What is the Duty of Thanksgiving and how can it be carried out?
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with praise.
The Qur’an of Miraculous Expression urges in reiterated phrases like,
Will they not be thankful? We will reward the thankful. If you are thankful, I will give you more. Nay, but God do you serve, so be among the thankful.
that what the All-Merciful Creator asks most importantly of His servants is thanksgiving. In the Wise Criterion – the Qur’an – He insistently calls them to thanksgiving and, proclaiming that un-thankfulness means the denial of bounties, reproaches them severely, in Sura al-Rahman, no less than thirty-one times, asking, Then, which of your Lord’s bounties do you deny?
The most important result of creation is thanksgiving
Like the Wise Qur’an, this universe, of which the Qur’an is a microcosm, also demonstrates that the most important result of creation is thanksgiving. For we can discern with a little attention that the universe has been arranged in a way to arouse thanksgiving. Everything in the universe calls for thanksgiving. It seems that the most important fruit of this ‘tree’ of creation is thanksgiving, and it is also thanksgiving which is the best ‘product’ of this factory of the universe. This is so, because the universe has been created in the form of a circle, the center of which is life. The design of the whole creation is directed towards life; everything in it serves life and works for the provision of its necessities. This means that the Creator of the universe drew up life from the universe.
Then, we also see that God has created the worlds of living beings again in circular forms and put man in the center. The purposes for the creation of living beings are concentrated toward him; the other beings have all been subjected to man’s service. This means that the Majestic Creator has chosen man out of living beings and made him rule over them.
Human kingdom, as well as the world of animals, has been designed in a circular form, in the center of which there is providence.
Again we witness that the human kingdom, as well as the world of animals, has also been designed in a circular form, in the center of which there is providence. The Creator has inculcated in mankind and animals love for providence and urges them to work for it. He has made providence a treasury so vast and rich that it encompasses infinite kinds of bounties. In order that mankind and animals should recognize the taste of only one of those kinds, He has equipped the tongue with the power of distinguishing as many tastes as there are edibles and drinks. That being so, providence is the most manifest, most comprehensive, most curious and most pleasing reality in the universe.
Then, as everything has been concentrated around providence and directed towards it, providence itself comes through thanksgiving, subsists on it and points to it. For the need and desire for providence are a natural kind of thanksgiving, and the pleasure and satisfaction coming from providence are an unconscious thanksgiving, both common to all animate beings. However, man changes the nature of those kinds of thanksgiving through misguidance and unbelief and drifts from thanksgiving to associating partners with God.
The beautiful forms of bounties, and the tastes and smells they have, are invitations to thanksgiving and, by arousing desire in living beings and directing them through desire to appreciation of, and respect for, providence, these forms, tastes and smells urge living beings to thanksgiving, animals through disposition, and human beings with the tongue and actions. And they make living beings experience the greatest pleasure and satisfaction through thanksgiving itself.
That is, by showing the most pleasurable and permanent grace and favor of the All-Merciful, All-Generous Owner of the treasuries of Compassion behind the temporary enjoyment of bounties, they make man experience a permanent pleasure of Paradise while here in the world. Nevertheless, while being, through thanksgiving, an invaluable and rich treasury, providence is reduced to almost nothing through unthankfulness.
If the sense of taste possessed by the tongue is used for the sake of God, that is, if used to distinguish the kinds of providence with the intention of performing the duty of thanksgiving, it becomes a thankful examiner and a highly esteemed supervisor of the numberless treasures of the infinite Mercy of God. If, by contrast, it is used for the carnal self without considering the thanks due to the Provider, then the sense of taste is reduced to being a watchman of the factory of the abdomen or the doorman of the workshop of the stomach. As that servant of providence is reduced, because of unthankfulness, to that rank, so too, the nature of providence itself, together with its other servants, like air, light and water, is likewise reduced to the lowest rank, and assumes a quality contrary and opposed to the Wisdom of the Creator of the universe.
Thanksgiving is recognized by contentment, thrift, consent and gratitude
Thanksgiving is recognized by contentment, thrift, consent and gratitude, while unthankfulness by greed, waste, ingratitude and consuming without distinguishing between the lawful and unlawful.
Indeed, greed, besides being unthankfulness, is both a cause of depravity and a means of humiliation. It might even be said that the ant, that blessed animal having a social life, is trodden under foot because of greed. For it tries to collect thousands of grains without contentment when a few might suffice it. The bee, on the other hand, flies over heads due to – so to speak – its contentment, and offers, by God’s command, its honey to human beings.
The Divine Name, the All-Merciful, which is the greatest Name of the Sacred Divine Essence coming after God – His proper Name and the greatest of the Greatest Names – relates to providence. The first and most manifest meaning of the All-Merciful is the All-Provider. It is through thanksgiving that one can secure a connection with that Name.
There are many kinds of thanksgiving, the most comprehensive of which is the daily prescribed prayers
Thanksgiving contains a sincere belief and a genuine declaration of God’s Unity. For the one who has eaten an apple and then uttered, All praise and thanks be to God, proclaims through that thanksgiving that that apple is a direct souvenir of the hand of Power and a gift from the treasury of His Mercy, and thereby ascribes everything, whether particular of universal, to God’s Hand of Power and sees in everything the manifestation of His Mercy. Thus, he declares, through thanksgiving, a true belief and a sincere acceptance of God’s Unity.
I will point out only one aspect of the loss which a heedless man is certain to suffer because of unthankfulness.
When a man thanks God for something delicious he has eaten, that thing will produce, through thanksgiving, a light and become a fruit of Paradise. It gives, besides its material pleasure, a spiritual enjoyment still greater and permanent because it causes man to reflect on it as a favor of Divine Mercy.
Thus, any food given by God as a bounty, sends to the higher, incorporeal worlds its spiritual outcome from thankfulness, and itself is digested to nourish the body and then excreted to be re-transformed into elements in the soil. Without thanksgiving, the material pleasure given by that food ultimately results in grief because of its consequential disappearance, and the food itself becomes waste matter. Consumable bounties produce permanent pleasures and yield permanent fruits through thanksgiving, but without thanksgiving, they become the lowest form of the worst nature because, in the view of a heedless, unthankful man, they are no more than things to be eaten and then excreted.
Providence is something deserving love. While this love is elevated, through thanksgiving, to the rank of a sublime, permanent love, love of God, the love of heedless and misguided people for providence is of animal kind and nature. Consider, then, how great a loss the people of misguidance and heedlessness are in!
Among the species of living creatures, man needs providence more than the others. God Almighty has created man as a mirror reflecting all of His Names, as a miracle of Power having the faculties with which to weigh and recognize the contents of the treasuries of His Mercy, and as a vicegerent on the earth endowed with the faculties to measure even the subtlest manifestations of all of His Names. For this reason, He has made him needy of all kinds of material and spiritual providence. Only through thanksgiving can man, a being of such comprehensive nature, attain the rank of being the ‘best pattern’ of creation, which is the highest of the ranks. Without thanksgiving, he commits a most dire crime and falls to the lowest of the low.
In short: There are four pillars of the way of being a worshipping and (thereby) beloved servant of God, as stated in the following:
In the way depending on awareness of one’s impotence before God, four things are essential;
They are, O beloved one, acknowledgement of one’s absolute impotence and poverty, and absolute thanksgiving and absolute zeal.
Thus, the most essential of these pillars is thanksgiving.
O God, make us, through Your Mercy, among those who are thankful, O the Most Compassionate of the Compassionate!
Glory be to You! We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
O God, bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the lord of the thankful and the praising, and on all of his family and his Companions! Amen!
The last of their call is saying, All praise be to God.
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi