Purifying The Context Of ‘if You Are Grateful, I Will Surely Increase You [In Favor];’

وَإِذۡ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمۡ لَىِٕن شَكَرۡتُمۡ لَأَزِیدَنَّكُمۡۖ وَلَىِٕن كَفَرۡتُمۡ إِنَّ عَذَابِی لَشَدِیدࣱ

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ 

(Surah Ibrahim, verse 7)
  1. This  verse has often been used in seminars about the desirability of becoming millionaires.  The idea of referring to this verse is that it teaches  us that we can be millionaires if  we are thankful to Allah because if we are  Allah will increase it even more.  
  2. Two important terms that we must understand from this verse are  ‘being thankful’ and ‘increase in favour’ .  The former is clearly mentioned in the Quran, thus it should be easier to understand.
  3. What does ‘shukr’ or being thankful in this verse refer to?  It simply means to run our duty as a Muslim and to completely abandon what Allah forbids us from doing (Tafseer al-Tabari). 
  4. Being thankful doesn’t just stop at pronouncing the word ‘alhamdulillah’, but  also means to perform our responsibility in ibadah such as the 5 times a day prayers and zakah.  Being a wealthy person means nothing if we fail to pray to Allah. Having all the money in the world would be meaningless if we never pay zakah, and perform infaq and waqaf.
  5. Now what does ‘increase in favour’ refer to?  Ibn Abbas translated the ‘nikmah’ or favour as referring to rewards or Thawāb (Arabic: ثواب‎).  Al-Hasan al-Bashri and Sufyan al-Thauri translated this as obedient towards Allah. (Tafseer al-Alusi)
  6. With this, the more a person is thankful in its full context, Allah will increase his or  her rewards or Thawāb and also his or her  desire to obey Allah’s wills.
  7. This nikmah or favour can also be translated as spiritual nikmah (faith) and physical nikmah (strength).  Spiritual nikmah happens when a person appreciates and exalts  The One Who Gives The Nikmah more than the nikmah itself  (Tafseer al-Razi). This means that the more one is thankful for the favour or nikmah, the more Allah will increase the appreciation of Allah in oneself.
  8. The increase of nikmah or favour may also be in other forms of benefits from Allah whether in this world or in the hereafter, where the rewards or Sawāb/Thawāb will be doubled. (Tafseer Ibn Juzayy). 
  9. In conclusion, tafseer scholars didn’t limit the meaning of increase in favour to just material belongings.
  10. The nikmah or favours in this verse are not  limited to just material possessions.  So shouldn’t we accordingly.
  11. Looking at the previous verse (verse 6), we will be able to understand better the meaning of ‘shukr’ or thankfulness.  Prophet Musa reminded Bani Israel to be thankful of the nikmah of victory  against the Pharaoh’s subjugation.
  12. This victory didn’t only free the sons of Israel but also strengthened their fragile faith before Prophet Musa subsequently came to save them.  Many miracles happened in front of their eyes. The red sea miracles were supposed to boost their faith to believe in one God, that is Allah.  It should also lead them to the increase  of their thabat (steadfastness), Ikhlas (sincerity) and piety (Tafseer al Alusi).
  13. This shows that being thankful for the favour of having the victory will make Allah increase their faith and ibadah.
  14. Prophet Musa didn’t ask the sons of Israel to be thankful for the nikmah of material belongings, as there were  no treasures such as gold and gems being sent down to them  from above.  Prophet Musa reminded them to express their thankfulness by fully obeying  what Allah had asked them to do and avoiding what Allah had forbidden them from. 
  15. Looking at the next verse (verse 9), let’s take time to think as to  why Prophet Musa asked the sons of Israel to reflect what had happened to the people of Prophet Noah, and the people of Aad and Thamud?  Weren’t they among those who were given the nikmah of wealth and high positions in society?  There’s nothing wrong with being rich and wealthy, but we should always learn from the previous people who had failed themselves in the test of wealth. 
  16. To conclude, we must be able to understand that the meaning of being thankful is not  limited to just  pronouncing it with our tongue without looking deeply into its full context ,and that  it must also be translated into obedience of Allah.  Similarly, the nikmah or favour that is to be increased is not limited to just  money, property and material belongings but  also covers faith, happiness, obedience, ibadah and all forms of good deeds that mankind needs.
  17. Remember, being a wealthy Muslim is viewed favourably in Islam.  But the acquisition of wealth must be based on thankfulness and awareness that it’s a heavy spiritual  test upon us.  With righteous thankfulness and awareness we shall   free ourselves from being another Qarun without realising it.

. قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِندِي ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَهْلَكَ مِن قَبْلِهِ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مَنْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ قُوَّةً وَأَكْثَرُ جَمْعًا !

 Wallahu a’lam.

NOTE: This article was originally written in Bahasa Malaysia by Ustadh Syaari Ab Rahman (via his personal Facebook on 7 Sep 2020).  This article has been republished with the permission of the author.

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Farwina Faroque

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