Gratitude has been mentioned on over 70 different occasions in the Qur’an as it praises its beholders, promises them a pleasant reward, prohibits us of its opposite and commands us to internalize it. This emphasis on gratitude brings to light its crucial significance. (Akhlaq an-Nabi fil Kitab was-sunnah) It is a quality that Allah mentioned to distinguish His prophets (AS) and favoured servants. Allah said of Noah (pbuh): “O descendants of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah. Indeed, he was a grateful (shakur) servant.” (Qur’an, 17: 3)
The verse uses the form “shakur” to indicate affirmed emphasis of this quality in Prophet Noah (pbuh). He described Ibrahim (peace be upon him): “[He was] grateful for His favours. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path” (An-Nahl 16: 121) He says of Luqman: “And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom [and said], “Be grateful to Allah.” And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself.” (Qur’an, 31: 12)
“As for the believers, they are at varying degrees in fulfilling their duty of expressing gratitude. This variance in degree correlates with their awareness of these blessings and their actualization of the essence of servitude to Allah. Thus, whosoever performed this quality in a fashion that is pleasing to Allah has achieved the honor of falling under the general divine praise. “And few of my servants are grateful.” (Akhlaq An-Nabi fil Kitab w-as-sunnah)
The entire life of our dearly beloved Prophet (pbuh), can be viewed as a manifestation of utmost gratitude. One who observes his character, his sayings, his actions and his entire lifestyle will be obliged to concur that he was a truly grateful servant of his Creator.
A’isha (RA) said: The household of Muhammad (pbuh) never filled their stomachs of wheat bread two consecutive days to the day he passed away.” (Shama’il At-Tarmidhi) Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) passed away without leaving a dinar (gold coin) or a dirham (silver coin)…
By Allah, nights would pass in the household of Muhammad (pbuh), and they would not find dinner.” (Ahmad)
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: We were by the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) while Umar was in his presence. The Prophet (pbuh), was lying on a bed made of palm leaves, and beneath his head was a pillow; there wasn’t a barrier between his side and the palm leaves. When he made a slight movement, it was evident that the palm affected his sides.
So, Umar began to weep, and the Prophet (pbuh) inquired, “Why do you weep?” He said: “How can I not weep when I know that you are dearer to Allah than Kaiser and the Caesar, and they are living such lavish lives in this world.”
So the Prophet (pbuh) said: “O Umar wouldn’t you be pleased if the hereafter is ours and this life is for them?”
The Prophet (pbuh) showed utmost gratitude in his worship to Allah. He would pray a large part of the night throughout the year, and his gratitude would even increase in times of special divine bounty. A’isha reported: “When the last ten nights of Ramadan entered, the Prophet (pbuh) would revive the night in worship and awake his family…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
A’isha also reported: “When the Prophet (pbuh) prayed (the night prayers: Qiyam-Al-Layl), he would stand until (the skin of) his feet swelled. So, I said: “O Prophet of Allah, do you do as such while Allah has forgiven you all mistakes?” He responded: “Should not I be a grateful servant of Allah?” (Muslim)
Imam ibn Hajar commented on the Hadith: “The meaning is that since I have been forgiven all of my mistakes, this is a reason for night prayers being a form of gratitude towards Allah, so how can I abandon it? Imam Al-Qurtubi clarified: Those who asked him this question assumed that he withstands such burdens in worship to Allah from fear of sins and hope of forgiveness. So, he clarified to them that there is another path of worship, which is to express gratitude for forgiveness. The scholars said: The prophets have maintained such deep fear of Allah because of their knowledge of His immense blessings upon them.” (Ibn Hajar, Fath El-Bari)
Ibn Battal said: “This Hadith is indicative that the individual should take upon himself a stricter path in servitude, even if that may take a toll on his body because if the Prophet (pbuh) did that while being certain of having been forgiven, what should be the condition of one who does not have that certainty, let alone one who is insecure of deserving hellfire.” (Ibid)
However, it should be noted that Imam Ibn Hajar modified the understanding of the statement of Ibn Battal: “This mindset should be in a case that it will not lead the individual to boredom and retreat from worship because the condition of the Prophet (pbuh) was most complete, and he never retreated from worshipping his Lord. So, if one fears boredom and retreat, he should not force himself upon such acts. Hence the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Take of the actions that which you can withstand…” (Ibid. With a slight abridgment of the original quote)
Another example of the Prophet’s gratitude is that he would seek forgiveness of Allah after performing the five daily prayers: “Some have raised a query as to how he seeks forgiveness while being forgiven, and Imam ibn Sayyid An-Nas responded: “This displays his loyalty to the duties of servitude and his practice of gratitude, and so that he may clarify his Sunnah by action just as he has done so in speech.” (Al-Mubarkaafuri, Tuhfat Al-Ahwazi Sharh Sunan At-Tirmizi)
One who has immense blessings from Allah Almighty must receive such blessings with immense gratitude. The subservience of individuals to Allah is in accordance with their knowledge of Him.” (Ibn Battal, Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari, with a slight abridgement)
Gratitude was not just something our beloved Prophet (pbuh) practiced and professed; rather, it was a quality he instilled within his companions.
Our gratitude may be enhanced by building our awareness of Allah and His sovereignty over our affairs. The fruits of such esteemed realization should become apparent in one’s personal and social life as it was evident in the life of Allah’s favoured servants. Allah says: “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’“ (Qur’an, 14: 7)