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Spiritual Struggles and Experiences

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sunrise.jpgReading and hearing the stories of converts and reverts to Islam, I truly admire how they faced so many tests and trials in life, only to emerge with strong faith and belief in God – which led them to Islam.

So many of these people have experienced things – miracles, almost – that despite whatever difficulties they may face, they are always secure in their belief in God. Yes, they may have low points in their Imaan too, but they still have that core certainty in Islam, because they found it for themselves amidst all the dirty fitnah of life and Shaytaan‘s misleading whispers.

Yet… what about people like me? Born into a Muslim family, raised upon Islam… it’s the only thing I really know. I’ve often been told what a gift it is, but I don’t always think so. Why? Because it means that I’ve never had to search for and discover my faith, my purpose in life. It’s something I’ve grown up – and continue to grow up – knowing, something as comfortable and familiar as the blankie I’ve slept with for years. It makes me feel… uncomfortable, inexperienced, almost cheated out of something that might’ve made me a better person, made me wiser, perhaps.

And it’s not just that I was born into a Muslim family – plenty of other people were born into Muslim families, but still ended up searching for the truth and having spiritual experiences. As the daughter of an Imam, my whole life has been a religious experience – thus ceasing to be an experience at all, really. I wonder if anyone else has felt this way… that growing up in a strong practicing Muslim household has made it somewhat harder to really achieve a ‘spiritual experience’, as it were. This actually reminds me of the story of the Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhis-salaam):

When Abraham said: “Show me, Lord, how You will raise the dead,” He replied: “Have you no faith?” He said “Yes, but just to reassure my heart.” Allah said, “Take four birds, draw them to you, and cut their bodies to pieces. Scatter them over the mountain tops, then call them back. They will come swiftly to you. Know that Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Al-Baqara, v. 260)

That’s how I feel… I believe, but I truly want to experience something that will reassure my heart and strengthen my Imaan – which really needs strengthening, especially right now.

So… how does one go about achieving this spiritual experience? Is it something that we need to actively seek – by trying to comprehend the Qur’an more clearly, for example? Or is it something that will just happen, whenever Allah wills it? Is it possible that some of us may never experience such a thing at all?

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young Canadian Muslimah, originally from the West Coast of Canada. She writes about whatever concerns her about the state of the Muslim Ummah, drawing upon her experiences and observations within her own local community. You may contact her at anonymouse@muslimmatters.org She is is no longer a writer for MuslimMatters.org.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    inexplicabletimelessness

    March 11, 2007 at 7:05 AM

    As salaamu alaikum:

    MashaAllah you have a lot of good points. Allahu a’lam about the answer to your question. I don’t know if we can say that there is a general or specific answer to your question, but here are just some of my thoughts:

    1. The fact that you are even thinking of this and feeling inadequate in any sort of way may be the spiritual experience you are seeking. Now, instead of being Muslim because you are the Imam’s daughter, you want to be Muslim because YOU believe in it.

    2. Not all life changing experiences are the same. THey can be stages of growth and wisdom adn learning. MashaAllah sis, I think what you are doing in this blog is a step outside the box and what you learn from the students of knowledge here and the other contributors may help you gain that wisdom you need to increase your eeman, insha ALlah.

    3. The best spiritual experience without a doubt is Qiyam alLayl. No doubt about that, wAllahu a’lam. May Allah make us of those who prayed at night for His pleasure, ameen.

    It’s hard definitely and I agree with you and know what you mean to keep your eman strong when superficially those around you are Islamic and by name you are Muslim but sometimes, lacking the true spiritual connection with Allah. Of course, no matter what, this spiritual expeience needs to come from the Qur’an and sunnah and Qiyam will really increase your stamina as a Muslim. We can do anything we want all day, read all the Islamic blogs and visit our favorite Islamic forums all day, thinking our eeman is going great. But what we do when we are alone in front of Allah, I think, shows the pinnacle and height of our eeman.

    So I tell myself first, then everyone else, that we should come back to this Sunnah. Insha Allah, ameen.

    wassalam :)

  2. Avatar

    DMZ

    March 13, 2007 at 7:45 PM

    “So… how does one go about achieving this spiritual experience? Is it something that we need to actively seek – by trying to comprehend the Qur’an more clearly, for example? Or is it something that will just happen, whenever Allah wills it? Is it possible that some of us may never experience such a thing at all?”

    Mouse, I have a lot of respect and admiration for you and you are just a punk kid and I am a person well into my 30s (more than 10 years in fact).

    So, you have a lot of responsibility because you have a lot of potential. You are really smart, honest and religious.

    Ask Allah: OK, You gave me all these head starts, all these gifts. What should I do with them? How do I not waste them? If there is an Allah, you will get an answer. Just be really honest with God and God will be really honest with you.

    You never know where the Message will come but it will come.

    Good luck to you. If I had a lot of money and you were a company, I would definitely invest. You could be big.

