The Relationship between Shukr, Sabr, Kufr and Shirk
Br Nouman Khan from Bayyinah Institute has been giving talks at my masjid throughout Ramadaan alhamdulillah and I wanted to share some points he mentioned from one talk that he gave about a few ayaat in surah Luqman which was absolutely amazing mashaAllah. May Allah ta’ala increase him in ‘ilm and ‘amal. Ameen.
Allah ta’ala says in Surah Luqman, ayah 12:
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ ۚ وَمَنْ يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom [and said], “Be grateful to Allah.” And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] his own self. And whoever denied [His favor] – then indeed, Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.
In this ayah, Allah ta’ala mentions two actions: Shukr (thankfulness) and Kufr (ungratefulness). What is their relationship? Shukr and Kufr are opposites. Usually when we think of kufr, the opposite that we think of is emaan (faith) but shukr is also an opposite. If you deny that someone did you a favor, why would you thank them? The kuffar (disbelievers) do not even ACKNOWLEDGE the blessings of Allah ta’ala, so they cannot do shukr of Him.
Allah inspired to Luqman: أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ, “be grateful to Allah”. If we look at the grammar of this phrase, “an ushkur lillah”, we see that it is fi’l amr, meaning a command. Why? Because shukr necessitates an action. We can say we are grateful with our tongues, but the real shukr comes when we SHOW it. For example, if we are thankful to Allah ta’ala for our hands, then we would not use our hands to sin, because it does not show gratitude.
Allah ta’ala continues:فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ , “and whoever is grateful, is grateful for the benefit of his own self”. Allah says “yashkuru”, which is present tense. Why? Because we cannot just give thanks ONCE, it is done constantly, we must be thankful continuously. Who benefits? The one who “is grateful is for the benefit of his own self”. It is only beneficial to yourself. Even showing gratitude to Allah is helping ourselves! So this teaches us that we can never show true gratitude to Allah, because that gratitude is in need of more gratitude. We can never give Allah’s Haqq, His due Right, subhanahu.
So how about those who don’t give thanks? Allah says: وَمَنْ كَفَرَ, wa man kafara, and whoever denied. It’s very interesting to see here that yashkuru is present tense while kafara is past tense. Ingratitude, unlike shukr, should not happen again and kufr only happens once. Here we learn that denying the favors of Allah is an act of kufr.
Let’s look at the sentence again: وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ, and whoever denied, then indeed Allah is Free of need, The Most Praiseworthy. Allah ta’ala doesn’t even mention the person who shows ingratitude. In the previous part, Allah said whoever showed thanks benefits himself, but this person’s recompense is not even mentioned. These people forgot about Allah, so Allah forgot them. Instead He azza wa jal mentions His Own Self afterwards:فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ , He is Ghaniyy and Hameed. Al Ghaniyy is the One who is Free from all needs, and Al Hameed is The Most Praiseworthy. Hamd is a combination of shukr (thanks) and thinaa (praise) so Al Hameed is the One who is constantly worthy of thanks and praise. He does not need our thanks and praise and He is worthy of all praise and thanks.
In the next ayah, Luqman advises his son: لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ ‘do not associate partners with Allah’. Luqman didn’t say “la takfur”, do not commit kufr, but he said “la tushrik”, do not associate partners, why? Because when you deny the favors of Allah, it is kufr, but if thank other than Allah, it is shirk. We know Luqman’s son was a believer but there is a danger that he, and us as well, might thank other than Allah for favors…like our own selves. You may say to someone: “MashaAllah, you have learned so much!”, and they responds: “yes, I’m really smart because I’ve been studying.” Instead of thanking Allah ta’ala, someone may attribute good to their ownselves and this is the subtle and hidden shirk known as riyaa.
The relationship: When one does shukr of Allah, which is shown through actions, they benefit their ownselves. If they deny His blessings, it is an act of kufr. If they thank other than Allah it is an act of shirk.
Now what is the relationship between Shukr and Sabr? We learn this from ayah 31, إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ ‘and in this is a sign for every continously patient person, one very grateful.’ And also Allah says in ayah 17, وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ‘and be patient over what befalls you’. Ingratitude (kufr) is a lack of sabr (patience). If you don’t have patience, then it will be easy for you to complain and deny the favors of Allah. When we are patient, then these small matters that people complain about will go unnoticed. When we ask someone nowadays how they’re doing, they may go into a list of problems they’re having. Maybe they’ll say ‘alhamdulillah’, but we would hear a lot of complaints. Can these complaints be compared to the favors and blessings of Allah? The blessings of Allah, according to Him, cannot even be enumerated.
Look at the example of Nuh alayhi salaam. We know he did da’wah for 950 years, but Allah says about him: إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا , ‘indeed he was a very grateful servant’ (17:3). Wouldn’t you think that Nuh alayhi salaam would be ‘abdan saboora, a patient servant? Why ‘abdan shakoora, a grateful servant? By Allah ta’ala calling Nuh a grateful servant, it shows us the type of patience he really had. With all of his problems, he found a way to thank Allah ta’ala! And this is why he is ‘abdan shakoora, a very grateful servant.
May Allah ta’ala make us among as shaakireen, and not amongst al kaafireen. Ameen.