By Alveena Salim
So, I’m not really a fan of Elizabeth Browning. But I absolutely love the title of her poem.
‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways’
I decided to slightly re-change the title of her poem for my new blog post.
I was recently thinking about the many, many nights I have spent during my life, imploring Allah. Begging Him to give me something. Asking for His help. Complaining to Him. Crying for something or another.
Now if I compare that to the nights I have spent in the past, just thanking Him for the blessings that He has bestowed upon me. There’s no comparison.
I remember the months that I spent praying to Allah to bless me with Hajj. The nights I begged Allah to help me pass my driving test and get a degree. The years I spent asking for a decent partner. And the nights of Ramadan I spent asking for a good job.
And then when I got all of the above. What did I do? I started asking for the next thing I wanted in life.
Allah knows us so well that this state is even described in the Qur’an.
“And when affliction touches a man, he calls on Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove his affliction from him, he passes on as though he had never called on Us on account of an affliction that touched him (Surah Yunus).
And in another Sur’ah in the Qur’an.
“And when We show favor to man, he turns aside and withdraws himself; and when evil touches him, he makes lengthy supplications.” (Surah fussilat).
This is a depressing state of affairs. In addition to the above, it’s mentioned many, many times in the Qur’an that man is forever ungrateful and that those who are grateful are few.
I’ve recently started following someone on twitter who calls himself #middleclassproblems. This comedian has basically created a Twitter account to poke fun at the ‘problems’ associated with middle class life. The ‘perils’ and ‘tribulations’ of having domestic staff, such as cleaners and gardeners is a common topic. As well as the ‘troubles’ associated with running out of gourmet food at the top end supermarkets.
It’s funny, but almost in a strangely depressing way. Living in Dubai, I often hear people I know complaining about their maids or moaning about the heater in their pool being broken for a few days. Sometimes, you just have to stand back and think, do we really know what real problems and complaints are anymore?
Are we so consumed with getting and expecting more, that shukr is completely out of the picture?
If we had true shukr (thankfulness) of Allah, then instead of brooding over non existent problems, we’d be too busy focusing on what we do have.
We often think about the best way to ask Allah (swt) for something. But how often do we think about what’s the best way to thank Him for what He HAS given us?
I have read stories of great awliyas (friends of Allah), who took shukr (thankfulness) to Allah to another level. There was one great wali who was so grateful to be given the opportunity to go to Hajj, that after every two steps he took, he stopped and offered two nafl shukr in prostration to Allah. As a result, it took him 14 years to reach to Makkah.
This is an example of someone who has found the hidden sweetness in giving thanks to Allah.
The great poet Rumi said “Thanksgiving for the benefit is sweeter than the benefit (itself)! How should one who is addicted to thanksgiving go toward the benefit?
The scary thing about not stopping and counting your blessings is that, one day it can all be taken away from us.
The Holy Prophet (saw) said “Gratitude (shukr) for the blessing you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue”.
So how can we do shukr?
It’s not complicated.
We can start by just counting our blessings on a daily basis. Thanking Allah every night before we sleep for our health, wealth, family, religion, peace of mind, job etc etc
Thanking people. The Prophet (saw) said, ‘He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah’.
Sharing your blessings with others. For example, your time, your wealth, your knowledge etc
Recognising that everything you have is from Allah and not because of your own achievements.
Reading two Nafl shukr for specific things on a regular basis.
Obeying Allah. This is because obedience to Allah is a true acknowledgement of the favours that He has bestowed upon you.
Recognising that even if you tried to count all the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you. You would be unable to do so.
Knowing that even the ability to give thanks is a blessing from Allah, that very few are able to do.
And lastly, bear in mind at all times that Allah loves those who are grateful, even though they are in the minority. So, let all try to get into that minority….