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Prophet Muhammad: The Thankful Slave

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) embodied all the positive personality traits that can garner success for an individual in any area of the contemporary world.

Whatever advantage we can hope to acquire along our journey of self-actualization, by availing life coaching sessions, reading self-help books, attending grooming classes, or finishing schools- advantages in terms of personal finesse, class, posh manners, polish, personality grooming, or self-confidence, one can actually get all that – and more – just by studying and adopting Prophet Muhammad’s manners, conduct, ways of dealing with others, and social etiquette.

As his wife Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr eulogized:

“The Prophet’s conduct and manners was the Quran.” (Muslim)

The question that arises then, is what praiseworthy traits does the Quran extol, which were embodied by Prophet Muhammad?

There are too many to innumerate in one article. However, a very interesting concept that the Quran encourages its believers and students to ponder upon and incorporate into their lives is thankfulness: appreciation of, and gratitude for, favors and blessings.

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God calls Himself “Shakur” and “Shakir”, too, in the Quran, meaning, one who is appreciative.

…for Allah is most Ready to appreciate (service), Most Forbearing. (At-Taghabun 64: 17)

Even though God does not need even an iota of our good deeds, He nevertheless knows, records, rewards and appreciates even the smallest of good deeds anyone ever does, e.g. when they smile at someone, or give even half a date in charity.

His only requirement for this is that man does these deeds for His sake alone, and not associate any partner with Him. Which means that man must do good deeds purely to please God, and for no other reason. That is when God is “Ash Shakur”.

Despite the praiseworthy trait of thankfulness being mentioned many times in the Quran, few people embody it in their personal lives.

In fact, in many places in the Quran, God mentions in a somewhat ‘complaining’ tone that man is an ingrate, or how little he gives thanks: {..Lo! Man is verily an avowed ingrate.} (Az-Zukhruf 43: 15)

Prophet Muhammad was appreciative of even small, every day good deeds that people around him did.

Despite being the unquestionable authority figure during the latter half of his life, as his people’s Prophet, military commander, judge, husband, father, the only leader of the believers, he was humble to the extent of always mingling into the crowd, being indiscernible from the common man, noticing even what minor children and slaves did, and giving them attention and importance.

A Slave of God

Aisha reported that when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) occupied himself in prayer, he observed such a (long) qiyam prayer that his feet were swollen. Aisha said:

“Allah’s Messenger, you do this (in spite of the fact) that your earlier and later sins have been pardoned for you?”

Thereupon, he said:

“Aisha should I not prove myself to be a thanksgiving servant (of Allah)?” (Muslim)

It is very interesting to note how the Prophet referred to himself as an “abd” – a slave of God. Indeed, even before identifying himself as God’s messenger, he would call himself a slave first.

Let’s analyze the root meaning of the Arabic word “shakur”, which the Prophet used to describe his state as God’s slave:

The meaning denoted by the root letters “sha-ka-ra” doesn’t just encompass the act of verbally and publicly thanking one’s benefactor for their favor, but this root also includes other connotations besides verbal praise and acknowledgement: namely, the heart becoming humbled, lowly and submissive before the benefactor; the tongue commending, praising and acknowledging the benefactor; and the limbs obeying the benefactor and not using the object of beneficence in a way that that benefactor might dislike.

Shukr” also denotes the heart of the beneficiary being filled with love for their benefactor. (Lane’s Lexicon)

All of this is apparent in the above hadith, which mentions how the Prophet’s thankfulness to God became apparent by his praying at night with immense devotion, despite knowing that all his faults had already been forgiven by God, so much so that his feet became swollen and cracked!

This action of his is ultimate proof of how humble, submissive and overflowing with love of God his heart was; a heart devoid of any avarice for personal benefits to be obtained in return for the devoted worship.

Prophet Muhammad was not just a thankful slave of God, but the humility of his heart was also apparent by how he always tried to appreciate God’s creation, i.e. people who did any good, or helped him out in difficult times.

Even in the modern world, thanking people is a surefire way to win their hearts, and a great way for a leader to motivate his followers is to always appreciate the good that they do.

Appreciative Husband

Aisha reported:

“I never felt jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadija, although I have never seen her, but the Prophet used to mention her very often. Whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut it into pieces and send them to the women friends of Khadija. When I sometimes said to him: “You treat Khadija in such a way as if there is no woman on earth except her”. He would say:

“Khadija was such and such (commending her and speaking well of her), and I had children from her.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Even after Khadija’s death, Prophet Muhammad appreciated her.

He mentioned her positively very often before his other wives; he appreciated her friends and sent gifts as a continuing legacy of goodwill.

He also appreciated the blessing of children that God blessed him with through Khadija.

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