The gratitude of a slave is better than the blessings of this world: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote the following in part of his great work Jaami’ al-‘Uloom w’al-Hikam, a detailed a thorough commentary on Imam al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadeeth:

وقال أبو بكر بن عبدالله ما قال عبد قط الحمد لله مرة إلا وجبت عليه نعمة بقوله الحمد لله فما جزى تلك النعمة جزاءها أن يقول الحمد لله فجاءت نعمة أخرى فلا تنفد نعماء الله

Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abdullah said, “A slave never says al-Hamdulillaah one time except that he must receive a blessing for his saying al-hamdulillaah.” So what is the proper response to that blessing? Its response is to say al-hamdulillaah, and so there will come another blessing, and so the blessings of Allah never cease.

وقد روى ابن ماجه من حديث أنس رضي الله عنه مرفوعًا إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ما أنعم الله على عبد نعمة فقال الحمد لله إلا كان الذي أعطى أفضل مما أخذ وروينا نحوه من حديث شهر بن حوشب عن أسماء بنت يزيد مرفوعًا أيضًا وروي هذا عن الحسن البصري من قوله

And Ibn Maajah has narrated the marfoo’ hadeeth of Anas (raadi Allaahu ‘anhu), “Allah never bestows a blessing upon a slave and he then the slave says ‘al-hamdulillaah‘ except that Allah gives him something better than that which he takes.” And we have also narrated the likes of that from the marfoo’ hadeeth of Shahr ibn Hawshab from Asmaa’ bint Yazeed. And this is narrated from Hasan al-Basri from his own statement.

وكتب بعض عمال عمر بن عبدالعزيز إليه إني بأرض قد كثرت فيها النعم حتى لقد أشفقت على أهلها من ضعف الشكر فكتب إليه عمر إني قد كنت أراك أعلم بالله لما أنت إن الله لم ينعم على عبد نعمة فحمد الله عليها إلا كان حمده أفضل من نعمته لو كنت لا تعرف ذلك إلا في كتاب الله المنزل قال الله تعالى ‏{‏وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ عِلْمًا وَقَالا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي فَضَّلَنَا عَلَى كَثِيرٍ مِّنْ عِبَادِهِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ‏}‏ النمل وقال تعالى ‏{‏وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ زُمَرًا حَتَّى إِذَا جَاؤُوهَا وَفُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا‏}‏ إلى قوله ‏{‏وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي صَدَقَنَا وَعْدَهُ‏}‏ الزمر أي نعمة أفضل من دخول الجنة

One of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez’s governors’ wrote to him, “Verily I am in a land in which there are abundant blessings, to the extent that I fear for its people that they will be weak in showing gratitude.” So ‘Umar wrote back to him, “I used to think that you knew Allah better than you do. Verily Allah never bestows a blessing on a slave and then the slave praise Allah for it except that his praise is better than His blessing. You would only have apprehended this from the revealed Book of Allah wherein Allah the Exalted said, “And We had certainly given to Dawood and Sulayman knowledge, and they said, ‘Praise belongs to Allah, who has favored us over many of His believing servants.’” [27:15], and He said, “But those who feared their Lord will be driven to Paradise in groups until, when they reach it while its gates have been opened and its keepers say, “Peace be upon you; you have become pure; so enter it to abide eternally therein,” And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has fulfilled for us His promise” [39:72-73]. And which blessing is better than entrance into al-Jannah.

وقد ذكر ابن أبي الدنيا في كتاب الشكر عن بعض العلماء أنه صوب هذا القول أعني قول من قال إن الحمد أفضل من النعمة وعن ابن عيينة أنه خطأ قائله وقال لا يكون فعل العبد أفضل من فعل الرب عز وجل

And ibn Abi al-Dunya mentioned in his Kitaab al-Shukr that some of the ‘ulamaa’ that they regarded this statement as correct – by which I mean the statement of those who say that praising Allah is better than the blessing. And it has been narrated from ibn ‘Uyaynah that he considered the person who said that to be mistaken, and he said, “The action of the slave cannot be better than the action of the Lord – Mighty and Majestic is He.”

