A Muslim Gives Thanks

Few things are more Islamic than thanking God for His blessings.

BY: Hesham A. Hassaballa

 

Thanksgiving

is an American cultural tradition that is wholly consistent with Islamic principles. Typically, American Muslims (including my family) get together with their families and have dinner together on Thanksgiving, usually because everyone has a day off on Thanksgiving, and so it is convenient and natural for families to come together.

In the past, I never gave the concept of Thanksgiving much thought, but that is changing now. Even though the story of Thanksgiving has a Christian backdrop, few things are more Islamic than thanking God for His blessings.

It is God alone who created me and gave me life, breath, and sustenance. He nurtures me and comes to my aid when I ask (or don't ask) Him. Simply saying, "Thanks, Lord" and continuing to sin against him is to show the utmost ingratitude. And so, since He has given me so much, we Muslims ask: isn’t it only fair that my will be trumped by His? This is the best way to show my thanks to God, on Thanksgiving and beyond.

For instance, the stock market has taken quite a beating in recent months. Many Americans have had their nest eggs wiped out. If I had money in the stock market (which I don't, fortunately or unfortunately), it would be tempting to funnel all the money into bonds or other interest-bearing investments.

Yet as a Muslim, I show my gratitude for God's blessings differently. Islam prohibits me from earning money from usury, and thus, bonds, bank certificates of deposit, or even simple money market accounts are out of the question. Either I tough out the storm in the markets, or I pull out altogether.

Islam embraces the idea of the need for occasional entertainment; it is essential to help us relax and rejuvenate. That entertainment, however, must occur with some limitations. Alcohol and gambling, for instance, must not be in any Islamic entertainment program. Thus, I will not be hitting the slot machines any time soon.

I graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, and if you did not drink, there was basically nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday evening. I remember quite a few lonely Saturday nights where all my drinking friends (including some Muslims) would be out at parties, and my non-drinking friends were unavailable. I would sit in my dorm room, sad and alone, watching the evening news, then "Saturday Night Live," then "Showtime at the Apollo." It was tough, but going out and drinking with my friends never was an option for me. Better to be lonely on a Saturday night than be ungrateful to God and sin against Him.

I have had many discussions with people about Islam’s (and Judaism’s) prohibition against eating pork. Many have told me that the rationale for prohibiting pork was that, when the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an were written, sufficient methods to sanitize meat did not exist, and it was likely people got sick after eating the flesh of swine. Now, however, eating pork is safe and there is no problem, despite what the religions say. I beg to differ. Islam (and Judaism) explicitly prohibits eating pork, and so I bypass the bacon and pass on the pepperoni.

During medical school, I attended meetings after class where pizza was served. To my chagrin, the meeting organizers would order only ONE vegetable pizza, and EVERYONE, being calorie conscious, would eat from the vegetable pizza, leaving me pathetic scraps. This has happened to me time and again, but I would never consider having even one slice of pizza with pork on it. Taking the pepperoni off the slice does not count, either, because of the grease left on the slice. I do not mind, however. God said, "No," and I said, "Yes, sir."

In the Qur'an, one comes across this statement: "How can you reject faith (or be ungrateful) seeing that you were dead and [God] gave you life; then He will cause you to die and again bring you to life; and again to Him you will return" (2:28). God has shown His undying love for me by giving me so much in life. It is time for me to show my love for and gratitude to Him by being a willing, submitting servant.

Simply saying "Thanks" to God, although important, is not enough for me. Saying you love someone is nice; but showing you love someone through your actions is much more powerful.

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