* Courtesy of The Nur
* Courtesy of The Nur
Allah Most High says in the Qur’an;
“Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility.” (Sura al-An’am, 6:42)
We are all walking a challenging path in this dunya. No matter who you are, no matter where you find yourself in your life, please know that you are not alone. Lean on your support network; we were created to be social beings.
Allah places difficulty in our lives as a way to help us grow. How we choose to respond to our difficulties is up to us.
“I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.” (Sura al-Dhariyat, 51:56)
Outwardly, it may not look like it, but each of us is carrying a story. We are all the products of our different circumstances, and we are all headed to that same, inexorable final destination – a meeting with our Creator.
Everything in this life that happens to us is an opportunity to draw closer to Allah, or further away. None of us can control so many things in our life – the kind of family we are born into, the weather, what happens at work or school – but we can choose how we respond.
“(Recall the time) when your Lord declared, ‘If you express gratitude, I shall certainly give you more, and if you are ungrateful, then My punishment is severe.'” (Sura Ibrahim, 14:7)
No matter how difficult things may feel for you right now, I invite you to ask yourself – what is one thing you can be grateful for? And when you can name one, then name another. Aim to find at least five specific things you can feel grateful for, and take a moment to truly let that sink in.
There is so much we all take for granted, until it is taken away.
So many of our problematic behavioural patterns begin from coping mechanisms in childhood. What may have worked to help us survive childhood end up working against us, when we become adults.
It takes awareness, hard work and often, professional support, to help rewire an adult brain. But it is possible. Change, through Allah’s help, is always possible.
Teach the habit of gratitude to your children. Make it a daily bonding practice, perhaps at dinner time, or during your bedtime routine. Depending on the age and temperament of your child or children, you can make it into a game and ask them to describe three things they are happy about. What are three things they can say alhamdulilah for? The tasty meal Mama cooked, the way Baba helped put them to sleep and the company of sibling(s) to play with.
As your children grow older, you can help them create their own gratitude journals. The act of writing down what they’re grateful for makes it all the more real. This also becomes a wonderful way for you, the parent, to also grow your gratitude muscle.
Children learn from who we are – not always from what we say. And when they see us work hard to be grateful, no matter how difficult the circumstances – they will take after us. What blessed seeds to plant within the heart of our children. May the next generation have hearts full of gratitude and love for Allah and His Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I’m a young adult and it seems my family and I have never ending financial difficulties. I feel we are all doing our best, yet we struggle even with meeting our daily needs sometimes. The fact that money controls a lot in your life is taking a toll on me.
This question can go much deeper because everyone has different circumstances but what I”m trying to get at is how do I make sure I’m being patient, pleased with, and grateful when I feel so beaten down by life.
Is there a specific dua you would recommend? At times I do get angry and discontented with my situation. and often at myself because I feel like I’m not helping out in my family financially as much as I should. What limits me is my mental illness, I can’t really function due to it. Any advice will be appreciated.
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I pray you are well.
Everyone is tested in life. The tests are not necessarily a bad thing. Allah changes us through the tests for the better. Sometimes we feel pain because others hurt us, and sometimes our situation in general pushes us to the limit of what we can bear.
Throughout all of this one should remember the words of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, “[I am truly] amazed at the affair of the believer. Everything that happens to him is the best for him – and that is not the case for anyone except the believer! If good times come to him He is grateful and that is best for him. And if difficulties come to him he is patient and that is better for him.”
It is important to note that the one expressing wonder here in this hadith is the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. He was granted more knowledge of the reality of things than anyone else created by Allah. If he was amazed by the great consequences of the tests a believer faces in life, then we should realize that everything that happens to a believer is a gift from our Loving Lord.
Our difficulties do not leave us as the people we were before we were tested with them. This growth is on many levels – but most importantly, it is a means of drawing closer to Allah. The key to it is patience.
Patience (Sabr), in many prophetic narrations, is connected to expecting a reward from Allah (Ihtisab). This means that one of the means to getting through a difficulty is to keep your focus on the rewards Allah has promised His believing servants. This will help you look beyond your immediate difficulties and see the bigger picture.
It is possible to become overwhelmed with emotions when in very difficult situations, as was the case with Sayyidi Maryam when she was giving birth the prophet Isa, Allah bless them and our Messenger, and give them all peace.
She was from a family of righteous people with prophets as relatives and ancestors. She had been known for righteousness, and had been pledged to worship in the synagogue by her mother from before her birth. She was the paragon on virtue, religiousness, and chastity. And suddenly she found herself all alone, giving birth to a child who had no father.
Imagine all her feelings, her pain, her worry, her fear of people leveling accusations against her out of ignorance, and what her family must endure because of it. All of this, combined with the difficulties of labor made her say, “O how I wish that I had died long before this, or that I was some worthless object, forgotten.” (Sura Maryam 19:23).
Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ajiba, when commenting on this verse said that it is possible to say something unbecoming when overwhelmed by a situation, but one should not stay in such a state. How? By looking at those before us, and how their trials ended up being the means of them being raised above others.
She gave birth to one of the greatest of the prophets, and someone through whom Allah will give the ultimate victory to the Muslims through at the End of Times. She attained the highest rank of iman a believer can be blessed with and was used as a role model for believing women in the Qur’an. She is fortunate to be the mother of Isa, and he is also blessed to be her son.
Where are all these virtues, and where is the pain she experienced in those fleeting moments?
Keep reminding yourself that Allah – the All-Merciful – is using this test as a means of making you draw closer to Him. He has been giving you blessings all your life. In reality, if we think about matters, we live better than many kings did in the past. Just the blessing of being able to flush your waste down the toilet, and not having to haul it outside to dispose of it is something many people could not do without.
Shaykh Ahmad b. Ataʾillah advised us, “Let the pain of your tribulation be lightened by your knowing that it is He – Transcendent beyond imperfections is He – who is the one testing you. The one from whom the blows of fate have come is the very same being who has accustomed you to Him choosing the best for you.” (Ibn Ataʾillah, al-Hikam).
If he has granted you priceless gifts such as faith, He certainly has a plan for you. Watch it unfold.
You mental issues clearly play a part in your difficulties. Seek medical treatment and try to keep the company of people who will inspire and support you. This is critical. You cannot rise if you spend time with people who kick you down.
Don’t worry about the next week, month, or year. Live each day with your concern being the five prayers, and thanking Allah for what you do have in them. Worrying about the long term leads to anxiety.
Part of the trick here is letting things unfold as they do. Resisting leads to pain. Let things happen. Allah will take care of you. Remembrance of Allah helps a great deal with this. Send blessings on the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, with the focus on Allah raising His rank and giving him more blessings. This will help avert your focus on your own pain.
Whatever the difficulty is – financial or otherwise – the only one who can fix things in reality is Allah. Turn to Him, pray for others in a similar situation, and you’ll see a response. Even if it takes a while to come. It will come.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
We always begin by praising our Lord, Exalted and Most High, and recognizing that al-hamd, that is all praise, is due to our Lord, Exalted and Most High. He is the One that is simultaneously deserving of all praise because of everything that He gifts, not only human beings but all of creation, and He is the One, Exalted and Most High, that is praised for every gift that we experience.
That we show our shukr (gratitude) and our hand (praise) to our Lord, Exalted and Most High, in the greatest blessing of all of the blessings: it is the blessing of “la ilaha illa Allah. Muhammad rasul Allah.” The blessing of being affiliated to the best of creation, the Khatim al-Nabiyyin, the Seal of the Prophets, sayyidina Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him and his Family and Companions.
This is a blessing that is so great no matter how much that we come to know and appreciate that blessing here in this world, we will only truly come to appreciate it on day on the Day of Judgment. For anyone that is ignorant of whom Muhammad is in this world, everyone will come to know who Muhammad is in the next world. For him belongs the praiseworthy station (maqam mahmud). For him belongs the greatest of all intercessions (shifa‘a al-kubra).
And we know that our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, will prostrate beneath the throne and then it will be said to him: “Ask and you will be given. Intercede and you will be granted intercession.” and then our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, will intercede for people. But this Day of Judgment is a day that is not easy. It is a day that is subjectively experienced, meaning every single human being will experience the Day of Judgment based upon their degree of faith and upon their acts that they have done.
The very best of all possibilities is for it to be like to light rakats: a couple of minutes. but the very worst of possibilities is that it will be like fifty thousand days. It will be like fifty thousand years. It will be like fifty thousand years – from two light cycles of prayer to fifty thousand years. And there will be people that are somewhere in between.
This is why that the greatest gift that we’ve been given as believers is the gift of faith, which means that we can live a life of purpose. This is likewise one of the greatest gifts that we can give to the modern world in which we live. In a day and age where you find people moving further and further away from belief, and that the state that results is oftentimes a state of agitation and a state of panic, because Iman is related to Aman. Iman is related to security.
If you do not have Iman how can you ever ever feel a sense of security? It’s that security that you recognize that you have a Rabb. And our Rabb is Rabb al-‘alamin. He is the Lord and the very meaning of the Rabb is that He is the giver of tarbiya. In other words, that He takes something from its beginning and that He sustains that and He allows it to grow and to thrive until it reaches its fruition.
