I look at the mirror and sigh deeply. Looking back at me is a twenty-something woman with bags under her eyes, a pimple (ever-so-unbecoming) under her lip, and a bad hair day. I click my tongue in disapproval at the image in front of me and mentally calculate the pounds I would like to lose. Nothing seems to make sense, including that pile of work I should actually have been doing rather than checking myself out in the mirror. Oh dear. It’s going to be one of those days.
Like me, I’m sure many of you must have had these wretched days when nothing seems to go right and every undesirable and unflattering attribute resides within the confines of our minds and bodies. For the lucky and mentally strong people, this becomes a passing phase which is conquered before it gets cumbersome. For the rest of us (self included) this ugly feeling of negativity about ourselves and our lives lingers for too long and before we know it, it creates a strong foothold within our hearts and minds.
Soon we begin comparing ourselves in an unfavourable light to just about anyone. At times unknowingly, at times knowing full well, we begin to put ourselves down. Now I am hardly the one to be telling you what should be done and what shouldn’t (given my deplorable record with self-acceptance) but I’d like to present an idea that helped me deal with a lot of problems: shukr.
Yeah. Thankfulness. You might ask why and how thankfulness has anything to do with all of the above. Well, the answer is simple: our minds, our hearts, and our bodies do not belong to us; they are in fact, a gift from Allah. And when we abuse ourselves, by putting ourselves down, we are actually showing ungratefulness to Allah’s creation! It shows our discontentment and our displeasure with the very blessings Allah has given us. Instead of being grateful and using these blessings in a manner that pleases Him, we reach a very high level of ungratefulness when we tell ourselves we are just not good enough.
Of course there are days when we simply feel inadequate when compared with others. However shukr or thankfulness becomes all the more important here, because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us in the Qur’an:
And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: `If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more; [14:7]
Wow. It’s that simple. Take a moment to let the power of these majestic words wash over you, soothe your fears, and give you answers. Now lets put the words into context: Does that mean if I lose 0.5 lbs when I wanted to lose four, don’t complain about it, say, “Alhamdulillah” and am truly grateful, I’ll start losing more? Does it mean if get a job that doesn’t pay well, yet be content and grateful to Allah– Allah will keep His promise? Yup. That’s exactly what it means. But please don’t take my word for it – try it out for yourself.
But true gratefulness, in essence, requires us to not only be content and patient with what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given us, but to truly strive in order to please Him with these very same blessings. For example, the way our beloved Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was:
‘A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported, when Allah’s Messenger sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam occupied himself in the night prayer, he observed it with such an extended qiyam (posture of standing) until his feet were swollen.
‘A’ishah said: “Allah’s Messenger, you do this in spite of the fact that your earlier and latter sins have been forgiven for you?” He sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied: “‘A’ishah, should I not prove myself to be a thankful servant of Allah?” [Muslim].
Who knows – a smile of shukr in the face of adversity might be the one thing that Allah forgives all your sins for. And that’s not all. When we complain about things (or ourselves) we are in turn imposing upon ourselves a very negative state of mind. Shukr gives a positive outlook, helps us see the glass half-full rather than half-empty, and thus results in a happier and more productive individual overall.
Note: I’ve already posted this on my blog before,https://mehmudahrehman.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-power-of-shukr/but it’s now been published by ‘I Got it Covered’ so I’ve put up a slightly edited version again!