The Struggle For Gratitude


Being grateful does NOT mean being content. If we were to remain content with everything there would be no point of making dua and asking for things. Allah wouldnt have commanded us to make dua during times of ease if we were to remain content with what we have. Being grateful just means to acknowledge what Allah has already given us, reflect on them and praise and thank Him for them. It does not mean we settle. In fact Allah commands us to pursue a life of excellence and ask for His bounty. Allah says in the Quran in Surah Rum that seeking His bounty is actually one of His signs. So yes, sometimes you will feel grateful but also simultaneously you will feel what you have is not enough, it just doesnt cut it. Thats okay, Allah said to be grateful for things He has already given you, and thats it. Human beings taught you to settle, not Allah. So dont confuse it.

Also, if dont guilt trip yourself to feel grateful. Its good to look at people who are less privileged than you and reflect on your blessings, but its a whole different story altogether to just not ask for anymore because “you already have so much” or do just feel guilty that you are so blessed. 

One last thing, dont fight yourself to feel the gratitude rush all the time. When Prophet Yaqoob lost his youngest son, Allah didnt tell him to be grateful for the other ten. Allah allowed him to whine and complain like nobody’s business, and even recorded it for you and I to take inspiration from. 

Complains Do Not Negate Gratitude: Counsel From The Quran

Complains and gratitude are not mutually exclusive. You can grieve and complain to Allah, and yet remain grateful. When Prophet Yaqoob lost his 10year old son Yusuf, he was devastated and he cried so much he lost his eye sight. Yet when Allah narrates us the story,  NO WHERE does He mention anything about gratitude. Allah never tells him to be grateful that his other sons are alive. None. In fact, Allah captures his struggle by actually telling us that his grief did in fact affect his health, people around him were uncomfortable with his sorrow so they told him to move on- all things that every single one of us unfortunately have heard or told others. 

In this very famous verse Allah actually glorifies the fact that this prophet did complain. He kept telling Allah about his sorrow UNAPOLOGETICALLY. Unlike us humans, Allah did not guilt trip him into being grateful to supress his emotions. In His immense wisdom Allah never tells us to suppress our emotions because He knows it is not healthy.

What is also remarkable is that Allah revealed this story when His messenger (peace be upon him) needed counsel, when he was goung through the most difficult phase of his life. So basically even to his messenger (peace be upon him) Allah did not condemn his grief or ask him to stop complaining and be grateful. Allah gave both these prophets the time and space to grieve, to mourn. Allah acknowledged their sorrow and if any He actually tells us that through their legacies that we can turn to Him too to complain. Complain with unwavering certainty that Allah will change our condition for the better.


Even in this very famous verse of gratitude if you look at the background, Allah revealed it to the Children of Israel after Pharaoh killed their baby boys. Allah through His messenger Moses consoled them and encouraged them to be grateful. But Allah did NOT negate their grief or ask them to stop complaining. That is not a practice of Allah. He gives us the leeway to be grateful and still lament.

Basically what I am trying to convey is that we shouldn’t be ungrateful. We shouldn’t try to negate the value of what we have. But that does not mean that we settle with our miseries. It does not mean we pretend life is a bed of roses when in reality it might be not. There is a reason Allah says in the Quran “and do not forget your share of the world” (28:77)

So relieve yourself of that burden today. That burden where you are “supposed” to be only grateful and not complain. You can do both. You can complain to Allah, complain like nobody’s business, pour out to Him every bitterness that is there. As long as you are not being ungrateful, as long as you are not dismissing the favors He has done to you, you are good. “Remember Me, I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”(2:152). 

If you are still unsure, try it today. I do this experiment with myself. I was at a very bad situation and I complained to Allah a lot, but the whole time I kept an eye on my attitude. I figured that I did not feel “ingratitude”, I did feel grateful for what I have, but the pain of what I dont have, that sense of inadequacy created from that void was unbearable. 

