By Jafar Wafa
The attribute of thankfulness (Shukr) which is an abstract idea but, as the reader may find, the Quran provides ample substance to a keen reader of the Book to comprehend the notable differences between thankfulness and thanklessness (Kufr, in Qur'anic terms).
And this realisation is bound to change one’s mindset which will be reflected in his/her actual behaviour and conduct. So, this is how the holy scripture seeks to bring about positive changes in people’s thinking and personality, provided the belief is there that the contents of the Book are divinely revealed.
The Quran informs us that, after recounting His blessings and favours heaped on him and the Israelites in general before and after his anointment as divine messenger, God said to Moses (pbuh): “Be among the thankful” (Surah 7, Ayat 144). Thus, to be thankful (Shakir) is like behaving as a ‘believer’ – believing in God being the Creator. And its opposite is unbeliever (or Kafir) behaving as one who does not believe in the existence of God Who created the marvellous universe.
The difference between thankfulness and disbelief is fundamental if we examine the implication of Ayat 114 of Surah 7 and the context in which it occurs. What the Almighty had said to Prophet Moses, the latter transmitted to his followers while recalling the divine support and favour which had led to their miraculous escape from the oppressive rule of the pharaohs of Egypt.
He had also said to his people that “God had proclaimed: if you give thank, I will give you more; and if you deny my favours, my punishment will be dire.” (Surah 14, Ayat 7).
Thus, thankfulness to God is the main plank of a divinely-revealed religious infrastructure like Islam. The Quran coveys this through Ayat 147 of Surah 4 which puts the question: “What concern has God for your punishment if you are thankful (for His mercies) and believe in Him?” It is worth noting that in the above Ayat thankfulness to God has been equated with belief in Him.
No wonder, the opening Surah of Quran (Al-Fateha) begins with acknowledgement of thankfulness for His mercies and kindnesses by “praising Him as the Lord of the worlds, the most Beneficent and Merciful”. We are told that for practical demonstration of this thankfulness, we should glorify Him when we enter the night, and enter the morning and at the sun’s decline and in the noonday” (Surah 30, Ayat 17).
This is exactly in compliance of this Ayat that the five-time prayers in the course of each calendar day have been made obligatory for us who belong to the last batch of the recipients of God-given guidelines.
We have also been informed that it is not only the human beings who have been commanded to offer prayers of thankfulness day in and day out, but that even those ethereal beings “Who bear the (Divine) throne and all who are round about it, hymn the praises of their Lord (Surah 40, Ayat 7).
At another place in the Quran, there is a statement, for our attention, that “the seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and that there is not a thing that does not hymn His praise, although you do not understand their praise”. (Surah 17, Ayat 44).
By stressing the importance of thankfulness and by informing us that all the material and non-material objects in the universe have their own ways of expressing their thankfulness, God asks us to express our thankfulness to Him by offering the five-time prayers, as will be evident from Ayat 130 of Surah 20, addressed to our Holy Prophet which lays down the time-table of these prayers: “Celebrate the praise of the Lord before the rising of the sun and before it’s going down and glorify Him during some hours of the night and at two ends of the day.” (Surah 20, Ayat 130).
The five-time prayers assume a new significance if we keep in mind that each time we pray, we fulfil our obligation to thank Allah for having made us the best of His creations.
The Quran does remind us of the elevated status assigned to the humans among all animate and inanimate things that He has created and expects from us, who are the most sensible and intelligent creation, to bow down in reverence before His invisible presence as many times in the day and night as He has considered practicable for us.
It will be appropriate that before ending this piece, the following excerpt from the Holy text is reproduced which is one of the most superb delineation of the ideas of metaphysical and transcendental import – matters which lie beyond human experience: “He (Allah) directs His commands from the heaven unto the earth, then it ascends into Him in a Day whereof the measure is a thousand years of what you reckon.
“Such is the knower of the invisible and the visible, the mighty, the merciful who made all things good which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay; then he made his seed from a despicable fluid: then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His spirit and equipped him with hearing and sight and heart. But still you give Him small thanks!” (Surah 32, Ayat 7-9).
This Quranic description of man’s creation is not meant to give us an insight into the physical processes of man’s origin but to impress upon men and women who read the Quran understanding the meaning of the text, that they should ponder and think deep on the subject of their own creation and they having been blessed with organs of sight and sound and a heart capable of ‘feeling’ that which is experienced through the audio-visual organs.
Once a person reflects on Allah’s munificence in having created him / her as human beings on this planet which they share with non-human beings, he / she will arrive at the conclusion that, on this account alone they owe a debt to the Creator which they can hardly repay. Such a feeling is very likely to induce in the person concerned to pray to God, bending on the knees and then kissing the earth indicating the humility and lowliness before Allah.