Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin, CIOGC Chair
“Indeed if you are thankful We will increase your blessings” [Quran 14:7]
“One who does not thank people, does not thank God.” [Prophet Muhammad (S)] Anote first about the obscene acts of violence: A tradition in Islam says that God grants paradise to a woman who would live all her life in major sin, but would find enough compassion in her heart for a thirsty dog by fetching water for it from a deep well. So how could anyone commit the Paris or San Bernardino massacres of murdering innocent fellow human beings in the name of Islam? Something does motivate people to such acts, but it could not be Islam, as it could not be Christianity, Judaism or any other authentic faith.
It may not be easy to find reasons to be thankful these days when Muslims are being accused of committing horrendous crimes overseas and right here in America. Those acts have fanned the flames of Islamophobia and have prompted outright calls for discrimination against Muslims.
But, it is not very difficult to find great reasons to be thankful if we look beyond the people engaged in verbal assaults.
For being thankful to Allah (SWT), the reasons will exist on this earth as long as we are breathing. If we are not able to perceive them ourselves, Allah (SWT) reminds us to consider our own beginning. Our beginning was so insignificant that it was not worth mentioning. He is the one who shaped us into the best of creations. He is the one who blessed us with the freedom to choose while providing guidance about the right and wrong. He is the one who created this one planet among millions of others that is perfectly and delicately balanced for our comfort and sustenance. He is so caring that He not only provides, but blesses us with the instincts to use His provisions.
Being thankful to fellow human beings may seem difficult in this environment of Islamophobia. But it shouldn’t be. Those inspired by Trump and other seasoned Islamophobes may make life uneasy for many Muslims, especially those who are easily identifiable. It is a fact that a mosque in southern California was firebombed. However, the Muslim community gains support from many a faith and civic leader. There have been many small acts of kindness and expression of love and support from many people who care. There exist pastors and ministers speaking to their congregations, inviting Muslims to speak to them as well in some cases; fair-minded media persons giving Muslims a platform to speak; schools conducting diversity trainings; and neighbors that are bringing flowers to mosques. These are all examples of love and care for Muslims. Indeed, we all owe a debt of gratitude to this invisible majority.
And then there are etiquettes of giving and receiving thanks. One who is helping the needy should never expect any gratitude, whereas the one who receives help must be thankful. Being thankful is not without some tangible benefits, as Allah (SWT) wouldn’t command us to do things in vain. The benefits of gratitude have been proven scientifically.
Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
So be thankful today and always, in the midst of good and bad.