Pain is given to us for a reason, to feel it. Feeling the sense of incompleteness for the things we do not have in life, for our unfulfilled dreams, wishes and desires, its part of our human creation. It is how Allah created us. We cant cloak them up with veils of gratitude and run away from acknowledging those emotions. Gratitude has its own place and so does our want and need for a better life.

That Faith Muscle

So my friend and I were discussing the topic of certainty and belief in the prayers that we make. Discovering that we both suffer from that hollow in the pit of the stomach or the sinking of the heart that is felt when we are to take a leap of faith, was an eye opening experience, much to our chagrin. We both felt it is something we need to help each other with, and I just wanted to share some of the realisations we had in the process.

So let’s start with an example. You are ravenously famished and you still are en route to home from work, so you call home to your mother and ask her to have the food ready. Would it ever occur to you in the fragment of your imagination that your mother might NOT keep the food ready for you? Would you ever have that feeling of “What if I go home and she doesnt make food for me so I have to spend the night hungry?” The thoughts wouldnt even cross your mind. Because you are certain and you have that trust in her that she will.

But unfortunately this equation gets horribly messed up when we are put in a position to place that same unwavering certainty in Allah. No matter how much we know and learn, the human psychology defies them. May be some very highly spiritual scholars have that level of certainty, but I believe I am speaking for the everyday Jane/John Does like you and me. 

So my friend and I have decided to take the following actions and monitor our progress on a weekly basis:

1) We ask Allah to give us our wishes despite our lack of sufficient, unfaltering faith. He is Al Wasie (The all Encompassing)- so His love and generosity encompasses our shortcomings. 

2) Even Prophet Ibrahim asked Allah to fulfil his dua and use that as a means to firm his faith. So realise that weakness of the heart is a human phenomenon which Allah actually acknowledges in the Quran. Allah teaches us from the example of this great Prophet that we can ask Allah to increase our faith by actualising our prayers and desires.

3) Positive affirmations dont work. If any, the closest it can get to is by talking to Allah. Now what to do I mean by that? For eg, you want to be married. So you call upon Al Wali (The Guardian) in a manner where you explain to Him the significance of His name. Its not that Allah doesnt know the significance of that particular name; but it is through explaining to Allah that you basically strengthen your own faith muscle. For eg you tell Allah that ” You are my guardian, so You are responsible for finding a spouse for me. You have assigned Yourself as my guardian so You have to find someone who You trust me with, who will be my guardian in this world. You have to find this person for me because no one else will do a better job than You.”

As you will keep talking like this to Allah you will feel a sense of power inside you- that is the power from having trust on Allah. The power that you are aided, helped, assisted. This will grow your faith muscle. But just like any workout, you got to be diligent and focussed. Its no less than a workout trust me.

4) Make little duas everyday and as they manifest write them down- details of the experience and what you learnt.

I just wanted to say that everything I have written above is from first hand experience. I don’t if these doubts and self talks ever completely go away, but for what its worth, it most definitely gets better and lesser. Take it from someone who was a paranoid in asking something from Allah because of the ill thoughts and expectations, courtesy to the voice of the devil pretending to be God and telling you that you wont get your prayers.

Efforts Are Basically Placebos


When we pray for something, we are required to take actions as well towards achieving it. There is no free lunch in reality.

But what is important is that we realise that our actions really do NOT generate/ guarantee results. Results come from The All Able, from God. He uses our efforts to manifest results. Remember that time when you had a really horrible exam but your passed with flying colors, and you absolutely have no idea how it happened? Well there is your proof. He excused your poor performace and gave you a better result from Him, as a a token of His love.

So why then, do we need to work? Why can’t God just give us everything like that? Well it is because of our own accountability and ownership. It is for the same reason your parents let you work to earn your tuition for college, albeit they are very much able to afford it. It is to teach us accountability and take ownership of our achievements.

