Some Thoughts On Gratitude

Sheikh Ragip al Jerrahi, Ramadan 14, Hijri 1432

Ramadan is a particularly good time of year to practice being grateful to God. Of course we should practice gratitude to God all year long. As Muslims we should try our best to praise God and be thankful to God at all times. This kind of gratitude is a marvelous form of zikrullah, or remembrance of God.

In Islam it is traditional answer the question, ‘’How are you?’’ by saying  ‘’Alhamdulillah,’’ ‘’Praise be to God.’’ This response reminds us that God is ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim, Loving, Merciful and Compassionate, and that God cares for all creatures with infinite benevolence and wisdom. As Muslims we believe that every situation we face is given to us by God for a reason, and that even in the most difficult trials there is great benefit for us. So in every circumstance we can practice thankfulness to God.

In Sufism shukr, or gratitude, means to use our bodies, abilities, feelings, and thoughts to fulfill the purpose of our creation: being thankful to God for the blessings we have received. Gratitude for our intelligence, strength, empathy and other qualities means to use these traits to serve others. We can express gratitude for the achievements we have been blessed with by being humble. We can try and express our gratitude in all our daily actions. We can learn to feel gratitude in our hearts by remembering that life itself and all the other blessings we have received come from God.

In the Holy Quran God teaches that we were created for the purpose of being grateful to God. ‘’It is God who brought you forth from the bellies of your mothers, knowing nothing. And it is God who created your hearing, your sight and your hearts. Perhaps you will render thanks [to God]’’ (16:78).

The Quran also reveals that one of Satan’s main aims is to keep people from being grateful. After Satan fell from God’s grace, he vowed, ‘’I shall lie in wait for them [human beings] along your straight path. Then I shall assail them from their front and from their backs, from their right and from their left. Nor will You find most of them to be thankful [for the blessings they have received].’’ (7:16-17).

After the Israelites worshipped a golden calf, God said to them “Later, We pardoned you, so that you might render thanks” (2:52). God also revealed, “Whoever desires the reward of this world, We shall give it to them, and whoever desires the reward of the other world We shall give it to them. We shall reward those who give thanks” (3:144). The benefits of gratitude are greater than we realize. God has revealed, “If you give thanks for blessings I shall multiply them upon you” (14:7).

As Muslims and as dervishes we seek to develop patience and trust in God and to be thankful to God in every situation. Those who know say that our tests and trials are God-given opportunities to practice gratitude.  Those who remain thankful during times of trial come closer to their Lord. It is a great blessing to practice gratitude and benefits us far more than we can know.

Gratitude to God does not come from the removal of difficulties. It is an inner state of the heart. This state is consciously achieved by continuous effort as we reflect on the blessings and mercy of God and seek to block out the inner whispers of negativism and discontent that keep our souls in a state of ingratitude.

A heart filled with thankfulness has no room for negativity or despair. If we continue to practice praise and thankfulness, our souls will find contentment and hearts will experience peace, inshallah.