Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
(From Uddat as-Saabireen wa Dhaakirat ash-Shaakireen)
The Sahabah and Taab'ieen on Gratitude
Salman al-Farsi (r) said: "There was a man who was given many of the luxuries of this world, and then they were taken away from him. But he continued to praise and thank Allah until everything had been taken from him, even his bed. And then he still praised and thanked Allah. Another man , who had also been given many of the luxuries of this world asked him, "What are you praising and thanking Allah for?" The man said, "I am praising and thanking Allah for blessings which, if others asked me to give them to them in return for all that they have, I would never give them up." "What can they be?" asked the second man. "Can't you see?" asked the first man. "I have my eyesight, my tongue, my hands, my feet."
Mukhallad ibn al-Husayn said: "The definition of gratitude is abstaining from wrong action." Abu Hazim said: "Every blessing that does not bring you closer to Allah is a disaster." Sulayman said "Remembering His Blessings makes one love Allah."
Hammad ibn Ziyad narrated that Layth ibn Abi Burdah said: "I went to Maidah, where I met Abdullah ibn Salam, who said to me: "Would you like to visit a place visited by the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and we will offer you sawiq and dates?" Then he said, "when Allah gathers people on the Day of Judgment, He will remind them of His Blessings. One of His slaves will say: "Remind me of something," and Allah will say: "Remember when you faced such and such adversity, and you prayed to Me, so I relieved you of it. Remember when you were traveling in such and such a place, and you asked Me to give you a travelling companion, and I did so. Remember when you asked for the hand of so and so the daughter of so and so, and others also asked for her hand, so I gave her to you to marry, and kept the others away." His slave will be standing before his Lord, Who will remind him of His many blessings." Then the narrator of this story (Layth) wept and said, I hope that no one will stand before his Lord in this way, because the one who does so will be punished." (i.e. if Allah has to point out that which should be obvious, this is a sign of a person's ingratitude, and he will be punished).
Bakr ibn Abdullah al-Muzani said: "When a man faces affliction, he may pray to Allah and Allah may deliver him from adversity. Then Shaytan comes to the man and whispers, "It was not as bad as you thought." Thus the man's gratitude will be weakened."
Zazan said: "The right of Allah over the man who is enjoying His blessings is that such a man should not use His blessings in order to commit wrong actions." A man of knowledge said: "The blessing of Allah to us is in keeping the luxuries which he has given us, because Allah did not like His Prophet to have the luxuries of this world. So I prefer to live in a manner which Allah preferred for His Prophet than to live a life which He disliked for him."
Ibn Abi'd-Dunya said: "It was narrated to me that some scholars said: "The scholar should praise Allah for having deprived him of the luxuries of this life, in the same way that he should praise Him for what He has bestowed upon him. How can you compare the blessings and luxuries for which he will be accountable to the deprivation of luxuries which is a relief from being tested and which keeps his mind free to worship and remember Allah? So he should give thanks to Allah for all of that."
It has been said: "Gratitude is giving up wrong action." Ibn al Mubarak said: "Sufyan said: "He does not understand religion properly who does not count affliction as a blessing and ease as a disaster.""
Gratitude of different faculties
A man said to Abu Hazim: "What is the gratitude of the eyes?" He said "If you see good things, you speak about them, and if you see bad things, you keep quiet about it." He asked "What is the gratitude of the ears?" He said, "If you hear something good, you accept it, and if you hear something bad, you reject it." Then he asked "What is the gratitude of the hands?" He said, "Do not take that which does not belong to you and do not hold back from paying the dues of Allah (zakat)." Then he asked, "What is the gratitude of the head?" He said "To have knowledge in it." Then he asked "What is the gratitude of one's private parts?" He quoted: "Who guard their private parts, except from those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess - for (in their case) they are free from blame, but those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors." (23:5-7)
As for those who only pay lip service to gratitude, and do not give thanks with the rest of their faculties, are concerned, they are like a man who has a garment, and all he does with it is touch it, but he does not put it on: it will never protect him from heat, cold, snow or rain.
Prostration of Gratitude
When the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to receive good news, he would prostrate himself (sujud) and give thanks to Allah. Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (radee Allahu 'anhu) narrated: "The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) entered upon us in the mosque, stood facing the qiblah, then prostrated himself and remained in sujud for a long time. I said to him, "O Messenger of Allah, you prostrated yourself for such a long time that we thought Allah had taken your soul." He said "Jibril came to me with good news. He told me: "Allah says, Whoever sends blessings on you, I will send sixty blessings on him in return and whoever salutes you, I will salute him in return", so I prostrated myself and gave thanks to Allah."
(Ahmad) Sa'id ibn Mansur narrated that Abu Bakr (radee Allahu 'anhu) prostrated himself when he heard the news that Musaylimah had been killed, and Ka'b ibn Malik (radee Allahu 'anhu) prostrated himself when the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) told him the good news that Allah had forgiven him.
All the good deeds of men cannot pay for one blessing of Allah
A worshipper worshipped Allah for fifty years, so Allah told him that He had forgiven him. The man said, "O Allah, what is there to forgive when I have not committed a wrong action?" So Allah caused a nerve in his neck to give him pain, so he could not sleep or pray. When the pain eased and he was able to sleep, an angel came to him, so he complained to the angel of the pain he had suffered. The angel told him, "Your Lord says to you that your fifty years of worship is to pay for the soothing of your pain."
Ibn Abi'd-Dunya mentioned that Dawud ('alayhi sallam) asked Allah: "What is the least of Your blessings?" Allah revealed to him "O Dawud, take a breath." Dawud did so, and Allah told him "This is the least of My blessings on you."
From this we may understand the meaning of the hadith which was narrated by Ziyad ibn Thabit and Ibn 'Abbas (radee Allahu 'anhu): "If Allah was to punish the people of heaven and earth, He would have done that without being unjust towards them, and if He were to have mercy on them, His Mercy would be far better for them than their deeds." (Abu Dawood).
In a sahih hadith, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "No one will attain salvation by virtue of his deeds." The people asked, "Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, "not even me, unless Allah covers me with His Mercy and Blessings."
The deeds of a man cannot pay for even one of the many blessings of Allah, because even the smallest of Allah's blessings and favors far outweighs the deeds of man. So we must always bear in mind the rights which Allah has over us.
Patience and Gratitude are the keys to success in this world and the next, as is evident from the words of Imaam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah.
"Our Lord! Pour out on us patience and constancy, and make us die as those who have surrendered themselves unto You." (7:126)