Sunday, August 12th, 2018 marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p), End of…
Learning Gratitude Through Imam al-Jawad (p)
The ninth Imam from the progeny of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp), Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (p), was born on the tenth of Rajab in Medina. He lived a short life because he was poisoned by Mutasim, the Abbasid caliph, when he was only twenty-five. Despite his youth, history is a testament to the incredible legacy he left behind for all followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut). In the seventeen years of his imamate, Imam al-Jawad (p) had the opportunity to influence many by means of his words, actions, and interpersonal relationships. More can be read about the life of Imam al-Jawad (p) in our Islam 101 pages.
When examining the life of Imam al-Jawad (p), we have the unique opportunity of glancing at his incredible moral standards and character through his words. One concept that the Imam advised his followers on was to be thankful for all God’s blessings. In a powerful tradition, Imam al-Jawad (p) states, “The blessing that you are not thankful for is like the sin that is not forgiven.”1 It is imperative that we are constantly thankful for all that God has given us, and at the same time, seek forgiveness when we make errors and admit our imperfections to God.
It is vital for us to learn how to be thankful, an action that is often forgotten in many homes and communities throughout the world. It is among the greatest forms of etiquette that we can attain. When we look around, there is so much to be thankful for, but sometimes we may neglect to do so. God tells us, “It is He who has created ears, eyes, and hearts for you. Little are the thanks that you give.”2 In another verse, the Almighty states, “Out of His mercy He has made the night and day for you to rest, seek His favor and perhaps you will give Him thanks.”3 We may often forget that our ears, eyes, the day, and the night are some of God’s biggest blessings. Imam al-Jawad (p) advises us that we should constantly recognize the blessings that surround us.
Moreover, in a beautiful story narrated by Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p), he illustrates the way we should be thankful to God through a story about Prophet Musa (p): One day, God spoke to Prophet Musa (p) and called out, “Oh Musa! Thank me the way I deserve to be thanked!” Prophet Musa (p) responded, “Oh Lord! how can I thank you the way you deserve to be thanked when any thanks I give you is only due to the blessing you bestowed upon me [of giving me the ability to thank you]!” God then responded to him, calling out, “Oh Musa, thankfulness to me, the way I deserve thanks, is [recognizing] that!”4 Prophet Musa recognized that the ability to think or even to mention God’s blessings is a blessing in and of itself. Even when we desire to be thankful to God, we utilize the blessings that He has bestowed upon us including our tongue and intellect, both blessings that we should be thankful for.
Takeaways from the Advice of Imam Jawad
1. Reflect on God’s blessings: When we look around us, we see that the world is filled with immense blessings from God. He states in the Quran, “Remember Me and I shall remember you. Thank Me and do not hide the truth about Me.”5 There are so many things that we should be thankful for, such as the sun for its light and warmth and the trees for providing us oxygen and food. Additionally, we have clean water to drink, air to breathe, and life itself.
2. Thank others: In addition to being thankful to God, we should also be thankful to those around us when they extend themselves for us. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) says, “The one who does not thank creation has not thanked the Creator.”6 It would be arrogant for us to not recognize when someone offers us aid or assistance, and perhaps even worse if we know that someone has reached out to help us, but we do not thank them. In the prophetic tradition, we see that not thanking others is a type of failure to thank God.
3. Don’t forget to repent: As much as the first beautiful tradition mentioned above is about recognizing God’s blessings and being in a consistent state of thankfulness, it also speaks to repentance. When we are thankful to God, He increases our blessings, for He states, ‘If you give thanks, I shall give you greater (favors).”7 Similarly, if we repent for our sins, God will also open the door and continue to send blessings upon us, as He states, “Ask forgiveness from your Lord; He is All-forgiving. He will send you abundant rain from the sky, strengthen you by (providing) you wealth and children, and make gardens and streams for you.”8 Thus we see that thankfulness and repentance are intertwined with the benefits we attain from God.
1. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 75, p. 365.
4. Al-Jazairi, Qisas al-anbiya, p. 346.
5. Quran 2:152.
6. Man la yahthuruh al-faqih, vol. 4, p. 380.
7. Quran 14:7.
8. Quran 71:10-12.
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