In world history, the time when Allah has given the most bounty is today. For instance, we can eat winter fruit in summer and summer fruit in winter. A middle class person today has possibilities and comfort which no sultan and no king had in the past. For example, no sultan had electricity, a phone, TV or central heating. It took them one week or one month on horseback to travel a distance which we today travel in a very short period of time by car or by plane.
Yes, we live in an unprecedented abundance of blessing. Considering this fact, shouldn’t it be the time when people worship and give thanks most? Of course it should. However, today is the time when sins are committed the most and immorality is most common, but gratitude and worship are at the least degree.
Despite all the blessings of today, most people – interestingly enough – are not happy with their lives. Whoever you talk to, you will see them complaining about their lives. People live in an abundance of blessings, but they do not give thanks. Moreover, they are not happy with their lives. All of this reveal a strange situation.
People of course have hardship in abundance and unrest in comfort. This is because Allah has taken out the plentifulness in blessings and the peace in people due to their ingratitude. In this respect Allah says in the Qur’an, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” (Ibrahim, 14:7) If you pay attention, He says “My punishment is severe”, but does not clearly describe it as punishment of Hell. It is possible that it could also be a punishment in the world when people do not give thanks for their blessings. The hardship in abundance which people have today can be a kind of this punishment.
Our Prophet (pbuh) says, “If My servants had (properly) obeyed Me, I would make it rain at night and then make the sun appear during the day. I would not make them hear the sound of thunder (not to let them be uncomfortable).” (Kanz al Ummal, 21612)
One of the most important reasons for the hardship in abundance of today is people’s not being content or satisfied. Today’s people are filled with ambition. Greed has reached such level that people do not obtain satisfaction anyway. As our Prophet says, “If Adam’s son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys; for nothing fills his mouth except dust.” (Bukhari, 6439) Today’s people always want something with an insatiable desire. And of course, when they cannot get what they want, they feel unhappy and uncomfortable.
However, the most important condition of being at peace is to thank Allah for His blessings and content yourself with them. Our Prophet (pbuh) says, “When one of you looks at one who stands at a higher level than you in regard to wealth and physical structure, he should also see one who stands at a lower level than you in regard to these things. It is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” (Muslim, 2963) But today’s people never look at lower levels, they do not thank, they do not content themselves with what they have; they always want more and more. Besides, they can sometimes say, “I’ve asked Allah for this and that, but He hasn’t given them to me.”
How do you think our Prophet (pbuh) and his companions (ra) behaved regarding all of this? Would they say “Shall we eat again to help digest what we have just eaten?” just as we say although we eat three times a day? It is narrated that one day Fatima (ra) took some bread she made to her father, our Prophet (pbuh). He asked her “Oh Fatima, what is this?” She answered “A piece of bread I baked. I could not eat it before I bring some to you.” And our Prophet said “This is the first food your father has ever eaten since three days.”
Anas ibn Malik (ra), who served our Prophet from his migration to Madinah until his death, says, “I have never seen the Prophet eat either soft bread made by fine flour, or a roasted goat.”
Aisha (ra) said the following:
“From his migration to Madinah until his death, the family of Muhammad (pbuh) has never eaten their fill with wheat bread three days successively.” “The family of Muhammad (pbuh) has never eaten two meals in a day; one of every two meals was always date fruit.” “Sometimes the fire would not be lighted (to cook meal) for two months.” They asked her “What would you eat and drink?” She answered “Two things: dates and water.” And she added “However, the messenger of Allah had neighbours from the Ansar; they sometimes would bring us milk from their camels.” (Bukhari, Rikaak, 17)
Although Aisha (ra) says ‘dates and water’, this does not mean dates were plenty.
In this respect, Ali (ra) says the following:
“On a cold day, I left the house of Rasulullah. I was really hungry. If there was any food in his house, I would have eaten; but there was no food. Then I started to search for food. I stopped by a Jew who was taking water from his well with a bucket and watering his date palms. I looked at him through a hole in the wall. He saw me and said “Oh Bedouin! Will you draw water from the well to irrigate my date palms? I will give you one date for one bucket. Do you accept?” I said “Yes.” He opened the door and I entered the garden. He gave me the bucket. For every bucket he gave me one date. When I had gotten my fill of dates, I put the bucket on the ground and said “It’s enough.” I ate them and drank the water sip by sip.” (Tirmidhi, 2473)
Rasulullah (pbuh) came across Abu Bakr and Umar (ra) when he left his house on a very hot day.
He asked them “What made you go out of your house at this time of the day?”
They answered “Hunger, oh Rasulullah!”
Our Prophet said “By Allah, Who has my self in His hand of power, what made you leave your house also made me leave my house. Stand up!”
And they went to the house of someone from the Ansar. When the lady (of the house) saw them, she said “Welcome! Welcome!”
Rasulullah asked her “Where is your husband?”
The woman said “He went to bring us water.” At that moment the man came and saw Rasulullah and his two friends. And then he said:
“Praise be to Allah! Today there is nobody who has more honourable guests than mine.” He immediately brought them a bunch of dates, which had unripe, dry and ripe dates.
“Enjoy this (first)!” he said and took a knife. Seeing this, Rasulullah said “Do not touch the dairy sheep.” However, the man slaughtered it for them. They both ate the dates and from the sheep. When they were full and drank water, Rasulullah said to Abu Bakr and Umar:
By Allah, Who has my self in His hand of power, you are going to be called to account for these blessings on the day of judgement! Hunger made you leave your houses. And you will not return home without getting these blessings.” (Muslim, 2038)
When we read the life of our Prophet and his companions, we see a lot of similar events. Despite their conditions they never accused Allah, they gave thanks in patience, and they became a generation of role models for every century with regard to worship.
Although all of his past and future sins are forgiven, our Prophet prayed throughout the nights. And when they asked him “Oh Rasululllah! All of your sins are forgiven. Why are you doing this then?” he answered “Should I not be a servant that shows gratitude?”
Our Prophet would always give thanks to Allah in both hardship and abundance. Aisha (ra) said “When there is something that makes him happy, Rasulullah would say “I thank Allah that the good deeds are completed with His blessing.” When something which he does not like occurs, he would say “Praise be to Allah in any case.” (Bayhaki)
According to the narrations, in the Torah it is said about his ummah that “His ummah is Hammadun (أمته الحمادون); that is they give thanks to Allah a lot. They give thanks both in hardship and in abundance.” (Darimi)
We have to strive to be worthy of this quality.