“Assalamu ‘Alaikum, Brother/Sister”
“Wa ‘Alaikum AsSalam wa Rahmat Allah.”
“How are you?”
“How is everything?”
“Alhamdulillah…You know the kids are really not doing well/my parents are really giving me a hard time/my professor is really mean to me/my studies are so overwhelming/my work is so tiring/my boss is so evil/[Fill in the blanks with your own misery]”.
It’s really rare to find a conversation that ends with a genuine, heartfelt “Alhamdulillah”, no complaints attached, or perhaps a nice thoughtful discussion about a blessing Allah has bestowed upon the person. A light that came after darkness, for example, or a relief that came after hardship. True, genuine, thoughtful thankfulness that measures up to the word “Alhamdulillah” that we utter out of habit!
It’s sad but true, at least in many cases.
In Part 1 of this series, we analyzed what it really means to be blessed and explored the concept of blessings in depth. In Part 2, we discussed why we face problems and how they relate to our personal growth. In this last and final part of the series, we explore how to proclaim our blessings and spread positivity, peace and contentment through our daily conversations; in a way that will have a lasting impact on our hearts as well as the hearts of those we converse with on a daily basis.
Here are some points to reflect upon.
Recognize, Remember, Report
One of the most beloved and reassuring surahs of the Qur’an for many is Surat Ad-Duha. People love the consolation and hope it offers. But a particular aspect to be mindful of and reflect upon in this surah is the last verse:
“But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].” [Qur’an: Chapter 93, Verse 11]
Report your blessings
This is a command from Allah to talk about the blessings that have been given to us individually (in our personal lives) and collectively (as human beings).
It is an instruction to reflect upon our blessings, remember them, remember the Giver and share our feelings of gratitude and awe with other people.
“And He [Allah] 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.” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 34]
“And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 16, Verse 18]
“It is Allah who subjected to you the sea so that ships may sail upon it by His command and that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful. And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Qur’an: Chapter 45, Verses 12-13]
So, let’s give it a thought. When was the last time you actually gave some thought to all the things you’ve been blessed with? Honestly?
If you think deeply about the instruction in Surat Ad-Duha regarding reporting your blessings, you’ll find that it is a means to help change the mindset and perspective of human beings, to help them be conscious of their surroundings, never take anything for granted, and to help us stay continuously hopeful and positive.
When we become more appreciative, we keep getting nearer to Allah who is also known as The Most Appreciative (Ash-Shakoor).
Allah appreciates and is pleased with even the smallest acts of goodness that you do.
“Allah, the Almighty, says: ‘Whosoever does a good deed, will have (reward) ten times like it and I add more; and whosoever does an evil, will have the punishment like it or I will forgive (him); and whosoever approaches Me by one span, I will approach him by one cubit; and whosoever approaches Me by one cubit, I approach him by one fathom, and whosoever comes to Me walking, I go to him running; and whosoever meets Me with an earth-load of sins without associating anything with Me, I meet him with forgiveness like that”. [Muslim]
Just this hadith, in and of itself, is an incredibly beautiful blessing that deserves remembering and reporting and thanking endlessly. How come we don’t talk about that enough?
The generosity of Allah is really something that puts one in awe. When we reflect upon and report His generosity, not only does this help us become more conscious and positive, it permeates our entire environments with positivity and peace, which itself is a blessing for our own benefit!
Reflect on Surat Ar-Rahman for inspiration
Have you counted how many times Allah makes this statement in Surat Ar-Rahman: “So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?”
It is mentioned 31 times. Really, 31 times.
Going through this beautiful surah, you’ll notice how Allah so generously and beautifully mentions a few of the subtle as well as the glorious blessings He surrounds and envelops us with. This outstanding surah begins and ends with reference to one of Allah’s Most Beautiful names: Ar-Rahman (The Most Merciful).
Isn’t it worthy of utmost gratitude to know that the One you belong to, the One you’re going back to and the One Who created you is The Most Merciful, The Continuously Merciful?
