Giving Thanks to Allah
Being grateful to a fellow human being who has shown favour, is to render one’s thanks to express appreciative sentiments. The concept of being grateful to Allah (shukr), on the other hand, is to grasp and emphasize the fact that every kind of grace and favour is granted exclusively by Allah. In the Qur’an, the opposite of being grateful is defined by the term “disbelief”(Kufr), which is synonymous with ingratitude. Only this definition indicates the importance attached to being grateful as a form of worship and the detrimental consequences its neglect may have for a believer.
Gratefulness to Allah is one of the concepts principally emphasized in the Qur’an. In almost 70 verses, the importance of rendering thanks to Allah is stated, examples of those who are grateful and ungrateful are given and the end their requital in the hereafter is described. The reason why so much importance is given to this concept is simply that it is a sure indication of one’s faith and affirmation of the oneness of Allah. In one of the verses “being grateful” is described as “worshipping only Allah”:
O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him you worship. (Al-Baqara, 172)
In another verse, giving thanks to Allah is described as the opposite of idolatry:
But it has already been revealed to you, — as it was to those before you, — “If you were to associate other gods with Allah, truly fruitless would be your work (in life), and you would surely be in the ranks of those who lose (all spiritual good)”. Therefore, worship Allah, and be of those who give thanks. (Az-Zumar, 65-66)
Satan’s defiant statements to Allah (on the day of his refusal to bow to Adam) emphasize the importance of giving thanks to Allah:
“Because you have cast me out I will lie in wait for your servants as they walk on your straight path: Then will I assault them from in front of them and from behind them, from their right and from their left. Then you will find most of them, ungrateful for Your mercies.” (Al-Araf, 17)
As stated in the verse above, Satan out of sheer pique, devoted His life to misleading people. His ultimate aim is to make people be ungrateful to their Creator. When this ultimate purpose of the Satan is considered, it becomes more comprehensible how a man goes astray when he does not render thanks to Allah.
Gratefulness is a part of the test by Allah. Man is surely endowed with His favour, and is informed about how he should benefit from it. In return, he is expected to assume a submissive attitude towards his Creator. However, it is again only man himself who chooses to be grateful or ungrateful to Allah:
We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him. We gave him the gifts of hearing and sight. We showed him the way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful . (Al-Insan, 2-3)
As the verses suggest, the choice of the human being whether to go grateful or ungrateful, is explicit sign of his faith or disbelief.
Gratefulness is also closely related to requital in the hereafter. No punishment shall befall those who have faith and are grateful:
What can Allah gain by your punishment, if you are grateful and you believe? Indeed, it is Allah who recognizes all good, and knows all things. (An-Nisa, 147)
This verse, together with many others, gives the good tidings that Allah rewards those who remain grateful to their Creator:
And remember! Your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If you are grateful, I will increase My favours to you. But if you show ingratitude, truly, My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Abraham, 7)
“If you counted up the favours of Allah, you would never be able to number them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Nahl, 18) As this verse suggests, let alone counting up the favours of Allah,it is not conceivable even to categorize them. Since there is no limit to the favours of Allah, a believer should unceasingly keep himself occupied with the remembrance of Allah and express his gratefulness to Him.
In expectation of some very great favor, some people wait for special occasions to render their thanks to Allah. Settlement of a major problem, or recovering from a serious sickness are the proper times to express one’s inner gratefulness to Allah, they assume. However, if one reflected only for a moment, one would instantly comprehend that he is always surrounded with infinite favours. At every moment, every minute, there is an uninterrupted flow of favours: life, good health, intelligence, consciousness, the five senses, the air that one breaths, in brief, everything that makes life possible is given to one by the grace of Allah. In return for all these, the individual is expected to serve Allah in gratitude. Those who are heedless of these favours and accordingly neglect to turn to Allah in order to express their gratefulness, acknowledge their importance only when they are deprived of them.
The Qur’an enjoins careful attention to the favours of Allah and repeatedly reminds us of those we tend to forget. Whole volumes would surely be insufficient to name all the blessings of Allah. Allah fashioned man into a man, He endowed him with five senses thus enabling him to perceive the world around him, guided him to the true path through His Book and Messenger, provided an explanation of the scriptures, desired no hardship for His servants, saved them from the oppression of unbelievers, made their habitations havens of rest and quiet for them, created fresh water, an abundant variety of food, sea- products, ships sailing night and day for the benefit of mankind.
No one can ever say “I say my prayers regularly and engage in righteous dealings, but do not give thanks to Allah”. The individual who is not grateful to Allah is one who does not occupy himself with the remembrance of Allah, and hence is heedless of Him. A person who, like the animals, consumes everything given to him without pondering over why it is granted and the One Who grants it, surely needs to change this attitude. Otherwise, expecting to receive a reward from Allah and hoping to attain Heaven would be meaningless. That is why a believer should never neglect to render thanks to Allah.
We also know from the revelations of Allah that only those who give thanks to Allah can acknowledge the signs of Allah in the outer world and draw lessons for themselves. The following verses elaborate upon this theme:
From the land that is clean and good, by the will of its Cherisher, springs up produce, rich after its kind: but from the land that is bad, springs up nothing but that which is niggardly: thus do we explain the signs by various symbols to those who are grateful. (Al-Araf, 58)
The wisdom related in these verses and the evidences they furnish, can be comprehended only by those who are endowed with the insight and sensitivity of those who give thanks. This is no doubt a reward for being grateful to Allah. Ungrateful and insensitive people, on the other hand, do not even notice these verses.
In many verses, Allah advises His Messengers, one of whom is Moses, to be grateful:
(Allah) said: “O Moses! I have chosen you above (other) men, by the mission I (have given you ) and the words I (have spoken to you): take then the (revelation) which I give you, and be of those who give thanks.” (Al-Araf, 144)
In Surat-al-Ahkaf, verse 15, a believer in his maturity (the age of 40 is referred to as the age of maturity in the Qur’an) prays that he may be a grateful person:
We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents. In pain his mother bore him, and in pain she gave birth to him. The carrying of the child to his weaning is a period of thirty months. At length, when he reaches manhood and attains forty years, he says, “O my Lord! Inspire me to be grateful for the favours which you have bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and to do good works of which you will approve; and grant me good descendants. Truly, I have turned to you and truly I bow to You in Islam. (Al-Ahqaf, 15)