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Gratitude is integral to Islamic daily prayer life

The Qur’an mentions the word for thanks, “shukr,” many times, Mamdouh El-Aarag of the Spokane Islamic Center said at the Interfaith Council’s Community Thanksgiving Service at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane.

“If we look around us we can find many, many blessings Allah—Arabic for the God—has given us,” he said.

Allah has given us our intellect and made us better than the rest of the animals.  Allah has given us our health, our eyes, our senses and the ability to communicate with each other.  Allah has created this earth for us to live in and filled it with everything we might need,” he continued.

“Allah created the sky and placed in it the sun, moon, stars and planets to give us light, heat and beauty.  They were created with an ability that we cannot comprehend.  We cannot count Allah’s blessings,” he said.

Mamdouh described shukr as a quality of human beings and it is also a quality of Allah.

He said scholars describe it as the human means of recognizing the favor of all Allah has provided.  Shukr from Allah means God’s reward and appreciation.

Shukr is a quality of the believers and a source of goodness.

Sometimes it is used in the Qur’an as equivalent to faith, because the faithful are thankful people and the unfaithful are ungrateful people, Mamdouh explained. Prophets Noah, Abraham, David and Muhammed were all grateful, he said.

“For a Muslim, every moment of life is filled with gratitude and praise to Allah. We do not only thank Allah one specific day of the year. Allah says:  ‘Remember Me. I will remember you, and be grateful to Me for My countless favors on you and never be ungrateful to Me,’” Mamdouh said.  “Any matter not begun with praise be to Allah is defective.”

The Messenger of Allah—peace be upon him—said, ‘If prosperity attends a believer, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him.  If adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him,’” Mamdouh said.

Islam has many prayers to keep believers on the path of thankfulness. On rising in the morning, when eating or putting on clothes, believers should express their gratitude to Allah, for the new day, the food and the clothes.

Beyond thanking Allah, Islam teaches people to thank their parents, spouses, friends, neighbors and all who do good to them.

“The Prophet—peace be upon him—said:   ‘Those who do not thank people, do not thank Allah,’” Mamdouh said.

In Islam, thanksgiving is not only a religious act or service but also one’s whole life, he said, “lived in obedience to our Ultimate Benefactor, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. God has been good to us and so in our thankfulness we should worship God, obey God’s commands and orders.” 

Mamdouh said that obedience is seen in the five pillars of Islam:

1) The first pillar—to testify there is only one God and Mohammed is his slave and messenger—is a way to thank the one God who created everything.

2) The second pillar is to pray five times a day—morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and night for 17 units each day.  In each unit, the believer recites the first verse of the first chapter of the Qur’an, “Praise due to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.” 

“When prayer time comes, we leave everything we are doing,” he said.   “We thank Allah in our obligatory prayers.”

3) The third pillar is Zakahat, a prescribed charity paid by the rich to the poor.  Mamdouh said through this pillar, “Muslims learn everything belongs to Allah, to be more giving and to be grateful for what Allah has provided for us.”

4) The fourth pillar, to fast from dawn to sunset in the month of Ramadan, helps Muslims appreciate what they have.

5) The fifth pillar, to make Hajj— a pilgrimage to Makah—means a believer leaves everything behind to focus on the creator and recognizes the blessings.

“We regard all benefit, goodness and pleasant conditions as the bounties of Allah and greater in measure than what one deserves,” Mamdouh said, aware thanksgiving unaccompanied by thankful obedience is just lip service.

“Along with verbal expression of thanks, the body, mind and soul of a Muslim should display thanks by surrendering oneself to the obedience of Allah and His prophet,” Mamdouh said.

He closed with a story about a man who was stranded on a boat and was going to die.  He promised God if he was saved he would spend the rest of his life worshiping Allah.  He was miraculously saved and he did fulfill his promise.  He spent the next 30 years worshiping Allah. 

On the Day of Judgment, the man came, proud of his deeds and thinking he is going to heaven for sure.  Allah said he would “enter heaven because of my mercy.”  The man was puzzled that it is not because of his deeds. 

Allah asked angels to put his good deeds on one side of a scale and his eye on the other.  One eye outweighed his good deeds.  The man realized he enters heaven only because of God’s mercy. 

“We will never be thankful enough for Allah’s blessings.  So let us not restrict thanking the Almighty on one special day, but fill our lives with shukr and praise for Allah’s countless bounties,” Mamdouh said.