By Taha Ghayyur
Whether you consider yourself a positive, easy-going person or a demanding, hard to please person, these tips can help you become a more grateful, caring, and content individual.
There is much more to gratitude and Shukr (thankfulness) in Islam than a mere “Thank You” that our ears have become so used to ignoring. Discover how you can be more thankful to Allah and His creation.
1. Stop Complaining and be positive! This is the first step towards being thankful to Allah and people around you. We have become a community of complainers and whiners, which has lead to a collective psychology of negativity and unproductively.
Stop complaining about the economy, weather, politicians, traffic, or ‘the system’. Refrain from blaming your Masjid, Imams, parents, spouse, in-laws, children, or boss. If you think with an open mind, you may find more positives in your circumstances and the people around you than negatives.
2. Say “Al-hamdulillah” (All thanks and praise belongs to Allah) often: A constant utterance of this phrase reminds you of the source of all blessings and happiness in this life. This practice of attributing all good actions to Allah keeps you humble and content and has a positive affect on your relations with people.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, has instructed us to say “Al-hamdulillah” on daily basis: “Allah is pleased with His servant if, when he eats something he thanks Allah for it, and when he drinks something he thanks Allah for it” (Muslim).
3. Respect others’ time and schedule: Part of ungratefulness is wastage of time. As a scholar once said, "Time is not just money. It is more expensive than gold, diamonds and pearls. Time is life itself!"
Arriving late at a meeting or a class, cancelling appointments last minute, or starting off a program late, are not only a big waste of time and disrespectful to others, but also a lack of appreciation of others’ time on your part.
4. Seize the opportunity while you can. Procrastination in offering your prayers, delaying a donation to a humanitarian cause, or filling your leisure time with unproductive or unlawful activities is ingratitude to Allah for the limited time and opportunity He has given you to do good and to achieve Paradise.
Prophet Muhammad warned us, "Good health and spare time are two of the blessings of Allah with respect to which many people are deceived." (Bukhari)
Even if you live till tomorrow, what guarantee do you have that there won't be any obstacles in carrying out a good action. The Prophet used to call on Muslims to take the initiative to do good deeds before any problems arise.
5. Spend 15 minutes daily to think about things that you should be thankful for: Recall people in your life, whom you may have taken for granted like your parents, spouse, children, co-worker, or teacher, who were caring and loving.
List some of Allah’s gifts that are not tangible or were not obvious to you before. Sulayman, a follower of the Prophet’s Companions, once said: “Remembering His blessings makes one love Allah.”
This simple mental exercise not only makes you a grateful person, but also a healthy one. According to a 2001 research by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL), based in Ohio, just 15 minutes a day focusing on the things you are grateful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies, will make you less vulnerable to clinical depression, and will keep your blood pressure and heart rate stable.
6. Be patient and grateful when disasters strike: The depth and strength of your gratitude is tested in difficult times. Allah wants to see how thankful you truly are when you loose your job or a loved one, or when you feel ill and or get injured.
It helps to know that in times of calamity and distress, there will be some good for you, provided you respond appropriately. The Prophet said, “How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him -and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing.” (Muslim)
Sufyan al-Thawri, a famous early scholar of Islam, said, “He does not understand religion properly who does not count affliction as a blessing and ease as a trial.”
7. Donate your time, talent, money, and advice to social work and non-profit efforts: In our profit-driven culture, it is burdensome to squeeze out time and wealth for others. Your selfless service and generosity towards people in need and non-profit organizations is a sure way of showing gratitude to Allah and to your community.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said, “People are dependants of Allah; the closest to Him are those who are most useful to His dependants” (Muslim).
"As the blessings from Allah to a servant increase, so will the people's needs of that blessed servant's services. If the servant ignores their needs, it will cause those blessings to be removed" (lbn Hibban).
8. Visit the sick, the terminally ill, and the disabled: Frequenting patients and families of the deceased, not only brings comfort to them and brings multiple rewards from Allah to you, it also helps you appreciate your own good health and opportunities you have in life to serve others.
