By Tabassum M
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
A Horror Story
Imagine a father and a mother who have lost their baby. Not just lost – he was killed in a horrifying fashion, right in front of their eyes. And now imagine a thousand such parents, and multiply that number manifolds.
That was the state of the Children of Israel in Egypt during the time of Pharaoh (Firawn). This evil king used to send his spies to roam around pregnant Israeli women, and when any of them delivered a male child, they immediately snatched him away and slaughtered the little sweet child, as if it were a stray chicken.
Then Prophet Moosa (as) led them to escape miraculously from this maniac monster, walking right across a vast sea. As they reached the new land on the opposite shore, they saw this monster and his followers drowning while following them. Now that their enemies were dead, they were free, living in a new land, with nothing to remind them of the past – except for their own collective grief.
In this situation, Prophet Moosa (as) reminded these bereaved mothers and fathers of a message from Allah. No, not about being patience, but being grateful:
“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.” (14:7)
(From Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture clip: The Key Remedy to Sadness)
The Path to Patience
When someone loses something that is precious to them, the first thing that comes to mind is patience. Patience holds us together when grief is about to break us apart. But patience isn’t easy; if it were so, there wouldn’t be such a great reward for it.
“Patience is a goal; there is no “how” to patience,” says Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, founder of Bayyinah Institute. “Patience is not something you can just do. It’s an acquired power.”
And we acquire this power by cultivating gratefulness. Ustadh Nouman explains why Prophet Moosa (as) reminded the bereaved parents of Banu Israel not to be patient but to be grateful: “[He] changed the mindset of the entire people saying: Don’t think about the sad things that are happening in your life; you need to focus on the good things…”
An Attitude of Gratitude
“Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall,” says Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on the concept of gratitude in positive psychology.
A Muslim’s life revolves around “Alhamdulillah” (all praises and thanks are for Allah). But for many of us, we don’t really feel alhamdulillah when we say it. And this leaves us, in those weak moments when we are most emotionally overpowered, unguarded to the evil whisperings of Satan, and we ask ourselves: “Why me? Why did Allah take this away from me? Why is my life so hard?”
We need to adjust our focus away from things that we don’t have towards things that we have and take for granted.
How to Grow Gratitude:
1. Awareness of blessings
We tend to become easily used to bad as well as good things in life by a process called hedonic adaptation. To go out of our way to sense and enjoy ordinary daily activities helps us renew our pleasure and gratitude for them.
The Qur’an repeatedly gives examples of Allah’s blessings: The beauty of this world and its pleasures and vivid descriptions of paradise waiting for those who succeed spiritually in this life. It also tells us stories of grateful people and teaches us how to have a positive attitude to live. It reminds us, again and again, to be grateful, teaches us specific duas (supplications) of gratitude, and motivates us by mentioning its immense rewards. (3:144, 3:145, 54:35, 14:7)
What we can do to increase our awareness:
- Connect with the Qur’an.
- Makes duas (supplications) of gratitude.
Some supplications of gratitude:
- Saying Alhamdulillah (All praise and thanks are for Allah). (Muslim)
- Morning supplication:
Every morning after waking up:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ
Alhamdulillâhil-ladhi ahyânâ ba‘da mâ amâtanâ, wa ilayhin-nushoor.
(Praise be to Allah, Who has given us life after causing us to die and to Whom we shall be resurrected.) (Bukhari)
- After meals:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَنِي هَذَا وَرَزَقَنِيهِ مِنْ غَيْرِ حَوْلٍ مِنِّي وَلاَ قُوَّةٍ
Alhamdulillâhil-ladhi at‘amani hâdhâ wa razaqaneehi min ghayri hawlin minni wa lâ quwwah.
(Praise be to Allah, Who has fed me this and provided it for me without any strength or power on my part.) (Ibn Majah; graded reliable by Ibn Hajar)
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Connect to nature – mountains, seas, rivers, and the beautiful sky.
- Smell the roses. Take notice of everyday pleasures that we overlook, such as savouring our breakfasts.
- Thank people. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever is not grateful to the people is not grateful to Allah.” (at-Tirmidhi; authentic)
2. Reminder of trials
In the above story, Prophet Moosa (as) reminds the Children of Israel of the torture that they had faced in the past.
A reminder of bad things – what we faced and overcame, what other people suffer, what could have been worse in our present life, and what awaits us on the Last Day – all can increase our gratitude for what we have now.
Finally, remember that gratitude doesn’t come through pushing, blaming, and bullying yourself into feeling it. Let your thoughts and outlook towards life change, let the blessings in your life come into focus, and the feeling will naturally follow, in sha Allah (Allah willing).
Tabassum M is a freelance writer and online ‘Alimiyyah student at al-Salam Institute, UK. Find more at tabassum.contently.com.
© IIPH 2016