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Gratitude (shukr) is the Source of Inner Peace in Life

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27-December-2017

Gratitude is a cultivated attitude one develops in the face of adversity in life. It is with gratitude that depression ends.

Gratitude is a cultivated attitude one develops in the face of adversity in life. It is with gratitude that depression ends.

By Asghar Rizvi

Adversity shapes you as a human being, the more challenges you face and overcome the stronger it makes you, but they also have power to debilitate you. There is an erroneous understanding that is commonly shared which states that everything that happens to you happens for a reason. In my view, that goes against the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) and the Qur’an. Allah is not the author of evil. Some of our suffering may have some divine purpose to it, but our suffering is also the result of our humanity’s heedlessness, sin as well as the fact that we live in a fallen and broken world. I agree with the Buddhists when they say that the fundamental reality that underpins the fabric of our being is pain and suffering. The Qur’an seems to affirm this worldview:

The Qur’an says:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ

Verily, We have created man into [an existence of] pain, suffering and trial (kabad). (Surah al-Balad, verse 4).

Pain and suffering are not easy to overcome but there is a chance of coming out enlightened on the other side if we orient ourselves and minds properly. The process of enlightenment from suffering is not about finding “why” it happened (you will not be able to know this, at least in so far as this life is concerned) but finding out what you can take from it. What you take from your pain and suffering is the true treasure of being in this world, they are the crops that you cultivate from the farmland of this ephemeral world.

As the Prophet (s) once said:

الدنيا مزرعة الآخرة

“The world is the farmland of the Hereafter”

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control what you take from your pain. You can control how you react to it and how you let it shape you. You can come out of it debilitated, or you can come out of it enlightened, stronger and better than before. As pain and suffering become opportunities for growth, it is from this vantage point that you learn to thank Allah and be grateful to Him when pain comes your way. When you inculcate gratefulness in your being even in the midst of suffering, it is there that suffering and pain end and true inner peace and joy is found. How can depression be possible in a state of gratitude? This is the inner tranquility (iṭiminān al-qalb) – to borrow a Qur’anic term – of the saints (awliyāʾ) of God.

Asghar Rizvi is a U.S based Muslim community leader and founder of several Shia Muslim organizations. He heads several Shia think tanks and provides critical analysis of incorporating important Muslim, and especially Shia Muslim, into mainstream American society. He is currently a senior blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in Los Angeles, California.

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