The ‘alamin is everything that Allah Most High created. Specifically, yes, that we refer to the angels and mankind and the jinn-kind. However, it relates to everything that Allah Most High has created. Everything that we know and everything that we do not know. There is a large percentage of Allah Most High’s creation that we will never ever come to know, because you can’t see it through a microscope or a telescope.
And successively that you find that in relation to the dimensions of creation, that they are larger and that they are larger, and they are more and more vast. And what does our Lord say about the Kursi – Our Lord’s footstool? His footstool encompasses everything that is in the heavens and in the earth.
If you just look at the terrestrial heaven and you look at all of the amazing things that we’ve discovered and the incredible intergalactic distances of the known world, that world that we can either see and observe or that we can determine by a mathematical calculation, it is immense. It it is vast.
But you imagine then what it would be like the other worlds that Allah Most High has created. The other dimensions, the seven heavens for instance, what type of distances are we speaking about here? We can only understand them as a concept. We can’t understand them in reality. If that applies for things even within the terrestrial heaven, what about the other things that our Lord has created, Exalted and Most High?
What is the meaning that we take from that, that relates to our Iman? That we that find a source of security in that, because the Rabb is the One who is going to take care of what He created and what He brought to fruition. This is why we always have to remind ourselves that history is in good hands, with no anthropomorphic meaning. Our Lord is the Lord of history and the Umma of our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is an Umma marhuma. There are many things of this Din that you cannot fully understand or comprehend until you take into consideration the next world, the afterlife.
There are certain things that you will never fully come to understand their wisdom in this world, until you see the way that it’s played out in the next. Much of the suffering that we see happening right now, as we speak to the Muslim world, to the Muslim community, and to individuals. We don’t even need to list names because there’s such a long list now that it would take too long to list in how many places that there is affliction and calamity and difficulty, that were you to think about just one incident, it’s hard to really wrap your head around.
Well, what gives you a source of solace is to know that we have a Lord who is Just, and that no one, not one human being ever that has ever lived, after the Day of Judgment happens, will ever feel like they have not been given their right. Everyone will be gifted their right. Every single human being who was wronged will be given retribution.
We should always remember that history is in good hands. We should always remember that the Umma of our Prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, is an Umma marhuma. That Allah brings forth, in other words, the punishment of this Umma when we go astray in this world before the next.
We have to learn, to teach ourselves to see things from two perspectives. We have to see everything from the standpoint of it being the divine decrees unfolding right before our eyes. Snd also how it is that we that judge that particular incident outwardly from the standpoint of the Shari‘a. We have to look at everything simultaneously in two ways.
That applies to even a sickness that we get. If we all of a sudden find out that we’ve been diagnosed with cancer what is our first response? If we’re no different than any other people, our first response will be one of panic. But to degree that there is Iman will be to the degree that we see that illness or sickness or disease or terminal condition in light of our faith.
I actually know an individual, and this is someone that I met and saw him with my own eyes. This might sound a bit strange but this shows you what happens when you have strong Iman. You have an ability to interpret or, in other words, respond to the divine decree in a way that other people simply can’t do.
This person, when he was informed that he had cancer, the very first thing he did was smile. And they asked him, “Why on earth are you smiling?” He said, “I see this as: now this is the time that I’ve been waiting for. which this is the time for me to meet my Lord.” He interpreted that sickness in a very different way than someone else would.
And we don’t enjoin sickness upon anyone. We don’t want that for our own selves, but when it comes, outwardly you do all the treatments necessary to cure yourself of that disease or sickness. However, when the time comes for us to meet our Lord what is our state? What is going to be our state when we take our last breath, which for us is the ultimate moment of truth?
Generally speaking we die according to the way that we lived and we will be raised according to the way that we die. So we need to remind ourselves of the life that we’re living here in this world. This world is perishing in and of its nature. It’s been created to do so. Whether it’s going to collapse on itself or whether it’s going to expand so much that it freezes. We don’t really know what’s going to actually happen, and how our Lord, Exalted and Most High, is going to destroy the heavens in the earth. Hut we know it’s going to happen when He wills it to happen.
For us when we take our last breath, that is the Sa‘at al- Sughra. That is the “lesser of the two hours,” because we should always remember that sleep is the brother of death. Likewise our own death is, in that sense, the little brother of the greater Hour, because then we transition into the next world.
Our Prophet taught us, blessings and peace be upon him, that the grave is the first stage of the stages of the afterlife. We know that the grave will either be a garden from the gardens of paradise or a pit from the pits of hell. May Allah, Blessed and Most High, grant us refuge from any punishment in the grave, because if we’re unable to bear that punishment in the grave – and who can? – then how are we going to be able to bear the punishment of the Day of Judgment, let alone what happens after that?
