What is the praise in islam? What is the gratitude in islam? How to perform gratitude?
“Certainly, We gave Luqman wisdom, saying, ‘Give thanks to Allah; and whoever gives thanks, gives thanks only for his own sake. And whoever is ungrateful, Allah is indeed Sufficient, Praiseworthy.” (Luqman, 31: 12)
Praise (hamd) and gratitude (shukr) are two deeds integral to being a servant. This is verified by the fact that the first verse of the Qur’an reads:
“All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.”
To ‘praise’ is to exalt and glorify the Almighty’s infinite majesty, and manifestations of His art and attributes; while ‘gratitude’ is to thank and pay tribute for His innumerable gifts and blessings, through words, action and in the heart. Both concepts share similar meanings.
Hamd and shukr are naturally required from the human being, as he is the most honorable of all creation and stands on the peak of a hierarchy of existence that runs from the simplest to the most complex. For the same reason, this is among Islam’s profoundest issues.
A person who has maintained the dignity and nobility he was created with, feels a need within his conscience to thank, even if it be for just a glass of water. With this being the case, it is utterly inconceivable for him to remain aloof to his Lord, the source of all blessings and the provider of all things. This can only be explained with a lack of thought and feeling.
The fact that the cosmos is decked out as delicately as a bridal chamber way beyond the most imaginative mind and taste, that the atoms and cells display countless instances of divine power, that fruits and flowers wear a myriad of fragrances, and that animals from the meekest to the wildest are incredibly regulated and organized according to their particular dispositions, are only to ensure that the wonder of creation, the human being, properly fulfils his duty of servanthood.
A true believer is a virtuous person who is reasonable, conscious and aware of the duty he has as servant.
For servants who truly want to be thankful, recognizing blessings alone is not enough. They also need to recognize the Provider and fulfil their obligations to Him. Tracing blessings to their Origin inspires to draw people to the Lord, and enables wisdom and love to blossom within their hearts.
Without a doubt, there is no particle in the universe that does not exalt (tasbih) Allah (jj) with praise (hamd). Even animals know their own tasbih. The involuntary supplications of creatures other than human beings, are known as tashiri tasbih. These are felt and heard only by people of heart. And since man is the most perfect species on this chain of existence, the way he expresses praise and gratitude should reflect his standing.
Each blessing we neglect giving thanks for, turns into a burden. It leaves no trace behind but blame.
The essential duty of every servant is to acknowledge and thank the real Owner of blessings.
What is a blessing?
Again, its measure is provided by the inspiring light of the Qur’an. It is the Qur’an that teaches us the true nature of blessings. In turn, it is by giving thanks that we are able to grasp the wisdom underlying the cosmos and the nature of man. Allah (jj) says:
“Certainly We gave Luqman wisdom, saying, ‘Give thanks to Allah.” (Luqman, 31: 12)
The verse alludes to how a thankful servant is given insight into the truth that underlies the realm of wisdom and mysteries; and it is through maintaining a thankful state of mind that one reaches this level.
The Almighty manifests His will in the universe in four ways:
Wrath that appears as grace,
Grace that appears as wrath.
When the eye looks at events as if to stare at a mirror that only shows how things appear on the surface, it only grasps the appearance; and hence, is often deceived. Yet, a mind trained under divine revelation is able to peek into events, like an x-ray, through the eye of heart, beyond the point closed off to the mind. At that point, the grace of having grasped wisdom frees a person from many a pain and anxiety. The Qur’an, in fact, states:
“Yet, it may be that you dislike something that is good for you, and love something that it is bad for you. Allah knows, you do not.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 216) This hints at both grace that appears as wrath and wrath that appears as grace.
On the other hand, once the comprehension develops and the heart matures enough to begin climbing to the peak of spirituality, what is understood by a ‘blessing’, also changes. It assumes a higher meaning, which the general public can hardly fathom. At that point, one is able to discern a positive warning or wisdom even within a manifestation of wrath. This level is symbolized in the words of Haci Bayram Veli:
Whatever comes from You is fine
Whether a rose or a spine
A believer whose spirit has assumed this blend recognizes every manifestation as a blessing that calls for praising and thanking the Lord. While the general public may see grace within a wrath or wrath within a grace only when they look back on the event, wiser people can see this a lot earlier, because of the effort they have made in refining their souls. Thus, while the duty of the general public is to give thanks for a blessing and be patient with a wrath, for the spiritual elite (khawas), the four manifestations of divine will mentioned above, are one and the same. So, their conduct towards the Lord does not change. Praising the Lord during wrath not only protects one from a greater wrath, it also serves to overturn it. Whatever the situation may be, the Prophet (saw) has recommended saying:
“Praise be to Allah under all circumstances!” Standing outside this spiritual state of mind is to effectively declare war on fate, for no other reason than ignorance.
