How Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Expressed Gratitude to Allah

Rendering Gratefulness into Real Life Actions

In common use, gratitude to Allah is defined as devoting all that Allah has bestowed upon you to that for which He has created you.

Hence, gratitude transcends speech to a state of being that manifests in one’s character. Allah Almighty clarifies that this rare quality of spiritual devotion is not at all limited to speech:

{Work, O family of David, in gratitude. And few of my servants are grateful} (Saba’ 34: 13).

Gratitude has been mentioned on over seventy different occasions in the Quran. 

Allah almighty praises thankful servants and promises them a pleasant reward. He also prohibits us of its opposite. This emphasis on gratitude brings to light its crucial significance. (Akhlaq an-Nabi fil Kitab was-sunnah)

A Quality of the Best Believers

It is a quality that Allah mentioned to distinguish His prophets (peace be upon them) and favored servants. Allah said of Noah (peace be upon him):

{O descendants of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah. Indeed, he was a grateful (shakur) servant.} (Al-Isra’ 17: 3)

The verse uses the form “shakur” to indicate affirmed emphasis of this quality in Prophet Noah (peace be upon him).

He also described Ibrahim (peace be upon him):

{[He was] grateful for His favors. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path} (An-Nahl 16: 121)

He also says of Luqman:

{And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom [and said], “Be grateful to Allah.” And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself.} (Luqman 31: 12)

Imam ibn Kathir interpreted:

“That is, we commanded him to be grateful for the grace that We bestowed upon him that distinguished him from the people of his time” (Ibn Kathir, Tafseer Al-Qur’an Al-Azeem).

Hence, these examples indicate that gratitude is a primary quality conveyed and enacted by all Prophets, especially the beloved seal of Prophets, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who said:“Indeed, I was sent to perfect the honorable manners” (Ahmad).

“As for the believers, they are at varying degrees in fulfilling their duty of expressing gratitude. This variance in degree correlates with their awareness of these blessings and their actualization of the essence of servitude to Allah.

Thus, whosoever performed this quality in a fashion that is pleasing to Allah has achieved the honor of falling under the general divine praise {And few of my servants are grateful}.”(Akhlaq an-Nabi fil Kitab was-sunnah)

Prophet Muhammad’s Gratitude (PBUH)

The entire life of our dearly beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) can be viewed as a manifestation of utmost gratitude.

One who observes his character, his sayings, his actions and his entire lifestyle will be obliged to concur that he was a truly grateful servant of his Creator.

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

The household of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) never filled their stomachs of wheat bread two consecutive days to the day he passed away” (Shama’il At-Tarmidhi).

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“The Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) passed away without leaving adinar (gold coin) or a dirham (silver coin)…

By Allah, nights would pass in the household of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and they would not find dinner” (Ahmad).

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

We were by the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) while `Umar was in his presence. The Prophet was lying on a bed made of palm leaves, and beneath his head was a pillow; there wasn’t a barrier between his side and the palm leaves. When he made a slight movement, it was evident that the palm affected his sides.

So, `Umar began to weep, and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) inquired, “Why do you weep?” He said:

“How can I not weep when I know that you are dearer to Allah than Kaiser and the Caesar. Yet, they are living such lavish lives in this world”.

So the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

O `Umar wouldn’t you be pleased if the hereafter is ours and this life is for them?” (Al-Hafiz Al-Asbahani, Akhlaq An-Nabi wa Adabuh. The last excerpt of the hadith is also found in Sahih Muslim)

Expressing Gratitude through Worship

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) showed utmost gratitude in his worship to Allah.

He would pray a large part of the night throughout the year, and his gratitude would even increase in times of special divine bounty. `A’ishah reported:

When the last ten nights of Ramadan entered, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would revive the night in worship and awake his family…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

`A’isha also reported:

When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed (the night prayers: Qiyam-ul-layl), he would stand until (the skin of) his feet swelled. So, I said:

“O Prophet of Allah, do you do as such while Allah has forgiven you all mistakes?”

