In the Quran there is a verse in Surah Al-Luqman that says:
31:12 "...Any who is grateful does so to the profit of his own soul..."
Gratitude has recently become a focus in psychological research. There is a positive psychological effect in feeling thankful that results in appreciating life as it is. We must learn to be aware of and to appreciate the good things in this world to prevent taking them for granted. Being aware of the fact that it is Allah only who has helped us in our life will make us appreciate His blessings more. There is a link between practicing gratitude and feeling happy. Allah tells us in the Quran that we shall be rewarded for showing gratitude:
3:145 "...If any Do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it To him; and if any Do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall Give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve us with) gratitude".
When our attitudes change and we become thankful for every small or big things in life we will see the world in a different way. It is not the negative events in ones life that usually makes one unhappy, it is rather the negative reaction to these events that makes one unhappy. The state of being unhappy is created by ourselves. This statement can also be learned from an interpretation of the following verse:
4:79 "....Whatever good, (Oh man!) happens to thee is from Allah, but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul..."
Whining and dwelling upon negative events wont do us any good. The simple act of regularly practicing gratitude will make an improvement in the well-being of a person and lead to a sense of happiness in life. Reflect on your own life. Look back at all the difficult moments in your life and you will soon come to realize the many blessings that Allah has showered upon you.
Another verse in the Quran tells us to look at the contrast between the night and the day:
25:62 "And it is He Who made the Night and the Day to follow each other: for such as have the will to celebrate His praises or to show their gratitude".
There is a deeper meaning behind the contrast of night and day that has to do with our spiritual life. I will come back to the meaning later.
Surat ad-Dhuha (The Glorious Morning light) is revealed in a difficult period of Prophet Muhammad's (s.a.w.) life. Every man gets discouraged in times of adversity but in this Sura we are given the message of hope by looking at Allah's past mercies. There are three events in the early years of the Prophet's (s.a.w.) life that metaphorically applies to all mankind. Allah tells the Prophet (s.a.w.) to look at his past and see the wonderful mercies that has been bestowed upon Him. Firstly the Prophet (s.a.w.) gets reminded of the fact that he was an orphan and Allah gave him shelter (93:6). Secondly, the Prophet (s.a.w.) was given guidance at a time when false worship was dominating (93:7). Third, that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was poor in wealth in his early years but by marrying Khadija he become independent of worldly needs in his later life (93:8). Allah reminds the Prophet (s.a.w) that he was never forgotten in the past and wont be forgotten in the future either.
Now lets go back to the contrast of night and day. The first three verses of Surat ad-Dhuha says the following:
93:1 "By the Glorious Morning Light",
93:2 "And by the Night When it is still",-
93:3 "Thy Guardian-Lord Hath not forsaken thee, Nor is He displeased".
The similarity of the night is the difficulties that life has to offer. The stillness of night makes one feel like alone and forsaken. We might feel lonely and discouraged when we don't see immediate results of our struggle.
On the other hand, the morning light of the sun shines with its splendor and makes the dark and still night pass away. The similitude of daylight is that Allah's care is always around a man and at the end the result will always be pleasing. The stillness of night was only a preparation for the upcoming daylight. So the night was never a waste. For those who show gratitude, Allah's mercy will always come like the daylight comes after a dark, long and still night. The Prophet (s.a.w.) was promised full victory and satisfaction not only in the life of this earth but also in there hereafter. He (s.a.w) was told to not be discouraged and just wait; just as one has to wait for the glorious morning sun after a long and dark night.
When expressing thanks we should not only look at the past but Allah tells us to look at the present as well. Look at the small things as well as the big things. Look at yourself and look at the nature. Allah's blessings are everywhere. In the following verse we are told not to take our senses for granted. We should give thanks to Allah for even that:
31:31 "It is He Who created for you (the faculties of) hearing, sight, feeling and understanding; little thanks it is ye give!"
There are many verses in the Quran that talks about Allah's mercies. One of them tells us to not take the water for granted (35:12). The water in the ocean goes through many phases and figures in the maintenance of life and the ecosystem. When the water of the earths surface evaporates, the wind will move the water and convert it to clouds which will bring fresh water on land in form of rain or snow. This cycle of water doesn't flow on it's own. It is only upheld due to the mercy of Allah. So why don't we give thanks ?
The water in the sea is divided in two; One is potable, sweet and pleasant to drink and the other one is salty and bitter. If Allah wanted he could have made all of it salty and bitter so that we wouldn't be able to drink it. So why don't we give thanks?
By expressing daily gratitude we will learn how to understand and deal with difficulties. It will make us pay more attention to everything that has been bestowed upon us rather than focusing on what we don't have. Happiness is a state of mind. You can be a millionaire and get anything you want in this world but still end up as unhappy. The trick of nurturing your own soul is to give thanks. The important points are to look at your past and give thanks for the many favors that Allah has already bestowed upon you. Think of the night that merges into day. Look also at your present life. There are probably hundreds of things you are surrounded with that are only given to you by the mercy of Allah. So give thanks and you will make a remarkable change in your life - Alhamdulillah for everything.
Thank you so much for this beautiful article, well written and expressed. It is very much appreciated.