Think creatively of how to report blessings
All you need to do is to just bring your blessings to mind whenever you converse with anyone. Sometimes, we get so absorbed in reporting our misery that we make our life appear much darker than it really is. If not that, we start talking about insignificant things that lead to backbiting other people. Really, if one’s mind is alert and conscious of its surroundings as Allah instructed, we will have much more meaningful and positive conversations.
Start making it a habit to report a blessing that you discovered in your life in your daily conversations.
You could start the conversation with remembering how Allah facilitated your work, has given you good friends, good food, good shelter, caring family members or loved ones, an ability to see beauty, an ability to think and use your intellect, etc. Think and talk about how He taught you wisdom through difficult circumstances, for example.
So, think. Think creatively and reflect. Even the most subtle aspects you notice and are appreciative of will bring you immense reward and even greater blessings, In sha Allah.
Remember that Allah says:
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor].” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Recognizing the ease in hardship: A true story!
I want to share an example of how when one reflects upon and is deeply conscious of their situation, they are able to see and feel the immense Closeness, Generosity and Grace of Allah .
A friend of mine, who is a very active and productive Muslim, was diagnosed with an illness lately. She is a university student and usually takes a certain number of courses per semester. But, due to her illness and an impending surgery, she decided to write a petition to the dean asking to take only one course in her following semester as she’d be unable to handle the load of a full-time student. She sent the petition to the dean, unsure of whether he would accept it. She thought he would read and inform her of the decision formally later.
When she paid her next visit to the department, the department’s assistant was extremely nice and kind towards her and started asking concernedly about her health. My friend didn’t understand at first, but then realized that the dean not only accepted her petition, but he had also instructed the members of the department to take care of her and facilitate the procedures for her.
She was thankful and relieved. She continued the conversation with the department’s assistant about her health, the illness and its developments. Throughout the conversation, there was a lady that she’d never seen before sitting in the department and overhearing the entire conversation.
A couple of days later while my friend was at work, she received a call from the department. The assistant told her that the lady who was sitting there the other day came back to the department and wanted to speak to her. My friend was surprised. When she was put on the phone with her, the lady said:
“Look, I don’t know you and I don’t know why I’m doing this. This is so not me. But I heard you talk about your illness the other day and when I went back home, I went online and googled it and started reading more and more about it and its medications. Just when I was doing that, a family member called me and said that they brought several medications with them from abroad. I recognized one of those medications because I had just read that it could be relevant to your case and could relieve your pain. So I bought it for you. I came today to the university to leave it for you at the department.”
My friend was overwhelmed. This lady was merely passing by campus the first time to inquire about courses generally. She came back all the way again to drop off a medication for my friend whom she doesn’t even know, and she refused to inform her about the cost or accept money for this seemingly expensive medication.
The most important thing about this story is that when it happened, my friend was going through a really difficult time. She used to cry at night out of pain because of the complications. She used to cry every night to the extent that her mother eventually told her “seek Allah’s help, don’t complain to people.” On that night, she cried and really directed her dua and her heart and her tears to Allah because she literally felt that she had no one but Him. The following day, He sent a lady who doesn’t even know her, driving miles to her faraway campus with a medication, and even though my friend is not in need for this medication, she felt like Allah was patting her on the shoulder and telling her that He is with her and He is Near and He can provide her with help through means she can’t imagine.
“I’m just telling you this so that you know how beautiful Allah is”; my friend said, tearing up and smiling at the same time after sharing her story with us.
Upon listening to this, we (around 20 girls) were all overwhelmed. We were reminded of how Subtle yet Powerful Allah is and how Near He is to us. Our hearts were transformed, we felt thankful and hopeful and our iman levels soared skyscraper-high.
What was even more moving was that this friend of mine who is outstandingly active and productive in numerous activities, used to say that despite being active, she felt unsure of the condition of her heart because she doesn’t tear up when she’s in religious gatherings and this was a concern and a burden for her because she felt her heart has hardened. When this situation happened, it was the first time she felt like her heart softened and her iman had increased in a very long time.
“Did We not expand for you, your breast?
And We removed from you your burden
Which had weighed upon your back
And raised high for you your repute.
For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
So when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship].
