Jan 24, 2015

The Fragrance of Gratitude: An Analogy for Gratitude and Ingratitude


Emotions are difficult to describe in a tangible manner. How do I describe anger? Or love? Or frustration? If I cannot describe it in a quantifiable manner how do I control and regulate my feelings. As human beings we spend each day of our lives swinging between extremes of joy and sorrow, contentment and craving. A single word from the significant other, one ‘uff’ from the kids can ruin our day. A single word of praise or good news can make us overjoyed and arrogant. But are we constantly supposed to be on an emotional pendulum?

“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for anyone except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him” (Sahih Muslim)

The believer is either grateful or patient. Gratitude is not counted by the number of ‘alhumdulillahs’ that we glibly suffix after spouting a long list of complaints. Gratitude is a state of being granted to those that constantly work on their eman, and have a real understanding of the purpose of life. How I wish I could grab some gratitude and keep it locked and safe where my mood swings and daily struggles would not destroy it.

Gratitude is like an exquisite fragrance. Imagine stepping outside on a crisp, spring morning and being overwhelmed by the scent of hundreds of flowers: jasmines, roses or any other flower whose perfume is a part of your memories. It is a truly invigorating experience. You would breathe in deeply and smile. A feeling of well being would wash over you and suddenly everything would appear more beautiful than it seemed when you simply looked out the window. The scent is subtle and intangible yet the sky seems bluer and the leaves more green. It would be difficult to leave. You would want to linger on and savor the feeling of joy and contentment. The day would seem full of hope and opportunity. That is gratitude.

Grateful people are a pleasure to be with. They do not see life through a window. Rather they experience it and enjoy it fully by sincerely appreciating all the blessings that Allah subhana wa ta’ala has given them. They are always hopeful of the mercy of Allah and make those around them hopeful as well.

Ingratitude stinks. Literally. An unpleasant odor is an appropriate analogy for it. Many years ago someone came to fix my fridge and in the process took out a packet of meat and left it on the top of the fridge. At my height, the top of the fridge is not easily visible. The next day a nauseating smell filled my kitchen. I scrubbed, I cleaned, I took out the trash but the stench would not go away. I could not stand in my spotless kitchen. Like driving through a beautiful landscape full of green fields and beautiful lush trees but when the windows are rolled down the stench from an open sewer overpowers and destroys the beauty of the landscape. Would you want to stay there and enjoy the scenery? The unpleasant odor would make you uncomfortable and you would leave immediately.

When we are ungrateful, our hearts feel constricted, uneasy and unhappy. We constantly pollute the air around us with complaints even though we are surrounded with the blessings of Allah subhana wa ta’ala. No one wants to be around us anymore. Those that do linger, leave with heavy hearts, feeling hopeless and helpless. We feel that Allah has been unjust with us (astaghfirullah) and we convey that feeling of victimhood and loss to others. We impair others, when as believers we are supposed to inspire them.

The Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam gave us the following analogy:

“The likeness of a righteous companion is that of the seller of musk. Either he will give you a gift, or you will buy something from him, or you will smell a pleasant fragrance from him. And the likeness of an evil companion is that of the man who works the bellows, whether he will burn your garment or you will smell an unpleasant odor from him”. 

The most grateful person to ever live was our beloved Messenger salallahu alihi wasallam and subhanAllah. Allah had granted him a natural perfume:

Narrated Anas: “I have never touched silk or Dibaj (i.e. thick silk) softer than the palm of the Prophet nor have I smelt a perfume nicer than the sweat of the Prophet” Bukhari Vol. 4: No. 761

The exquisite fragrance of his beautiful character still reaches us even though we are removed from him by centuries. Let us strive to be worthy of his company in the Hereafter and walk the scented streets of Paradise by developing gratitude in our lives, inshaAllah.

“O Allah help me to remember You, to give thanks to You and worship You in the best manner.”

(Narrated by Abu Dawood and al-Nasaa’i)

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!

1. http://quran.com/
2. http://ihsaanlife.com/2012/03/28/out-of-stock/
3. http://dailyreminders.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/amazing-is-the-affair-of-the-believer/
4. http://sunnah.com/urn/263610
5. http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=56&translator=1&start=0&number=759


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