Numerous verses in the Quran call upon us to acknowledge Allah’s countless blessings and express our gratitude for them:
These verses establish that Allah Taʿālā:
- is the source of all blessings,
- has blessed man with an array of blessings that are beyond count and comprehension, and
- has directed man to express his gratitude for these blessings, despite his incapacity to even count them, and in return has assured him of further blessings.
Allah’s blessings are so all-encompassing that Amirul Mumineen AS states, ‘Even if Allah did not warn [us] over being disobedient to Him, He should not be disobeyed [solely] out of gratitude for His blessings’.
The 14th Imam, Maulana al-Imam al-Muʿizz li Dīn Allah AS points out:
By Allah, if a man was to spend the age of this universe engrossed in ʿibādat so that he may express the gratitude required for a sip of water bestowed upon him by Allah, he would be unable to do so. Indeed, the gratitude required for an even lesser blessing would not have been expressed.
Imam AS makes it clear that man cannot express the gratitude required for the blessings he has received, and neither should one assume that he has been able to do so. However, man’s inability to express the gratitude required does not preclude the necessity of carrying it out. He is required to continuously recollect Allah’s blessings upon him and offer praise to their Bestower. Rasul Allah SAW has stated, ‘To speak of blessings is a form of gratitude’. A master once questioned his disciple, ‘What can you offer the one who has taken you from the confinements of paucity towards the capaciousness of abundance?’ The disciple replied, ‘gratitude and praise.’
Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Qadi al-Nuʿman RA writes, ‘Patience and gratitude are two forms of ʿibādat,’ indicating that through offering gratitude to the Almighty for His blessings one seeks repentance for his sins, reaps divine reward and purifies his soul. Rasul Allah SAW states, ‘The one who has received a blessing should requite it. If he cannot then he should at least express gratitude for it. If he fails to do even that, then he has disparaged the blessing.’
Expressing gratitude for Allah’s blessing is incomplete without offering gratitude to the person by virtue of whom one has received it. Expressing gratitude to Allah alone, without offering it to the person who was the means through which he received the blessing is insufficient.
Along with establishing the indispensability of offering gratitude to the Almighty, it is also essential to attempt to comprehend the blessings man has received. The greatest of all blessings is that of īmān (faith) which the believers have been granted without even having asked for it. One day, Maulana al-Imam al-Jafar al-Sadiq AS asked those in his presence which blessing is referred to in the āya sharīfa:
Referencing various exegesis writers, an individual seated before Imam AS suggested that ‘the blessing’ referred to in the verse above is ‘a sip of cold water consumed on a hot day’. The Imam AS replied that if this were to be the case then the Last Judgement will be unduly prolonged, for every individual ever to come into existence will be questioned over each instance in which he took a sip of water. He then clarified that, ‘We (awliyāʾ Allah) are the blessing about which mankind will be questioned.’ The succession of awliyāʾ Allah AS is the greatest of the Almighty’s blessings with the personage of the imam or dai in each era being the source of multiple blessings since it is through him that the faithful seek the betterment of all their affairs, both spiritual and temporal. Therefore, pledging one’s allegiance to awliyāʾ Allah AS and abiding by their directives enables one to recollect and offer gratitude for all of Allah’s blessings for they are its fountainhead.
Blessings can be divided into two: one external to the body and the other internal. External blessings comprise wealth, a spouse, children and all other worldly matters and possessions. Internal blessings are further divided into two: those pertaining to the body and those to the soul. Health, physique, beauty and strength are blessings of the body, while those of the soul are two: intelligence and good character.
However, one must also be aware of the form and means of expression. For example, gratitude for the one who has taught another is through the latter’s obedience to the former; gratitude for the knowledge one has attained is through acting in accordance with it and calling towards it, and gratitude for being able to carry out these actions and deeds is shown by exhibiting patience while discharging them. Likewise, those blessed with monetary wealth are to express their gratitude by coming to the aid of those who may not be as fortunate. Those possessing both knowledge and wealth should offer them to those bereft of them. Lastly, a wealthy person and a knowledgeable person should come to the aid of each other, one providing the other with knowledge and the other offering him his wealth.