وَأَسْبَغَ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعَمَهُ ظَاهِرَةً وَبَاطِنَةً
Wa-asbagha ‘alaykum ni‘amahu zāhiratan wabātinah
He has showered upon you His blessings, the outward, and the inward.
(Sūrat Luqmān, No.31, Āyat 20)
This verse is part of a question that Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘ālā asks human beings. Have they not considered how creation is subservient to the human being, and how He has showered upon them many blessings? To respond to this question, and implement its answer in our lives we need to reflect on some of the words and insights from this verse.
The word ‘asbagha’ can mean:
a. To make complete, or perfect. It is not only that Allah ‘azza wa-jall gave blessings, but that He made those blessings perfect and complete.
b. To spread out widely. The word was originally used for a shirt that was wide and loose. Here it signifies that blessings are abundant and envelope the human being.
The outward and inward blessings can refer to different aspects of the bounties that Almighty Allah has blessed us with. Outward blessings include those which are very obvious and cannot be denied. The blessing of life, sustenance, family, health, the human body, the senses, etc. Inward blessings are those that require reflection to understand. These include awareness, intelligence, free will, faith, spirituality, a pleasant temperament, tranquility, help of Allah, etc.
Tafsīr Majma‘ul Bayan quotes a Hadith from the Holy Prophet (s) which narrates that Ibn Abbas asked him about the meaning of inward blessings. The Prophet replied: O Ibn Abbas, the outward blessing is Islam and the perfection of creation and the order found it, and the types of sustenance available. The inward blessing is the concealing of your faults by Allah and not humiliating you in front of others. The Prophet then continued: O Ibn Abbas, Allah has said, ‘I have granted three things to the believer although they are not from him. The first is that after his death I will give him the good that his friends (and relatives) do for him. Secondly I have put one third of his wealth in his hands so that by spending it he can procure the atonement for his sin. And thirdly I have concealed his wrong doings and sins in the world otherwise even the close ones would flee from him’.
The aforementioned Tafsīr also quotes a Hadith from Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (a): The outward blessing is the Prophet and belief in Allah and Tawhīd which the Prophet brought. But the inward blessing is the Wilayah of us, the Ahlul Bayt, and establishing love for us.
These are some of the manifestations of outward and inward blessings. When being grateful to Allah don’t stop at the blessings that are obvious and visible. Think beyond those, to the all-encompassing mercy of Allah that has blessed us with a lot of inner faculties which help us in the journey of life. Let this verse remind you of the not so obvious blessings of Allah. It will help you attain the happiness and peace of mind that true gratitude brings.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma’ul Bayan; ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.