Living The Quran
From Issue: 951 [Read full issue]
Shukr and Rida
Ibrahim (Abraham) Sura 14: Verse 7 (partial)
A sense of indebted gratitude (shukr) is the main driving force behind devotion to God. Each of us, if we reflect deeply upon our own situation, can acknowledge countless blessings that we take for granted. Beyond these immense blessings, which we do not deserve, is the generous offer of God: If we do the bare minimum—acknowledge a blessing and feel grateful—it will not simply suffice for that blessing, but will invite others as well. Conversely, ingratitude is one of the lowest states a person can be in towards their Creator, and it invites the removal of other blessings in our lives. The greatest blessing of all is faith and being guided by God to His religion, Islam. All other blessings pale in comparison. The best form of gratitude to God is the kind manifested through obedience to Him.
Alongside gratitude (shukr) is a related spiritual virtue, contentment (rida). As believers, we ask God for certain things, but in the end all matters are for God to decree. To be content with God's decree means not objecting to it, not questioning divine wisdom, and not feeling that what has happened to us should not have happened. An obvious exception to this is our own sinning: we should not be content with it, but rather should feel remorse and be compelled to repentance.
The ego (nafs) tends to constantly desire more when it compares itself to others in worldly matters, while, in spiritual affairs, it is fooled into thinking, "At least I do such-and-such in devotion to God," remembering that there are others who do much less. This is the opposite of the perspective taught in Islam as a way to obtain more gratitude (shukr) and contentment (rida).
"Being Muslim: A Practical Guide" - Asad Tarsin, p. 110, 111