Every time I walk up to the third floor of my apartment, I notice the wreath hanging on my downstairs neighbor’s door. “Give Thanks” it reads all around in a pretty script, entangled with faux autumn leaves and seasonal pumpkins so very picturesque of the months in which we currently find ourselves. The message on the door, though hung specifically in this fall season reminds us of the attitude Muslims should have year round. It becomes especially helpful on the days I lug up grocery bags or run out of breath climbing the staircase—when a complaint tries to creep into my mind, my eyes fall right on the wreath. We have far too much to be grateful for, and as one scholar put it, “I’m too blessed to be stressed!”
We can spend the rest of our lives counting our blessings, but the reality is, we can never innumerate all the bounties Allah bestowed upon us. Always giving thanks and being grateful can sometimes be easier said than done, and this is a reality we must face. There are difficulties that arise that are an inevitable part of life, losing a job or a loved one, getting into a car accident, misplacing one of your most cherished items, or not being able to attend a gathering. When these kinds of hardships at all different levels of intensity show their faces in our lives, we must not forget the continuous blessings that are still raining down on us.
The Quran reminds people to be thankful on numerous occasions, oftentimes highlighting reasons as to why we should be as well. Below are just three verses about this very important virtue Muslims try to ingrain in themselves every day in our lives.
“O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship”(Q. 2:172).
In this verse above, Allah names just one blessing He provides us, but what a blessing it is. Food! At the surface, this is an obvious blessing, as food provides us nourishment, joy, and togetherness. But when you really think deeply about where our sustenance comes from, the reasons to be thankful increase immensely. There are many steps that our food goes through before it makes it to our plates. Prior to entering our mouths, it had to first be prepared. Then working backwards before that, it had to be purchased, found in the store, delivered to the store, picked, grown, planted. There were so many steps and so many people involved in getting us a simple grain of rice! We had very little to do with it.
“And certainly We have established you in the earth and made in it means of livelihood for you; little it is that you give thanks” (Q. 7:10).
In this next verse, we see the word livelihood being mentioned. It is easy to get caught up in the mundaneness of our day-to-day jobs. In reality, our various professional positions are blessings given to us by God. They provide us our livelihood to take care of ourselves and our families with food, clothing, and shelter. Not only that, but often our jobs bring us a sense of worth and satisfaction.
“And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful” (Q. 16:78).
At the very first stage of our life—as tiny newborns—we are born without any knowledge of the world we just miraculously entered. Slowly but surely, we gain the skills to walk and to talk using the inherent blessings God provides. With our ears, our eyes, and our minds we observe this new environment around us, taking in all the details and developing through the grace of God. And this is only what happens after the baby is born—the formation of the baby inside the womb is another miracle and blessing entirely!
With the three verses mentioned above, we see some of the most basic blessings highlighted in the Quran. Our sustenance, our livelihood, and our senses. Allah draws our attention to these often overlooked aspects of our lives to make us reflect on all that we have to be grateful for. Muslims try to remind each other of these bounties bestowed upon us every second of every day, and the least we can do in return is give thanks.