We are all, in that sense, miskin (in dire need) before our Lord, Exalted and Most High, who has decreed that there are two final abodes. This is not about the human beings’ choice. Will the human being have everything that he desires? It is not about what you want, and it is not about what I want, or what anyone else wants. This is the decree of the One who has the traits of Irada, of Divine Will, and He does whatever He wants. If He wills for something to happen, He says “Be! And it is.” How do we respond to that? With complete and total submission.
This is one of the most beautiful things of all, if anyone has had that experience here in this blessed masjid – to have not been in a life of faith and then convert to this blessed religion, and to experience the beauty of submission. Because the reality is is that we’re not in control. If anyone thinks they’re in control it’s a delusion. Thinking that we’re in control is illusory. It’s a delusion.
We are not in control. And when we learn to submit to the One who is truly in control… How many times in the Qur’an are we reminded to have tawakkul – to place our trust in Allah? How many times in the Qur’an are we reminded of these traits? “And I assign my affairs over to Allah.” None of this negates taking the means. We are required to take the means, but we’re also required to place our trust in our Lord, Exalted and Most High.
Living up to these principles is what’s going to enable us as a community to navigate any difficult time. And for us this is really what it’s all about. In the society outside this door, when you walk out through the streets, when you meet and greet people ,when you’re in the store, when you’re at work, when you’re at school, I just have a plea.
Please remember that whether you realize it or not there will be people looking at you. There will be people that take their understanding of Islam based upon how you interact with them. I just want you to remember that people like myself who didn’t know anything about Islam, if we would have met people who brought a bad name to Islam, how would we have entered into this Din?
This is an absolute responsibility upon the shoulders of every single person in this room. No one is exempt – man woman and even children, although they’re not taken to account until they become legally responsible. We are required to have principled engagement. What is principled engagement? It is that we immerse ourselves in the meanings of Iman, in the meanings of Islam, and in the meanings of Ihsan. Then we engage based upon these principles.
We make contributions in every situation or circumstance that we find ourselves in. It’s very simple there’s people think that there’s some type of overly sophisticated, complicated, philosophical way that we need to be in the societies in which we live. Yes, there is an element of strategy that needs a lot of thought. However, it’s very simple. As believers we very simply need to be.
If we would just be in all the meanings of being – bringing to life the Sunna of our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, that would speak with mute eloquence, much more eloquently than anything else that we could say merely on the tongue. Our actions would speak much louder than our words, and what would happen then is that the light of the teachings of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him – which is the secret of the penetration of Iman and it’s absorption in the heart of individual – would spread amongst the peoples’ hearts that are around.
Our Lord speaks about “the one who was dead and We brought him back to life,” and then what? That “We brought him back to life and We made him light spread amongst people.” If you look at the way that this is expressed, it is that light flows and it emanates in mankind (fi al-nas).” And for those for whom it has been preordained, they’re going to accept that guidance. It will come to their hearts.
The more that we live up to these teachings, that we live up to these principles, the more people will experience the beauty of “la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah.” By Allah! There is nothing more beautiful than this Din. There is nothing more beautiful than the way of our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, his Sunna and all of his teachings.
What we’re required to do is to embrace that beauty so we become beautified through it. To embrace that light so we become enlightened through it. And then share it freely with people, inwardly and outwardly, and see ourselves as servants of all of humanity. If we did this we would see amazing things.
This article is a edited transcript of a Friday sermon given by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus at London Muslim Mosque as part of the Age of Anger – Southern Ontario Tour, April 2017.
Why do we obey Allah? Out of gratitude. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?” If we look at the Qur’an, Allah tells us in Sura Ibrahim 14:7. There’s a context to this which, is our master Musa’s proclamation to Bani Israel and so on. You can read the tafsir of the context. There’s a specific context to this verse. It’s one of the marvels of the Qur’an.
If a friend of mine and I are having conversation and you strip it of its context, what will happen? It won’t make sense. But the Qur’an has a specific context either within the text of the Qur’an itself or the context of Revelation. That gives insight into the meaning, but the general meaning of the words is not affected by the context, in so far as the general meaning still applies.
If someone asked me: “All right have you had lunch?” And I say: “No. I haven’t. I’m hungry.” If I say I am hungry, it doesn’t apply for all the time. It just applies in this context. But the guidance of the Qur’an, though there’s a specific context here related to Bani Israel. This is what our master Musa is told to tell them: “When your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will certainly grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, surely, My punishment is severe.’”
There are a number of things related to this verse. Ibn Ajiba in his tafsir, Al-Bahr al-Madid, mentioned that the first thing is: This is a proclamation from Allah. An adhan is a public announcement is a public announcement. So it’s much more emphatic than simply saying something. You are announcing it widely.
