It’s that time of year where people begin to think of what they are grateful for. Although it is nice to count your blessings, being thankful year-round can have a tremendous impact on your life and level of happiness. Thankfulness is a tool we have to deal with the struggles of life. The reality of life is that we can always find something to complain about. There will always be someone who has something that we do not have. It may be money, health, family, job stability, or personal traits we wish we had. If one gets caught up in what others have, they begin to belittle what they have. Islam provides humans with the tools they need to be thankful. The Qur’ān and teaching of the Prophet peace be upon him seek to help us snap out of ingratitude by observing the blessings we have.
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “If one of you looks at those blessed over him in wealth and appearance, then let him look at those below him.” (Bukhari). Taking a moment to look at those who are less fortunate puts many of our problems or wants into perspective. While it is true that you may not have everything you want, but there are many in the world who would happily switch problems or places with you. Many are suffering from diseases, poverty, are paralyzed, are blind, or lost several family members. It is true that there are some things that money cannot buy.
Everything that happens to the one who believes in God is for his/her own good. The Prophet peace be upon him said: “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him” (Muslim). If one trusts in God, then even that which appears to be bad can be seen as something good. At times, bad things are actually what is best for us. Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was separated from his father Yaqub (Jacob) for decades. His brothers plotted to kill him, he was sold into slavery, wrongfully accused of fornication, and imprisoned. All of these difficult events made him who he was. Had he not gone through these challenges there is the possibility that he would have been a young boy who was overly spoiled by his father’s love at home.
When a parent takes a child to the doctor, the child does not understand why the parent would put them through such a traumatic and terrifying experience. However, as we grow up, we recognize that those doctor visits were necessary for our health as adults. Sometimes God puts us through many forms of extreme hardship, but these are actually good for us in the long run. This can be in this life or the hereafter. This is not to suggest that we should not try to find a way out of hardship or accept the wrongdoing others might do to us. Rather it is to understand that those things are not in our control are in better hands, the Hands of God.
God is constantly showing us his blessings and we are asked to reflect on them. The sun, the moon, the changing of the day and night, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. These are all “small” things that we take for granted, but without them we cannot survive. “And if you would count the favors of Allah, never could you be able to count them. Truly! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’ān 16:18). There is another identical verse in the Qur’ān, but it ends by noting that man is sinful and unthankful (Qur’ān 14:34). When it comes to blessings, God is forgiving and merciful, but on our part, we are often sinful and unthankful, but He nevertheless continues to give. God gives and forgives, man gets and forgets. Being thankful will help remove many ailments that exist in society today such as jealousy, envy, arrogance, and greed. It just takes a change in mindset to recognize that we are always in a state of blessings Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny? (Qur’ān 65:13).