Thanksgiving is a greatly anticipated day of celebration for many.
Being grateful can do wonders for your heart and mind. Imagine you can make it ‘Thanksgiving’ all day, every day. Even in the most testing times.
And it’s that time of year again! Thanksgiving, celebrated primarily in Western cultures, is an annual holiday marked by the gathering of family and friends sharing a grand meal and expressing sentiments of gratitude.
But counting our blessing is not something limited to a single day of the year. Gratitude is a state of mind or ‘shukr‘ in Islam. Let’s learn how to count our blessings at all times.
Types of Thanksgiving
There’s the often forgotten giving of thanks after a good deed. You prayed an extra prayer, read an additional page of the Quran, gave an amount in charity… Did you thank Allah the Almighty for it?
He, the Most High, does not need your thanks; but offering it is a source of reward!
Do you remember noticing a blossoming flower, the loaf of bread you just bought, the breaths you take without thinking?
There is gratitude in recognizing the big and small blessings of your health, wealth, guidance, and above all – your desire to practice Islam. Alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks to Allah) we can say Alhamdulillah!
And there’s the amazing way you give thanks and Allah increases you; so if your Iman (faith) is low, thank Him for the guidance He gave you and He will increase you in faith and guidance. Beg Allah, Ash-Shakoor, the Most Appreciative, from the heart to be of the grateful ones (ash-shaakireen).
Your Sign on the Wall
This verse can be a life-changer; use it as a daily reminder on the wall:
So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. (2:152)
Do you remember when you bought that new outfit and smart phone, and you’ve been happy ever since?
It doesn’t work that way, does it?
We purchase things, experiences and achieve material goals – but it doesn’t make us long-term happy.
So, what does give us lasting happiness?
Allah the Most High places gratitude equally next to His mention as the above-mentioned verse shows.
Also, one of our daily stress factors is fear. How many of us are afraid that we don’t look good enough, are not good enough and scared we will lose something we love.
While learning to trust Allah, the Most High, and His plan, you’ll find out that the habit to battle that constant feeling of fear is gratitude.
Your Daily Gratitude Exercise
Do you know you can wire your own brain?
According to Harvard:
“Everyone has the capacity to develop new cells that can help enhance cognitive functions. In this process, called neurogenesis, new neurons (brain cells) develop in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions.”
With daily gratitude exercise, you can train your brain until it will start pointing out the positive information and experiences we encounter.
Besides, being grateful as a state of mind will make you sleep better and reduce anxiety and stress.
Once a day, take five minutes to write down (or even just think of) five things you were grateful for that day. A good moment can be before you go to sleep.
They can be ‘major’ blessings in life, such as your family, guidance or health… But don’t forget the small, daily blessings, such as having that chocolate, a cup of tea or that message your friend sent you.
As long as you come up with five things you’re grateful for, every day. Try it for just three days, and you’ll see the difference it makes!
Extra for Families:
Start a family ‘Gratitude Journal’; every day at dinner, have everyone write one thing they were grateful for that day.
Besides recognizing the small blessings, don’t forget the instruction (and reward) of thanking people; increase in saying JazakAllahu khayr (male) or Jazakillahu khayr (female), which means ‘may Allah recompense you with goodness’.
It’s more rewarding for both sides than just saying ‘thanks!’ It’s all beautifully summarized by An-Nu’maan ibn Al-Basheer:
“He who does not thank Allah for small favors, will not thank Him for great ones; and he who does not express gratitude to people (for doing him favors) will not express gratitude towards Allah. Appreciating and mentioning the favors bestowed upon one from Allah is gratitude, and not doing so expresses ingratitude”.
Thank Allah, the Most High, for the big and small, thank people, feel good and get a step closer to Paradise!
Revive the Sunnah of Giving Thanks
Ask yourself a few questions: Have you noticed yourself spending more time indoors, having a more monotone? Are you stuck in a monotonous routine? Have you been feeling isolated and recognizing that your remembrance of Allah the Almighty is empty, almost robotic?
How much have you complained just today (not in the past), about little things like food, chores, people, canceled plans, or money?
Do you realize you struggle to be grateful? Did the soul-shaking reality hit you that you are not remembering, giving thanks nor worshipping Allah in the way you hoped to?
There is a five second sunnah you can revive that will solve all of that. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took Mu’adh ibn Jabal by the hand and said:
O Mu‘adh, by Allah verily I love you, by Allah verily I love you.
Then he said:
I urge you, O Mu‘adh, never to stop saying at the end of every prayer:
Allahumma a‘innee ‘alaa dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ‘ibaadatika (O Allah, help me to remember You, give You thanks and to worship You in the best of manners). (Abu Dawud)
Repeat this supplication from the bottom of your heart at the end of each prayer (after the final tashahud and before the salam which ends the prayer) seeking the help of Allah the Almighty in making gratitude a life-long habit.
Use a note on the wall where you pray to remind yourself to make this an ongoing charity, try to teach this sunnah (sadaqah jariyah) to at least ten others.
Allah the Almighty will reward you for reviving the sunnah, and He will help in your dhikr (remembrance of Him), shukr (gratefulness), and ibadah (acts of worship).
And always remember to simply say Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God) for everything.
Happy Thanks Giving!