goodness of people. Upon this Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told me:

“O Aisha! As Gabriel informed me, when Allah the Almighty resurrects the creation, He will ask the person who had received goodness from others:

“Did you thank the one who had done a favor to you?” And he will reply:

“O Lord! I thanked You for I know that all goodness comes from You.” But Allah the Almighty will tell him:

“You will not properly thank Me as long as you do not thank the person who had done the favor to you.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, III, 741-42)

If thankfulness is stated only by tongue and heart, then it would be incomplete. A complete gratitude can be achieved by the action. As Allah the Almighty created everything with a purpose and wisdom, He bestows His blessings for a purpose. Blessings given to human beings, such as life, faith, and health, are all for the purpose of thanking Allah and serving on His path. The following verse proves this:

“And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and hearts that haply you might give thanks.” (al-Nahl 16; 78) Allah the Almighty has given humans heads and in return asked from them to prostrate to show their thankfulness. He has bestowed upon them legs and requested service and worship as their manifestation of thankfulness.

Gratitude is also a moral quality, which expresses servant’s manners and respect towards Allah the Almighty and elevates the servant’s value in the presence of his Lord. However, people who have such feelings are very few. In this respect, Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“…Give thanks, O house of David! Few of My bondmen are thankful.” (Saba’ 34; 13) Because, human beings are such creations that easily forget and tend towards this world.

Human beings should be in great effort and endeavor in order to attain such nice attributes as patience and gratitude. How elegantly Rumi (q.s.) states this in the following lines:

“The ass, your fleshly soul, has gone off; tie it to a peg. How long will it run away from work and burden, how long? It must bear the burden of patience and thanksgiving, whether for a hundred years or for thirty or twenty. None that is laden supported another’s load; none reaped until he sowed something.” (Mathnawi, II, verses: 729-731) “In (the view of) reason it is necessary to give thanks to the Benefactor; otherwise, the door of everlasting wrath will be opened.” (Mathnawi, III, 2670)

In reality, Allah the Almighty does not need anybody’s gratitude. His Divineness, Might, and Sovereignty, neither ascends as a result of someone’s thankfulness nor descends because of someone’s disbelief. On the contrary, He is the Ruler of everything. Allah the Almighty expresses this fact through the words of Solomon (pbuh) in the Qur’an:

“Whosoever gives thanks he only gives thanks for (the good of) his own soul: and whosoever is ungrateful (is ungrateful only to his own soul’s hurt). For lo! My Lord is Absolute in independence, Bountiful.” (al-Naml 27; 40)

Great blessings and closeness to Allah are bestowed upon those who thank Allah; while beauty, skills, and abilities will be taken from those who do not thank Him. These will be taken from them to such an extent that there will be no signs of these good manners left in them.

In his every act and behavior Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was in a state of thankfulness. Aisha (r.a.) reported this attribute of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:

“The Prophet used to offer prayer at night for such a long time that his feet used to swell. I said to him:

“O Allah’s Apostle! Why do you do it whereas Allah has forgiven all your faults of the past and those to follow?” He said,

“Shouldn’t I love to be a thankful servant of Allah?” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 48/2)

With this saying, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) expresses that the blessings of Allah the Almighty should be regarded as a reason to increase thankfulness to Allah and to not show a decrease the acts of servitude. No matter how few the servants’ sins are, proper manifestation of gratitude for the endless Divine bounties is above human capacity. For this reason, repentance and being aware of one’s weakness are the requirements of servitude. Thus, a person can increase his thankfulness and come closer to Allah the Almighty by continuing the acts of worship. In this respect, Rumi (q.s.) elegantly becomes an interpreter to the lofty feelings of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in the following lines:

“Thanksgiving for the bounty is sweeter than the bounty (itself): how should he that is addicted to thanksgiving go towards (direct his attention to) the bounty? Thanksgiving is the soul of the bounty, and the bounty is as the husk, because thanksgiving brings you to the abode of the Beloved. Bounty produces heedlessness, and thanksgiving alertness: hunt after bounty with the snare of thanksgiving to the King.” (Mathnawi, III, verses: 2895-2897)

Ali (r.a.) said in this regard:

“Some people worship expecting something in return. This is the servitude of a merchant. Some others worship because of their fear and this is the servitude of slaves. And some others worship for thankfulness and this is the servitude of distinguished people.”

