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Chapter 17. The Sahâbah And Tabiin On Gratitude

Salmân al-Fârsî (RA) said: “There was a man who was given many of the luxuries of this world, and then they were taken away from him. But he continued to praise and thank Allâh until everything had been taken from him, even his bed. And then he still praised and thanked Allâh. Another man, who had also been given many of the luxuries of this world asked him, ‘What are you praising and thanking Allâh for?’ The man said, ‘I am praising and thanking Him for blessings which, if others asked me to give them to them in return for all that they have, I would never give them up.’ ‘What can they be?’ asked the second man. ‘Can’t you see?’ asked the first man. ‘I have my eyesight, my tongue, my hands, my feet...’”

 

Mukhallad ibn al-Husayn said: “The definition of gratitude is abstaining from wrong action.” Abû Hâzim said: “Every blessing that does not bring you closer to Allâh is a disaster.” Sulaymân said: “Remembering His blessings makes one love Allâh.”

 

Hammâd ibn Ziyâd narrated that Layth ibn Abî Burdah said: “I went to Madînah, where I met ‘Abdullâh ibn Salâm, who said to me: ‘Would you like to visit a place visited by the Prophet (SAAS), and we will offer you sâwiq and dates?...’ Then he said: ‘When Allâh gathers people on the Day of Judgement, He will remind them of His blessings. One of His slaves will say: “Remind me of something,” and Allâh will say: “Remember when you faced such-and-such adversity, and you prayed to Me, so I relieved you of it. Remember when you were travelling in suchand-such a place, and you asked Me to give you a travelling companion, and I did so... Remember when you asked for the hand of soand- so the daughter of so-and-so, and others also asked for her hand, so I gave her to you to marry; and kept the others away.” His slave will be standing before his Lord, Who will remind him of His many blessings.’” Then the narrator of this story (Layth) wept and said, I hope that no one will stand before his Lord in this way, because the one who does so will be punished.” (i.e. if Allâh has to point out that which should be obvious, this is a sign of a person’s ingratitude, and he will be punished.)

 

Bakr ibn Abdullâh al-Muzânî said: “When a man faces affliction, he may pray to Allâh and Allâh may deliver him from adversity. Then Shaytân comes to the man and whispers, ‘It was not as bad as you thought,’ Thus the man’s gratitude will be weakened.” Zazan said: “The right of Allâh over the man who is enjoying His blessings is that such a man should not use His blessings in order to commit wrong actions.” A man of knowledge said: “The blessing of Allâh to us in keeping the luxuries of this world away from us is greater than the blessing of that which he has given us, because Allah did not like His Prophet to have the luxuries of this world. So I prefer to live in the manner which Allâh preferred for His Prophet than to live a life which He disliked for him.”

 

Ibn Abi’d-Dunyâ said: “It was narrated to me that some scholars said: ‘The scholar should praise Allâh for having deprived him of the luxuries of this life, in the same way that he should praise Him for what He has bestowed upon him. How can you compare the blessings and luxuries for which he will be accountable to the deprivation of luxuries which is a relief from being tested, and which keeps his mind free to worship and remember Allâh? So he should give thanks to Allâh for all of that.’”

 

It has been said: “Gratitude is giving up wrong action.” Ibn alMubârak said: “Sufyân said: ‘He does not understand religion properly who does not count affliction as a blessing and ease as a disaster.’”

 

Gratitude of different faculties

 

A man said to Abû Hâzim: “What is the gratitude of the eyes?” He said, “If you see good things, you speak about them, and if you see bad things, you keep quiet about it.” He asked, “What is the gratitude of the ears?” He said, “If you hear something good, you accept it, and if you hear something bad, you reject it.” Then he asked, “What is the gratitude of the hands?” He said, “Do not take what which does not belong to you, and do not hold back from paying the dues of Allâh (zakât).” Then he asked, “What is the gratitude of the head?” He said: “To have knowledge in it.” Then he asked, “What is the gratitude of one’s private parts?” He quoted: “‘Who guard their private parts, except from those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess – for (in their case) they are free from blame, but those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors’” (al-Mu’minûn 23:5-7).

 

As for those who only pay lip-service to gratitude, and do not give thanks with the rest of their faculties, are concerned, they are like a man who has a garment and all he does with it is touch it, but he does not put it on: it will never protect him from heat, cold, snow or rain.

 

Prostration of gratitude

 

When the Messenger of Allâh (SAAS) used to receive good news, he would prostrate himself (sujûd) and give thanks to Allâh. Abdu’r-Rahmân ibn ‘Awf (RA) narrated: “The Prophet (SAAS) entered upon us in the mosque, stood facing the qiblah, then prostrated himself and remained in sujûd for a long time. I said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allâh, you prostrated yourself for such a long time that we thought Allâh had taken your soul.’ He said: ‘Jibrîl came to me with good news. He told me: “Allâh says, ‘Whoever sends blessings on you, I will send sixty blessings on him in return, and whoever salutes you, I will salute him in return,’ so I prostrated myself and gave thanks to Allâh.’” (Ahmad)

 

Sa‘îd ibn Mansûr narrated that Abû Bakr (RA) prostrated himself when he heard the news that Musaylimah had been killed, and Ka‘b ibn Mâlik (RA) prostrated himself when the Prophet (SAAS) told him the good news that Allâh had forgiven him.

 

All the good deeds of man cannot pay for one blessing of Allah

 

A worshipper worshipped Allâh for fifty years, so Allâh told him that He had forgiven him. The man said, “O Allâh, what is there to forgive when I have not committed a wrong action?” So Allâh caused a nerve in his neck to give him pain, so he could not sleep or pray. When the pain eased and he was able to sleep, an angel came to him, so he complained to the angel of the pain he had suffered. The angel told him: “Your Lord says to you that your fifty years of worship is to pay for the soothing of your pain.”

 

Ibn Abi’d-Dunyâ mentioned that Dâwûd (AS) asked Allâh: “What is the least of Your blessings?” Allâh revealed to him: “O Dâwûd, take a breath.” Dâwûd did so, and Allâh told him: “This is the least of My blessings on you.”

 

From this we may understand the meaning of the hadîth which was narrated by Ziyâd ibn Thâbit and Ibn ‘Abbâs (RA): “If Allâh was to punish the people of heaven and earth, He would have done that without being unjust towards them, and if He were to have mercy on them, His Mercy would be far better for them than their deeds.” (Abû Dâwûd)

 

In a sahîh hadîth the Messenger of Allâh (SAAS) said: “No one will attain salvation by virtue of his deeds.” The people asked, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allâh?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allâh covers me with His mercy and blessings.” The deeds of a man cannot pay for even one of the many blessings of Allâh, because even the smallest of Allâh’s blessings and favours far outweigh the deeds of man. So we must always bear in mind the rights which Allâh has over us.