The Quality of Being Thankful: Gratitude
I recently read something profound: “There are people who would love to have your bad days.” Consider the fact that for many, your worst day would be their best day. In Surah ar-Rahman, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) asks us 31 times, “Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” This verse demands us to be continuously aware of and grateful for the blessings we have been granted. Yet, it is so easy to lose sight of all the blessings that surround us in our daily lives. Opening a refrigerator packed with food, walking into an air-conditioned home on a hot day, or picking up your children from school are all daily rituals that we often don’t give a second thought.
Ensuring that gratitude has a strong and constant place in our lives is essential for our spiritual, mental and physical health. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). Here, a lack of gratitude is equated with denying the favors of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), which is nearly equivalent to denying Him (subhanahu wa ta’ala) as our Lord. How can we truly believe in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) when we don’t acknowledge the fact that everything in our lives has been bestowed upon us by Him?
Gratitude is such an essential and integral component to our faith that the best amongst us have asked Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for this blessing. The Prophet Sulayman (‘alayhi asalaam) asked Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for this when he said, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants” (27:19). Being appreciative of the blessings that surround us is a gift, in-and-of-itself. Among the benefits of being grateful to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is that it brings us closer to Him as He (subhanahu wa ta’ala) tells us, “O son of Adam! If you mention Me to yourself, I will mention you to Myself. If you mention Me in a gathering, I will mention you in a better gathering. If you draw closer to Me by a hand span, I will draw closer to you by forearm’s length. If you draw closer to Me by a forearm’s length, I will draw closer to you by an arm’s length. And if you come to Me walking, I will come to you running.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
When we think about thankfulness, we typically think about how it makes the other person feel. However, in reality we are the ones who benefit the most, “This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous” (27:40). Gratitude to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) will grant us reward in the Hereafter but it also enhances our quality of life through mental, emotional and physical benefits. Studies have found that gratitude can help us to cope better with daily problems and manage stress, can boost the immune system and has been found to improve cardiac health in people with heart failure. To give thanks for blessings is itself a blessing in every possible way so never cease to give thanks.
We all may like to be more grateful to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) but what are some practical ways we can strive toward that goal?
- Every morning, make it a point to consider three things you are grateful to wake up to each day. This can be as simple as gratitude for the warmth of your comfortable bed or for the laughter of your children. In doing this, we are following in the footsteps of the Prophet (sala Allahu alayhi wa salam) who, upon rising in the morning, would say, “Praise be to Allaah Who has brought us back to life after causing us to die, and unto Him is the resurrection.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) This starts your morning off on a bright note, which sets the tone for a positive day.
- Every night, consider three things you appreciate that happened during the course of your day before you go to sleep. This promotes relaxation and helps to alleviate any stress that may have accumulated throughout the course of the day.
- On bad days, reflect on the things you are grateful for. Your mood will brighten substantially when you focus on the good in your life rather than ruminating on the things that are going wrong. Even the difficulties you are facing can be something to be grateful for as the Prophet (sala Allahu alayhi wa salam) said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (al-Bukhari & Muslim)
- Avoid envy by following the advice of the Prophet (sala Allahu alayhi wa salam), “Look at those below you (less fortunate than you), and don’t look at those above you, for this is better.” (Muslim) Be thankful for all that you have rather than wishing for what others have. There will always be people around you who have more but there are also people who have less. In the end, the amount that we have does not determine our level of happiness so work toward being grateful for what you have.
Honing a grateful mindset is something that can be learned and worked on. Take small daily steps toward incorporating gratitude into your life and thought process. Make the pleasure of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) your primary goal in this and you will be amazed at the benefits that await you in this life and in the Hereafter insha’Allah.