Yet, people who know how to reap profit from all situations by giving praise and thanks, are at the furthermost point of joy Islam promises. Hearts are at peace and serenity, only to the extent they are able to reach this point.
An example for grace that appears as wrath, is the tribulation undergone by Jacob (as) and Joseph (as). The Almighty put them through severe grief, hardship and separation that required a maximum level of patience, only so that they could unravel the mystery of ‘being with the Lord’ at all times, cut connections with all things else and thereby ascend the grand heights of spirituality. It was in fact the pain of having spent long years apart from each other that perfected them, and gave birth to an experience the Qur’an refers to as ‘the most beautiful story of all’.
Similarly, for the companions, the Hudaybiyah Treaty the Prophet (saw) signed with the pagans, appeared like a defeat, a ‘manifestation of wrath’. It was only afterwards they realized how great a blessing it in fact was. The treaty opened the gates of conquest; and the number of people who entered Islam in the next two years alone, was almost incomparably more than those who had become Muslim in the previous nine years. On top of all that, Mecca was taken without resistance.
As for wrath that appears like grace, the people of Aad provide a vivid example. After seeing black clouds appear in the skies, they mocked Hud (as), saying:
“You speak of destruction…but look, there is a great rain coming!” They had fooled themselves. The clouds came with storms that turned them upside down and brought only annihilation.
For those dazzled by the glitters of the world and lay waste to their hereafter thinking they will live here forever, this fleeting world is nothing but a wrath that will catch up with them on the day of resurrection. The Qur’an explicitly recounts how such fools, who supposed the earth was a paradise offering them endless pleasures, have met their end.
Again, wealth may appear like grace. However, unless it is spent in the way of Allah (jj), it will turn into a wrath in the hereafter and pile misery on its owner.
People of wisdom beautifully describe how the universe constantly shakes between manifestations of grace and wrath.
“For the wise, the world is a display of beauty, while for the fool, it is to satisfy the appetite and lust.”
Whatever people own belongs to Allah (jj). The true owner of all blessings, whether they come from nature or humans, is their Creator. Being alert to this fact is required for having a sound heart. Created beings are only means that carry out a specific purpose.
In delivering these blessings, all means serve like employees. The true Owner and Provider of a blessing is the Lord of the universe. A believer should thus feel more indebted to the Sender than the deliverer, and lead a life of gratitude. Devotion to the means or the people transporting these blessings, at the expense of forgetting their real Provider, is incompatible with the dignity of being human.
With that said, morals and courtesy require us to also thank the person who has served as the means. The Prophet (saw) says:
“Upon receiving a favor, if one prays for the person with the words ‘May Allah grant you blessings!’, he would have more than repaid his debt of gratitude.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 87/2035)
Yet, it would be ridiculous to thank only the mortal being, who is no more than a means or a cashier, and forget the real Provider. As part of Allah’s (jj) law, everything in the cosmos is tied to a cause. Yet, one must not dwell too much on these causes to the point of forgetting the Creator of each cause.
And the Almighty warns us so beautifully:
“Have they not regarded the birds taking flight in the sky? No one sustains them except Allah. In that, there are indeed signs for people of faith.” (Al-Nahl, 16: 78)
There are three ways to thank the Lord:
This is the lowest degree of gratitude. It consists of showing appreciation to Allah (jj) with words like, “My Lord! An eternal thanks to You!”
While the Qur’an says:
“and as for your Lord’s blessing, proclaim it” (Al-Duha, 93: 11), it is unfortunate that diseased or dead hearts say the Lord’s name even less than animals. This demotes them to a level the Qur’an describes as ‘lowest of the low’ (asfali safilin) and ‘lower than beasts’ (bal hum adall).
This is to spend the blessings the Lord has given on His path, in a manner He has prescribed. Thus, thanking for wealth is through charity, thanking for knowledge is through teaching others, and thanking for health is through using every limb on the way of the truth.