But it’s not just that. It says: “wa idh ta’adhdhana Rabbukum.” The tafa‘‘ala pattern in the Arabic language conveys active effort. That is, your Lord fully proclaims – fully proclaims. This is meant like, “Get it!” It’s not just an announcement. This is in bold, red, capital letters. A major proclamation. This is not just something Allah is telling you. He’s proclaiming. Pay attention.
It’s difficult to to translate the Qur’an. It’s impossible to translate the Qur’an because to catch the eloquence you have to be brief, but to convey the meaning you’d have to be very wordy. So “When your Lord openly proclaims, widely, demanding full attention for the proclamation.” Then comes a conditional statement. “If you are grateful then We shall surely grant you increase.”
How are you grateful? The scholars of tafsir say, the believers’ gratitude is to respond to the gift of life with recognition of the Bestower of gifts through having faith. Because if you recognize that your life is a gift, who is it a gift from? It’s a gift from the Creator. So, believe in Him! That’s the first element of gratitude.
Then if you recognize that Allah has granted you health, has blessed you with these limbs, what is the recognition for your physical blessings? It is righteous deeds. Each limb has blessings that are due for them.
Literally if you translate the verse, you say, if you have been grateful. It’s put in the past tense. In the Arabic language when you put something in the past tense meaning: “If you are fully grateful,” that gratitude is a standard. It’s not just something you do. It’s done with. You have full gratitude.
The response to your gratitude, Allah emphasizes this several fold in saying “la’azidannakum.” The letter lam here is for emphasis. The letter nun is also for emphasis. The fact that is formed as a conditional sentence, “If you are grateful, then I will grant you increase,” is also for emphasis.
It’s fascinating, because what will you be granted an increase in? Normally someone says, e.g. if you clear the snow from the driveway, I’ll give you…” and you mention what you will give. But Allah Most High says: “I will grant you increase.” But the increase is not specified. Meaning it’s unconditional.
The gratitude is a condition. What are you grateful for? Whatever you’re grateful for you’ll be granted increase beyond measure. Beyond measure. Now this increase is both of the good of this life and the good of the next as we know from the Qur’an. So gratitude secures increase in worldly terms but there is also the eternal increase of reward.
The basic increase of any good deed is that Allah rewards it tenfold. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us: “A good deed is rewarded tenfold, up to 700 times, to many times thereof.” One of the things that takes the good deed from having ten rewards to having 700 or beyond measure is if you do the same thing with gratitude Allah will reward it far more than doing the same deed with sincerity but lacking in gratitude.
The sunna of action is that anything that you do should have two qualities. One is sincerity. That will secure you some multiplication for your reward. But the other key to increase the spiritual impact and the eternal rewards is gratitude. That’s the prophetic way. “Should I not be a servant who is truly grateful?”
The scholars mention that if you look at prophetic teachings; if you are grateful, Allah does not say, If you are grateful for the things that are pleasing to you. That is the obvious gratitude. If there’s something pleasing to you be grateful. That is the common person’s gratitude. But the true believers’ gratitude – the gratitude of the righteous believer is in pleasing things but also in difficulty and distress, because the distress is also from Allah Most High.
This is why Ibn Ata’illah in his Hikam says: “If f you can see Allah’s giving when He withholds from you then Allah’s withholding becomes from His giving itself.” Why? Our Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, says in a sahih hadith: “How strange are the affairs of the believer, because their affair is all for their good. That’s for no one but the believer. Pleasing things happen to them, they are grateful and that is for their good. Distressful things happen to them, they are contentedly patient, and that too is for their good.”
Contented patience is a branch of gratitude, because the patience of the believer is not a begrudging patience. “What can I do about, you know? Just grit my teeth and deal with it.” That’s not gratitude. That’s not patience. They say that the beginning of true patience is leaving complaints.
There is a level below patience which is making yourself be patient. Which is take a breath, don’t complain, but you feel complaint within. That’s not patience. That’s not steadfastness. That is what is called “making yourself be patient.”
True patience has gratitude in it. True gratitude is to see everything as a blessing from Allah. Allah Most High tells us: “Say, it is all from Allah.” Gratitude in one sense has an action and a response. The action is Allah’s, which is, it is all from Allah. Whatever comes to you is from Allah, so you see everything as from Allah.
Your response is to respond in the way pleasing to Allah. That is gratitude. Divine action–human response. The human response is the response that Allah has called you to have. And the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation.
What is the response that Allah has called you to have in each situation? That’s a sunna of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. In any situation there is an outward sunna and an inward sunna. It’s action and attitude. That’s basically life.
