In the category of trying to increase myself in Taqwa, I’ve taken to writing down three things that I’m grateful for, every day in my RantBook™. It’s sometimes hard to list 3 things, believe it or not, and I forget or get too busy to scribble on some days, and when I do, I’m reminded of just how ungrateful I am, and how far I have to go.
Back when I was a kid, we used to start meals with a prayer, as is common in many Christian homes. Granddad, for example, used to say “Thank God for a pretty day, good food, and good children, amen.” We don’t pray over our food like that in Islam, and instead start each meal (or even each bite of food or sip of liquid) with “Bismillah” (In the Name of God), to thank God for the sustenance and beg Him to make it a blessing to us.
Dinner together is missing for many of us, as is praying over food, but gratitude, in general, is an important part of life, and practicing gratitude is shown to improve life in numerous ways. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to sit down with your family for dinner with some regularity, be sure to give thanks for that blessing, and try to make a habit of starting dinner conversation on a good note by taking turns expressing gratitude for one or two things that came up that day. If you eat alone every night like I did for years and years and years, journaling can help, and if that’s not your thing, there are numerous suggestions out there for practicing gratitude in your daily life. Bing and Rosemary even have a suggestion…
In your thinking, writing, or expressing gratitude, think broadly. Think about your body, your physical experience, your vision and things you’ve seen, your mental and physical abilities, your digestive and limbic systems, for example. Think about significant others, their physical existence and the place they occupy for you. When bad things happen, think about the ways you’ve benefited: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, indeed. Be thankful the beauty of weeds, for example, thankful for the garbage people leave on the street that you can, God willing, gain reward from by picking it up and depositing it in a proper trash can… You can get fairly abstract with it, for sure, as I regularly do.
I think we all know that gratitude is important for us: we appreciate it when others show us gratitude, and practicing gratitude in our own lives may have benefits. In Islam, we call this ‘Fitrah,’ the little bits of Tawhid—belief in the Oneness of God—that we’re all born with, but forget about and slowly lose, or have changed in us by nurture and experience. It’s something all of us have in common, and regardless of culture, even, and that we need to be reminded about from time to time. If it takes Oprah, or Lifehack, or some random clickbait blog to get us to it, well, all praise and thanks belong to Allah alone.
اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِيَ فِي الْبَحْرِ بِأَمْرِهِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهَارَ
It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and sent down rain from the sky and produced thereby some fruits as provision for you and subjected for you the ships to sail through the sea by His command and subjected for you the rivers.
وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَائِبَيْنِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ
And He subjected for you the sun and the moon, continuous [in orbit], and subjected for you the night and the day.
وَآتَاكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.
Allah azza wa jall gave us so much, and continually piles on blessings, even in times of turmoil and fear, they’re still there, still coming. How easily I forget. May Allah guide me to remember Him, especially when times are hard. And when times are easy, may He guide me to beg for His mercy, because I will be asked about all these blessings and how I used/treated/appreciated them, and humanity is always already ungrateful, but, God willing, we’re working on it, Ameen.