Gratitude (shukr) is about expressing thanks and appreciation to those who do any favour to us. Obviously, none can come close to our creator, Allah, who gave us everything. As the Quran states:
ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكَ فَسَوَّىٰكَ فَعَدَلَكَ
“Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion” [Infitar 82:7].
As humans, Allah has bestowed on us the nature to be grateful and we should thus express that gratitude not just to Allah but to the people whom we deal with as well. In many places in the Quraan, Allah divides people as being grateful and as ungrateful to motivate us to join the camp of those who are grateful. In one of such verses, Prophet Sulaimaan (AS) said, as stated in the Quran,
قَالَ ٱلَّذِى عِندَهُۥ عِلْمٌ مِّنَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ أَنَا۠ ءَاتِيكَ بِهِۦ قَبْلَ أَن يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَءَاهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِندَهُۥ قَالَ هَـٰذَا مِن فَضْلِ رَبِّى لِيَبْلُوَنِىٓ ءَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ ۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِۦ ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّى غَنِىٌّ كَرِيمٌ
“. . . then when Sulaimaan saw it placed before him, he said: “This is by the Grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his own self, and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his own self). Certainly! My Lord is Rich (Free of all wants), Bountiful” [An-Naml: 40]
Having a sense of gratitude is thus a great blessing and those of us who instil that sense within themselves not only seek Allahs pleasure but embody a sense of happiness, relieving us of the many pressures and anxieties. The blessings and benefits of gratitude are many, we will try to get through as many as possible.
Gratitude is knowing that whatever we have is from Allah.
Gratitude helps us focus our minds on Allah, something that has unfortunately become so difficult today on account of life’s distractions and attractions. Gratitude, therefore, corrects our perceptions by reminding us that everything that happens to us doesn’t happen because of its own volition and thus we shouldn’t take matters for “granted”. Allah says in the Quran:
وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ ٱللَّهِ ۖ
“And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah” [al-Nahl 16:53].
Let’s therefore constantly remind ourselves of Allah’s bounties by expressing our gratitude to Him in prayers and at other times.
Gratitude helps in warding off punishment from Allah.
Not recognizing Allah’s blessings can prevent us from gaining His pleasure. We know that if Allah were to punish us for our negligence, He would be justified for it. He says in the Quran:
وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلنَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا۟ مَا تَرَكَ عَلَىٰ ظَهْرِهَا مِن دَآبَّةٍ وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَىٰٓ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۖ فَإِذَا جَآءَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِۦ بَصِيرًۢا
“If Allah took mankind to task by that which they deserve, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth; but He grants them reprieve unto an appointed term, and when their term comes – then verily Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves” [Fatir:45].
At the same time though, Allah provides us a way to escape that punishment by being thankful to Him. He says,
مَّا يَفْعَلُ ٱللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِن شَكَرْتُمْ وَءَامَنتُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا
“Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him. And Allah is Ever All-Appreciative (of good), All-Knowing” [An-Nisa: 147].
Gratitude, therefore, is not an option and we should clean our hearts to thank Allah for everything that He has provided us.
Gratitude helps us to slow down and to enjoy what we have rather than always waiting for the next wish to come true.
Gratitude can help us recognize that we already have enough of what many people have for long been yearning for. We must therefore tame our Nafs to understand that if we can’t find happiness in the blessings that we have today, then we won’t be happy with what we get tomorrow. You see, gratitude is a sense of fulfilment that comes not from wanting more but rather from a sense of knowing that Allah has already blessed us with what we need. The Prophet ﷺ said:
لو أن لابن آدم وادياً من ذهب أحب أن يكون له واديان، ولن يملأ فاه إلا التراب،
“…if the son of Adam has one valley, he will wish that he had a second, and if he had two valleys, he would wish that he had a third. The stomach of the son of Adam will be filled only with dust (i.e., he is never satisfied)…” (Reported by Ahmad, 5/219; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1781).
So, let’s use gratitude to learn to enjoy what we have rather than fretting over what we don’t.
Gratitude sought by exercising patience against unlawful desires prevents us from harmful consequences later. This was very aptly addressed by Ibn Qayyim (R), who stated that “Patience in resisting desires is easier than patience in dealing with the consequences that result from going along with desires, because it either leads to pain and punishment or it prevents a more complete pleasure, . . . or it deprives one of a blessing, having which is more pleasurable and better than fulfilling desires, . . . or it cuts off an oncoming blessing, or it has a negative impact on one’s character that will remain, because deeds have a great impact on one’s character and behaviour.” [Al-Fawaa’id (p. 139)]