In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with praise. (17:44)
The Qur’an uses such reiterated phrases as: Will they not be thankful? (36:35, 73) We will reward the thankful. (3:145) If you are thankful, I will give you more. (14:7) Nay, but God do you serve, so be among the thankful, (39:66) to show that the All-Merciful Creator’s most important command is to give thanks. Proclaiming that not doing so means denying bounties, He reproaches them severely, in Surat al-Rahman, no less than 31 times: Then which of your Lord’s bounties do you deny?
This universe, like its microcosm the Qur’an, also demonstrates that creation’s most important result is thanksgiving. We can see that the universe is arranged in a way to arouse thanksgiving, and that everything calls for it. It seems that thanksgiving is the tree of creation’s most important fruit and the best product of this factory of the universe, for the universe is in the form of a circle, at the center of which is life. The design of creation is directed toward life, for everything serves life and works to provide its necessities. This means that the universe’s Creator drew up life from the universe, created the worlds of living beings in circular forms, and put humanity in the center. The purposes for creating living beings are directed toward humanity, which all other beings serve. This means that the Majestic Creator chose humanity to rule over them.
At the center of the circular human and animal worlds is providence. The Creator inculcated love for providence in people and animals, and urges them to work for it. He made providence a vast and rich treasury of infinite bounties. So that people and animals can recognize each taste, He enabled the tongue to distinguish as many tastes as there are foods and drinks. Given this, providence is the universe’s most manifest, comprehensive, curious, and pleasing reality.
As everything is concentrated around and directed toward providence, providence itself comes through, subsists on, and points to thanksgiving. This is because the need and desire for providence are a natural thanksgiving, and the pleasure and satisfaction coming from providence are an unconscious thanksgiving. Both of these are common to all animate beings. Those who change the nature of such thanksgiving through misguidance and unbelief drift into associating partners with God.
The beautiful forms of bounties, their tastes and smells, are invitations to thanksgiving. By arousing desire in living beings and thereby directing them to appreciate and respect providence, they urge animals to give thanks through their disposition, and people to do so with their tongues and actions. They also cause living beings to experience the greatest pleasure and satisfaction through thanksgiving itself.
In other words, showing the All-Merciful, All-Generous Owner of the treasuries of Compassion’s most pleasurable and permanent grace and favor behind the temporary enjoyment of bounties enables humanity to experience a permanent pleasure of Paradise while in this world. Providence becomes an invaluable and rich treasury through thanksgiving, but is reduced to almost nothing in the absence of being thankful.
As explained in the Sixth Word, if the tongue’s sense of taste is used for God’s sake, for distinguishing the kinds of providence with the intention of giving thanks, it becomes a thankful examiner and a highly esteemed supervisor of the countless treasures of God’s infinite Mercy. But if this sense is used for the carnal self and does not thank the Provider, it is only a watchman of the abdomen’s factory, a doorman of the stomach’s workshop. As not giving thanks lowers that servant of providence, the nature of providence itself and its other servants (e.g., air, light, and water) are likewise reduced to the lowest rank and assume a quality contrary and opposed to the Wisdom of the universe’s Creator.
Thanksgiving is recognized by contentment and thrift, consent and gratitude; not giving thanks is recognized by greed and waste, ingratitude and consuming without regard for what is lawful and unlawful. Greed causes depravity and humiliation. It might even be said that the ant, that blessed animal having a social life, is trodden underfoot because its greed drives it to collect thousands of grains when a few might suffice. But the bee flies overheads due to its contentment, so to speak, and offers its honey to people.
The Divine Name the All-Merciful, the greatest Name of the Sacred Divine Essence coming after God (Allah—His proper Name and the greatest of the Greatest Names) relates to providence. The first and most manifest meaning of the All-Merciful is the All-Provider. One is connected to that Name through thanksgiving. Of the many kinds of thanksgiving, the most comprehensive is the daily prescribed prayers.
Thanksgiving contains a sincere belief and a genuine declaration of God’s Unity. One who eats an apple and says, “All praise and thanks be to God,” proclaims that the apple came from the hand of Power, is a gift from His Mercy’s treasury, and thereby ascribes everything to God’s Hand of Power and sees His Mercy manifested in everything.
I point out one aspect of the loss suffered by those who do not give thanks. When people thank God for something delicious, a light is produced and becomes a fruit of Paradise. In addition to material pleasure, it gives a greater and permanent spiritual enjoyment because it causes people to reflect on it as a favor of Divine Mercy. Thus any food given by God as a bounty sends its spiritual outcome to the higher, incorporeal worlds due to thankfulness. After that, it is digested to nourish the body and excreted to become elements in the soil. Without thanksgiving, this material pleasure ultimately results in grief because it disappears and the food becomes waste matter. Consumable bounties produce permanent pleasure and yield permanent fruit through thanksgiving; without it, they become the lowest form of the worst nature, as heedless, unthankful people see them only as things to be eaten and then excreted.
Providence deserves love. While thanksgiving elevates this love to a sublime, permanent love (love of God), the love that heedless and misguided people feel for providence is animalistic in nature. Consider the great loss such people experience!
Humanity has the greatest need for providence. God Almighty created humanity as a mirror to reflect His Names, as a miracle of Power able to weigh and recognize the contents of His Mercy’s treasuries, and as a vicegerent on the Earth able to measure His Names’ most subtle manifestations. Given this, humanity needs all kinds of material and spiritual providence. Having such a comprehensive nature, people can attain the highest rank (being creation’s “best pattern”) only through thanksgiving. Without it, they commit a most dire sin and fall to the lowest rank.
There are four pillars of the way of being a worshipping and (thereby) beloved servant of God, as stated in the following:
In the way depending on awareness of one’s impotence before God, four things are essential, the most important of which is thanksgiving: acknowledgement of one’s absolute impotence (ajzi mutlaq), and poverty (fakri mutlaq), and absolute zeal (shawki mutlaq) and thanksgiving (sukri mutlaq).
God, through Your Mercy cause us to be among the thankful, O Most Compassionate of the Compassionate. Glory be to You. We know only what You teach us. You are All-Knowing, All-Wise. O God, bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the lord of the thankful and the praising, his family and Companions. Amen.
Their last call is: “All praise be to God.” (10:10)
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi