The Concept of Shukr in Islam

Published January 30, 2014

By Azra Pervez

As Muslims, it is our foremost duty to say shukr to Allah (SWT) for all of His blessings. It is helpful, therefore, to know in a deeper way what shukr is. We can describe three levels of thankfulness or gratitude:

  1. Shukr bil qalb: to realize and appreciate all blessings by and within the heart.
  2. Shukr bil lisaan: to say thanks with the tongue.
  3. Skukr bil jawarah: To express gratitude by doing righteous deeds.

In other words, the first level is the appreciativeness and gratefulness that we feel in our hearts. Then we fortify that thankfulness through our speech. And the third level is when we prove by our deeds that we are truly thankful to Allah (SWT).

In Surah Rahman, Allah (SWT) asks us the same question thirty-one times, “Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?”

As we open the Quran, the first surah starts with Alhamdulillah which is generally translated as “all praise is for Allah (SWT).” In reality, the word Alhamdulillah is the kalima-e-shukr in our everyday life. It’s for this reason that when someone asks us how we are, we respond with “Alhamdulillah.” When we wake up in the morning, according to sunnah, we are encouraged to say, “All praise is for Allah (SWT) who gives us life after our death and towards him we return.” We recite this du’a to give thanks to Allah (SWT) for He granted us one more day to struggle for our Akhira. Quran tells us that sleep is a temporary death as Allah (SWT) takes our souls while we sleep. He then returns some of the souls, and others He holds according to His Will. Therefore, as we wake up, we must be thankful to Him.

When we finish our meals, we should say, “All praise to Allah SWT who gives food and water, and makes us Muslim.” Here, we thank Him for all provisions He has blessed us with. Similarly, after drinking water, we are supposed to say Alhamdulillah. This highlights that if we are following Quran and Sunnah then our entire life revolves around shukr.

In Surah Rahman, Allah (SWT) asks us the same question thirty-one times, “Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” Allah (SWT) has created us and then made this dunya for us. We are getting benefits from all of His creations such as the sun, moon, clouds, rain, air, grasslands, rivers, oceans and countless other bounties of the natural world! After realizing all this abundance, how can a sensible person be anything but thankful to Allah (SWT).

Allah SWT reminds us, “The seven heavens and the earth and all who dwell in them give glory to Him. There is not a single thing that is not chanting His praise yet you cannot understand their praise. He is ever forbearing, forgiving” (Quran, 17:44). Ironically, we humans are the only ones who forget to be grateful to Him. Allah (SWT) ends the above verse by emphasizing that He is forgiving. It’s for this reason that we are not punished right away. Rather He gives us time to realize our mistakes and make amends.

Naturally, at times we may wonder who the real beneficiary of the gratitude we show to Allah (SWT) is. In Surah Ibrahim, Allah (SWT) answers, “If you are thankful I will add more (favors) unto you but if you show ingratitude then my punishment is terrible indeed” (14:7). This verse proves that our shukr is beneficial for us alone, and our ingratitude is harmful to us alone. The intelligent individuals who comprehend this basic teaching of Islam are referred to as ulul albab (those who are wise, who possess a mature and comprehending intellect).

Allah (SWT) gives us an example, “And verily we gave Luqman wisdom saying ‘Be grateful to Allah.’ And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever denies [His favor] – then indeed, Allah is free of need and Praiseworthy“ (Quran, 31:12). Luqman is recognized with the title of “The wise” just because he is thankful to Allah (SWT). Luqman recognizes that Allah (SWT) is the one who grants everything so therefore He is the One who deserves shukr. May Allah (SWT) give us wisdom to give thanks for all blessings by which we survive and thrive day after day.

Ibrahim (AS) describes Allah’s blessings in the most beautiful way: “…Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink; and when I am ill, it is He who cures me; and who will cause me to die and then bring me to life; and who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on the day of Judgment.” (Quran 26:78-85). All of us can make this or similar du’a, but if we want our du’as to be accepted then we must strive to be as dedicated and as thankful as Ibrahim (AS) was.

As a true guide, the Quran gives us multiple examples of supplications that express gratitude and ask Allah SWT to facilitate our thankfulness. We can make du’a to Allah SWT with the beautiful words of Sulaiman (AS). In Surah Namal, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants.” (Quran 27:19)

The Quran is full of verses which invite us to follow the straight path, distinguishing between truth and falsehood. There are rewards for the grateful servants, and punishments for the ungrateful human beings. Allah (SWT) and His messengers show us the way of Ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful) and warn us to avoid the way of Shaitaan. He has given us the ability to discern right from wrong; therefore, the choice is ours! Do we want to be part of the righteous or the misguided people?

In surah Nisa, Allah (SWT) asks us a simple question: “Why should Allah punish you if you give thanks to Him, and truly believe in Him? It is Allah that is recognizer [of all your good actions] and knower [of all things] (Quran, 4:147). Allah (SWT) loves us 70 times more than our mother. He is the one who sent 124,000 messengers and numerous holy books to guide us. Now, it is our job to understand our religion and follow it. In the above verse, Allah (SWT) mentions shukr first and then eman. Similarly, the first surah of the Quran gives us a lesson on shukr, and the second surah invites us towards eman. Allah (SWT) is emphasizing that eman can only come once we are thankful to Him. Therefore, shukr guides us to the path of eman.

May Allah SWT give us the taufeeq to have shukr bil qalb, shukr bil lissan and shukr bil jawarah. Ameen.


Azra PervezAuthor

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