وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا
Wakānallāhu shākiran ‘alimā
And Allah is appreciative, all-knowing
(Sūrat al-Nisā, No 4, Āyat 147)
To thank someone is to respond to their act of kindness towards you and express appreciation for it. The Arabic word is ‘shukr’. Being grateful is a noble quality highly encouraged in Islam. According to the Quran, Almighty Allah is also Shākir – grateful. (See Q 2:158, 4:147) and Shakūr – appreciative and grateful (See Q 35:30, 42:23). The word ‘shakūr’ denotes a higher level of gratitude. The question that arises is that Allah ‘azza wajall Himself is the source of all kindness and good. No one can be kind to Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā or do Him a favor. Then what does it mean for Allah to be Shākir and Shakūr?
The answer can be derived by understanding the Divine gratitude in three different ways:
1) Gratitude of Allah (swt) refers to the rewards that He will give for the good deeds. His gratitude is acknowledging the good you do through the reward He grants you. In Tafsīr Majma’ al-Bayān Shaykh Tabarsī explains the word ‘mashkūrā’ in Q 76:22 as ‘the acceptance of your deeds and the worthy reward given to you, is like you have been thanked’.
2) Allah ‘azza wajall is appreciative of the good done by the human being. Almighty Allah is the doer of all good and no one can do anything for Him such that he would expect gratitude from Him. But due to His Graciousness, He considers the good actions of the human being as a form of Ihsān – good done to Him. The Quran supports this understanding of Allah’s ‘gratitude’ as a form of Ihsān. It says: Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness (Q 55:60) and This is your reward and your efforts have been well-appreciated (Q 76:22). Al-Shakūr is one the ninety names of Allah ‘azza wajall which means ‘the Most Appreciative’ for He appreciates even the smallest of deeds.
3) Allah (swt) is the source of all gratitude. Thinking that God is grateful is just a superficial understanding. The actual reality it is that no one has gratitude that is independent from Allah. All gratitude, just like all other beautiful qualities, come from Him. The essential grateful being is none other than Allah Himself.
The gratitude of Almighty Allah could be understood somewhat better when we think of a parent or a teacher who tells a child to do something. They guide the child, teach him how to do it, give him the necessary tools etc. When he does it correctly, they thank him. They did not need the action but are keen to have the child perform it for his own good. When he does it, they are happy at the child’s step forward. They may reward the child in different ways to express their happiness. Their ‘gratitude’ is different from the gratitude of the child who acknowledges the good they have done to him in helping him to do the action.
Noble human beings reflect the noble qualities of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. Let this name of Allah remind you of the importance of gratitude in the journey towards Him. It is an attribute of Allah, manifested in His relationship with the human being.