By Lilly S. Mohsen
“No honey” I sighed, “We are Muslims! We DON’T celebrate Thanksgiving.”
“But why?” My daughter wondered. “I mean it’s a good reminder to be thankful!”
“That’s the beauty of Islam, my love. We are taught to thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) every day!”
“Wow! You remember to thank Him EVERY SINGLE DAY?”
… Do I?
Well, we thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) during prayers when we read the Surat Al-Fatiha, right?
And… ummm you know, when someone asks how we’re doing we automatically say, “I’m good thanks to Allah”, or “Alhamdulillah”.
Hmm…what else? Oh, I got one! In Ramadan, we thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) A LOT!
See? We don’t need a huge roasted turkey to remind us to be thankful to the Great Lord. It’s in our system, it’s in our hearts and souls and minds to praise Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) every chance we get.
So why are you writing this article, Missy?
Honestly? Because for the first time I realize that being grateful isn’t just about mumbling words of seeming appreciation and then moving on. Thankfulness is a lifestyle, a consuming feeling that Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to absorb to the fullest because He knows that’s the only way we will feel better. Anyone can say “thank you”, but it’s the emotion that accompanies the words that makes all the difference.
So, in this article we will remind ourselves of a few points to make our gratefulness more meaningful and productive.
Remember that Nothing is Really Ours!
I remember my mom telling me a story about a friend who reminded her to thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for saliva. I was like ‘huh?’ This woman couldn’t secrete liquids in her mouth and had to sip on water day and night to be able to talk or eat. Oh my God, how many blessings do we take for granted?! The ability to see, hear, walk and talk effortlessly are all things we need to be thankful for every day.
Renewing the appreciation helps us look at life differently. Imagine being surprised you still have your sight intact every time you wake up! Now apply that concept to everything else like your health, money, family, etc., and you’ll realize nothing is really yours. It was all given to you and you alone. Making a choice to have a grateful attitude interrupts our anxiety and gives us a huge sense of power. But if you’re not thankful for what you already have, what makes you think Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) would be prompted to give you more?
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Most of us are not really big on the words. It would help if there were practical ways of showing gratitude to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He), and who is better than the Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself to be our guide?
Abu Dharr raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Apostle ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as saying:
“In the morning charity is due from every bone in the body of every one of you. Every utterance of Allah’s glorification is an act of charity. Every utterance of praise of Him is an act of charity, every utterance of profession of His Oneness is an act of charity, every utterance of profession of His Greatness is an act of charity, enjoining good is an act of charity, forbidding evil is an act of charity, and two rak’ahs (Duha) which one prays in the forenoon will suffice for all”. [Sahih Muslim]
Who Do You Thank First?
Most of us have had loved ones get extremely sick, and have went through the panic attacks of calling doctors and running to the nearest ERs with no shoes. We’ve paced the waiting rooms and pleaded with nurses for more information, and put all our faith in legendary surgeons known for their high success rates. And when we held our loved ones again in our arms, we cried tears of joy and said “Thank God you’re okay!” But, did we really feel the appreciation in our hearts, or did we somehow attribute the miracles to the doctors and the medication?
Do we idolize the creations that have helped us and forget the Creator? Only you will know the answer to that…
When you put ALL your faith and trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He), He will never let you down. Being grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) increases the love in your heart, and makes it reflect on everyone around you. That doesn’t mean we don’t thank people, too. We must remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) uses us as tools to help one another. There’s a middle ground between giving people all the credit and giving them nothing at all. Appreciation is the feeling people seek most. It creates a beautiful type of love that shrouds our good deeds and makes us want to help more and work harder to ease each other’s pain.
Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“Whoever is not grateful to the people, he is not grateful to Allah.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]
You need more clues, don’t you? Try showing your thankfulness to others with little gifts. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) explained on many occasions that exchanging presents brings about genuine love between people.
Realize that Humbleness is the First Step to Wisdom
So you’re driving on the highway really fast and then with an expert’s swerve, you avoid a horrible accident. (Men will relate to that one!)
“A rookie driver would have been dead by now!” He will boast. “Man I’m GOOD!”
We can’t help but give credit to ourselves, and that’s okay, as long as we don’t forget that it’s all Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) command after all. So the next time you’re a bit smug about an achievement, or find yourself condescendingly giving charity to a poor person, remember that it’s not your money you’re giving away, and it’s not your smartness alone that made you ace that test. Modesty and humility lead to pure gratefulness to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) and that is the essence of wisdom. Perfecting such perception gives you a rare kind of knowledge the world is more than thirsty for today.
“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 269]
Thank Him For Thanking Him!
Don’t judge me but I’m a bit biased to Muslims. I believe those who have been guided to and properly practice Islam are already blessed with good hearts, and even though I’m preaching about the importance of praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He), I know on some level most of us have a deep innate gratitude for their blessings. So what do we do to show it? We thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) from the heart. But isn’t that genuine feeling of gratitude a gift from Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He)? Isn’t that another blessing that needs a whole lot of gratefulness? Thank You Allah for letting us remember to thank You, and thank You again for reminding us to thank You for remembering to thank You. (Okay this could take a while. Help!)
Islamic scholars explain that it’s when you’re totally baffled on how to show your gratitude to the Supreme Lord subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) that you reach true and genuine enlightenment.
A good example of struggling to show appreciation for your blessings is by sharing it! Giving charity makes both the giver and the receiver happy, and leaves us with double the amount of joy when we realize we have the power to change someone’s life for the better. It makes sense that Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives more to the people who are busy thanking Him: be it more wealth, better health, wisdom or success. The root of joy is gratefulness, and it’s a psychologically proven fact that you can rewire your brain to be happy by simply recalling three things you’re grateful for every day.
“Yay! Let’s do that! I’ll go first!” my daughter said. “I’m grateful for hot meals in this freezing winter. I’m grateful my brother didn’t act up today, and I’m grateful for my mommy’s warm hugs! Thank you Allah.” My daughter smiled before closing her eyes to sleep.
As I tucked my kids in bed I thought about my three things. Am I more grateful for everything I have, or for all the horrible things that could have happened but never did?
Before you finish this article and close it, promise yourself this, will you? With every warm embrace from a loved one, with every meal you set on the table, with every time you make your comfy bed and with every night you sleep safely in your own home, remember how much Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) loves you and takes care of you. Remember to be thankful for the little things and grateful for escaping the tragedies others are suffering from. Promise you’ll cherish every single blessing with all your heart.
And don’t forget to smile, for the daily smiles of joy are what makes our whole lives a constant celebration of gratefulness.