Modern psychology tells us that practicing gratitude has a plethora of health benefits. Being grateful can improve your mood, your sleep and it can even reduce inflammation in the body (1).
It will come, then, as no surprise that the self help industry has seized this opportunity to sell us guide books, journals and gifts that will enable us to improve our attitude of gratitude.
Being grateful is somewhat trendy right now. But it is by no means a new concept.
The Basis of Islam
The very foundation of being a Muslim is to submit to none other than Allah in worship, to acknowledge His bounty in your life and His power over all things. Allah makes it very clear that the one sin that He will not forgive is shirk, associating others with Him.
Basically, none other than Allah deserves your gratitude.
Let’s give this idea some context. Imagine you have a child whom you love dearly. You give them everything a child could ever wish for; they know they are loved, you keep them safe, you give them the best opportunities, you provide everything for them. But instead of being grateful to you, they lavish all their thanks upon a tree in the garden. Ridiculous, isn’t it?
Although our example is slightly absurd it helps illustrate how deeply misguided we would be to direct our praise and worship to anyone, or anything, other than Allah.
Allah is Most Generous
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to take care of your mental health; studies (2) have shown that it can even reduce stress and depression. Depending on personal preference, people are advised to note a few things from their day or week that they are grateful for. Certainly, at the end of a long, hard day it helps to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
Can you imagine how long you would be writing for if you were to make a note of all the gifts Allah bestowed upon you in the course of just one day?
We’ve all seen the post on social media that asks, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked Allah for yesterday?” It would be impossible to individually name all the things we need to thank Him for. SubhanAllah, how generous and merciful is our Lord?
It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affection: that you may give thanks. (Quran 16:78)
He gave you life, He gave you physical senses, He gave you knowledge and talents and He gave you the ability to love and be loved. He has already given us so much to be grateful for yet His generosity only increases if we thank Him.
How Can We Thank Allah?
One word in Arabic comes close to thanking Allah as He should be thanked; Alhamdulillah. Sahih International translates this word as “all praise is due to Allah alone”.
As Muslims, we should be saying this word countless times a day; when something good happens, when we’re asked how we are and as part of our remembrance of Allah (dhikr). Notice how “Alhamdulillah” is the first word we recite at the beginning of every cycle (rakah) of our prayer.
So, in order to thank Allah adequately, we need to keep our prayers. Our salah is our demonstration of our gratitude to Allah, our worship of Him and our obedience to His command.
Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying), I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. (Quran 2:152)
Not Just the Good
This is where Muslims go beyond the current gratitude trend and it can be a difficult concept for new Muslims and non-Muslims to understand. Not only should we be grateful for the good things that happen, but we should also thank Allah for our trials.
Yes, this seems counter-intuitive but if you trust in the wisdom of Allah then you will realize that everything happens for your own benefit.
How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him -and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing. If he receives some bounty, he is grateful to Allah and this bounty brings good to him. And if some adversity befalls him, he is patient, and this affliction, too, brings good to him. (Muslim)
Patience and gratitude go hand in hand for the believer.
The Grateful Prophet (peace be upon him)
Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best of mankind and still he faced many trials and hardships. This did not make him bitter nor did it deter him from establishing Islam. Neither did it prevent him from expressing his deep gratitude to his Lord.
“When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed (the night prayers: Qiyam-ul-layl), he would stand until (the skin of) his feet swelled.
So, I said:
“O Prophet of Allah, do you do as such while Allah has forgiven you all mistakes?”
Should not I be a grateful servant of Allah? (Muslim)
It doesn’t matter who you are: the highest scholar in the land or the most recent convert, the most pious or the most struggling, the richest king or the poorest man. You have so much to be thankful for and Allah deserves your gratitude.
If you are grateful, He is pleased with you… (39:7)
May we all become grateful servants of Allah and be among those with whom He is pleased.