Shukr – Gratitude

A man who is not turned towards Allah Ta’ala through the medium of His kindness and bounties, will be dragged with the chains of trials to face Allah.

Those servants in whom nobility and lofty intelligence are inherent, do not become proud and arrogant as a result of the bounties of Allah they are awarded. They do not lose themselves in indolence, unmindfulness and worldly love. The bounties serve to increase their love for their True Benefactor. In consequence they become engrossed in obedience and worship.

Those who consider these bounties as the goal to pursue, do not direct their attention to Allah Ta’ala. Consequently they are caught up in many trials and hardships. These misfortunes act like chains by means of which these recalcitrant servants are forcibly drawn to Allah Ta’ala. In this way they are accepted by Allah Ta’ala. Thus, the trials and hardships are in reality a blessing for them.

He who does not express gratitude for Allah’s bounties, has initiated the process of their elimination, and he who is grateful has arranged a solid protection for the bounties.

The one who is not grateful for the bounties of Allah Ta’ala is in reality pursuing the elimination of the bounties. Shukr (gratitude) envisages abandonment of transgression and adoption of obedience. Only The One Being should be acknowledged as the bestower of all bounties. Ingratitude leads to the disappearance of the ni’mat (bounties).

The one who is grateful for the bounties and recognises the True Bestower, is ensured of the perpetuation of the favours of Allah. In fact, the favours will be increased. In this regard, Allah Ta’ala states in the Qur’aan:

“If you are grateful, most certainly I shall increase (the bounties) for you. And, if you are ungrateful, then (know) that My punishment is severe.”

Occasionally darkness settles over you so that you understand and appreciate the bounties of your spiritual illumination.

The condition of the bandah here on earth is not always the same. Sometimes the noor of obedience settles on him while at times the darkness of the contamination of desires and unmindfulness settles in his heart. If only the illumination of anwaar had to settle on him, he would not have known its value. Also, the reality of noor is understood from its opposite, viz. darkness (zulmat). When there is no appreciation, the bandah will not express Shukr to his Master. For this reason sometimes the darkness of ghaflat and shahwat settles on the Saalik so that he values the noor of obedience.

He who has not recognised the worth of bounties while they exist (with him), will recognise it after elimination of the bounties.

There are innumerable ni’maat of Allah Ta’ala on man at every moment. He is engulfed by bounties. However, most people fail to appreciate the bounties and remain ungrateful. Some even complaint about Allah Ta’ala and always remain dissatisfied. Such people will only appreciate the value of bounties after they have been snatched away. (They imply complaint by displaying dissatisfaction and greed – Translator.)

The continuous and abundant flow of bounties should not make you forgetful of discharging the rights of shukr because your present rank will diminish.

Two things constrain a man to become unmindful of fulfilling the huqooq (rights) of shukr. Either the bounties of Allah are regarded to be insignificant and little in quantity or the ni’maat are viewed to be so abundant that one feels unable to offer adequate thanks and appreciation. Labouring under the misconception of one’s inability to express sufficient gratitude, one abstains from shukr.

Any neglect with regard to the fulfilment of the rights of shukr will diminish the rank of the Saalik. Allah Ta’ala has elevated your rank solely by His kindness and favour. Every act rendered by you is rewarded tenfold. He magnifies your little and insignificant deeds. This demands that you always pursue shukr and righteousness.

Your attitude of refraining from shukr points to your stark ignorance. It appears that you believe in your own ability and effort. You labour under the notion that you practise virtue by your own strength and effort. This attitude is total ignorance. Allah Ta’ala is the Owner of all your actions. He activates your body and limbs. Despite Allah Ta’ala being the True Actor of your righteousness, He honours and ennobles you by awarding you with the titles of Musalli, Saajid, Raaki’, a bid, Shaakir and Thaakir.

Ponder and endeavour to fathom your origin. In reality you lack the strength to move a dot. It is by virtue of His pure kindness that you are considered to be a possessor of elevated rank. Therefore, never abandon Shukr nor be wanting in the discharge of its rights.

When He has granted you obedience and along with obedience, independence from all things besides Allah, know that He has granted you zaahiri and baatini bounties in full measure.

When Allah Ta’ala involves a bandah in taa-at (obedience), protects him from indulgence in prohibitions and along with this, He bestows to him the attribute of independence from all others besides Allah Ta’ala, then it should be understood that He has awarded the bandah with physical and spiritual bounties in full measure. There no longer remains the need to desire further ni’maat.

Zaahiri (manifest) ni’maat is the application of the physical body to acts of obedience. Baatini ni’maat is the heart’s attainment of freedom from the slavery of all others besides Allah Ta’ala. These are the bounties for which the servant should perpetually express shukr.

