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.

Of Wisdom and Knowledge

People with the least knowledge often turn out to be the wisest. Plenty of people have lives full of examples and remarkable stories, but devoid of any wisdom. The greatest treasure you can steal from any circumstance is wisdom. You will meet a lot of people who are very knowledgeable but will still feel like you are not getting the exact help from them that will “click” with you. That “click” is basically wisdom; you are looking for wisdom my friend. And off the record, wisdom does not really have much to do with age.

“…whoever had been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding”(Quran 2:269).

More Serendipities Happen

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have realised that feeling grateful in heart vs journaling them in my gratitude journal (you can do a voicenote too if you do not like writing)- the latter has more profound effect. Allah seems to appreciate it more when I write it.

Perhaps because writing is a little more effort than brain journaling. A little more time, a little more thinking. Often times we ponder more when we try to express ourselves than we do in a typical self reflection session with our own selves. We spend more time with our gifts when we try to express their significance in our lives and Allah likes it. Writing helps me think of the strings Allah pulled to bring me where I am (alhamdulillah) and dares me to believe and expect from Him. Sometimes it is as if all Allah was waiting was for me to put that thing in the journal so He could increase me from it. All Glory Is To Him!

So yes, gratitude always increases us. But when you put effort to improve the quality of gratitude, more serendipities happen.

Serendipity And My Gratitude Journal

So after skipping my gratitude journal for the past three days, this morning I resumed. If one Quranic verse (among others) that I have been living and experiencing in the past few weeks is that gratitude increases you. Plus I had two dreams last night which needed documentations too ( yes I try to keep a track of my dreams too). So all in all I finished my journalling this morning only.

The reason I stopped journaling the past few days was I was feeling little low and demotivated. I could feel myself sink into a spiritual swamp as I call it, where I wasnt feeling the “push”- the motivation to pray or make dua. I was wanting something that wasnt happening (its not a big thing but again big is subjective!) and that was causing me mental distress for last few days. Lets call this AA.

Anyway one of the things I wrote this morning as a token of  gratitude was for something related to AA which already happened before. Lets call as A. So because I already have A and wishing to move higher to AA which was not happening, I was worried.

Just as I documented gratitude for A this morning, AA happened tonight. Alhamdulillah. I wasnt really feeling rue gratitude rush while writing about A, because I was too worried for AA, but still I wrote that down in the journal. And as a result Allah gave me AA from His Generosity.


He knows its not alwats easy to have the heart racing gratitude. So even the bit that you do, Al Shakur appreciates it.



I wrote this in another post but I want to say it again:

Always be in a state of expectation. It does not mean that the odds will turn in your favor overnight, but one of those days when you aren’t paying attention, they will. Because the One who is gently orchestrating the nuances loves to surprise you.

So yes, serendipity happens.