Shukr (Arabic شكر ), an Arabic term denoting thankfulness, gratitude, or acknowledgment by humans, is a highly esteemed virtue in Islam. The term may also be used if the subject is God, in which case it takes the meaning of "divine responsiveness".
In a Sufi context, shukr is an internal state and its external expression. It is considered a station (maḳām) of the wayfarer (sālik).
When the subject of shukr is God, the concept signifies "requiting and commending [a person]", "forgiving" a person, or "regarding" the person "with content, satisfaction, good will"; and thus, necessarily, "recompensing". In fact, the Arabic saying shakara 'llāhu saʿyahu mean "May God recompense, or reward, his work or labour".
One of the beautiful names of God is al-Shakūr, meaning "He who approves, or rewards, or forgives, much; He in whose estimation small, or few, works performed by His servants increase, and who multiplies His rewards to them". The Qur'an refers to Him by al-Shākir too.
God is considered al-Shakūr in the sense that He widely extends His favors. God's shukr is not to be considered thankfulness in a literal sense. Rather God's shukr is a recompense to man for doing good, (just as man is recomposed for committing offenses). According to al-Ghazali, God is absolutely grateful, because of His unlimited multiplication of the reward of the pious, as they shall receive eternal bliss in Paradise. Al-Maksad writes that God's praise for man's good deeds is praise for His own work, since the good of man is His creation.
The Qur'an provides narratives of the prophets of God as individuals of gratitude. Their thanksgiving is exemplified by their obedience and faithfulness to God:
- Abraham’s obedience and faithfulness were tokens of his gratitude to God;
- Noah is described as a man of gratitude;
- the Qur'an reasons that the endowment of Solomon with supernatural gifts to accomplish the ends for which God appointed him, was so that he would be grateful.
The hadith collections include various reports of Muhammad expressing gratitude to God. He fell down prostrate to God three times during the Hijra from Mecca to Medina. He is also reported to have done this after Gabriel informed him a favor God had bestowed upon him. Muhammad also used to do this to thank God for his good health, especially when he met those afflicted with illness. Other instances on which Muhammad prostrated in thanks: military success, conversion of notable people to Islam.
The expression of shukr takes various forms in the Islamic tradition. The maxim "he who does not thank his fellow men shows ingratitude towards God" highlights the importance of such expression. On the other hand, those who are thanked are expected to say "don't thank me, be grateful to God."
It is common practice to kiss one's hands and to say "I praise Him and thank Him for His bounty." Another expression is "we are thankful to God, and we kiss the ground thousand fold that you are pleased." When asked about health, one may answer "thank God", gratitude to God is also commonly expressed for someone's recovery. In times of calamity, gratitude is expressed by saying "thank God it is not more grave".
Shukr is also expressed by prostration (sujud). Although most notable for being a fundamental part of the Islamic prayer, Islamic traditions also mentions the sujud al-shukr, literally meaning "the thanksgiving prostration."
- Rist, 1982, p. 20
- Mentioned in [Quran 35:29–30], [Quran 35:34], [Quran 42:23], [Quran 44:17]
- This is mentioned in II, 158; IV, 147
- [Quran 42:40]
- "Shukr", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- "Gratitude and Ingratitude," Encyclopaedia of Qur'an
- [Quran 16:120–121]
- [Quran 17:3]
- [Quran 34:12–13]
- Tottoli, 1998, p. 309-313
- Rist, John M. (1982). Human Value: A Study in Ancient Philosophical Ethics. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-06757-4
- Tottoli, Roberto (1998). "The Thanksgiving Prostration ("sujūd al-shukr") in Muslim Traditions". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Cambridge University Press) 61 (2): 309–313. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00013835.