Due to ignorance, people have a very narrow view on divine blessings, disregarding whatever blessings they have in their life. Thus, the do not express their gratitude therefore. Seeing that all humans enjoy the same blessings, they do not regard them as such, since all people share them. Hence, they do not thank the Almighty for giving them air, even though if it does not reach them for a moment, they will die. They are not grateful unless they suffer such an adversity then become rescued. This is sheer ignorance.
For example, enjoying eyesight, one does not recognise its grace unless he becomes blind. Restoring his eyesight once more, he realises its blessing and thanks Allâh. This person resembles an evil slave who is continually hit. When spared hits for a while, he becomes grateful. If his master gives up hitting him altogether, he becomes ungrateful and discontented. Once someone complained of poverty to a righteous person, he replied: “Would you like to have ten thousand Dirhams and lose your eyesight?” He answered in the negative. Then he asked him: “Would you like to be dumb and possess ten thousand Dirhams?” He answered in the negative. Then he asked him: “Would you like to be insane and have ten thousand Dirhams?” He answered in the negative. He then asked: “Would you like to have your hands cut and possess ten thousand Dirhams?” He also answered in the negative. Hence, he remarked: “Do you not feel shame complaining your Lord while He has given your goods worth of forty thousand Dirhams?”
One day a man suffered poverty so much that he fell in despair. He saw in a dream that someone addresses him: “Would you like to forget Sûrah Al-An’âm and be given a thousand Dinars?” He answered in the negative. Then he was made to choose between Sûrah Hûd, Yûsuf and so on, but he declined. Hence he was told: “How do you complain of poverty while you have a treasure worth of a hundred thousand Dinars!”
Ibn as-Sammak visited ar-Rashid and counselled him. Therefore, ar-Rashid shed tears. Then, Ibn as-Sammak asked for a cup of water and remarked: “O Caliph, if you are prevented to drink this cup of water unless you lay down your office, would you do so?” He answered in the affirmative. Then, Ibn as-Sammak gave him the cup of water to drink. Drinking it, he remarked: “If you are unable to excrete this water unless you give up your office and property, would you do so?” He answered in the affirmative. Then, he highlighted: “What does it avail for a thing less worth than a cup of water!”
In that way, the blessing of drinking water in thirst is even greater than the whole universe. Excreting it commands a rather magnificent blessing…
…Furthermore, each person knows his self best. He recognises its latent qualities, its imperfections and merits. If he becomes uncovered among people, he will be ashamed thereof. Hence, one should be grateful to the Almighty. We may consider a rather wider example. Each person has been gifted with certain blessings in his figure, manners, qualities, household, offspring, accommodation, friends, relatives and his neighbours. If deprived there from and given to someone else, he would not be satisfied. For instance, Allâh has made him a believer not an unbeliever, a human being not an animal, healthy not sick, normal not deformed and so on and so forth. Thus, if one deems to have his life substituted with another’s, he should know that he has certain blessings, which others do not have, and he would be deprived from them. This is clear in a hadîth reported by Abu Hurayrah. The Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:
“If anyone of you looked at a person who was made superior to him in property and (in good) appearance, then he should also look at the one who is inferior to him, and to whom he has been made superior.” [Al-Bukhârî]
Hence, considering one’s status and searching for those blessings he has been gifted with, one finds out that Allâh has granted him endless blessings, especially Îmân, the Qur’ân, the Sunnah, knowledge and leisure time, health and safety. The Prophet [sall-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:
“Whoever begins his day enjoying safety, being healthy and possesses his daily food has held sway over the whole world and all it contains.” [At-Tirmidhî]
Now we can ask how can ungrateful negligent hearts be awakened. In fact, hearts having insight contemplate over the clues of the Almighty’s blessings. But the negligent ones can only be treated by their consideration of persons inferior to them. Early Muslims used to visit hospitals to notice varieties of afflictions. Then they would think of their being healthy. They would watch criminals punished, killed, having their hands cut off or tortured and thank the Almighty for their safety. They visited graveyards knowing that the dead wish to return to life to make up for their shortcomings and increase their good deeds. Thus they thank Allâh for having the chance to do so. Hence, they would do their utmost to spend the rest of their life obeying the Almighty.
We should also know that ingratitude abolishes blessings. Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyâd said: “Keep gratitude, for every missing blessing returns with gratitude.”
By Imâm ibn Qudâmah al-Maqdisî [d.620H]
Mukhtasar Minhâj al-Qâsidîn, Pgs. 296-299