The first virtue which is the parent of all virtues is gratitude. Why this should be the case becomes apparent when you consider the opposite. The first vice, which is the parent of all vices is ingratitude and resentment.
If I am convinced that the world has done me in, and that what I have received is not good enough, and I am therefore, in some measure shortchanged, then it is legitimate for me to act in pursuit of my own interests and to defend myself. Because I therefore say, that because life has been unjust to me, I cannot trust life, which means I have to look after my own interests. And insofar as I have to look after my own interests, it therefore excuses what I do to others and what I do to the world.
Contrary to this, if I am convinced that I’ve received in excess of my due, then I know that the generous Hand and the generous Lord who has given me in excess of my due will continue to give me in excess of my due. Which means I do not have to look after myself. I do not have to look after Number One. Because Ya Rabb al-ameen looks after me. And as Imam Kamardine recited from Quran: Allah hu Khairu Raziqeen, Allah is the Best of Providers.
This is particularly important for us today. Because even as Muslims, particularly as Muslims, it is very easy to pick up the agenda of being the victim. Because it feels like that. They are bombing our people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in Pakistan. Pick up the newspaper and all over there is the sense that the Ummah are on their back foot. We are under attack. By the monster. Now, this is a very dangerous development. Because this is a unique development in Islamic History. Up until 1922, we’ve never had that sense of being under the heel. And so what has happened is, we’ve taken lock, stock and barrel, the victimhood and the sense of outrage that is associated with the European Left. And we consider that virtuous. So in our day in the Murabitun, we used to think it was absolutely acceptable to raid, to take other people’s property, because we were of the oppressed.
Any sense that you have of being oppressed is an outrage. How can you not recognise, that you are the recipient of blessings beyond calculation, no matter how oppressed you think you are? Maybe you stay in a MAKUKU. Maybe you have to battle to get through the week. But you did battle through the week. And you are here. Surely if more things had gone wrong in your life rather than gone right, you would not be here? Surely the implication of life being a disaster is that you are dead? But you’re not dead.
There’s no imprisonment and oppression that gets exercised over us which we’re not complicit with. And that’s particularly true for us. And that’s particularly true for our brotherhood and our circle. We have all of the tools to climb out of this quagmire of bitterness and resentment. But then we have to apply those tools to that end. You see the practice is not just about learning a couple of interesting things in Arabic. The practices are about creating a framework that you can incrementally, step by step claw your way out of the morass of your own mediocrity and of your own day to day dinginess.
There’s no imprisonment and oppression that gets exercised over us which we’re not complicit with.
Because you have to understand that your resentment is an outrage against how things are. What do you have that hasn’t come from other than you? The water the courses through your veins, the breath in your lungs, the energy that allows you to do the dhikr, to walk out the majlis, to greet the child, where does it come from? You don’t manufacture this out of your own being. Its come from other than you. So how can you look at other than you with a sense of “it’s not good enough?”.
You see, we’re like a conference of moles, sitting in the company of a lion. And we’re not quite aware of this looming reality that’s sitting over us, that’s actually tolerating us. And we’re having a mole-like argument, based on our blindness, about the one mole is sitting in a slightly higher place than the other mole. Whereas if we knew the reality, that we’re actually all very small petty moles in the face of the lion, maybe we wouldn’t have such an argument. We’d see it for how ridiculous it is.
The moment we do that, the doors of blessings will open. While you are ungrateful, why should the world give you anything? Because Allah subhana wa taala gives us human beings, as a metaphor, to understand our relationship with Him. So picture this: you have an engagement with somebody else, and you give that person something, and that person does not recognise what you’re giving to them, they indicate absolutely no gratitude at all. Are you likely to give him the same thing the second time? Of course not.
Whereas if you gave that person something and they indicated sincere gratitude, it becomes paramount to give something to that person. You must understand that the same rules that account for your engagement with other people are actually at work between you and Reality in existence but at a far more profound level at a much bigger scale. So if you do not, every moment, commence the moment with shukur, with Alhamdulillah, with gratitude, you are like the man who is given the gift and doesn’t say Thank You. And this is for the minutest things, your breathing your ability to talk, your ability to sit.
So when you shift how you engage your life from resentment to gratitude, you then create the conditions where Allah opens up the doors of blessing for you. You have to understand that a real sense of fullness is not the product of things you own or have. Do you honestly think that a person who has a big bank account is any more secure than you are? I can guarantee you, I know many people who are very wealthy who are utterly miserable. Because what makes the fullness is not in the object, the fullness is in gratitude. Is in appreciativeness.
If you drink a glass of juice and its just any old juice. You probably can’t even work out what is it that you drank, whether it was orange juice or guava juice or whatever. But if you sip the juice slowly, and you let it percolate into your being and you savour it, you appreciate it, then you’ve actually drunk the juice. So without appreciativeness, without the ability to savour, it’s like you don’t have a life. It doesn’t matter whatever the drink is. Without the ability to savour the drink its not even like water.
So the critical ingredient is the savouring, it is the gratitude, it is the appreciativeness. We are a moat of dust in the middle of this fathomless void, here for a very short period of time. We are going to not be here for a hell of a lot longer than we are, and to lose even that little spot because of ingratitude is a tragedy.
May Allah grant us nearness to Him.
May Allah grant us annihilation in Him.
May Allah grant us death before we die.
Peace and blessings to our beloved Prophet Muhammad.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 4th of April, 2013.