Much is going on in the world, much that can be considered stressful, disappointing and devastating However, the believer looks at the world as a sign of Allah.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, when he would wake up for night worship, would recite:
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire. (Sura Ali Imran, 2: 190-191)
Signs in the creation point to the Creator. A believer looks from the eye of faith; everything in this world is from Allah. The struggle of servitude is figuring out how to turn to Allah in the moments where He manifests.
Life is about the Beloved, and there is one Beloved: Allah. The believer sees everything in their life as good, and reminds themselves about Allah’s call to seek Him and know Him.
When we begin something with Bismillah, we are saying, “I am doing this with Allah, for Allah, reliant upon Allah.” These are the keys to the beginning of guidance.
Let’s begin our year with light, and make our year a year of light. Let’s make everything for Allah, reliant on Allah, with Allah and conscious of Allah. If love for Allah is true, what is there to worry about? Everything else is mere dust.
However, there are things to do, so let us direct ourselves to the highest of matters in the best of ways, recognising our shortcomings.
May Allah grant us the most blessed of years, most blissful of years, a year of light, where we begin right and end right, beginning with Allah and ending with Allah. We are Allah’s and to Him we are ever returning.
Q: How do you find ways to forgive when it’s very difficult?
A: This is a good question, because we should be real in how we cultivate spiritual ideals. The first thing to do is look at the life of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and see the incredible honor that stemmed from his forgiveness. His forgiveness of the Quraysh after the Conquest of Mecca was more than about a few arguments. He and his followers had suffered 20 years of serious aggression, wars, torture, and physical and psychological harm. However, his heart was so attached to Allah, and he wanted what was best for his people. Therefore, when he was given the upper hand, he chose forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the biggest steps to healing from pain, and resentment continues to burn us. Sometimes our nafs blocks this meaning from us. If someone is being harmed, then we have the right to prevent that. After that, we can try to look for excuses for them. If that’s difficult, you make duaa for them, that Allah guide them.
Q: How is it possible to have patience without being passive?
A: Scholars say that everything has a knowledge-based response, and then an action-based response. Before we try, we should keep in mind what patience means. Neither patience or gratitude are passive. Gratitude is more than seeing the good; it is using things for what it’s used. For example, being grateful to live in Canada does not mean ignoring the wrongs done by the Canadian government. Rather, we use our blessings to do what Allah has commanded us to do-work towards truth, justice, mercy and the prevention of harm.
Q: How does one explain gratitude to children?
A: Syed Naqib al-Attas, one of the most brilliant minds in education of the 20th century, broke down children’s education into three components. Firstly, there is tarbiya, or education, raising the child. Secondly, ta’deeb is the instilling of correct manners and etiquette to any situation. Finally, ta’leem is teaching the child, which can be done in many ways.
Q: What about someone who isn’t feeling the essence of gratitude in his heart?
A: Ultimately, Allah does not squander an atom’s weight of good. The scholars define a good action as, “anything that has even a residual aspect of good.” The devil will try to suggest that you are not grateful enough, or not sincere enough, but flee from those thoughts.
“If you are grateful, We shall surely grant you increase,” Allah promises in the Qur’an. “Should I not be a truly grateful servant?” said the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In this seminar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin explore Radical Gratitude: How Thankfulness Transforms Our Life and Religion.
Gratitude is not just a warm sentiment that one has. The believers’ gratitude has an object. Our gratitude is to Allah Most High. So the gratitude of the believer is different from other peoples’ gratitude. Our gratitude is also different because we don’t just feel gratitude for some things. The believer feels gratitude for everything.
This gratitude is radical because this gratitude is transformative. It’s transformative of your emotional state, of your life, of your spiritual state, and of your standing with Allah.
To approach gratitude soundly, we begin by looking at the reality of gratitude. The word for gratitude in Arabic, shukr, is a very interesting word, because its essential meaning comes from increase. Gratitude is a response to something with increase – with more than was expected. That’s the sense of shukr. It has the sense of increase in response.
There’s a number of types of plants that were called shakir. You plant one tree and these plants would grow around the tree even though you didn’t plant them. They would form around the prior growth.
The other use for shakir was a type of shrub or bush that would grow in a very dry environment and would have vegetation on it despite there being very little for it to grow upon. So it’s a response with increase.
Similarly in the Arabic language they say of an animal that it is shakur. An animal such as cattle that grows bigger than you would expect given what you fed it. Something is nurtured, something is given some sustenance, and shukr describes that it’s responding to it in the right way but with increase.
They’d also referred to camels as being or having shukr in the sense that it would take you much further than you would expect given how much it had to eat a drink.
Now gratitude, shukr, religiously has a more specific connotation. Ultimately gratitude in its religious meaning is a spiritual act. It does have worldly implications because the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Whoever is not grateful to people is not grateful to Allah.”