Bestowal of ni’maat sufficient for your needs and saving you from transgression are His bounties for you in full measure.

Abundant rizq often leads to a man’s transgression and rebellion. He becomes unmindful of Allah while he basks in the luxury of the ni’maat. On the other hand, if the ni’maat are insufficient for his needs, he is disturbed and his hearts finds no rest. He consequently drifts from the path of his Maula (Master). However, the bestowal of bounties which suffices for his needs, neither too much nor too little, is Allah’s blessing in full measure on the servant. The bandah having sufficient for his needs should, therefore, wholeheartedly apply himself to the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala.

When Allah has made you outwardly obedient to His command and inwardly submissive to His Power, then He has in fact bestowed a great favour on you.

There is no greater ni’mat than two bounties which Allah Ta’ala confers on the bandah. Firstly, man outwardly becomes obedient to Allah Ta’ala. He involves his body in ibaadat and acts of obedience. Secondly, he is contented with all circumstances Divinely ordained for him, regardless of whether these are pleasing or displeasing to his disposition. He wholeheartedly submits to the decrees of his Maula.

All goodness of the Deen and Dunya are within the confines of these two ni’mats. Thereafter, there is no need for him to look for anything because the excellence of the bandah is in uboodiyat. The bandah to whom these two blessings have been bestowed is in possession of both outward and inward uboodiyat.

The Stages of Shukr

Inspite of the heart’s eyes beholding that Allah Ta’ala is unique in the bestowal of bounties, the Shariah has commanded man to incumbently express gratitude (shukr).

The eyes of the heart (i.e. spiritual vision) perceive the transcendal realities of things. Man with a developed spiritual vision sees with clarity that Allah Ta’ala is unique in His attribute of kindness and in the bestowal of favours. He clearly perceives that the only benefactor is Allah Ta’ala. Despite man’s spiritual realisation of the True Benefactor’s munificence and kindness, the Shariat orders man in this material world of cause and effect to fulfil the duty of shukr. He is instructed to even express gratitude to the overt agencies through whose medium the Divine Bounties reach him. In this regard the Hadith Shareef says:

“Whoever is not grateful to man, is not grateful to Allah.”

In this regard there are three types of people. The one type is unmindful of Allah Ta’ala.

They are lost in their ghaflat (negligence unmindfulness). While their corporeal eyes and vision are strong and healthy, their spiritual vision (baseerat) which is the fountain for Divine Perception, is blind. They see favours emanating from human beings without perceiving the Benefactor to be the Creator of the universe. If this attitude has become a belief, then it being shirk is manifest. It will be known as shirk-e-jali (open or conscious shirk). If, while holding this attitude, maklooq (created beings) are regarded as the agencies, hence they attribute the favours to these agents, it will be known as shirk-e-khafi (hidden shirk).

With regard to the favours which people acquire from Allah Ta’ala, there are three kinds of persons. The one kind consist of such people who are unmindful of Allah. They remain uncaring while they are concerned with only the physical creation. They do not step beyond the confines of the material creation in the slightest degree. They are spiritually blind and unable to understand the glory of Allah Ta’ala. His attributes are incomprehensible to them. They perceive the good things as gifts and favours of people without realising that everything is an emanation from the Creator. Example: the employer is believed to be the bestower of the wages. If this idea has become a belief in a person, then he has renounced his Imaan and entered into kufr because the shirk of the belief is quite clear. He has associated creation with the Creator in His attribute of providence. Only Allah Ta’ala is Mu’tee (The Bestower).

However, if the belief is that Allah is the actual bestower, but on account of men being the medium for the acquisition of the bounties, these bestowals are attributed to them, then such a belief is shirk-e-khafi or a hidden shirk. According to this belief, man is considered to be a bestower of bounties to a certain degree.

The second type is a Saahib-e-Haqiqat. He is a man who contemplates on the true Sovereign of the universe. He vividly perceives Him and becomes oblivious of creation. He visualises the Cause of all causes and becomes unaware of the agencies. This bandah has, in reality, turned his attention to Allah Ta’ala. The illumination of the lofty Divine Court radiates on him. He has reached the goal of Divine Proximity. However, he is absorbed in the ocean of Divine Illumination (anwaar and tajalliyaat), hence his spiritual vision is blind to the athaar (impressions of the Divine Attributes). His obliviousness dominates his consciousness, his stage of Fanaa dominates his stage of Baqa and his absence dominates his presence.

The second type is a bandah whose gaze of baseerat has shifted from this external material world. His gaze has gained the ability to see realities. Being engrossed in the mushaahadah of the true Sovereign of the universe, he has become oblivious of creation. He has emerged from all vestiges of duality and has entered the realm of Unity. Having gained the perception of the Cause of all causes, he becomes unaware of the intermediate agencies. The material or worldly agents, means and ways (the asbaab) have disappeared from in front of his gaze.