When Maryam (peace be upon her) was in the pain of delivery, she was asked to shake the tree above her so it would shed fruits for her to eat. Imagine how vigoriously could actually shake it? My guess she probably was barely able to touch the huge tree trunk, let alone shake it. But she did whatever she could, and the tree bowed down to reach her. 

So your efforts are subjective at times. Just because you can’t exert as much effort like others does NOT mean your doors to achievements are closed. Sincerity is all that counts. God does not need your efforts to give you. Your efforts are the best you can do in your particular situation, so when you achieve your success, you feel the confidence in seeing the fruits if your labor. It is all for you. 


So stop fretting about not being as good as others. Maryam wasn’t. So the tree came to her. It can come to you too, Because just like her, you too are no prophet.

Everyday believers like you and me are not excluded from the Divine Miracles.

You Are Probably A Bird

When you walk into a brightly lit room from darkness you squint your eyes.

When you wake up after a refreshing nap you still feel little groggy the first couple seconds.

In the same manner, when joy peeks in after what seemed like an eternity of grief, when relief comes in after an eternity of oppression- it is natural to be scared initially. Its okay if your initial reaction is that fear and not gratitude. It really is- because the years of tears and pain made your entire existance learn to anticipate only worse. It will be sometime before it reverses itself. So its okay, because birds raised in cages are afraid to fly.


Nostalgia Kills


You miss it. You miss those times. The people, the lanes, the streets- it is as life you lived an eternity among them. It is as if it was a whole different life, a whole different you.

Reminisce it. Soak yourself in the scent of those nostalgic fragrances as you breathe into your pillow, stiffling another sob under those staggering breathes. Allow your heart to swell and burst as it walks down the memory lane of those bittersweet cinnamon memories of the winter mornings.

And what better time to do it than the depths of the night? When the only One who lived through those experiences with you come down in the last third of the night- only for you. To reminisce your journey with you, laugh at your joy, weep for your sorrows, grieve the loss and hope for the future. He wants to walk those ailes with you, know about the taste of those salty cashwes you had, the sweetness of the fruits you got drunk in, the spices of the various colors that gave you ulcers.

He watches you twisting and turning in agony as you silently soak your pillow with another sleepless night. Thats why He comes down everynight and waits for you behind the clouds. To talk to you, to hear from you. 


The Psychology Of Rising Above

The way we act are governed by the preconceived notions of our mind. Claiming to know ourselves to the core, we SOMETIMES choose to believe certain things as far as our potentials are concerned. 

When you read the lines above, what are you thinking? Are you guilt tripping yourself because you do not aim high enough or you are taking in inspiration to aim higher? That answer there itself is the key psychology you need to identify and either work on or hold onto.


Because your thoughts dictate your actions, you can choose. Thoughts are nothing but energy. We all know from those afternoon naps in Physics class that energy cant be created or destroyed rather they can only be transformed. So I agree when you say you cant control your thoughts because you are not supposed to. But you can most definitely gear them into what gives you jitters of hope and expectations.


However, even after all these self help serums, the truth remains that some of us are limited in our potentials. We are not extraordinary, we are not gifted, we cant do what others can. We struggle but we cant go any beyond. Our capabilities are limited. We were just not born with them. What about us? 

Remember this. We are creations, we are not The Creator. So we cant do anything about what we do not have. But God can. If there is something you want in the creation of yourself but you don’t have, your Creator can create it for you. If you dont have the intelligence, you dont have the talent, you dont have the mental or psychological stamina, you dont have the faith, you dont have the courage, you dont have the resources, the support, whatever it is you do not have, He can create for you, and He can tailor it, customize it,personalize it suited to your individual comfort and ease. There is a reason He has named Himself The Creator, and if you look deeper, you will realise He has not put a limit in His ability to create.


If you can think like this, if you can make attempts based on these thoughts, you will automatically amp up your game. Because in the process of allowing these thoughts to creep in, you have already broken yourself from the shackes of fear. Yes, it was fear and self doubt that was holding you back. And if you didnt realise, more often than not, they were pretending to be in your favor. Pretending.