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Salihah Central is an online Muslim Women’s community center. We offer programs and resources in order for women and children to develop spiritually in Islam.
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The Characteristics of Blessings
By: Our deeply respected and loved teacher,
Khale Sawsan (KS), from www.peacespective.org
"He who sleeps in safety in his home, healthy in his body and with enough provision for his day, it is as though he owns the world."
Many, many years ago, when my oldest was about a year old, I witnessed my friend play the ‘Thank you Allah’ game with her two year-old daughter. A few months later when my round-the-clock ‘morning sickness’ turned me into an invalid, unable to even prop up a book to read lying down, I found the game to be both a beneficial and fascinating distraction.
In my adult version of the game, I classified the blessings I wished to thank Allah for. There were the blessings I shared with anything in existence -- how special am I to be brought into existence by the Divine and to be given the chance to witness the wonder of creation and the Greatness of the Creator? Then there were the blessings I shared with anything living: the sun we all experience, the air that we breathe, the life-span we were granted, the ability to function each according to its species. Then those blessings I shared with people: the special gifts we have as humans, our ability to think to feel to plan to do.
The blessing of being a Muslim: the fact that I didn’t have to search, to seek, to stumble in order to find the truth. The blessing of believing in the religion most accessible to all human beings – a set of beliefs not exclusive to any level of intelligence or degree of sensibility; rather, like water which is beneficial to any age group, is Islam accessible to any level of spirituality. The blessing of Quran: were someone to uncover only one word which had to do with the existence and creation of the universe, people would be beside themselves with excitement; here we have the entire Quran -- all the very words of the Creator addressing each of us in person! Then there was the blessing of having a living Quran, a practical version of it in the life of our Messenger SAW and the ability through his actions to learn how a servant must be with his Lord, how a lover must be with his Beloved.
Next came the blessing of belonging to my unique family and those that were all my own, those who taught me love by loving me and those who taught me love by needing my love. There were blessings that had to do with my body: here I would try to think of each organ and each system and each gland. I remember how the first artificial heart made the news. The patient awaiting a matching donor was put on a device almost the size of a refrigerator which functioned as his temporary heart for a few days. I remember watching him on TV as he dragged his ‘heart’ heavily behind him. And I would think how my heart did the job of that device in a non-cumbersome compact soft organ that I didn’t have to wind before I slept or check on through the day. I thought of the blessing of being related to all my relatives and the blessing of the particular circumstances of my life. Under each category I thought of were countless gifts; and I soon found that three hours could pass without my having even scratched the surface of the layers of blessings I was suspended in. Since then I continue to discover categories of blessings I was never aware of before.
The last two months have been a time of adversity for me and I meant to write this blog on trials, but that will have to wait, for blessings come first – and last. Truly no time heightens one’s awareness to the extent of which we bask in blessings like adversity. So it is that I felt the need to try and capture in words some of the traits of blessings.
- The most obvious trait of blessings is their invisibility. They are invisible because we have grown callouses on our eyes that allow us to grow accustomed to them. They are invisible because we choose to focus on what we lack not what we have therefore we miss seeing them. They are invisible because they are ethereal in their nature. How many of us normally think of the blessing of being able to drink a glass of water or that of emptying our bladder? Yet when at the height of Muslim rule the Khalifah was asked what he would give for a glass of water were it to be withheld from him, he answered, “Half my kingdom.” And when again he was asked, what he would give if it were withheld in his body, for it to leave, he answered, “The other half.” An entire kingdom became worth a glass of water! The fact is on a normal day we seldom think of the blessing of so much that happens within our body, our lives and the universe that is not dependent upon us. Often we do not think of our health, safety and daily food unless something goes wrong and there is a lack. How sensitive are you to beauty? Are you able to appreciate the breathtaking beauty that you chance upon? How sensitive are you to miracles? Are you still able to wonder as a child does and as you should at the incredulous daily spectacles you encounter? There have been scenes I have witnessed when I felt were I to lose my sight then I will have satisfied the ultimate in seeing. There have been near-misses that I can never forget, and I continue to see those loved ones that were spared as walking miracles and living gifts.
- Blessings are innumerable. No matter how hard one tries to list all the possible categories of blessings, there are more. We are advised by the Prophet SAW to look at those who have less than us in order to appreciate what we have, but too often we look at those who we believe have more, and so we miss out on realizing how much we really have. The Quran states, “If you were to count the blessings of God, you couldn’t number them,” and Prophet Muhammad says, “Every morning you wake you need to thank God for the 360 moving bones or joints in your body.” What about all else that is functioning as well? What about the secret joys that are slipped into your heart regularly, the ability to remember, the ability to forget, the ability to learn and unlearn, the freedom to choose…Even when we believe we are lacking or missing blessings, it is to make us aware of blessings we enjoyed without realizing.
- Blessings are incessant. We are showered - no pelted by them. They exist before and after adversity, but the amazing thing is that they exist within the folds of every trial. They come in the form of steadfastness Allah gives one, or hidden relief, or unexpected closeness to God. Sometimes you feel them as a soft rain, other times as a strong shower but it is ceaseless and endless as long as you exist. In your sleep, forgetfulness and ignorance of them, they envelope you. In your acute awareness of them and deep gratitude, they surprise you with the realization that those particular feelings of appreciation are a blessing.
- Blessings are demanding. In their ephemeral nature they demand that you fasten them with thanks, that you prolong their stay with recognition, that you use them to offer practical gratitude to their Granter. Blessings nag at you, ‘Give of us, use us in practical thanks, be aware of us, share us!’ Once you are aware of blessings they can become relentless in their demand upon your time and effort to alleviate the hardship of those without.
- Blessings all come from one and the same source. “And what you have of blessings is from God.” You may, on a superficial level, believe you are indebted to certain people for certain matters, and of course the Messenger SAW says, “He who doesn’t thank people, hasn’t thanked God.” But the point here is for us to not stop at thanking our fellow human being but to go beyond and thank Allah who allowed this person to be of help, directed him to help you and brought His blessing to be through that person. Being aware of blessings deepens your sense of tawheed or the belief in the oneness of God. All else pales in comparison, the world around you dims and blurs and there is only Allah, the Giver, the Bountiful, the Powerful, the Merciful.
- Last but not least, blessings are undeserved. If you feel for a second that you are entitled to your good fortune or that you came by it through your own hard work, you are misled and deceived. Prophet Muhammad says, “Were it not for my Lord’s mercy, He would punish Eissa and I as you see these two” and he held out his two fingers. A story is told of a man who worshiped God for seventy years and then on the Day of Judgment is asked, “Do you enter Heaven by My Mercy or by your deeds?” He answers, “O my Lord, I enter by my deeds, for verily I have worshiped You for seventy years.” Upon which Allah says, “O my angels show him the blessing of eye-sight.” One eye is placed in the scales and it equals the seventy years. “Verily I enter but by Your Mercy” exclaims the now-corrected servant.
So, in light of these characteristics, how can we be more aware of the blessings we swim in? Look for our next installment on how to 'see' these blessings...