The Beginning of Gratitude
I can pinpoint the moment Allah blessed me to become a practicing Muslim. My heart was so deeply covered in sins. In this moment of realisation, I went into an existential crisis. The only thing that I knew for certain was that Allah is real and that Islam was true. It was from this moment in the end of 2017 that Allah blessed me to build my Foundation. Alhamdulillah. I have been on this path since. From excessively indulging in sin, I fell into depression for 2 years. During the trough of the depression, I feel into an existential crisis. Undoubtedly, it was from the Qadr (Will) of Allah. This existential crisis was necessary for me to overcome my 2 years of depression. I cannot deny it. All my experiences, the choices that were made — whether mine or not — lead to the moment where Allah made me realise what my purpose of life really was. I deconstructed everything about myself with the influence from my culture and upbringing, my sins, my good influences, my bad influences, and all I was left with was that I need to worship Allah. From this foundation, my interests have been surrounding the reality of how I can draw closer to Allah. What’s stopping me from obeying Allah and how do I overcome it?
Initially coming out of Jahiliya (ignorance), I wanted to contribute to society through my degree in finance by building Islamic financial institutions. But, was this possible? I had to look deeper. I started looking into capitalism and wealth in general. From my degree I understood how it functioned. But, I had a more fundamental question lingering in my mind. What is the true nature of wealth and how does it affect us?
Wealth is a material form of sustenance in the dunya (world) and it is a dominant material form to how we sustain ourselves. Our food, our interpersonal and personal relationships, and how we attain power are all currently based on wealth. But think about it for a second, is that how Allah sustains us? Or is that just the veil of the dunya, a veil of modernity? How does Allah sustain us?
Allah is Ar-Razzaq.
What does it mean when we say Allah is Ar-Razzaq (The Sustainer/Provider)?
Every moment of existence, every chemical reaction that occurs within our cells, to from when we decide to speak to the moment later when we speak the words we want to say. Allah wills for us to speak. That’s just our tongue. Now imagine how you’ve gotten here? We came from an insignificant drop of sperm, to an embryo to a fully fashioned human. That’s just you. What about the entirety of humanity? What about every creation in the dunya? And, the dunya is the lowest realm. What about all the other realms of existence? What about every single creation that exists?
Wealth and satisfying your nafs (instinctual desires) through the pursuit of wealth, simply for the sake of pursuing wealth, makes you blind and distracted from your true purpose. But when modernity and our society focuses on this and the Prophet Muhammad PBUH prophesied wealth would be the downfall of our Ummah[Nation/Followers of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH], how do we ensure we don’t fall into this trap? That’s what I’ve become interested in: how modernity is designed to make you forget that you need to discipline yourself to submit to Allah. That’s how my perception changed. The path Allah is taking me upon, the very little scholarly works I’ve read, and the people I interact with. These things continue to help me realise that at this current stage — of my path — the most important thing is; how do I be truly grateful Allah?
It is here that the words of Imam al-Ghazali helps us to understand gratitude, specifically the three attributes of it:
1. Recognising the blessing Allah has provided you with
2. Appreciating the blessing
3. Using the blessing for what is pleasing to Allah (doing the fard [obligatory], the Sunnah (the recommended), and the extra)
Now think about this. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH is the best of Prophets. What is the root word for his name? Hamd َ(Praise). Uttering words of praise; of gratitude. Through Islam, Allah is giving us the best way to show gratitude because the biggest blessing is to be blessed with Iman (Faith) and being part of the Ummah of The Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Do we really appreciate this blessing? Are we really tapping into our ability to be truly grateful? So doing acts of halal, of Sunnah, of extra deeds, are acts of gratitude? But do we intend on doing these actions with the intention of showing shukr?
Let’s dig deeper. Where does this thought of being grateful ultimately come from?
We can see this in Surah Luqman and Surah Saba, where Allah tells us:
‘We endowed Luqman with wisdom: ‘Be thankful to God: whoever gives thanks benefits his own soul, and as for those who are thankless — God is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise.’
‘They made him whatever he wanted- palaces, statues, basins as large as water troughs, fixed cauldrons. We said, ‘Work thankfully, family of David, for few of my servants are truly thankful.’
Prophet David came to the realisation that his ability to show gratitude is from Allah. That is true gratitude. Allah is Ash-Shakur (The Grateful). We can apply this.This conscious realisation and the consequences of it motivates you to appreciate Islam more. And you’re just lost in a circle of thoughts, when you’re contemplating about Allah.
1. Allah blessed us with Islam
2. We appreciate Islam and Iman Allah blessed us with
3. Be grateful
4. Recognise that being grateful is from Allah too
5. Appreciate this recognition
6. Motivates you to be grateful
7. Recognise that being grateful is from Allah.
8. The cycle repeats
And you become sad that you’re not doing enough. You raise your hands in dua (supplication) to Allah, you know Allah is As-Sami’ (The All-Seeing), and al-Baseer (The All-Hearing). You ask for forgiveness and you know Allah is Al-Ghafur (The Forgiver). You repent and you know Allah is At-Tawwab (The Acceptor of Repentance). You ask Allah to pardon you and you know Allah is Al-’Afu (The Pardoner).
The ability to recognise this is a blessing in itself, and you know Allah ar-Razzaq (The Provider/Sustainer).
And it begins…
Bringing this back to how I have learned to manage my mental health; I forgot to give this disclaimer at the beginning — for those who are battling mental health issues, seek the relevant professional help and medicinal and therapeutic prescriptions. — My mental health issues are behavioural and it was due to my sins — that Alhamdulilah I can today say that after 2.5 years after I had come out of my depression — I am still realising how ungrateful I have been and I can never completely and sincerely express gratitude. The point of this was not to make a link between gratitude/sins and mental health. The point to take away is to sit down, take time to reflect about your trajectory. Are you becoming closer to Allah? Recognise the blessings Allah has given you. Appreciate it. Be grateful. How aware are you of Allah’s blessings? Are you truly grateful?
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari)
Hence, I cannot leave you without the following that has helped me to become a little more grateful:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “He who says [the below] 100 times in a day will have a reward equivalent to that of freeing 10 slaves. A 100 good deeds will be recorded to his credit, and a 100 of his sins will be blotted out from his scroll. He will be safeguarded against Shaytān on that day till the evening; and none will surpass him in doing better good deeds except someone who has recited these words more often than him.” (Bukhārī)
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever says [the below] 100 times in the morning and evening, none will surpass him in doing better good deeds except someone who has recited it more than him.” (Nasā’)
Not only do you get the reward of
- freeing 10 slaves,
- 100 good deeds alongside 100 sins being erased
- Protection from Shaytan
- None will surpass you
twice a day but, think about what you are saying and the way this is structured.
We recognise that He is al-Ahad (the Unique One), reminding us that Allah is the one that blessed us and guided us.
The middle term (by meaning) is al-Hamd — the only word that is not about Allah but something that we do. Allah allows us to appreciate, and use your tongue to please Him.
The final section is a reminder that Allah gave us the ability to remember Him, to praise Him, to be grateful to Him. Allah is Ar-Razzaq (The Provider). Allah is Ash-Shakur (The Grateful). Allah is al-Hameed (The Praiseworthy).