In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord
This time of year is always special: it is a time when we all pause and spend time with our friends and families and give thanks to the Lord for His bounty and blessings. Although there are some in the Muslim fold that object to “celebrating” this holiday as a “bid’ah” or religious innovation, I reject this contention. As eloquently elucidated by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah, Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people as long as it is in accord with Islamic principles.
There are few things that are more in harmony with Islamic principles than giving thanks to the Lord our God.
The Qur’an is full of references of the importance of being thankful to God for all His bounties, and this passage is but one example:
Have you ever considered the water which you drink? Is it you who cause it to come down from the clouds – or are We the cause of its descent? [It comes down sweet - but] were it Our will, We could make it burningly salty and bitter: why, then, do you not give thanks [unto Us]? (56:68-70).
In fact, the very name “kafir” in the Qur’an, which most think of as “infidel,” in fact means “ungrateful.” Thus, giving thanks to God is one of the most important duties upon a Muslim in his and her life.
Yet, apart from this special day when we all reflect over the things for which we are thankful, it is a potent reminder that our job is not done when Black Friday approaches. Thanking God must be a part of our daily lives, not just on Thanksgiving. And it is much more than simply saying, “Thanks, Lord!” a thousand times a day, which would not be wrong in and of itself.
Still, gratitude is best manifested in action, not words. If we are thankful for the bounties which we are given, then we must use those bounties to help others who may be deprived of those bounties. Every year, in my hometown Chicago, Muslim activists have been donating Thanksgiving turkeys since 2001. This year, by the grace of God, well over 1,000 turkeys were donated to families in need on the South Side of Chicago. This is what gratitude is all about.
Those who have been given knowledge must spread and share this knowledge with those around them, in gratitude to God for such a tremendous gift. Those who have been given wealth must share that wealth in charity, in gratitude to God for such a wonderful gift. Whatever gift we have been given, in addition to physically thanking God for it, we must also use that gift to help those of God’s children who are in need.
That is what gratitude is all about. That is what Thanksgiving should inspire us to do every single day in our lives.
And, yet, we must also never forget to physically say “Thank You”: first and foremost to God, for He is most deserving of our thanks. But, as importantly, to others as well. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said:
He who does not thank people, does not thank God. (Bukhari, Muslim)
I understand this to mean that, if one does not thank others for their contributions and efforts and help, then he is not truly grateful to God. And being grateful to God is a must.
And so, we must continually say “Thank You”: to our spouses for all their hard work and love and grace; to our co-workers for their work and fellowship; to our parents for all their sacrifice for our sake; to our friends and neighbors for their being in our lives. It is the right thing to do, and it is the way to be truly grateful.
This morning, while I was getting coffee before work, I saw another customer in US Army fatigues with his daughter, getting coffee and breakfast. As I left, I stopped and said, “Thank you for your service. Happy Thanksgiving.” He expressed his appreciation and shook my hand. I may not always agree with the policies of those who send him around the world, but I am grateful for his service on my behalf nonetheless.
It felt great to do so, and I am grateful that I could muster the courage to thank him. But, that’s the beauty of gratitude: it makes one feel great, and it inspires her to continue being grateful, in both word and deed. That is what gratitude is all about. That is what our Beloved Lord wants of us.
A very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you all! Amen.