He responded: “Should not I be a grateful servant of Allah?” (Muslim)

Imam ibn Hajar commented on the hadith:

“The meaning is that since I have been forgiven all of my mistakes, this is a reason for night prayers being a form of gratitude towards Allah, so how can I abandon it? Imam Al-Qurtubi clarified:

Those who asked him this question assumed that he withstands such burdens in worship to Allah from fear of sins and hope of forgiveness. So, he clarified to them that there is another path of worship which is to express gratitude for forgiveness. The scholars said: The prophets have maintained such deep fear of Allah because of their knowledge of His immense blessings upon them.” (Ibn Hajar, Fath El-Bari)

Ibn Battal said:

“This hadith is indicative that the individual should take upon himself a stricter path in servitude, even if that may take a toll on his body because if the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did that while being certain of having been forgiven, what should be the condition of one who does not have that certainty, let alone one who is insecure of deserving hellfire.” (Ibid)

Balance Is Necessary

However, it should be noted that Imam Ibn Hajar modified the understanding of the statement of Ibn Battal:

“This mindset should be in a case that it will not lead the individual to boredom and retreat from worship because the condition of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was most complete, and he never retreated from worshipping his Lord.

So, if one fears boredom and retreat, he should not force himself upon such acts. Hence the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said “Take of the actions that which you can withstand…” (Ibid. With a slight abridgment of the original quote)

Special Relation with Allah (SWT)

Another example of the Prophet’s gratitude is that he would seek forgiveness of Allah after performing the five daily prayers:

“Some have raised a query as to how he seeks forgiveness while being forgiven, and Imam ibn Sayyid An-Nas responded:

“This displays his loyalty to the duties of servitude and his practice of gratitude, and so that he may clarify his Sunnah by action just as he has done so in speech.” (Al-Mubarkaafuri, Tuhfat Al-Ahwazi Sharh Sunan At-Tirmizi)

Similarly, it was reported that he sought refuge in Allah from the punishment of the grave. If the query is raised as to why he would seek refuge while he is already assured protection, the response is:

“He did so to display his need of Allah, to acknowledge His blessings and to express his gratitude for continually renewed blessings.

One who has immense blessings from Allah Almighty must receive such blessings with immense gratitude. The subservience of individuals to Allah is in accordance with their knowledge of Him.” (Ibn Battal, Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari, with a slight abridgement)

Spreading Gratitude

Gratitude was not just something our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) practiced and professed; rather, it was a quality he instilled within his companions.

On one occasion, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Abu Bakr and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) left their homes hungry. They were hosted by a man from Al-Ansar who offered them a stem of dates and they ate from it until they quenched their hunger. At that point the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recited:

{Then you will surely be asked that Day about pleasure} (At-Takathur 102: 8)

He said to Abu Bakr and Umar:

This is of the blessings you will be asked about” (Al-Hafiz Al-Asbhani, Akhlaq An-Nabi wa-adabuh)

These prophetic examples ingrained within the companions the realization of divine blessings. Such blessings may often be overlooked as necessary or expected in the eyes of those less spiritually conscious. But it is that realization that will facilitate the route to higher degrees of gratitude. It will ultimately lead to the believer living a life of excellence (ihsan). They will consistently feel that Allah is overseeing us in our affairs. They even witness Him in His countless blessings in the creation of the heavens and the earth.

Thus, our path to embodying the prophetic example is to first realize the comprehensive scope of gratitude, and its merit in the eyes of Allah, and its relation to other religious teaching.

How to Enhance our Gratitude

Our gratitude may be enhanced by building our awareness of Allah and His sovereignty over our affairs. The fruits of such esteemed realization should become apparent in one’s personal and social life as it was evident in the life of Allah’s favored servants. Allah says:

{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.’} (Ibrahim 14: 7)

And He also said:

{So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me} (Al-Baqarah 2:152)