Discourse 48

Gratitude is a hunting and a shackling of benefits. When you hear the voice of gratitude, you get ready to give more. When God loves a servant He afflicts him; if he endures with fortitude, he chooses him; if he is grateful, He elects him. Some men are grateful to God for His wrathfulness and some are grateful to Him for His graciousness. Each of the two classes is good; for gratitude is a sovereign antidote, changing wrath into grace. The intelligent and perfect man is he who is grateful for harsh treatment, both openly and in secret; for it is he whom God has elected. If God’s will be the bottom reach of Hell, by gratitude His purpose is hastened.

For outward complaining is a diminution of inward complaining. Muhammad said, peace be upon him, ‘I laugh as I slay.’ That means, ‘My laughing in the face of him who is harsh to me is a slaying of him.’ The intention of laughter is gratitude in the place of complaining.

It is related that a certain Jew lived next door to one of the Companions of God’s Messenger. This Jew lived in an upper room, whence descended into the Muslim’s apartment all kinds of dirt and filth, the piddle of his children, the water his clothes were washed in. Yet the Muslim always thanked the Jew, and bade his family do the same. So things continued for eight years, until the Muslim died. Then the Jew entered his apartment, to condole with the family, and saw all the filth there, and how it issued from his upper room. So he realised what had happened during the past years, and was exceedingly sorry, and said to the Muslim’s household, ‘Why on earth didn’t you tell me? Why did you always thank me? they replied, ‘Our father used to bid us be grateful, and chided us against ceasing to be grateful.’ So the Jew became a believer.

The mentioning of virtuous men
Encourages to virtue then,
Just as the minstrel with his song.
Urges the wine to pass along.

For this reason God has mentioned in the Koran His prophets and those of His servants who were righteous, and thanked them for what they did unto Him who is All-powerful and All-forgiving.

Gratitude for sucking the breast is a blessing. Though the breast be full, until you suck it the milk does not flow.

Someone asked: What is the cause of ingratitude, and what is that prevents gratitude?

The Master answered: The preventer of gratitude is inordinate greed. For whatever a man may get, he was greedy for more. It was inordinate greed that impelled him to that, so that when he got less than what he had set his heart upon his greed prevented him from being grateful. So he was heedless of his own defect, and heedless also of the defect and adulteration of the coin he proffered.

Raw and inordinate greed is like eating raw fruit and raw bread and raw meant; inevitably it generates sickness and begets ingratitude. When a man realises that he has eaten something unwholesome, a purge becomes necessary. God, most high in His wisdom, makes him suffer through ingratitude so that he may be purged and rid of that corrupt conceit, lest that one sickness become a hundred sicknesses.

And we tried them with good things and evil, that haply they should return.

That is to say: We made provision for them from whence they had never reckoned, namely the unseen world, so that their gaze shrinks form beholding the secondary causes, which are as it were partners to God. It was in this sense that Abú Yazid said, ‘Lord, I have never associated any with Thee.’ God most High said, ‘O Abú Yazid, not even on the night of the milk? You said one night, “The milk has done me harm.” It is I who do harm, and benefit.’ Abú Yazid has looked at the secondary cause, so that God reckoned him a polytheist and said, ‘It is I know do harm, after the milk and before the milk; but I made the milk for a sin, and the harm for a correction such as a teacher administers.’

When the teacher says, ‘Don’t eat the fruit,’ and the pupils eats it, and the teacher beats him on the sole of his foot, it is not right for the pupil to say, ‘I ate the fruit and it hurt my foot.’ On this basis, whoso preserves his tongue from ascribing partners to God, God undertakes to cleanse his spirit of the weeds of polytheism. A little with God is much.

The difference between giving praise and giving thanks is that thanks given for benefits received. One does not say, ‘I gave thanks to him for his beauty and his bravery.’. Praise giving is more general.

Notes:
‘The mentioning of virtuous men’: quoted from Sana’i, Hadiqa, p.582.
‘And We tried them’: Koran VII 166