By Umer Raza
I have produced ayah number 7 from Surah Ibrahim (14) of the Quran in Arabic and translations from different translations of scholars below and then I will try to explain as to what Gratitude Allah might have meant here and why we do not get even more when we SAY a lot of Shukar (Gratitude). Is it a mere belief and personal satisfaction that one has more or getting more after Shukar or there are some physical realities also that we see or do not see of getting more with us. What is that missing link that is stopping us from having more or stopping Allah (because of our deeds) for given us more in physical form.
Sahih International: And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ”
Pickthall: And when your Lord proclaimed: If ye give thanks, I will give you more; but if ye are thankless, lo! My punishment is dire.
Yusuf Ali: And remember! your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you; But if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.”
Shakir: And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.
Muhammad Sarwar: “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 “.
Mohsin Khan: And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.”
Muhammad Asad: And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: ‘If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more; but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!
I searched for some detailed meanings of the “Shukar” (Gratitude) that is referred in this ayah. Here is what I have about Shukar.
There are mainly two types of Shukar that we can do. One of them is what most of us do and practice. However, the second one is rarely known and practiced in its full spirit. I will touch here the first one briefly but the second one with more detail.
Shukar by Lips:
“Alhamdulillah” is the very word that we utter whenever we have to say Shukar. This is the first word that comes to mind of any one and we usually profess about it also in front of children. In our culture in Pakistan we usually replace it with our Urdu version and also on different occasions with English one as well. However, whatever the language we use, if the basic purpose is served that is good enough i.e. basic purpose to thank Allah by lips using the words.
It is usually professed to use Shukar, gratitude, thank you to Allah at what ever we have and in whatever state we are. Those who do not say it either do a lot of blaming or complaining for what they do not have. It is also usually said that say Shukar or pay your gratitude to what you have and do not mention what you do not have. Look around you and you will find hundreds and thousands of opportunities to be thankful to Allah. Hence we all know this and all do it as well. We say Shukar Alhamdulillah.
The ayah above as translated gives us relief that if we say this a lot we will be given more or already are given more. So it is easy to get more, we need to be more thankful. At the same time this also creates a disillusion in many borderline believers (who want immediate return to their being thankful). They get disillusioned because despite their being thankful they still are not improving and not getting as promised by Allah. But Allah always keeps his promise.
However, since Islam is a practical religion and presents a complete code of life. It cannot just mean this simple Shukar and there may be another meaning and practice to this simple ayah as well. The second Shukar is based on an understanding of Shukar (Gratitude).
Shukar by Limbs:
This is quite interesting. Limbs, meaning the body parts and it may also mean the resources we have. It also means Shukar by Practice. When we move our limbs or use our resources we in fact indulge into a practice, and Islam is a religion of practice and Quran is a book of practical ideas. Shukar by moving around, shukar by using my hands, my feet, my mind, my legs, my muscles, my energies, my intelligence, my resources etc. Anything that is visible, if we use it properly that is the Shukar by Limbs. I will share some day-to-day examples below in order to make this clearer.
I have a cycle in my house. This cycle is there since the day I thought that I should do exercise and cycling is one of the best activities. However, after few days I became so busy in other work that now that cycle is free and getting rusty. I used resources given to me by Allah to buy that cycle and now I am not using it. If I am not using it I am not being thankful to Allah.
If I have shoes or cloths with me that I rarely use or wear, because they are for some special occasion only and that occasion is rare in its occurrence. They are lying idle and I have kept them just in case. These shoes/cloths if not used properly, they are an example of my not being thankful to Allah.
I have a big house and this house is beyond my needs. There is a room that is empty and not used and waste material is dumped in it. If this room is not used to its fullest capacity I am not being thankful to Allah for his provision to me.
I have a skill in me and that I learned through my academics or through experience. I do not use that skill to produce anything or to teach someone else or that skill is of no benefit to anyone. I am not thankful to Allah for giving me that skill.
I have a mobile phone or a laptop and I am not using the complete functionalities of that gadget. I am not being thankful to Allah for given me such gadgets.
I have 24 hours in a day and I use only eight of them for any productive work and the rest sixteen hours are free. I am not being thankful to Allah for providing me those sixteen hours. May be the lack of Blessings in that remaining sixteen hours is what Allah referred to as His punishment or how quickly the time is passing these days is what Allah referred as His punishment in the second part of ayah.
If we look around we can find tens of such examples that we may classify as resources around that are lying unutilized or being wasted. The Shukar of limbs is that we must utilize these to their maximum. If we do utilize these, we will be granted more, or the next version of that thing, or the number of those things be increased. But if we do not Allah warn us that He will be Harsh on us. There are a lot of such sites around us at individual, collective and social level, where we see resources both human as well as material are being wasted. Land lying vacant, buildings are not used properly, vehicles are getting rusty, staff underutilized etc. all these are a stark examples of our collective ignorance of this ayah and based on which we are inviting that wrath of Allah.
So Sukar is not only what we say by lips “Alhamdulillah” it is also that we use all the stuff around us to its maximum capacity. Only then we can claim the next stage of that product or thing. If we have not fulfilled the rights of a cycle parked in our home, that is getting rusty, how we can claim to have a motorbike. If we have not used our current study to its maximum utilization how we can claim to learn more. If we have not kept our current resources engaged how we can claim to have more resources.
Alhamdullilah we have an abundance of resources it is just a matter of being grateful to these in the right spirit.