In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
I was honored to speak at the “Giving Thanks, Sharing Blessings: An Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration” last night as a representative of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta and the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta. It was a great event, and I’m truly proud to have been a part of it. Several people have asked for the speech I gave, so here it is below (with a few pictures added).
Good evening, and may peace and blessings be upon you and yours.
The recitation you have just heard is Al-Fatihah, the opening chapter of the Holy Quran. The translation is:
In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
All praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful.
Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received Your grace;not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
Muslims all over the world recite Al-Fatihah in their daily prayers. That is at least 17 times a day, praising God and asking for His help and guidance. The Quranic term for expressing gratitude is “Ash-Shukr,” which goes beyond simple thanks and includes the recognition of favors and their acknowledgement. It is mentioned many times in the Quran, and all Muslims are required to show appreciation and express gratitude in their daily lives. With this is mind, it is clear that giving thanks and doing good is built into the foundation of Islam.
The day of Thanksgiving is in great harmony with Islamic principles. When we look at giving thanks, we see more than just being thankful; we as humans are to embody that spirit of “do well unto others” as an appreciation of all that we have been given, and share our blessings with others. When we were little the first thing we wanted to do upon receiving a good grade or news was share it with someone. Joy is wonderful, and it is even sweeter when those whom you love are joyful with you. Islam teaches that the same principle should be applied to thanks; when one is thankful, the best thing to do is share it with others.
I remember in my youth, Thanksgiving was always a day we looked forward to with eagerness. How could we not? We’d get a special Thanskgiving lunch in school, a couple of days off, and my mom would spend all day in the kitchen roasting a delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, and other goodies, and then we’d get to share the day with friends and family. As I got older, I appreciated the holiday because of the principles and ideals espoused. One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood is my parents one day making an impromptu “Thanksgiving” dinner in the middle of a snowstorm, and before we dined, they mentioned how thankful we should be not just for the food, but for the blessings of family and togetherness at all times.
Islam continually stresses the importance of thanking God for His gifts and blessings. The Lord has given us so much, and it is only fitting that we take the time to thank Him. The Qur’an says, “Remember! Your Lord has declared, ‘If you are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you.” (14:7), and many a verse asks, after enumerating the many gifts of God, “Why do [human beings] not thank Me?” Thanksgiving is a day to do just that. To be sure, God does not need our thanks, but how could we be so ungrateful as to not thank Him? In fact, every day should be Thanksgiving, because every day we live and breathe God’s wonderful gifts.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that those who are not grateful to people, are not grateful to God. Whenever the Prophet experienced any joy, he used to prostrate before God to express his gratitude. When words failed to express the depth of his gratitude, he would to pray, “I cannot count the praises that are due to You!”
Thanking God should be much more than simply saying “thanks.” We must show our thanks in our actions. As Thanksgiving approaches, we all should take time to reflect on everything God has blessed us with. So true is that Quranic verse: “And if you would count the favors of Allah, never could you be able to count them. Truly! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (16:18). We must remember to thank our Creator, our parents, our families, our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, as well as be mindful that we can never numerate all of the blessings given to us by our Creator.
I wish upon everyone a blessed Thanksgiving holiday full of joy, good health, and many happy memories. May God’s peace and blessing be upon us all.
P.S. I had to insert one more 🙂