إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ وَإِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ
Innal-insāna lirabbihi lakanūd, wa-innahū ‘alā dhālika lashahīd
Indeed, man is ungrateful to his Lord and indeed he is witness to that!
(Sūratِ al-‘Āadiyāt No.100, Āyāt 6-7)
This verse tells us about the human being who has not refined and trained himself. He does not rein in his desires and submits to the potential evil that lies within the human soul. Such a person is prone to ingratitude and miserliness. The oaths before this verse are on the Muslim soldiers and their efforts to defend Islam. Hence the ingratitude referred to in this verse is specifically about the rejection of the blessing of guidance, the biggest blessing of all. But it also incorporates all other forms of ingratitude.
The word kunūd has been interpreted in many ways. According to Tafsīr Majma’ al-Bayān it means overlooking blessings and focusing on flaws. Tafsīr Namūne gives the following understandings of the word as narrated by various commentators of the Quran:
1. A person who counts all his problems minutely but forgets his blessings.
2. One who enjoys the blessings of Allah (swt) by himself and deprives others of it.
3. One who does not show compassion to those in pain and grief.
4. One whose good is very minimal
5. One who when he receives a blessing, he denies others and when he is in difficulty he complains and laments.
All these meanings point to the same essence of ingratitude and miserliness.
The Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam once asked his companions, ‘Do you know who is kunūd?’ They replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ The Prophet then explained: It is a person who eats alone, refuses others, and beats his slave (those under him).
Not every human being is like this. Those who nurture good qualities within themselves and practice self-discipline are not guilty of such qualities. There are many for whom gratitude and generosity have become a second nature. Those who believe in God step out from the depths of self-indulgence. They take on the qualities of Allah, the Compassionate, the Generous. Such people are at peace while on earth; they also please the Lord, attaining happiness in the world and in the Hereafter.
The second part of the verse declares that the human being is aware of the lowly qualities he possesses. In the depths of his being he understands what he is like. He may be able to fool people, but he cannot deceive God or the conscience that lies within him. If he reflects a little, he will know that he is ungrateful and miserly. Even though shaytān often makes his evil seem justified and even good to the human being, the quality of kunūd is so clearly wrong that it becomes evident to the person. That is if he takes time to reflect and take account of himself.
Let this verse remind us of the seriousness of ingratitude. It is an evil quality and must be countered often with acts of gratitude and generosity. That is how a human being elevates himself.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma’ul Bayan; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh