M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
It is impossible to overstate the significance of gratitude to Allah the Almighty, as He is not only our Creator but also the Provider of all that is necessary for our existence. Being grateful to God Almighty is the least we can do to remember His countless blessings upon us and hope for more in return, as Allah the Almighty says:
وَاِذۡ تَاَذَّنَ رَبُّکُمۡ لَئِنۡ شَکَرۡتُمۡ لَاَزِيۡدَنَّکُمۡ
“And remember the time when your Lord declared, ‘If you are grateful, I will, surely, bestow more favours on you.’” (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.8)
Showing gratitude to Allah the Almighty is due upon us, as He has not just tended to those of our needs that we consider necessary, but additionally granted us significantly more to satisfy our future requirements as well. However, only a few are truly thankful for divine favours, as God Almighty says:
قَلِيۡلٌ مِّنۡ عِبَادِيَ الشَّکُوۡرُ
“Few of My servants are grateful.” (Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.14)
Gratefulness of Prophet Muhammadsa
Recognising that no one could ever repay the infinite blessings bestowed upon humanity, the greatest of God’s servants and the seal of all prophets, Hazrat Muhammad al-Mustafa, peace be upon him, expressed immense gratitude to Allah the Almighty.
اَلْمُغِيرةُ رَضِىَ اللّٰہُ عَنْہُ يَقُوْلُ إِنْ کَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلّى اللّٰہُ عَلَيْہِ وَسَلَّمَ لَيَقُومُ لِيُصَلِّيَ حَتَّى تَرِماہُ أَوْ سَاقَاہُ، فَيُقَالُ لَہُ فَيَقُولُ أَفَلاَ أَکُوْنُ عَبْدًا شَکُوْرًا
Hazrat Mughirara narrates, “The Holy Prophetsa used to stand in the prayer or pray till both of his feet or legs would swell. He was asked why he offered such an unbearable prayer, to which he replied, ‘Should I not be a thankful servant?’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab at-tahajjud, Hadith 1130)
The Holy Prophetsa set a timeless example of gratitude to Allah the Almighty because he knew that the divine bounties are immeasurable, from life itself to the countless bounties of God Almighty. The above-mentioned hadith should serve as a reminder to all and sundry that they should express gratitude for the unrepayable blessings of God Almighty.
Look at the less fortunate
A sense of gratitude to God Almighty also arises in a person when they observe the state of the less fortunate of the society. The Holy Prophetsa said:
اُنْظُرُوْا إِلَى مَنْ أَسْفَلَ مِنکُمْ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوْا إِلَى مَنْ ھُوَ فَوْقَکُمْ فَھُوَ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ لاَّ تَزْدَرُوْا نِعْمةَ اللّٰہِ
“Look at those who are lower than you [i.e., in health, status, fortune, etc.] and do not look at those who are at a higher level than you, for it is the best way not to disparage the favours Allah the Almighty.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab az-zuhd wa r-raqa’iq, Hadith 2963c)
This is golden advice, as when a person realises that there are a lot of people around him who do not have those things that he possesses, his heart is naturally inclined towards God Almighty in humility and gratitude. The Promised Messiahas said:
“Do not take pride in your resolve and effort, and do not surmise that any achievement is due to any capability in you or effort on your part. On the contrary, you ought to believe that the merciful God, who does not let anyone’s sincere effort go in vain, has given you the fruits of your labour. Do you not observe that every day hundreds of students fail their examinations? Do all of these students not make an effort, or are they foolish and mindless? Not at all. Some of them are so intelligent and bright that they are sharper than many of the students who have passed.
“Therefore, it is necessary and incumbent on a believer to perform prostrations of gratitude before God Almighty whenever they are blessed with an achievement that God did not let their effort go in vain. The result of this gratitude will be that a person will increase in their love of God Almighty and grow in faith. In fact, this is not all; such people will be graced with even further successes because God Almighty states that if one shows gratitude for His bounties, He shall increase His bounties upon such a one; but if one is ungrateful for His blessings, then remember that such a one shall be seized by a grievous punishment.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1, pp. 152-153)
Act with gratitude
Gratitude to God Almighty should also be practically manifested in our life. This practice teaches us to value different aspects of our lives and is an expression of a deep spiritual connection with Allah the Almighty. Explaining the verse اِعۡمَلُوۡۤا اٰلَ دَاوٗدَ شُکۡرًا (i.e., “Act gratefully, O House of David” [Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.14]), Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIIrh said:
“As far as the Supreme Being of Allah the Almighty is concerned, the meaning of gratitude is that for what God has given us, we offer thanks to Him through our actions in the form of self-sacrifice and by serving His people and fulfilling the rights made obligatory upon us by Him. He always gives and does not need anything in return, as everything belongs to Him, but man offers something to God in the way [of gratitude] that I have just mentioned.
