Sleep closes your eyes, but power continues to run through your veins and nerves, sustaining life in your body, never ceasing or slackening.
Who keeps them alive, active, and vigilant for you? Who created and caused them to work from nothing?
You were not created because you asked to be, or provided for while an embryo and a baby because you asked to be. Rather, it was the Generous Bestower and Glorious Maker Who did these things for you, out of His Grace. He truly is more merciful to you than you are to yourself.
Meaning of Thankfulness
Thankfulness is a word that – along with gratitude – means praise and exaltation, and herein lies its worth and merit.
What is important is that the tongue utters gratitude while feeling it in the heart, and acknowledging from deep inside that God, as the source of every good bestowed, deserves all thanks that is sent.
With every blink of the eye and beat of the heart, Allah acquaints mankind with Himself through the blessings He bestows and the good things He sends.
These blessings and bounties, which are renewed throughout every day and every night, should be received with recognition for and thanks to the One Who Bestowed them.
It is He Who made the night and the day follow each other, for such who desires to remember or desires to show gratitude. (25: 62)
If you provide someone with food, give him shelter, pay off his debts, or raise him to a high rank, and he then frowns upon you or gives you his back despite the kindness shown to him, you would perceive him as someone without whom earth would be a better place.
What do you think about the Lord of existence – Who creates out of nothing, provides sustenance and clothing, and showers down His Graces and Favors year after year – when He sees that those living and rejoicing in His Blessings are stern and steadfast opponents of Him!
He has created man from Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge), then behold, this same man becomes an open opponent. (16: 4)
Ingratitude is baseness. The incessant flow of bounties is just repaid with turning the back to their Giver and disobeying Him in His watchful Presence.
With persistence in such behavior, the right to more is diminished to nothing. Therefore is the command to mankind to thank and express gratitude to Him, their Lord.
Gratitude is not a difficult duty that has to be borne with patience; rather, it is the road to perfection that people must walk with determination and purpose.
O you who believe, eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and give thanks to Allah, if it is truly Him that you worship. (2: 172)
Thankfully acknowledging Allah’s Favors with sweet composure and acquiescence of the heart towards the Maker makes a person worthy of receiving more. Blessings in his hands are like water poured on a fertile land that bursts with flowers and fruits. Pouring more cannot be withheld or reduced.
Contrarily, watering a barren land is a waste, and therefore water is cut off.
If you give thanks, I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless, verily My Punishment is indeed severe. (14: 7)
Severe punishment is thus deserved for the evilness of ingratitude.
What will people lose if they enjoy the Blessings of Allah with a thankful heart that acknowledges the Bestower and says to Him, “Thank You.” Or is this too difficult?
The Prophet’s Thankfulness
Gratitude is more a feeling than mere movement of the lips, a feeling that was superbly translated into sincere actions and behaviors throughout the day and life of Prophet Muhammad.
Whenever he woke up, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah Who restored to me my soul, made my body healthy, and allowed me to remember Him.
Whenever he finished eating, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah Who fed us, quenched our thirst, and made us Muslims.
Whenever he returned from relieving himself, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah Who made me taste its (food) good flavor, retained within me its power (strength and energy derived from food), and removed from me its harm.
Whenever he wore a new garment, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah Who has clothed me with this garment and provided it for me, with no power or might from myself.
Whenever he returned from traveling, he would say:
We are returning, repenting, worshiping, and praising our Lord.
Whenever something happened that pleased him, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah by Whose Blessings all good things are perfected.
And whenever something happened that displeased him, he would say:
All praise and thanks to Allah in all circumstances.
And he prayed:
O Allah, help me remember You, thank You, and perfect my worship of You.
What plan did Satan have against mankind after he was expelled from heaven?
His vengeful endeavors were to rob mankind of contentment and make them ungrateful.
His vengeful endeavors were to distract them and cover their insight with veils of heedlessness, so that they eat the Bounties of Allah and do not thank Him and see His Grand Signs and do not glorify Him.
When beasts find food, they devour it, sensible of nothing else. And when they lack food, they feel hungry, sensible of nothing else. When healthy, they run and jump. But when sick, they lie down and rest, sensible of nothing else.
They know no patience with affliction or thankfulness for bounties.
This is the kind of life that Satan wants mankind to live, neither to remember nor thank Allah.
This was the oath of Satan on the day he was driven out of heaven.
I will surely lie in wait for those on Your Straight Path. Then I will come to them from in front and from behind and from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them grateful (to You). (7: 17)
The Consequences of Ingratitude
The worst of ingratitude is when it is a collective feeling into which an entire nation slides. As if there is a written agreement among them not to mention anything good about Allah, and to gorge His Bounties and ascribe them to anyone other than Him.
Were previous nations, such as ‘Ad and Thamud, destroyed for any cause other than ingratitude?
It was said to ‘Ad:
Remember that He made you successors after the people of Nuh (Noah), and increased you amply in stature. So remember the graces (bestowed on you) from Allah, so that you may be successful. (7: 69)
It was said to Thamud:
Remember that He made you successors after ‘Ad (people); and gave you habitations in the land, you build for yourselves palaces in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So remember the graces (bestowed on you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth. (7: 74)
The flood of blessings and bounties that flowed throughout their land was nothing to these people. Consequently, they were deprived of what they were ungrateful for; dispossessed of what they denied, and torment was justified against them.
Mankind is warned not to tread such pernicious paths.
Remember Me, I will remember you. And be thankful to Me and do not be ungrateful. (2: 152)
But despite Allah’s Warnings, only few are those who acknowledge His Favors or feel grateful.
But few of My slaves are grateful. (34: 13)
From the book “The Emotional Side of Islam” by Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali. Translated and adapted by Haya Muhammad Eid and edited by Emily Katharine Richardson.