Ingratitude: how it causes misery and how to avoid it
“Allah set forth a parable of a town, which was once secure, content, its sustenance come to it abundantly from all quarters, yet it displayed ingratitude to the favours of Allah, so Allah made it taste the garb of hunger and poverty on account of the evil that its people so persistently committed.” (16:112)
This verse sets forth a parable of a town whose people enjoyed security of person and property, they lived fulfilling and content lives, and they enjoyed abundant sustenance and financial prosperity. However, they displayed ingratitude to the favours of Allah, He transformed their position and subjected them to two adverse conditions; “He made them taste the garb of poverty and the garb of fear.”
The word “garb” is used in this verse to describe how people are enfolded by fear in every sphere of their lives just as and how grinding poverty wiped out their once affluent lifestyles. This extreme change in fortune was on account of the ingratitude that they displayed for the favours of Allah. Ingratitude may be shown by refusing to acknowledge the true source of all blessings that we enjoy, by misusing the bounty, or by refusing to share it with others.
We live in an age of great political, social and economic upheaval. Insecurity of person and property, escalating costs of living, political instability and an obvious lack of fulfillment and contentment are the besetting traits of life for ordinary citizens in South Africa. Politics has become the mainstay of corrupt, incompetent and immoral individuals. Economically, we are experiencing an unprecedented surge in the price of food, electricity, water and fuel.
Crime and corruption has woven the ‘garb of poverty and fear’ over our lives which are increasingly strangulating and stifling freedom of movement in our societies. The ‘garb of fear and poverty’ also gives rise to distrust, suspicion, fear, hatred and disunity. It creates a cycle of negative thinking, where we tend to look for things to go wrong and can feel terribly disempowered when they actually do. Are we perhaps guilty of unabashed ingratitude to the very many favours and blessings we enjoy from Allah? We often take our blessings for granted until we lose them.
Have we lost our security to crime, our contentment to anxiety, our prosperity to poverty simply because we take so much for granted? We can turn the tide of discontent by retracing our steps to our Creator and by displaying gratitude for the innumerable blessings we enjoy each day of our lives. If we wish to thank Allah for these favours, we should fulfill our obligations and refrain from indulging in the forbidden.
Gratitude has been linked to increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Giving thanks is one of the most powerful ways there is to increase your well-being. Gratitude contributes to self – development, it helps us counteract negative thought patterns, it contributes to self confidence and attracts the mercy of Allah in the form of peace, contentment and prosperity. The importance of expressing gratitude to Allah is mentioned in almost 70 verses of the Quran. “… and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him you worship.” (2: 172) In this verse “being grateful” is equated to “worshipping Allah” Shaitan’s primary mission is to ensure that man remains ungrateful to Allah. “… Nor will you find, in most of them, gratitude (for your mercies).” (7:17) They will gloss over the millions of favours they enjoy from Allah and instead focus on one hardship and difficulty. When this ultimate purpose of the Shaitan is considered, it becomes clear how a man goes astray when he does not render thanks to Allah.
Hassan Al-Basri Rahimahullah said: “When Allah bestows His favours upon a people, He asks for their gratitude. If they offer their thanks [to Him], He increases their good fortune, but if they deny His favours, He turns these favours of His into torment and affliction.” Blessings that do not bring us closer to Allah may become the very cause of affliction. Gratitude helps us to be patient, humble and it allows us to experience personal fulfillment. Gratitude is not simply an expression but rather an action. It is a state of mind and heart that is expressed by:
Embracing the shariah as the perfect and complete code of life
Fostering unity and ties of brotherhood within the ummah
Displaying compassion for the less privileged
Persevering in times of hardship and difficulty
Expressing gratitude to fellow man
Knowing that whatever we have comes from Allah
Accepting that whatever befalls us is due to the Will of Allah
Taking care of our health
Gratitude can best be understood from the following dua of Nabi r: “O’ Allah help us to remember You, to thank you and to worship you with dedication.” It is the ability to constantly remember Him, thank Him and to worship Him with heart and soul.
May Allah bless us with a tongue that is moist with His Zikr and a heart that finds solace in expressing gratitude.