Allah the Almighty informs us how He will reward His thanking servants in the following verse:

“…If any do desire a reward in this life, we shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, we shall give it to him. And swiftly shall we reward those that (serve us with) gratitude.” (Al-i Imran 3; 145)

Humans usually incline to become cruel, unfair, and oppress others, when they gain power and wealth; while, thankfulness is one of the good manners that protect them from unruliness; because, thankfulness is the effort to prevent conceit, extremism, and consequently cessation of the blessings. Thanking servants know that all their wealth are the blessings of Allah the Almighty and they are ordered to use these blessings according to Divine Will. The basis of modesty and maturity of the prophets whom great wealth, power, and authority were given, like David and Solomon, is this principle of faith. The real reason for the sorrowful end of Qarun, who went astray because of his wealth, was his deprivation from this understanding and absence of his thankfulness.[1]

If a believer can prove through showing his gratitude that he will not transgress, boast, and get spoiled because of his wealth, Allah the Almighty will bestow upon him more blessings. The next verse expresses this point:

“… If you are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; but if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Ibrahim 14; 7)

This is why the Prophet (pbuh) mentions that a thankful heart is among the greatest blessings given to a human being. Thawban (r.a.) narrates that:

“When the verse “…and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement” (al-Tawba 9; 34) was revealed, we were on an expedition with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Some companions said “the ruling about gold and silver has been sent (so we will no longer save them). We wish we would know which wealth was more valuable, so we could save that.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told them:

“The most superior possessions are a tongue that praises Allah, a thankful heart, and a righteous wife who helps her husband’s faith.” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 9/9)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would tell his companions that they were going to be questioned for even a single meal that they had after days of hunger and that they should be thankful to Allah the Almighty for His blessing. To some extent the following lines of a poet explain the feelings of the Prophet (pbuh):

Some people complain about the thorns of the roses

Whereas I thank that thorns have roses.[2]

Whenever Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw that others did not have such blessings that were bestowed upon him, he would immediately thank Allah. Once he was visiting a crippled and when saw his condition, he immediately got down from his ride and prostrated in gratitude. (Haythami, II, 289) Appreciating the kindness and being thankful for it are the characteristics of mature person.

It is narrated by Sa’d b. AbuWaqqas:

“We set out with the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) from Mecca to go to Medina. When we were near Azwara, he got down from his ride, then raised his hands, and made supplication to Allah for some time, after which he prostrated himself, remaining for a long time in prostration. Then, he stood up and raised his hands for some time, after which he prostrated himself, remaining for a long time in prostration. He repeated this three times.

He then said:

“I begged my Lord and asked for intercession for my people, and He gave me a third of my people, so I prostrated myself in gratitude to my Lord. Then I raised my head and begged my Lord for my people, and He gave me a third of my people, so I prostrated myself in gratitude to my Lord. Then I raised my head and begged my Lord for my people and He gave me the remaining third, so I prostrated myself again in gratitude to my Lord.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 162)

Every blessing which results in happiness and any sadness which one overcomes requires an expression of gratitude. As a matter of fact, as stated by Sa’di Shirazi, we owe two thanks for every breath we take, one for the breath we inhale and one for the one we exhale. Since we will not be able to do that, at least, in addition to the obligatory acts of worship, we should continue to perform the supererogatory ones observed by the Prophet (pbuh). Moreover, we should prostrate ourselves in gratitude when we attain a blessing or we are saved from a trouble, thus we should present our servitude and appreciation. In such times charities given to the needy become the statements of mercy just like the prayers performed for the sake of Allah.

Abdurrahman b. Awf (r.a.) narrates another incident manifesting the thankfulness of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to the blessings of Allah the Almighty:

“One time the Prophet (pbuh) went out the mosque. I secretly followed him. He went into a date grove. He turned towards the qiblah and prostrated himself. He prolonged his prostration so much that I thought he passed away. I went next to him and looked at his face. He raised his head and asked:

“O Abdurrahman! What is the matter?” I replied:

“O Messenger of Allah! You extended your prostration so long that I was worried that you passed away, so I came to you.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“When I went into the garden, I met Gabriel. He heralded me that Allah the Almighty had said: ‘whoever greets you (says salaam to you), I will bestow upon him peace and well-being. Whoever says his prayers upon you, I will pronounce prayers upon him.’” (This is why I went down to prostration.) (Hakim, I, 344)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) increased his thanks and gratitude to Allah the Almighty after the conquest of Mecca. Aisha (r.a.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) began to often recite these words:

“Hallowed be Allah and with His praise, I seek the forgiveness of Allah and return to Him.”

When Aisha (r.a.) asked the reason for this the Prophet (pbuh) explained:

“My Lord informed me that I would soon see a sign in my Ummah, and He ordered me to recite these words often when I see it. Indeed I saw that sign.” (Muslim, Salat, 220)

This state of the Messenger of Allah teaches us that thankfulness and praising Allah is the peak of service to Allah.

We cannot finish counting the blessings of our Lord upon us. This is why the following statements of Rumi (q.s.) is very important to share: “Praises be unto You, O Allah! You did suddenly put me afar from sorrow. If the tip of every hair of me should gain a tongue (power to speak), (yet) the thanks due to Yee are inexpressible.” (Mathnawi, V, verses: 2314-2315)

[1] Qarun, who is talked about in the chapter of al-Qasas in the Qur’an (28; 76-82), had been a righteous person before, but then he ruined his eternal life because of his heedlessness and disobedience. Allah the Almighty caused the earth to swallow him up and his wealth for which he had been bragging. Whatever the servants’ spiritual station, state, and superiority are, their inner selves always lie in ambush and, as soon as it gets a chance, it may ruin their souls.

[2] In other words “you should not complain about the thorns of the roses but be thankful to Allah for His creation of the rose among the thorns.”

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality

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