The servant in this lofty state is kaamil (perfect) in relation to the people of ghaflat (viz. the first type). However, he has not reached the best and most perfect stage nor has he yet mounted the stage of consciousness because he is absorbed in the ocean of Divine Illumination. His gaze of baseerat, therefore, is unable to see creation. Besides Wahdat (Unity), there is nothing in his presence. His state of obliviousness is greater than his state of consciousness. The mushaahadah of Allah is dominant in him. His stage of Farq (Maqaam-e-Farq) is overwhelmed. The vision of Allah along with the perception of creation is termed Maqaam-e-Farq.

The state of Fanaa (absolute annihilation of the self) permeates him. He lacks the stage of Baqa. Baqa is the state of consciousness which is Divinely Bestowed after having attained Fanaa. Ghaibat (absence) dominates his huzoor (presence). Makhlooq (creation) does not feature in his presence.

This bandah is perfect in the shukr which he discharges for the bounties of Allah. He expresses gratitude to only Allah Ta’ala and to no one else. This bandah is exempted from discharging the shukr of people, which has devolved as an incumbent duty on him. In view of his state of annihilation, he is excused from the obligation of expressing shukr to people. He lacks the ability to express shukr to beings besides Allah Ta’ala because his gaze has completely shifted from the intermediate agencies.

The third type is a bandah on a higher stage of perfection than the second kind. He has drunk from the fountain of Tauhid and has become fully conscious and aware. Inspite of his vision not being on aliens (i.e. all things besides Allah), he is conscious of their conditions and circumstances. His vision of Allah does not prevent him from perceiving creation nor does his vision of creation form a veil to screen him from the Creator. His Fanaa does not impede his Baqa nor is his Baqa a barrier for his Fanaa. He fulfils everyone’s right with equanimity.

The third kind of person occupies the highest rank. He is superior than the second type. He has drunk from elixir of Tauhid and after having traversed Fanaa and all states higher, he has arrived at the station of Baqa. For him creation has become the mirror for viewing the splendour and beauty of Allah Ta’ala.

The bandah in this elevated and most perfect state discharges everyone’s right correctly. While expressing gratitude to people, he discharges Allah’s rights of shukr in proper measure. He is neither like the ghaafil (the first type) nor like the Faani (the second type). He is on the highest and most perfect stage of shukr.

The Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh) illustrates the latter two stages of shukr by citing the following episode:

When Aishah Siddiqah’s (radhiyallahu anha) innocence was proclaimed, exculpating her from the slanderous accusation made against her, Abu Bakr Siddique (radhiyallahu anhu) said: “Get up and express your gratitude to Rasulullah ( r ).” She replied: ‘I swear by Allah that I shall not express gratitude to anyone besides Allah Ta’ala”.

Abu Bakr Siddique (radhiyallahu anhu) was guided by the demand of his most perfect state of Baqa. Even Allah Ta’ala instructs: “Be grateful to Me and to parents”. Rasulullah ( r ) said: “Whoever is not grateful to people, is not grateful to Allah.”

On this occasion Aishah Siddiqah (radhiyallahu anha) was annihilated in her prevailing state, hence she perceived only Allah Ta’ala.

The munaafiqeen had levelled a slanderous accusation against Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha). As a result, many days Rasulullah ( r ) grieved. In the beginning Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) was unaware of the slanderous rumour about her. When she was informed thereof, she was smitten with grief. She lost much weight in consequence of the great worry and heartache which overwhelmed her. Further, she was deprived of the earlier attention which Rasulullah ( r ) used to give her. This was the severest blow for her. Meanwhile, Rasulullah ( r ) investigated the allegations. Unable to bear the sorrow and grief, Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) with the permission of Rasulullah ( r ) left for the home of her parents. One day Rasulullah ( r ) went to meet her. He said: “O Aishah! If you have sinned, repent.” Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) requested her parents to reply on her behalf. They declined, commenting: “What can we say in Rasulullah’s presence?” On hearing this comment, Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) stood up and after reciting the praise of Allah said:

“Our condition is like that of Yusuf’s (alayhis salaam) father. When Yusuf’s brothers reported to their father that a wolf had eaten Yusuf (alayhis salaam) – they even brought along Yusuf’s blood-stained kurtah – Yaqub (alayhis salaam) said:

‘Sabr is beautiful, and Allah is the One from Whom aid is sought regarding that which you are narrating’.”

She then sat down. As she sat, the procession of Wahi (revelation) began.