How is it understood religiously that our gratitude to people is done as an expression of gratitude to Allah Most High? Ultimately all gratitude is to Allah. Part of gratitude to Allah is to be grateful to people, but gratitude to people is not separate from gratitude to Allah. All gratitude of ultimate significance is gratitude to Allah.
Someone is a shepherd and has a dog. They have gratitude for the shepherd dog because it is helping you out, but that gratitude is out of gratitude to Allah in that the dog is a blessing from Allah. Someone is grateful to their friend but that too should be from gratitude to Allah Most High.
One of the great scholars of Islam, Imam Ahmed al-Zarruq, defines gratitude as having several as having a basis and an expression. He says: “Gratitude is a rejoicing of the heart at the bestower of blessings, not merely the blessing itself. This is manifest on one’s limbs such that one’s tongue actively praises Allah and one’s limbs Express good works and leave contraventions.”
This is the definition he gives in his third commentary on the Hikam of Ibn Ata’illah. Imam al-Zarruq over 30 commentaries on the Hikam, at least 18 of which were complete. So gratitude is the hearts’ rejoicing at the blessing, but not but not at the blessing insofar as there’s something pleasing to you.
Gratitude is a type of happiness but it’s not a happiness at the blessing, because that kind of gratitude, that kind of happiness or appreciation, will actually turn you away from Allah Most High. That’s why happiness and rejoicing and blessings can be a more difficult test than sadness and feeling down and being in difficulty. When you’re in difficulty, anyone with some faith in their heart, if you’re in difficulty what do you do? Turn to Allah. The difficulty ends up being good to you. You had a difficulty and you turned to Allah.
When pleasing things happen, when success happens, when joyous things take place in your life, naturally, you rejoice. You feel happy. But the key that distinguishes gratitude or religiously consequential gratitude is that it’s not just feeling happy, it’s not just feeling satisfied, it’s the hearts rejoicing at the bestower of blessings. It’s rejoicing with Allah for having given you that blessing.
Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an: “You have no blessing except that it is from Allah.” (Sura al-Nahl 16:53) He also tells us: “Say! In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy, in that let them rejoice. It is far better than the things that they amass.” (Sura Yunus 10:58)
So you paid for the new SmartWatch. It arrived. You rejoice. Is that gratitude? No, it would only be gratitude if the rejoicing was by seeing that as being from Allah Most High. That is gratitude and not merely the blessing itself, which is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, tells us in one of the hadith in Imam al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith: “Whoever finds any good let them praise Allah.”
This is a very important definition: “Gratitude is a rejoicing of the heart at the bestower of blessings, not merely the blessing itself.” What is the result of this? That your tongue would be praising Allah, and your limbs would direct the blessing towards the obedience of Allah, towards what is pleasing to Allah in your life. And that you would keep from disobeying Allah with what He has blessed you with.
Imam al-Zarruq says: “There are three integrals of gratitude. The first is the hearts rejoicing at the giver due to his blessings, due to his giving. That is,” he says, “the reality of gratitude.” Gratitude is then expressed on the tongue by praising Allah out of recognition of His gift by saying “Alhamdulillah.”
When is it gratitude to say “Alhamdulillah”? When that saying of “Alhamdulillah” comes from a recognition in your heart of this matter being a blessing from Allah.
Imagine you’re stuck somewhere. You got a notification that the taxi you ordered is one minute away. You went outside but the guy took a wrong turn and you’re stuck in the cold. The taxi comes and you say: “Alhamdulillah.” Are you rejoicing at the taxi coming? If you are, is that gratitude?
It’s not a religiously consequential gratitude. “I feel grateful that the taxi has come.” Okay. Good. It’s better for you than to feel miserable, but that’s just worldly gratitude. The gratitude we’re talking about – that is transformative – is that when pleasing things happen to you you feel grateful to Allah, because the taxi didn’t come on its own. “You have no blessing except that it is from Allah.”
We need to train ourselves to be grateful when we say “Alhamdulillah.” Zubayr and Zubayda finally got married. Zubayda was trying to explain the relationship between gratitude and saying “Alhamdulillah” to Zubayr.
They both went to a steak house. Zubayda had a steak and she is in a state of gratitude to Allah Most High. But she didn’t say “Alhamdulillah.” Zubayr ate it. He’d been vegetarian. When you get married you’re basically wrapped around your spouse’s finger, so he stopped being vegetarian for the sake of Zubayda, because she loves steak. He finished and he says: “Alhamdulillah.”
Who is spiritually in a better state, Zubayda or Zubayr? Zubayda, because her heart is in a state of rejoicing at the Giver due to His giving. That is the reality of gratitude. It is light upon light to them that appreciation in the heart is expressed on the tongue by you saying “Alhamdulillah.”
