When God loves people He afflicts them. If they endure with fortitude, He chooses them. If they are grateful, He elects them. Some men and women are grateful to God for His wrathfulness and some for His graciousness. Both are good, for gratitude is the antidote for all occasions, changing wrath into grace. The wise and complete servant is grateful for harsh treatment, both publicly and in private, for with the voice of gratitude comes the inspiration to give more. Even if God sends them to the lowest reaches of Hell, through gratitude God’s purpose is advanced.
Outward complaining is a reflection of inward complaining to God. Mohammed said, “I laugh as I slay.” That means, “My laughter in the face of attackers slays their anger and hatred.” Laughter, here, is gratitude in place of complaining.
It is related that a certain Jew lived next door to one of the Companions. This Jew lived in an upper room, from which all kinds of dirt and filth, the piddle of his children, the water his clothes were washed in, fell into the Muslim’s apartment below. Yet the Muslim always thanked the Jew, and instructed his family to do the same. For eight years this continued, until the Muslim died. Then the Jew, while visiting the Muslim’s apartment, to condole with the family, saw all the filth and how it came from his upper room. He realized what had happened during the past years, and was filled with sorrow. He said to the Muslim’s household, “Why on earth didn’t you tell me? Why did you always thank me?” They replied, “Our father told us to always be grateful, and chided us if we ever gave up being grateful.” So the Jew became a believer.
Examples of virtuous women and men
Encourage the development of virtues within,
Like the melodious minstrel’s rhyme
Inspires the passing of wine.
For this reason, God, who is All-powerful and All-forgiving, thanked His prophets and servants for what they did for Him. Now, gratitude for milk to drink is a blessing, but gratitude for those who suck the breast is a Divine blessing. Although the breast is full, until you suck it the milk does not flow.
Someone asked: “What is it that prevents gratitude?”
Rumi answered: Inordinate greed, for no matter how much people have, greed wants more. Since they get less than what their heart is set upon, they cannot be grateful. But people are unaware of their own defect, and they cannot see the flaw that taints the coin they offer.
Greed is like eating raw meat – inevitably it makes you sick. Once we realize we have eaten something rotten, a purge becomes necessary. God, in His wisdom, makes us suffer through ingratitude to purge and rid us of that corrupt conceit, lest that one sickness becomes a hundred sicknesses.
“And we tried them with good things and evil,
That gratefully they should return.”
That is to say, “We planned for people in ways they do not know, such as when they avoid seeing secondary causes as partners with God.” It is for this reason that Abu Yazid said, “Lord, I have never associated anything else with You.” And God said, “O Abu Yazid, not even on the night of the milk? You said one night, ‘This milk has done me harm.’ It is I who create all harm and benefit.” Abu Yazid had seen the secondary causes as separate from God, so God showed him up as a believer in many causes and said, “It is I who harmed you, after the milk and before the milk. I made that milk so you would sin, and I made that harm as a correction to teach you, like a teacher’s punishment.”
When a teacher says, “Don’t eat the fruit,” if the students eat it, and the teacher beats them on the soles of their feet, it is not right for the pupils to say, “We ate the fruit and it hurt our feet.” In the same way, whoever refuses to acknowledge that all things are partners to God, God uses ingratitude to cleanse their spirit from the weeds of believing in many causes. A little with God is much.
The difference between giving praise and giving thanks is that thanks are given for benefits we receive. No one says, “I give thanks for that person’s beauty and bravery.” Praise giving is less personal.