Gratitude: Are we unconsciously ingrate?

by Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)


n an anecdotal children’s story entitles ‘Never be ungrateful’, it is narrated thus

Once two travellers were going along a dusty road that had no trees along its sides. High summer as it was, the sun was scorchingly hot. The travellers looked for some shelter from the hot sun. Suddenly they saw a tree with big leaves and branches spread like an umbrella. It had a thick shade that could be a fine shelter. So, the travellers made for the tree.

Placing their wares on the ground, the travellers sat in the cool thick shade of the tree. They heaved a sigh of relief and decided to rest there for quite a while. After some time, one of the travellers said to his companion, “What a useless tree it is! It bears no fruit at all.”

The tree felt pinched to hear the traveller’s words and burst out “You ungrateful soul! you are taking shelter in my cool shade from the burning heat of the sun and calling me a useless tree as well. Can there be a more wicked creature than you on this earth? Be up and leave the place at once to be scorched again.”

Moral of the story: Ingratitude earns others’ wrath.

Sometimes one feels that the biggest barrier in our spiritual ascent is a mixture of our cultural heritage and the present-day materialistic and individualistic teachings. To find fault in everything we have or do not have and to constantly identify the shortcomings of a situation, reminds one of the cliches ‘All I ever wanted is, more!’ Here, the symbolism of this catchphrase is the insatiable greed and lust for more.

A few visits to the mosque and you hear this everywhere and especially from those endowed with wealth. You see them arriving in regal carriages, donning fancy attire, speaking of their last voyage in a club class compartment, their marvels while in foreign lands, their culinary experiences and then starts the gradual dropping of bombshells. How expensive things are, and how he or she was fortunate to get fare against miles, how things are so tough in the market and the problem with earnings, and so on and so forth. Then you suddenly start wondering that if such is the state of society’s lords, what about the proletariats?

In fact, you then come to understand that the prevailing culture of people earning only to enjoy and amuse themselves while keeping others at bay, lest they ask for favours or contributions, is rampant everywhere. Even amongst the so-called self-proclaimed ‘needy’ of society, nothing seems enough and everything is an entitlement to which they have sovereign rights.

Whether we belong to the club class or the needy, just because we keep shouting out the name of Imam ‘Ali (AS), we owe it to him to reflect on his advice ‘Showing gratitude to your Lord is done through prolonged praise’, or because we are claimants to the Ja’afriya madh-hab, then we ought to read Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq (AS) speak unto us ‘He who is conferred with thanks will be granted an increase. Allah says: ‘If you give thanks, I shall give you greater (favors).

Allah (SWT) states in the Holy Qur’an “Remember when your Lord said to you, ‘If you give thanks, I shall give you greater (favors), but if you deny the Truth, know that My retribution is severe’ (14:7).” The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: ‘He who eats and gives thanks will have the reward of him who fasts purely for the sake of Allah. He who gives thanks and enjoys good health will have the same reward as him who practices patience in his illness. He who is conferred with graces and gives thanks will have the same reward as him who is deprived and satisfied

Sayyid Mahdi As-Sadr in his book The Ahlul Bayt: Ethical Role Models, writes:

Gratitude can be classified into three categories:

1. Gratitude of the heart,

2. Verbal gratitude, and

3. Gratitude of the organs.

Once the heart is full of the recognition of the graces of the Conferrer Lord, the tongue expresses thanks. Once the heart and the tongue unite in the feelings of gratitude, they inspire the organs to express their gratitude by submission and response to the acts of obedience to Him.

Thus, there are various categories and methods of showing gratitude:

Gratitude of the heart is to recognize the grace and recognize that its source was God.

• The verbal gratitude is to express thanks to the Conferrer.

• Gratitude of the organs is to engage them in acts of obedience to God and save them from plunging in acts of disobedience to Him.

Hence, it is necessary to thank each of the graces of God in a suitable form:

To thank for a fortune is to spend some of it in the fields of obedience to God.

To thank for the knowledge is to publicize and expose its beneficial concepts.

To thank for a high rank is to support the weak and the persecuted and save them from the oppression that befalls them.

The true gratitude of any grace cannot be attained whatever efforts are exerted because showing gratitude is one of the graces and items of success that God confers. Consequently, man is too short to show proper gratitude for any grace.

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