Ibn Juzay: On Thanks [shukr]

Ibn Juzay al-Kalbī began his exegesis of the Quran with a short introduction to the various disciplines related to explaining the Quran. One of the topics he included is sufism. The basic concern of sufism is the heart: knowing its good and bad qualities, how to rid it of bad qualities, and how to instill it with the good. Ibn al-Juzay explained its inclusion, saying that that sufism is “connected to the Quran since the Quran mentions divine knowledge, struggling against the self [nafs], and illuminating and purifying hearts via obtaining praiseworthy character and avoiding blameworthy character.” He then enumerated twelve topics related to sufism which he would explain in his tafsīr.

The first topic he mention was thanks.

Thanks [shukr]

Allah Most High says, “Praise is [owed] to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,” [Q1:2].

Praise [ḥamd] is more general than thanks [shukr], since thanks exists only as a reward for a blessing while praise is a reward like thanks and [also] an initiatory exaltation. But thanks may also be more general than praise since praise is with the tongue, whereas thanks is with the tongue, heart, and limbs.

If you understood the generality of praise, then you have learned that your saying “Praise is [owed] to Allah,” entails exalting Him for all He is: His majesty, greatness, oneness, might, superiority, knowledge, capability, wisdom, and other attributes. It includes the meanings of all His ninety-nine beautiful names. And it entails thanking Him and exalting Him for every blessing He gave and mercy that He brought about to all of His creation in this life and the next.

And what words it contains, which volumes would be incapable of [recording], and the intellects of mankind fall short of counting! It should suffice you that Allah made “Praise is [owed] to Allah” the beginning of His book, and the final call for the people of Paradise.2

Thanking with the tongue is exalting the Bestower and talking about blessings. The Prophet said, “Talking about blessings is thanks.”3

Thanking with the limbs is through acts: by obeying Allah and leaving disobedience.

Thanking with the heart is knowing the numerous favors one receives, solely from Allah, and as a courtesy – not because the servant deserves it.

Categories of Thanks

Know that the blessings that must be thanked are innumerable, though they are confined to three categories:

1. Worldly blessings (such as well-being and property);

2. religious blessings (such as knowledge and Godfearingness [taqwā]); and

3. Afterlife blessings (which is being recompensed with much reward for little work during a short life).

Stations of Thanks

People are in two stations regarding thanks:

1. Those thanking the blessings that reach them specifically; and

2. those thanking Allah on behalf of all His creation for the blessings that reach them all.

Degrees of Thanks

Thanks is in three levels. The level of the commoner is thanks for blessings. The level of the elite is thanks for blessings, adversities, and for all conditions. The level of the elite of the elite is to lose sight of blessings due to witnessing the Bestower.

A man said to Ibrāhīm bin Adham, “The poor are thankful when given nothing, and give preference to others when they receive.”

One of the virtues of thanks is that it is an attribute of Allah and an attribute of people, since His names include the Thanker (“Al-Shākir”) and the Grateful (“Al-Shakūr”).

An excerpt from Ibn Juzay’s Sufic Exegesis on thanks. You can find it and our other books on our publications page.