Thanking with the Heart
This is devotion to the Creator through love and wisdom, and being content under all circumstances.
The truth is that it is impossible to properly thank Allah (jj) for blessings. This is beyond human power. Even prophets have sought constant forgiveness due their inability to truly thank the Lord. The Prophet (saw) has said:
“I repent a hundred times a day…” (Muslim, Dhikr, 42)
Just to think how many times this should be for ordinary human beings, solely on account of their inability to thank the Lord properly!
On the other hand, even the ability to praise and thank is a gift from the Lord. It is yet another divine blessing. If we extend this logic to eternity, it becomes clear that each show of gratitude warrants another, making it impossible to reach the end of this chain to allow us to repay our debt of gratitude to the Lord. This is why even prophets are helpless in properly fulfilling this duty in its truest sense.
We must, therefore, accept our inability to truly grasp the Lord’s blessings and to properly thank for each and every one of them; and persist with thanking and praising the Lord as much as we can. The wisdom, ‘Whoever knows his self, knows his Lord’ also alludes to how knowing the Lord runs through coming to terms with one’s own incapacity before the divine art and blessings that appear in the soul.
Blessings are infinite, while tongues are tied and bodies are weak. One of the greatest blessings is to not forget the Owner of blessings. Thanking increases a blessing, while its lack decreases it.
Gratitude is an investment in paradise, while ingratitude is a certificate for hell. Being ungrateful is foolish and brings the person only harm. For example, not thanking for wealth by withholding alms, transforms the wealth from a blessing into a tribulation. For its owner, it becomes trouble. About these people, the Almighty warns, “Give them news of a grave punishment!” (Al-Tawbah, 34)
Elsewhere, He declares:
“Then, that day, you will surely be questioned concerning the blessing.” (Al-Takathur, 102: 8)
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you in blessing, but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is indeed severe.” (Ibrahim, 14: 7)
“And whoever gives thanks, gives thanks only for his own sake. And whoever is ungrateful, Allah is indeed Sufficient, Praiseworthy.” (Luqman, 31:12)
Giving thanks for every blessing, is man’s most important duty of servanthood. A believer with this awareness cannot spend a minute without praising the Lord. The ethics of gratitude towards the Creator constitutes one half of the entire gift that is faith. The Prophet (saw), in fact, says:
“Giving thanks is one half of faith.” (Suyuti, Al-Jamiu’s-Saghir, I, 107)
An intelligent person must look up to people who possess spiritual qualities, and strive to become like them. Financially, he must look at those below him and be thankful for his situation.
Prophets, as well as saints and scholars, have made thanks an integral part of their daily prayers.
Regarding Noah (as), the Qur’an says:
“Indeed, he was a grateful servant.” (Al-Isra, 17: 3)
About Abraham (as):
“He was grateful for his blessings.” (Al-Nahl, 16: 121)
And regarding Luqman (as):
“Certainly We gave Luqman wisdom, saying, ‘Give thanks to Allah!” (Luqman, 31: 12)
The Prophet (saw) would pray so much at night that his feet would swell from standing. When Aisha (ra) said:
“Messenger of Allah; you are the Lord’s beloved, and already forgiven. Must you put your body through so much pain?”
The Prophet (saw) replied:
“Should not I be a thankful servant, Aisha?” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 48/2; Muslim, Munafiqin, 81)
The subject of shukr is so vast and deep that it is impossible to properly explain. Only those who live and breathe it, can feel its blessings and inspiration.
The point, however, is that every person should make an effort to give thanks for the blessings he is given. Such that:
Scholars should give thanks by practicing what they know and teaching others denied of the knowledge God has gifted them. A wonderful example is Imam Azam Abu Hanifah. All his life, the founder of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence donated his knowledge in the best possible way, and raised scholars like Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammed and Imam Zufar, whose rulings will continue to illuminate the Islamic world until the final hour. To protect the honor and dignity of knowledge and avoid passing a ruling that suited the whims of a tyrant caliph, he even preferred being whipped and tortured in prison over accepting the post of the chief judge of Baghdad, one of the highest positions of the time.
