He gives you a drink of His sweet nectar because He has wanted you from the beginning. Thank Him because if He had not wanted you, you could not have reached.
– Sidi Mohammad Al Jamal.
Around Thanksgiving, I feel inspired to share the jewels of gratitude that have unfolded for me on the Sufi way. For me gratitude is not merely a requirement in walking the path, but it is a precious tool that has helped me through many aspects of surrender, peace and re-alignment.
First of all, it is not the verbal, mechanical “thank you” that is the point of emphasis here, though that is a great place to start! What is deeply instilled through the teachings of the Prophetic way is above and beyond table manners and cultural etiquette.
For me Gratitude, or Shukr, is the doorway to going deeper.
Hidden in gratitude are the qualities of peace, forbearance and acceptance. Opening our hearts and accepting what God is making for us is a form of patience and forbearance. When we rely on Allah and accept whole-heartedly that which is unfolding before us, we accept in the deepest places of our being, and we are actually practicing Tawakkul, which is trust and reliance on God. Over time this becomes an ongoing state of contentment, as we learn to be thankful for the present no matter what we are witnessing. At the level of the soul, gratitude confirms that the Unity is the Truth. The Unity is True and Real and we can witness it with Rida or acceptance, and surrender to the present. It is the knowing and the conviction that “no single person or event can bring me down.”
Gratitude brings the resilience that one needs to walk through any unsupportive trigger. For many Sufis, offering thanks is the go-to form of tawba or return. Let me explain. Within the dhikr of gratitude, Alhamdulillah wa Shukr Allah, “I praise God and thank God,” is hidden the jewel of return, realignment and a healing equilibrium. The dhikr can help us let go of needing things to look a certain way so we can accept and receive what is given. When witnessing disappointment, gratitude is the fastest way to clear and realign with divine bounty. It is a way to witness support and open up to hope, inspiration and stability for ourselves.
Transitions in walking
As a beginner on the path, one of the things I struggled with was when the nafs was high from success or an accomplishment, this inevitably led to a tragic emotional low, down-in-the-dumps state that I could not shake off for weeks at a stretch. This is a common emotional crash because the nafs fails to integrate the high after an achievement, a job well done, an appreciation, a compliment, or an acknowledgement of hard work. Does anyone relate to this? This was a pattern for me.
Typically the high is followed by an inexplicable low, as one is unable to integrate the rush from achievement or even praise. For me the pattern meant that I would typically need to go and share the occurrence with a friend, a confidant. Within a matter of minutes, I was long-faced and mopey. Of course, as with every other visible pattern, one brings it up in healing sessions, takes it to Allah, and asks for guidance.
“My beloved Lord, my work has just been appreciated. What is the most beautiful way to be with this? What is most pleasing to You, my Lord?” It is inevitable that such a one-on-one interaction with the Most High naturally leads to an overwhelming state of love and gratitude. Here is the lesson. I was guided to recite Alhamdulillah, wa shukr Allah, “I praise God and thank God.” This enabled a beautiful transition, as I received the rush, the acceptance from Allah, and not a circumstance or person. I have learnt this well and now I can transition easily from a high to a state of peaceful exhilaration.
I often recite a round of 100 of this dhikr to integrate and calm down. There is a sense of deep satisfaction, and the urgency to go and tell someone fades away. I encourage you to try this out and share your experience with me.
In his book, Music of the Soul, Sidi Mohammad Al Jamal says:
I thank my God, thank my Beloved because He knows the truth of me, and I know the truth of Him. He has given me the real wine, and He has given me politeness, and He has put mercy inside me. He has put everything from Himself inside my heart and has made me what I am. I see the unity when I arrive at the knowing. He made me a slave for Him and He has taught me every order and has made me the beloved for Him.
If He had not helped me, how could I know? If He had not helped me, how could I have reached? If He had not helped me, how could I live in this holy life, to know the deep secret inside myself, and to know Him well? This is my God all the time. This is the truth. What are you?
Al-Haqiqat: The Station of the Truth
Sixth station of the heart