But saying “Alhamdulillah” without this appreciation of this blessing as being from Allah, this is not gratitude. It’s something that’s not quite gratitude. Then if the gratitude is true it will have a manifestation, which is a third aspect of gratitude, which is to keep one’s limbs within Allah’s commands.
Gratitude for each limb is to direct what Allah has blessed you with towards Allah’s good pleasure. And not to use Allah’s blessing towards the disobedience to Allah. If you see it as a blessing from Allah use it within Allah’s limits.
This is taken from a live seminar on Radical Gratitude given by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at SeekersHub Toronto this year.
It’s important for us to understand gratitude and cultivate it into our hearts, so that we can draw closer to Allah. Imam al-Haddad said that one the main kinds of reflection that we should do, is to reflect on Allah’s blessings, and its fruit is love of Allah. Therefore, gratitude is a direct route to drawing closer to Allah.
With a lot of focus on mental health today, many psychologists are trying to see how gratitude can help us. A psychiatrist told Ustadh Amjad that most of mental illness today is a reaction to the toxicity in the world today, not a sickness.
As Muslims we have a responsibility, first to rectify our own states with Allah, and then to help others in need. Many people are searching for what we Muslims have already been taught by our Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.
One of the many benefits of gratitude, is stronger relationships. One of the largest indicators of happiness is the quality of relationships; family, friends, etc. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever does not thank people, has not thanked Allah.”
Grateful people are also known to have better physical and mental health. Studies have shown that grateful people had fewer aches and pains, and felt happier, had less depression and aggression, and more empathy. In fact, the Applied Psychology reported in 2012 that writing in a gratitude journal improved the quality of sleep.
More than ever, what we really need is a deep connection to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. As people, we need someone to help us make sense of everything. The world is confusing and challenging, and we need someone to trust. Sometimes we give people more trust than they deserve, and get hurt when they break our trust. But if we connect to the Prophet, he will never disappoint us. He is above and beyond any life coach, mentor or adviser. His advice will always be the best, as “His character was the Qur’an.” Connecting to him will give us the strength and meaning to continue.
Having gratitude can also lead to an increase and a protecting from deprivation. Allah says, “If you are grateful for my blessings, I will grant you increase.” (Surah Ibrahim 14.7) The scholar Habib Abu Bakr bin Salim, who used to give away a thousand loaves of bread every day in charity, was once presented with a small gift of wheat. He profusely thanked the woman who had brought it, then said, “Those who are not grateful for small things, are deprived of big things.”
As Muslims, our perspective on gratitude is very different from the commonly accepted definition. We practice gratitude for every situation we come across, not just the ones that we enjoy. This has a radically transformation effect on our mental state, spiritual state, and standing with Allah. This is the reality of gratitude.
The word for gratitude in Arabic is shukr. It’s essential meaning comes from the word “increase,” which gives it the meaning of a response to something with increase. A shakira was a type of bush that would grow in very dry environments, and would produce a lot of vegetation despite the difficult circumstances. Camels and other animals were also referred to with that word, because of their ability to give much benefit despite the little they ate and drank.
Outwardly, gratitude is a spiritual act. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever is not grateful to people, is not grateful to Allah.” This teaches us that even our gratitude to others is a means of showing our gratitude to Allah, since ultimately all gratitude is for Allah.
Imam Ahmad Zarruq defined gratitude as, “the heart’s rejoicing at the Bestower of blessings, not merely the blessings. This is manifest on one’s limbs, such that one’s tongue actively praises Allah, and one’s limbs express good works and leave contraventions.”
This is why sometimes blessings can be a more difficult test than sadness. When in a difficult situation, it’s easy to turn to Allah with sincerity. However, in times of ease, people tend to forget Allah.
Allah says, “If you are grateful for my blessings, I will grant you increase.” (Surah Ibrahim 14.7) There are two levels of gratitude; gratitude, and true gratitude. Gratitude is to respond to blessings with joy and thankfulness to Allah. But true gratitude is to see all situations, good or bad, as coming from Allah.
The bridge to love to Allah is true gratitude. Allah says, “Few of my servants are truly grateful.” When Imam Junayd was asked about it the reality of gratitude, he said, “To do your utmost in the presence of your Lord.” Gratitude is not just to say “alhamdulillah,” but to use the blessing well. He also said, “Gratitude is to not disobey Allah with what He has given you.” Since Allah has given us all our facilities, true gratitude entails doing our best to never disobey Allah.
“If you are grateful, We shall surely grant you increase,” Allah promises in the Qur’an. “Should I not be a truly grateful servant?” said the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In this seminar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin explore Radical Gratitude: How Thankfulness Transforms Our Life and Religion.
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