The rich should give thanks by donating their wealth where needed in the way of God, in line with the message of the verse:
“Be good to others just as Allah has been good to you.” (Al-Qasas, 28: 77) They should not take pride in what they possess, knowing its true owner is Allah (jj). In short, they should strive to become what Islam describes as ‘the thankful rich’ (aghniya-i shakirin).
Wastefulness, which is the opposite of being thankful, is to take what Allah (jj) has given for granted and misuse it. The Qur’an warns:
“Do not squander wastefully. Indeed the wasteful are the brothers of devils. And the devil is ungrateful to his Lord.” (Al-Isra, 17: 26-27)
Wise people consider even eating, drinking, clothing and using anything while being negligent of the Lord, as waste.
People with good morals should give thanks by acknowledging that all their beautiful traits are through the Lord’s grace and generosity. They should strive to set an example to others by maintaining their nature and be careful not to look down on anyone.
Travelers on the Sufi path (sayr-u suluk) should attach their hearts to their spiritual master (murshid), observe what is permissible and what is not, and embody an overall conduct in the line with the verse that ‘aged’ the Prophet (saw):
“So be upright, just as you have been commanded.” (Hud, 11: 112) In short, they must personify the ethics of the Qur’an and Sunnah, look to reap a share from the knowledge of Allah (jj) (marifatullah) and serve all creatures. As they proceed along the spiritual ranks, they must also keep the showing off and self-love, which are traps of the ego, at bay.
The healthy and ill should give thanks through submission and remaining content, knowing that their conditions are a part of a fleeting trial the Almighty has willed for them on earth. A healthy person must be aware that his health is given only to be used for righteous deeds in the path of the Lord, and regulate his days accordingly. A sick person should think that his condition may in fact be a blessing in disguise, and have a state of mind that makes him say, ‘Thank You, Lord under all circumstances’. He must know that a blind person is really in a much better position than a person who has vision but cannot manage to keep his eyes away from sin. The truth of the matter will become visible in the hereafter.
The poor should give thanks by adorning themselves with patience. The ‘patient poor’ and the ‘thankful rich’ are of equal rank in the sight of Allah (jj). The dialogue between Ibrahim Adham and Shaqiq Balkhi offers a splendid example of gratitude in poverty:
Shaqiq Balkhi asks Ibrahim Adham:
“What do you do? How are you getting on?”
He says, “I offer thanks if I find something and remain patient if I do not!”
“The dogs of Khorasan do the same”, Shaqiq says.
“Then, what do you do?” asks Ibrahim.
“If we find something, we offer thanks and donate it. If we do not, then we thank and be patient.”
All blessings and gifts are from Allah (jj). Ibrahim Dasuki says:
“Brother! Do not ever come under the false impression that you can do something on your own! Do not stake claim on anything as if you have achieved it through your own effort!
Know that if you fast, it is Allah the Almighty who makes you fast. Do you pray? Do you stand in the presence of Allah? Again, it is Him who makes you do so.
This is how all actions are. Know that everything comes from Him. When you see something, be fully aware that is Him who makes you see it. And when you are offered spiritual beverage as you proceed along this path, you must say ‘He offered me this drink!’”
Even though they may appear to be the result of human will, every action is really a manifestation of Allah’s (jj) attribute ‘the Creator’. Therefore, faith demands us to recognize that everything comes from Him. It is in fact a condition of faith to believe ‘good and evil are from Allah.’ However, one must not confuse Allah’s (jj) will (iradah) with His consent (rida). While the Almighty’s will is present in all things that come into being, His consent only lies with the good. The reason as to why the Almighty creates an action a human may desire yet which He does not like, is only for this life to assume the character of a ‘trial’.
A doctor’s aim is to cure the patient. It is not the doctor’s fault if the patient does not take the prescribed medicine. Again, a teacher’s aim is to teach the student. If the student does not study, there is nothing he can do. Allah (jj) calls the servant to paradise, the eternal land of peace. Yet, if the servant does not follow the steps that would take him there, he will be barred from entry without anyone but himself to blame. If the servant had not been given the power to choose between right and wrong, then ‘punishment’ and ‘reward’ would have contradicted divine justice. Among the most important actions that fall in the zone of ‘choice’ are praising and thanking the Lord. Thus, the servant must try to understand what these really mean and readjust his entire actions.
Our Lord! Give us a share of Luqman’s (as) wisdom through thanking You; and turn us into servants whose words, actions and emotions benefit believers!
. See, Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, II, 361.