ولكن الصواب قول من صوبه فإن المراد بالنعم النعم الدنيوية كالعافية والرزق والصحة ودفع المكروه ونحو ذلك والحمد لله هو من النعم الدينية وكلاهما نعمة من الله لكن نعمة الله على عبده بهدايته لشكر نعمه بالحمد عليها أفضل من النعمة الدنيوية على عبده فإن النعم الدنيوية إن لم يقترن بها الشكر كانت بلية كما قال أبو حازم كل نعمة لا تقرب من الله فهي بلية فإذا وفق الله عبده للشكر على نعمه الدنيوية بالحمد أو غيره من أنواع الشكر كانت هذه النعمة خيرًا من تلك النعم وأحب إلى الله عز وجل فإن الله يحب المحامد ويرضى عن عبده أن يأكل الأكلة فيحمده عليها ويشرب الشربة فيحمده عليها والثناء بالنعم والحمد عليها وشكرها عند أهل الجود والكرم أحب إليهم من أموالهم فهم يبذلونها طلبا للثناء والله عز وجل أكرم الأكرمين وأجود الأجودين فهو يبذل نعمه لعباده ويطلب منهم الثناء بها وذكرها منهم والحمد عليها ويرضى منهم بذلك شكرا عليها وإن كان ذلك كله من فضله عليهم وهو غير محتاج إلى شكرهم لكنه يحب ذلك من عباده حيث كان صلاح العبد وفلاحه وكماله فيه .

However the correct position is that of the person who regarded the statement as being correct, because the intended meaning of blessing refers to the blessings of the dunya, such as well-being, sustenance, health, protection from the disliked things, and so on. And praising Allah is one of the blessings of the deen, and both are blessing from Allah, but Allah’s blessing His slave with guiding him to shukr (gratitude) for His blessing by way of praising Him is more virtuous than the blessing of this dunya upon His slave. For verily worldly blessings, if not accompanied with gratitude, are a test, just as Abu Haazim said, “Every blessing which does not bring one closer to Allah is a trial.” So when Allah causes the gratitude of His slave to correspond with a worldly blessing through praising or through some other type of gratitude, then this blessing is better than those blessings and more beloved to Allah – the Mighty and Majestic. For verily Allah loves praise and is pleased with His slaves that when they eat food, they would praise Him for it, and when they drink something, they would praise Him for it. Commendation and praise for blessings and showing gratitude for them is more beloved for generous and magnanimous people than their own wealth, for they spend from it generously seeking commendation, and Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – is the most noble of the noble ones and the most generous of the generous ones.  He gives His blessings freely to His slaves and He seeks commendation from them for that, and His remembrance, and praise for that, and He is pleased with that from as an expression of gratitude. And verily that is from His gracious bounty upon them, and He is not in need for their gratitude; rather He loves that from His slaves since the uprightness, success and complete perfection of His slaves lies in that [i.e. in their being grateful to Him].

ومن فضله سبحانه أنه نسب الحمد والشكر إليهم وإن كان من أعظم نعمه عليهم وهذا كما أنه أعطاهم ما أعطاهم من الأموال واستقرض منهم بعضه ومدحهم بإعطائه والكل ملكه ومن فضله ولكن كرمه اقتضى ذلك‏

And from His graces – Exalted is He – is that He ascribes praise and gratitude to them, even though it is one of His greatest blessings upon them. And this is just as if He had given them what He gave them of wealth and property and them asked them to loan Him some of it and even praised them for giving it, whereas all of it is His property and from His grace, however His noble generosity requires that.

[Jaami’ al-‘Uloom w’al-Hikam 2/82-84]

For more excerpts from this same work, click here.

See also: “Work, O family of Dawood, in Gratitude”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: “He made for you hearing and vision and intellect in order for you to be grateful”

See also: Eemaan has two halves: Sabr and Shukr

See also: “So remember me; I will remember you. And be grateful to me and do not deny Me”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The perfection of Allah’s generosity and goodness towards His slaves: Ibn Rajab

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7 thoughts on “The gratitude of a slave is better than the blessings of this world: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

  1. Pingback: “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: “Work, O family of Dawood, in gratitude”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: The perfection of Allah’s generosity and goodness towards His slaves: Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: The Names of Allah: al-Ghanī – explanation of Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: “We showed him the way, either he will be grateful or ungrateful”: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

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