And to your Lord direct [your] longing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 94]
This beautiful chapter from the Qur’an truly captures the essence of the lesson in my friend’s story and summarizes what many of us go through at different stages in our life. Usually commentators of the Qur’an highlight the fact that Allah says that the ease is with the hardship, not after it. Just like my friend who found support from the least expected sources, found people to facilitate her tasks, had her iman boosted and helped others boost their iman; all while she was still in difficulty.
We can immerse ourselves daily in talking about our difficulties, or we can look a little deeper and discern the immense blessings that those difficulties contain. Through a mere change in perspective, we can see the wisdom in every situation, reassure our hearts and those of whom we converse with. We can find and spread peace and contentment everyday just through some insightful observation and conscious choice of the words we share.
Proclaim your blessings wisely
Reporting our blessings doesn’t mean we have the license to go around rubbing whatever good we have in people’s faces. We shouldn’t go to a less wealthy person, for example, and start talking about all the luxuries we have been given. We shouldn’t go to someone who is struggling with making it in life, and start talking about how successful we’re getting at work. We shouldn’t go to someone who still doesn’t have a child and start talking about our endearing children. Let us be conscious and sensitive so we don’t speak words that are hurtful to others.
The point behind reporting our blessings is for us to make each other see the good in all situations, not put each other down and create envy and animosity.
What to say when others are being tested
We were once at the funeral of a young mother’s husband. The woman, as fragile and loving to her husband as she is, was understandably devastated, especially that other women were crying impassionately, making her feel even more at loss.
We approached the woman and started talking to her about the fact that Allah gives the greatest tribulations to those whom He loves the most, that Allah will be with her and will take excellent care of her and her children; we told her that being in difficulty might in fact be a great blessing from Allah who says “Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” We told her that Allah will be directly with her and what a great honor to be in the company of the King of all Kings. We told her Allah is The Most Merciful; He is more merciful to people than their own mothers and He will have mercy on her righteous husband and unite them again because He says “Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” We told her that if Allah removed the means (the husband, the provider of love and sustenance), then the Source of all Means, Allah , is there and He will never abandon us or halt the blessings that He sends down through whichever means He chooses. We told her that Allah chose her for this, it is an elevation of her status and rank and that Allah never charges a soul with more than it can handle. We told her she can do it and she will learn and grow through this and will see the wisdom and blessings of Allah and she will most certainly see His ease in this life and the next.
The woman immediately switched from victim mentality to a state of thankfulness till she actually started uttering “Alhamdulillah” repeatedly.
Lesson: Try to see and perceive the blessing in every situation. Know that there most definitely is a blessing. Have good perception of Allah , He will then give you the wisdom and ability to see clearly the blessing in every situation. Use this wisdom to connect with people, give them aid, glad tidings and help connect their heart and yours further to Allah . The connection that you establish with The Ever-Living and The Ever-Lasting is the most enduring blessing you can accumulate.
Speak to seek a sound heart: like Ibrahim
A beautiful example of someone who recognized and reported the blessings of Allah upon him, is Prophet Ibrahim .
Note how hopeful of Allah he is, and how humbly yet passionately he talks about Allah and His favors here:
“The One who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. And who will cause me to die and then bring me to life. And who I aspire that He will forgive me my sin on the Day of Recompense.” [And he said], “My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous. And grant me a reputation of honor among later generations. And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Pleasure. And forgive my father. Indeed, he has been of those astray. And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected – The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children. But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” [Qur’an: Chapter 26, Verses 78-89]
The beauty here is that Ibrahim started by mentioning the blessings of Allah , and then he ended by talking about the sound heart.
That right there, is the essence of finding peace and contentment in this world and the Hereafter!
Recognizing and proclaiming our blessings fills our hearts with a sense of peace, gratitude and satisfaction that overrules feelings of bitterness, depression and despair.
So, let’s be grateful and know that when we train our minds to always count our blessings before our hardships, we bring immense positive energy into our hearts and lives. This is a key step towards attaining the kind of heart Ibrahim talked about: “qalbun saleem”, or a sound, satisfied heart.
May Allah bless us all with conscious, appreciative minds and sound hearts, Aameen!
Please share with us your thoughts on this series, what you learned, what you could share with others, and what you could do to help transform the hearts of others positively.