“It is for this very reason that at one place in the Holy Quran, Allah the Almighty says: اِعۡمَلُوۡۤا اٰلَ دَاوٗدَ شُکۡرًا [“O house of David! Act with gratitude” (Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.14)]. That means God told them to act with gratitude. Filling the heart with feelings of gratitude or praising Him with words is not mentioned here. Moreover, people glorify and exalt Allah the Almighty innumerably at different times, but this too is not mentioned here; rather, it is said that they should offer thanks with their actions. That’s why in Arabic, the meaning of offering gratitude to Allah the Almighty has also been linked with javarih, which means that all the powers that have been given to man should be used in such a way that they are supposed to be thanking God Almighty. Thus, a person cannot truly be successful until they practically offer thanks to Allah the Almighty.
“It is for this very reason that not just reciting basmalah before eating food or saying alhamdulillah after finishing a meal is a sign of gratitude, but the act of eating food itself is equivalent to being thankful to Allah the Almighty, because starving oneself to death is not allowed in Islam. The Holy Prophetsa is reported to have said, “O man! You owe a duty to your body as well.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-Saum, Hadith 1968] Therefore, offering gratitude [to Allah] also means that wherever a right is owed to you and the power to fulfil that right is given to you, then the right should be paid in such a way that it is in accordance with the will of the Almighty God and His commandments. Moreover, [the rights should be fulfilled] by utilising all the means provided by Allah the Almighty.
“Thus, unless one does not act with gratitude, success is not obtained. For example, an intelligent child is ungrateful and unsuccessful if he does not use his God-given intelligence properly or if he wastes his time and does not concentrate on studying and acquiring knowledge.
“Hence, ingratitude is the reason for failures. Where you observe ingratitude, you will see failure. On the other hand, success requires one to be grateful in the sense that I have just explained. I pray to Allah the Almighty to grant us with His grace the ability to understand this central and fundamental point.” (Khutbat-e-Nasir, Vol. 5, pp. 1-2)
Sincere gratitude for God Almighty transcends mere words and lip service. It is demonstrated by righteousness and fear of Allah the Almighty. By living a pious life, we honour God’s favours upon us and recognise His commandments. The Promised Messiahas said:
“Your true expression of gratitude is by adopting righteousness and purity. To merely respond by saying Alhamdulillah (all praise belongs to Allah) when asked if you are a Muslim does not constitute thankfulness and appreciation. If you pay true gratitude, i.e., if you tread the ways of purity and righteousness, I give you glad tidings that when you stand at the frontier, as it were, no one can gain dominance over you.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1, p. 75)
Recounting the blessings of Allah the Almighty on the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, the present head of the community, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa said:
“If Ahmadi families have grown in number and their wealth has increased, and Allah the Almighty has also granted expansion to the Jamaat in terms of manifest buildings, then these [blessings] should certainly oblige every one of us to express gratitude to God Almighty. How could this gratefulness be demonstrated? What are its requirements?
“We, who have accepted the Imam of the age, believe that we have accepted that chosen one [of God Almighty] about whom the Holy Prophetsa had said that even if faith ascended to the Pleiades [completely disappearing from the earth], he would restore faith [back] to earth. Therefore, we [the followers of the Promised Messiahas] should also make our thoughts in line with the thoughts of the true believers. We should not be pleased with expressing words of gratitude or merely paying lip service by uttering Alhamdulillah. [We should self-reflect and] think about whether we are putting God’s commandments into practice. Are we spending our lives like the true believers as explained by Allah the Almighty and His messenger Prophet Muhammadsa and as unfolded in this age by the Promised Messiahas?” (Friday Sermon, 6 May 2016)
Prayer of Prophet Ahmadas
“O Lord of all the worlds! It is beyond me to offer You gratitude for all Your favours. You are most Merciful and Compassionate, and the bounties that You have conferred upon me are countless. Forgive me my sins, lest I am ruined. Fill my heart with sincere love for You, so that I may receive life. Cover my faults and allow me to perform such deeds that become the source of Your pleasure. I seek refuge in Your noble countenance lest your punishment befalls me. Have mercy and save me from the calamities of this world and the hereafter, for all grace and compassion is in Your hand. Amin, and again, Amin.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1, p. 241)
As our maker, Allah the Almighty has created us with great care and granted us a life and a conscious mind with the ability to experience the world around us. Every beat of our hearts and every breath of our lives is a testament to His divine blessings and bounties upon humanity. Consequently, immense gratitude to God Almighty is due to us, as the Promised Messiahas said, “Keeping in mind the blessings and bounties conferred by Allah the Exalted for human development and perfection, man should render thanks to Him. He should ponder as to who has bestowed all these faculties upon him. It is man’s choice to be grateful or not, but if he possesses a rightly inclined nature and ponders over it, he will find that all the faculties – overt and covert – have been granted to him by Allah the Exalted alone, and they are fully under His control. He can amplify them out of gratitude or diminish them in an instant out of ingratitude.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 10, p. 495)