9. Share the message of Islam: If you appreciate the guidance of Islam as your most precious treasure, don’t hesitate to share it with others. If Islam has changed your life for the better, what’s holding you back from inviting your friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers to explore this message of hope and positive transformation?
10. Recite and memorize the Duas of Prophet Muhammad: The most natural and beautiful way to thank Allah is the words of the Prophet himself.
The Prophet told Muadh, “By Allah, I love you, so do not forget to say at the end of every prayer, ‘O Allah, help me to remember You and to give thanks to You and to worship You well’” (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhî).
11. Fall in Prostration (Sajda) when you receive a blessing from Allah: Prophet Muhammad used to prostrate (Sajda) to Allah whenever he received something pleasant or was told good news to thank Allah for the grace he had received.
12. Don’t consider any blessing too small: Treat all gifts of Allah with equal respect and gratitude, lest you lose it one day for good. Aishah said that the Prophet entered upon her one day and saw a small piece of bread on the floor, so he picked it up and wiped it, then told her: “O Aishah, treat the blessings of Allah with respect, for when it departs from a household it may never come back to them” (Abud Dunya).
13. Use and display Allah’s blessings moderately. Part of being grateful to Allah is to look presentable and clean, and spend money on yourself with moderation.
Abul-Akhwas nar*rated that his father said: “I came to the Messenger of Allah looking dishevelled and scruffy. He asked me, ‘Do you have any possessions?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked me what sort, and I told him, ‘I have all sorts. Allah has given me camels, horses, slaves and sheep.’ The Prophet said: ‘If Allah has given you all of that, then let Him see His blessing on you.’”
14. Don’t be too picky and accommodate others! Some people express their discomfort (perhaps unintentionally) with anything that they are not used to. They may be too picky about their taste of food, clothing and furniture; they may get irritated easily in new environments; they may like meeting only a certain type of people; they may not like working with others.
This insensitivity to other people’s preferences and inability to accommodate others is a sign of selfishness, arrogance, and ungratefulness. Be content in every situation and you will become grateful.
15. Admire those below you and keep your expectations low: A lot of times the reason for our ungrateful behaviour is that we are constantly comparing our material success with the wealthier, healthier, and more accomplished. In our race to ‘keep-up-with-the-Ahmad-family’ next door, we forget so many obvious blessings that others may not enjoy and we should be thankful for.
The Prophet admonished us, "Look at those people who have less than you and never look at those who have more grants than you, this will ensure that you will not depreciate Allah's favours" (Muslim).
16. Thank people for littlest things: People like to be appreciated for little favours they do for us, which often get ignored in our busy routines. When was the last time you thanked your little son for taking care of simple chore for you? Has your husband heard a compliment from you lately?
Take the time to thank them for their thoughtfulness. As the Prophet stated, “The one who does not give thanks for a small blessing will not give thanks for a great blessing, and the one who does not give thanks to people will not give thanks to Allah” (Abud Dunya).
17. Compliments & recognition and motivate team members: Whether you are an employer or a manager at work, or lead a volunteer based project, or simply a team player, a personal recognition significantly boosts the employee or volunteer morale.
As Stephen Robbins in his book “The Truth about Managing People” explains, several organizational behaviour studies have indicated employees and volunteers rate personal thanks and recognition from a superior for a job well-done as the most motivating of a variety of incentives; yet not many team leaders use this simple, cost-effective technique that works like magic! What kinds of personal recognition and group success incentives does your organization have in place?
18. When you thank someone, make sure you mean it: When you say “Jazakallahu Khayran” (May Allah reward you the best) to your wife, does it come from your heart? Or is it received as another cold cliché?
Be a little creative when you really want to express your gratitude to someone. Say it with a personal thank you card. Show it with flowers. Accompany it with a genuine smile. Charge it with emotions. Enhance it with a meal or a meaningful gift.