Islamic Knowledge: Gratitude is the Path to Success, Now and Forever
Perhaps the most difficult emotion for humans to master is gratitude. It takes a conscious effort to do so. Yet, it is the most powerful of all tools for personal success, both in this material world and also in the futuristic realm: the eternal one after death.
With gratitude comes eternal happiness. What can be more powerful, more sophisticated, more absolutely gratifying than that?
This life is a test orchestrated by the almighty creator. No one escapes it. The purpose of the creation of the human being is to test him. There is no other purpose for existence.
It is the way of life itself. In the daily existence all people are under tests. There is no way to advance in life without them. Who can deny it? Tests, that is exams, are the basis of all progression. No one can advance, for instance, in school or college, without them. Nor can a person can a vocational career, for instance, truck driving, mechanical work, heavy equipment operation, welding, carpentry, and more, without undergoing and passing center tests.
Then, is it different in the divine realm? On what basis can anyone deny it: this method and purpose of almighty God Himself, to test people, to try them: to even create the tests for the purpose of evaluating them?
The instructor says, essentially, “The purpose of school and/or vocational training is to test you students to be sure that you complete the grade, that you become competent in the work at-hand. No one will release you to the next phase or will honor you, will graduate you with high honors, if you fail the grade, if you are a slacker, and/or if you merely neglect your responsibilities.” It is enough said; all people agree to it.
Yet, when the grand, all-powerful Lord of this universe states the same, what is the reaction? People rebuff it if not outright deny it and even reject it. It is the magnanimous Qur’aan which makes it clear that gratitude is the basis of human existence. In fact, it states that the precise purpose of the creation of humankind is only one, which is to “to test him.” Says this book, the exact purpose of human existence is “purely to” put each human being to the “test.” Moreover, apparently, when such tests are presented, the majority of humans fail them.
Then, why is this precise methodology staged? It is, says the Qur’aan, in order for the human being to prove himself in merely one venue, not to see how greatly such a one can achieve in this material plane, for instance, being a successful professional, mechanic, artist, musician, or any other but, rather, for the sole purpose to determine if the person is “grateful or ungrateful.”
How serious is this almighty One regarding this? It is as serious as could possibly be, as He states that it is the human being’s responsibility alone to achieve this, “to prove himself” either sincerely grateful or demonstrate through his actions the opposite: mere ingratitude.
If a person is grateful, who is the beneficiary? It is the individual himself/herself. Almighty God is in no need of such human reaction. He made the human to test him in order to reward him: for being grateful for His favors. People are grateful, after all, in this material existence. If a person does another a good turn, a favor, a merciful act, people acknowledge this, often with words, even through body language. A person is stuck in traffic, wishing to change lanes or make a turn, and, then, a generous person gives them access; the driver, in gratitude, waves a sign of thank-you, perhaps also toots his horn. The point is, routinely, kind acts are recognized as are various favors.
What about in the divine realm? What about when God showers His favors, which is routine. Does anyone give this being a wave of recognition or a few works of kindness and/or love? In fact, such recognition of the divine favors is most rare indeed and words of thanks in return even more rare.
It is so rare, in fact, that it is defined in divine words themselves, where it is said, “May humanity (as a race) be truly condemned; the human being is ungrateful (to the extreme),”while adding as Master Instructor He is, “…by no means did the human being live up to His expectations.”
Is then, almighty God anything other than the Chief teacher and instructor who holds expectations exceedingly high for his ‘pupils,’ who have, essentially, unlimited potential, if they would only apply themselves? Nevertheless, unlike the worldly teacher, who expects high efforts in mere material productions, the divine Instructor has only one consequence, or, rather, one test, in mind. It is to confirm if a human being will take the high road or become an absolute ingrate. According to the Qur’aan, once again, the epitome of that ingratitude is to “refuse to accept that they are” God’s creation. Essentially, this grand Being has stated that ‘My creation refuses me,’ a dictum also found in the more ancient scriptures.
Now, what are the consequences of this? They are surely dire; moreover, no one should be surprised at this. How could anyone be surprised? It is what happens in this life. If a person were to categorically rebuff an instructor, refusing to follow any commands, refusing to abide to any degree, what could he expect other than corruption? In fact, in this life no one of sane mind would do so, simply because of the destructive consequences they would incur. It is the same in the divine realm. The tests before each person, the ones placed before them by almighty God Himself, cannot be neglected, rather, rebuffed without suffering dire results. Once again, these tests are placed before the human being to determine if he is grateful or ungrateful. Moreover, gratitude for whatever God gives can only be felt through a deep sense of love and also through true, submissive humility.
Arrogance is the opposite. Through it, ingratitude festers; and there is no way the haughty/arrogant one can find the path to gratitude.
Islaam says that the human being is under constant evaluation. It even makes clear that there are watchers assigned to each person. The road to happiness is based on recognizing this. Through this recognition, then, a person puts himself under guard, in other words, under the self-warning that he/she is being watched. There is, then, the realization that almighty God is aware of all a person’s actions, even what mere thoughts pass through the mind. This modifies behavior, creating the most refined, elegant personality possible. It is also the means to ultimate success, both in this life and the next:
Yet, this warning is only of value for a certain kind of person: one who believes in Him and also believes in the ultimate consequence: the return to this Being after death. In contrast, those who reject this return shall never feel gratitude, as they cannot recognize His favors. How could they do so? They don’t even believe that this Being exists. Then, if He is not held to exist, how can anyone fear Him or hold Him in awe and, thus, modify the behavior for the better? How can such a one recognize His most grand gifts and, then, respond to them: in conscious gratitude? It is simple as that, to believe or not to believe, to be grateful or to refuse to give God anything back for the endless favors He showers.
Even so, it is not ‘religion.’ In fact, it is more simple than that: it’s gratitude, yes, to humans but also, crucially, to the greatest dispenser of favors, God Himself, to, in fact, anyone who dispenses favors on us. That’s where happiness will arise and how it will remain, permanently, by the simple heart-felt emotion of being thankful: and it is an emotion, after all, arising straight out of the heart, just as are its polar opposites, hate, rage, and thanklessness.