Assalāmu ‘Alaykum! I hope and pray that you are all doing well and this communique reaches you in the best state of physical, mental, and spiritual health. One of the things that the school began doing last year was the inclusion of a monthly school-wide, character-based value. Each month, teachers across the subject spectrum conduct a lesson or lessons based on the theme of that month. This month the theme aligns with the idea of the American tradition of Thanksgiving and subsequently the theme is gratitude/shukur.
Embedded in this tradition, is something that transcends beyond just an American holiday. Aside from the roots of how this tradition was established in our nation, the concept behind the holiday speaks volumes, and the first volume we find is when we look at the concept of gratitude through a simple historical glance after the inception of Adam (as) and his rivalry with Iblees/Shaytan.
We are all familiar with the classic narrative between our father Adam (as) and what Allah (swt) has referred to as our mortal enemy: Shaytan. Shaytan believing himself to be a superior creation to Adam did not subject himself to the will of Allah. His arrogance and self-righteousness drew the ire of Allah (swt) thus earning his expulsion from God’s divine court as well as the wrath and curse of Allah (swt) -- an interesting side note here is that Shaytan is the only being ever to be cursed by name while all other curses by Allah have involved an action or behavior of ill repute. But it’s what Shaytan says when he is told to leave and never come back is the statement we should analyze a bit more.
To paraphrase the Quranic verse and to provide a visual, in a huff of revulsion and seeming betrayal Shaytan turns to Allah (swt) and hurls insults to his creator and the new creation. Aside from saying that he will lay in wait and lead astray all of man (which became his nature), he says that Adam and his progeny will never be grateful of the blessings bestowed upon them. A litany of books, whether secular or religious, have been written about the very nature of this statement: man doth not show gratitude for the blessings he/she has been given. The unique part of Shaytan’s statement is that his repudiation of Adam and God’s will is not simply stemming from the fact that he believes he is better than Adam (as), but he knows that this new creation will reside in ignorance of the unending gifts of God: eyesight, cognition, and even something a simple as our thumb (which gives the humanity the ability to write). This secondary statement is something that should worry us even more than Shaytan lying in wait for us, for the concept of showing and giving gratitude is a proaction of the will (emanating authentically), and not a reaction from an existential threat.
This authentic reaction has been proven to reap various benefits, the best of which is tranquility/sakina (contentment, ease, peace etc.). In a world where people are adamant about searching for meaning as a precursor to happiness and tranquility, the secret lies ironically enough with what Shaytan stated we won’t do: express gratitude. Copious amounts of scientific articles and studies have been published that show the benefits of thankfulness. Whether they be people of faith or sans any belief in their creator, Allah has placed a barakah in the action of gratefulness which if utilized more often -- regardless of the religious or non-religious context -- would bring mankind the serenity she/he is looking for.
Believe it or not, as Muslim Americans, we understand the foundation of thankfulness more than anyone. The actions we take on a daily basis such as salah, saying bismillah when we eat or get up, and even wudu is a testimony and testament of our thankfulness to Allah (swt). Allah has embedded these gratefulness principles into our daily lives and for that alone we should be grateful. However, I say we do need to do one more thing: we need to thank others, for the prophet Mohammed (s) said, “He who does not thank the people, is not thankful to Allah.”
The acts of salah, wudu, and even charity have become unconscious habits of shukur, and we should know that although these unconscious habits are part and parcel of our normal routine, we must make a conscious effort to reach out to others per the aforementioned hadith. In order to do something like that, this week or this month, dedicate some time to thank your spouse, if you still have a parent that is alive call them, if you have not touched base with a close friend reach out to them. However, don’t simply say thanks, recall a moment or moments in your life where they did something for you, a particular action or sentiment that they gave you and thank them for that specifically. When we specify something, we amplify its meaning and value.
There is one more thing that you can also do to help put the previous hadith into action. There is thankfulness practice that is sourced from the loving kindness meditation techniques; it is very simple but has a compounding effect on your own tranquility. Take two minutes out of your time today to wish love, kindness, and wellness to two people. These people may be your loved ones, friends, co-workers or even people you may not have the best relationship with. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and simply from the core of your heart wish them well. This technique not only helps to “actionize” the hadith, but you will find yourself in a dramatically different state of sukoon upon its completion.
Although Thanksgiving and the break (11/25-11/27) are nearly two weeks away, I want to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. May it be a time where we pause, reflect and put into action the sentiments of gratitude that beat in the heart of our faith.
Next Week @ GIS:
The entire week and into the following week is Social Circles Week for all grades. Please see the schedule below
Some say life is a dance, others say it’s a wrestling match, but George J. Thompson begs to differ. For him, life is a judo match played over and over again with people of all walks of life. This book is a gem of a find and helps you understand and implement verbal techniques to avoid conflict, earn people’s trust, and create a world filled with less conflict and more harmony. George J. Thompson is a former police officer with a Ph.D. in English. His background alone sets the stage for real life examples and real life dangers that he was able to work around. This has instantly become one of my favorite books of all time as the ideas in it are not mired in theory and verbal complexity; they can be incorporated into your life the very moment you read it while also providing immediate returns and life lessons.
Contemplative Quote: Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties - Erich Fromm
Sounds counter intuitive, but we need to take comfort in the notion that certainty is a sedentary illusion. When we get comfortable, we slow down to a standstill and the result is not forward movement nor regression but a lull into sedation. Creativity is a commodity of the present and the future, and if we can equip ourselves and our children with the tools to be adaptive and agile, they will be able to thrive in a world whose horizons are forever changing.