“Blessed” has become a hashtag without any thought behind it. And I don’t think anyone would disagree that all of us are blessed. Just the fact that I’m typing this blog entry now and you’re reading it now is testament to how blessed we are.
Blessed and lucky have become synonymous terms and may be to some extent, I can see some similarities in the perception of them. But…… here’s what I’ve learned from my own life and from how many positive people have made their life positive by counting their blessings and not blaming their luck.
Feeling blessed is a state of mind. It has got nothing to do with the actual occurrence of happy things and accomplishments. To acknowledge a blessing is as simple as breathing, eating, laughing and even just being. That’s all we need to count our blessings.
When we acknowledge our blessings we automatically practice some mindfulness exercises like contentment, gratitude, شکر, and happiness.
“Feeling blessed is so easy to make a part of our lifestyle that I sometimes wonder why momentary desolation comes over”.
I once heard this from a woman at the mosque who was a recent immigrant and was also just getting her child diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I wondered how she remained so positive when she depended on all meals at the mosque, when her husband struggled to find a job and had children, one of whom was fast on the track to needing a cochlear implant and many therapies a week. I was intrigued.
“Sister! Do you never get sad?”
“I get sad. Many times. Then I think of the fact that I have my child and this is a blessing. I am in a country where he can get the best therapies and medical management. That’s a blessing. The mosque allows us to eat all three times a day. That’s a blessing. So when I think about it, my blessings are much more than my set backs. It’s very easy to continue feeling blessed”.
As she was saying this I was wondering! This is a strange woman. She is feeling blessed for having a child with profound hearing loss. And for being dependent on the mosque’s charity. How positive have you got to be in order to feel so positively affected by adversity in life!
She is an inspirational woman. Now three years out of our above-mentioned conversation, she is teaching Arabic at our Islamic school, has a son who is almost caught up and not in speech therapy anymore and her husband works at our local Walmart. When I see her and compare to where she was just three years ago I don’t think she would’ve done all this so happily and enjoyably if she didn’t believe in counting her blessings in everything that was happening to her.
Have you heard the expression ” a blessing in disguise”? Have you ever wondered what blessings were stored for us in seemingly adverse circumstances of our lives? Blessing in disguise is one of my favorite expressions in order to initiate a mental response of gratitude and trying to see the good in every untoward circumstance by Allah.
Luck is a different concept. It’s a hard concept. Thinking that good things come to us as intended for us or written for us doesn’t induce the same gratefulness. It makes us feel privileged. Like our life is following an amazing program. Feeling “lucky” and not “blessed” also takes away from humility. The faith in luck makes us look privileged like we were born with good luck. And that Allah’s generosity isn’t to account for. When actually everything that happens for us has Allah’s generosity as a part of it.
Shukr or Giving Thanks is an important part of our belief in Allah. Allah loves the thankfulness that we show, whether by subjugating ourselves to Him or by devoting ourselves to His creation. But Shukr is actually a slightly more nuanced concept than its conceptually close but essentially different counterpart Hamd or Giving Praise.
Shukr is actually a trade of sorts. We get something from someone, including Allah, and say thanks for it. Thanks is a very situational word. It doesn’t occur without a context attached to it. Thanks is the least we can do or say in response to kindness and generosity. It has limited independent meaning.
Hamd is actually a selfless, no-context, no strings attached word. It is simply Giving Praise. Hamd is for Allah. Allah commands Hamd. He likes it and more than that, it helps us stay close to Him.
Imagine any other being that gets our praise without some iota of a context attached to it. Well since we’ve imagined, I can say that parents are praised sometimes by kids without the parent doing much in the way of deserving that praise. But that’s pretty much it. Our praise for anyone beyond our parents isn’t without a reason or in some cases, an ulterior motive.
But for Allah we reserve unconditional praise. We praise Him for his exaltation and His rank. We praise Him for His divinity and His being our creator. We praise Him unconditionally.
So here’s how I think Shukr and Hamd cross paths and become evolutionally close.
When we make a practice of Shukr, when we look for a blessing to be thankful, when we look for a chance to say “Allah! I thank you” we enter a state of mind that becomes sensitive to generosity and kindness and rewards by Allah. We become acutely conscious of how the current situation beats the alternative always. We become involved in the concept of counting blessings and shun the concept of wanting more. This induces gratefulness and gratitude. When we practice Shukr all the time, we start to identify Allah with Shukr and because each time we express Shukr, we express some degree of Hamd too, slowly, imperceptibly, Hamd takes over. Where Shukr was more, Hamd becomes more. Where we remembered Allah when we felt blessed, we now praise Allah just cuz. Where we looked for a reason to say thanks, now we look for the time to praise Him. That’s how we practice enough Shukr that Hamd takes over.