After termination of the revelation, the blessed face of Rasulullah ( r ) was glowing radiantly with happiness. He exclaimed:

“O Aishah! Be happy, Allah Ta’ala has proclaimed your innocence.”

He then recited those verses of Surah Noor which were just revealed to proclaim her innocence and to announce severe punishment for those who slander chaste women. It was on this occasion that Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddique (radhiyallahu anhu) ordered Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) to express shukr to Rasulullah ( r ) because he was the medium for the announcement of her innocence. In response, Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) took an oath and declared that besides Allah Ta’ala, she will not express shukr to anyone.

In this episode is the basis for both the stages of Fanaa and Baqa. Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) directed Hadhrat Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) towards the station of Baqa while in her prevalent state, she was in the state of Fanaa, hence oblivious of all others. It was for this reason that she was unable to direct shukr to anyone besides Allah Ta’ala. Although this was the state of Hadhrat Siddiqah at that specific occasion, her usual condition at all times was akmal (most perfect) having attained both stages of Fanaa and Baqa.

With regard to the incidence of bounties there are three classes of people. One class consists of those who are pleased with the favours and become proudful. Their happiness is not by way of expressing gratitude to their Benefactor and Creator, but is on account of the advantage they acquire from the bounties. These people are careless. The following aayat applies to them:

“Ultimately, when they become proud on account of the favours We granted them, then We suddenly caught them.”

Of the three classes of people there are with regard to attitudes in relation to the favours they receive, the first kind consists of such people who are driven to pride by the possession of bounties. Their happiness and pleasure are not expressions of gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for His favours, but are solely because of the advantage and enjoyment they derive from the bounties. Lost in their pleasures, they completely forget their Benefactor, Allah Ta’ala.

Allah’s punishment suddenly overtakes them. For such people the Qur’aan says:

“When they became proud on account of the favours which they were given, We caught them suddenly.”

The second class consists of those people whose happiness is an expression of gratitude to the Benefactor and is the result of His mushaahadah. The following statement of Allah Ta’ala applies to them:

“Say: Be happy with the kindness and mercy of Allah. This is better than what they are accumulating.”

The second class of people do not become happy because of the bounty. Their happiness is on account of kindness of Allah Ta’ala. They are concerned with the Being Who has awarded the bounty. They express their gratitude to their Benefactor. The following aayat describes the condition of these grateful ones:

“Say (O Muhammad!): “With the kindness and mercy of Allah should they be happy. That is better than that which they are accumulating.”

This class of people is not unmindful of their Master and Benefactor even though they have not yet attained the state of perfection in relation to those who are akmal (most perfect) and afdhal (the best). People in this second class do not in entirely direct their attention to Allah Ta’ala. Their nafs does turn towards the bounties as well. Thus, they do entertain a desire for bounties to a certain degree.

The third class consists of such people who are neither concerned with the outward benefits (of bounties) nor with their inward (spiritual) appeal. The bounties do not make them unmindful of the Benefactor in any way whatever. The Beautiful vision of their Mahboob (Allah Ta’ala) has made them oblivious of all things besides His Beauty. All concerns of their hearts are focused on only Allah Ta’ala. They perceive nothing besides Him. The following statement of Allah Ta’ala befits this class of people:

‘Say: Allah! Then leave them to play in their conjecturing.’

Allah Ta’ala revealed to Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam):

‘O Dawood! Inform my true servants to be pleased with only Me and to cool their hearts with My remembrance.’

May Allah Ta’ala grant us all happiness by means of His pleasure. May he make us among those who understand Him. May He save us from being among the unmindful ones and may He direct us along the path of the people of Taqwa with His grace and kindness.

The people in this class do not become unmindful of Allah Ta’ala by indulgence in the external benefits of the bounties and favours nor do they concern themselves with the spiritual dimension of the bounties by considering these ni’maat as being the signs of Allah’s kindness. In any such attitude there is also the element of diversion – of turning the attention to ghairullah (i.e. things besides Allah). They are in contemplation of the Beatific Vision of the True Beloved. Their absorption in this contemplation has expelled from their hearts whatever is ni’mat or not.

Unlike the former two classes, they are totally immersed in the perception of Divine Beauty. The variety of intentions and desires of their hearts have all gathered in the Being (Thaat) of Muhsin-e-Haqeeqi (The True Benefactor). Their attention is not on the bounty from any angle whatever.

The following Qur’aanic aayat pertains to the people in this class:

“Say (O Muhammad!) Allah! Then leave them to play in their falsehood.”

Allah is their Beloved. They are concerned with Him alone. Everyone else and everything else are expelled from their hearts.

The instruction to Dawood (alayhis salaam) commands that man seeks for happiness and peace of mind in the pleasure and remembrance of Allah.

Source.

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