Thankfulness in the Quran

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Bird of Paradise flower (photo by author)

Last Ramadan, this post discussed the importance of gratitude, highlighting it as the primal attitude leading to faith and trust in Allah, the Giver of all we have to be thankful for. We would do well to be reminded of it today.

Thankfulness is expressed in the very second aya of Al-Fatiha, Alhamdulillahi Rabb Al-‘Alameen, which means “Praise to Allah, Lord of all the worlds” – “all the worlds” being understood to mean everything, but this expression is more powerful and inclusive, because “worlds” refers to “everything” in all its possible dimensions, expressions, spacetime iterations, even universes. It includes worldly or earthly worlds, celestial worlds of which we have no knowledge and those we think we understand, inclusive. Praise is higher than but inclusive of thanks and appreciation, an overflowing and outpouring of thankfulness. It is closely related to the expression “Hallelujah,” as it is understood by people of faith. And so by reciting Al-Fatiha in daily salat, we are actually giving that praise and thanks using words Allah gave us to express that very attitude, thus guiding our hearts to the best approach to living and simply being. 

Gratitude Heals & Brings Patience

This article about the healing power of nature actually describes how all of creation expresses this gratitude and praise in their very ways of being and how in turn we humans find healing in that. Even in times of test and difficulty, such an attitude can carry us through with patience, having an abiding trust that the All-Merciful is indeed the Mercy-Giver, the Lord of Mercy, who creates beauty and fulfillment for us, which ultimately supersedes and even conquers the forces of hate and ugliness and arrogance, which come from those with closed hearts full of resentments and impatience for everything to go their way or to cling to power and wealth without regard to Who gave life itself and everything else in the first place. 

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,

Al-Baqara 2:155

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.”

2:156

أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.

2:157

And the aya below refers to when Prophet Solomon (Suleiman) wanted to bring the Queen of Sheba’s (Malikat Saba’) throne, which was extremely heavy and highly ornamented, to his palace, and asked those around him (which included jinn) who could bring it to him. After a jinn said he could bring it before Solomon got up from where he was (presumably sitting), we have the following verse:

قَالَ الَّذِي عِندَهُ عِلْمٌ مِّنَ الْكِتَابِ أَنَا آتِيكَ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَآهُ مُسْتَقِرًّا عِندَهُ قَالَ هَٰذَا مِن فَضْلِ رَبِّي لِيَبْلُوَنِي أَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ ۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّي غَنِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ

Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, “I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.” (“The twinkling of an eye.”) And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, “This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.” (Emphasis mine.)

Al-Naml 27:40

So Solomon actually expressed his gratitude, as a Prophet who despite having been given much power to a highly unusual and miraculous extent, with wisdom he saw that all this power was also a test to see if he is grateful or ungrateful. 

The More We Get, the More We Need Gratitude

We can understand from this that the more we are given, the greater our need to remember to keep our attitude of thankfulness. Because the opposite of gratitude is kufr, which means “covering up,” as when one covers up something good and beneficial and only complains about their troubles and hardships. And kufr is very often translated disbelief. But more properly it should be understood as denial, the act of covering up what is good, true, and/or excellent. And what is beautiful. And beneficial. And healing. And fulfilling. All of this comes ultimately from Allah, so we must be grateful to the Source of all Good, which then increases our appreciation for everything else, what is given to us. 

Butterfly’s beauty is a delight to the beholder. (Photo by author)

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