    Salaam

  3. Amad

    Amad

    March 13, 2007 at 7:53 PM

    wasalam DMZ, thanks for stopping by. We saw the potential in our little sister and booked her for this venture! We all look forward to seeing her flourish (Islamically) inshallah.

  4. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    March 13, 2007 at 8:01 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    *Blushes*
    Awwwwww, shukran, guys! :D

    May Allah make us *all* successful in this world and in the Next, ameen! :)

  5. Avatar

    AmatulWadood

    March 16, 2007 at 7:53 AM

    wa alaykumassalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

    I just wanted to comment that I agree with the first sister about qiyaam ul layl. You feel like Allah is so near to you while you pray to Him and mankind is fast asleep. And also fasting, I feel so much more closer to Allah azza wa jal and just knowing that the fasting person’s duaa is never rejected gives me chills. Fasting 3 days a month should be a goal we should all strive for, or continue doing bi’ithnillah.
    And I also agree about the Qur’an; it is the greatest miracle Allah ta’ala has put forth and Allah says in His Book that it is a healing, a light, a mercy…so we should make duaa that Allah makes the Qur’an the light of our heart and the spring of our chest and the reliever of our distress and sadness. (Allahumma tajal Qur’aana rabee’a qalbee, a noora sadree….) And how can you not rejoice when you know that you get 10 rewards for one letter! Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. Read surahs that are “special” like Surah Mulk that will intercede on those who read it on the day of Judgement, Surah Baraqah and Al-e-Imraan–“the two shining ones”, surah Yaasin, surah Waqiah.

    Try and make yourself cry. Stay in sujood for however long until you can cry, and when you read the Qur’an, make sure that you know the meaing because some ayaat are just…subhanAllah. rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wa sallam said, “”O people! Weep! And if you cannot weep then make as though you were weeping, for the people of the Fire shall weep in Jahannam until their tears run over their faces like streams. Then the tears will stop, blood will flow, and eyes ulcerate, so that if ships were launched therein they would float.” (Sahih at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb) May Allah protect us from the hell-fire. ameen

    I also think that seeking knowledge really increases your emaan and gives you a lil boost. If it’s reading books, or listening to lectures or taking AlMaghrib classes—or even the jumu’ah khutbah, I think it really helps. For example, reading the seerah, I feel so close to rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wa sallam when I read about his life or his words. Just flipping through Riyadh as-Saliheen is a emaan booster.

    You should make duaa and more duaa and more duaa, subhanAllah Allah azza wa jal Loves for us to call upon Him and duaa is the most noble act to Him tabarak wa ta’ala.

    You should keep good company, mashaAllah some of my friends really help me in my emaan and I thank Allah azza wa jal for blessing me with them.

    Don’t forget to go see the spiritual doctor…ibn Qayyim rahimuhullah. He wrote this amazing treatise called Patience and Gratitude, subhanAllah it is great, and you wouldn’t think so after seeing how small it is…i’d say it’s about 80 pages if I remember correctly.

    Lastly, the best spiritual experience that i’ve ever had–hands down–is going for Umrah. SubhanAllah, where do I start! lol I know my post is already tres long so i’ll just say that I’ve never felt so close to Allah, so blessed by Allah, so humble to Allah, so feeble in front of Allah….I just daydreamed for about a mintue :-). Wallahi, the air of Madinah is sweet, and masjid Al-Haram is so calm…and i don’t care what people say about “the people of Makkah” etc etc, go there for Allah azza wa jal and you won’t notice it (or you won’t care). Alhamdulillahi Rabbil alamin!

    O Changer of Hearts! Make our hearts firm upon your deen. ameen

  6. Avatar

    Aishaah

    May 18, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    asalaam aleykum wa rahmatullaahi wa baraketu,

    Inshallaah you are in good health and high emaan.

    I read through your blogs awhile ago, but this one touched me. I’ve heard so often how lucky I am to have found Islaam. For a long time it made me feel sad for born muslims. But then I was visiting a masjid and a sister was giving a talk about Islaam. Mashallaah she made me feel better.

    She said that when the born Muslims embrace Islaam, truly, they have to struggle against all the cultural influences that have watered down their faith. They have to struggle against family who is not wholly supportive of their belief because they feel it as an insult to them and their practices. (She really talked alot about this). There is still alot of struggle for the born Muslims. She reminded us that it is similar to the first generation of Muslims who had to struggle with their own families and people to establish their faith.

    Anyway, I know this is an older blog. Inshallaah you will find this note. Jazaak Allaahu khair for your wonderful writing. I love to visit this site and read everything.

    wa salaam aleykum,

    your sister in Islam,

    Aishaah.

  7. Avatar

    Ali

    January 6, 2019 at 6:59 PM

    one suggestion, read / learn / listen Seerah. Life changing.

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
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While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi
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Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad.

At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Gratitude
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The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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