Article thumbnail

*The Gratitude of man and the gratitude of God. Notes on šukr in traditional Islamic thought*

By I. Zilio-Grandi


The Koran insists on the otherness of God but none the less sets up a clear correlation between the gratitude of the believer toward God and that of God toward the believer, applying to both cases the same lexis, that is to say derivatives of the root škr, which include the intensive form šakūr. An examination of the ancient lexicography allows us to refine the content of the root in question and to distinguish šukr or “gratitude” from ḥamd or “praise”: in gratitude are included at the same time the material aspect (cf. “[...] illā ‘an al-yad”), a declarative and divulgative component (cf. ṯanā’ and našr) and its incremental character (ziyāda, muḍāʻafa), while praise is above all verbal. These contents all appear in traditional thought – here exemplified in the works of Ibn Abī al-Dunyā and al-Ḫarāʼiṭī – with some variations. In the first place, with the obvious aim of distancing divine from human practice, the root škr is applied only to man's gratitude, a necessarily modest response to the superabundance of the gifts of God (niʻma, niʻam), while divine gratitude is transformed into the more abstract “contentment”, satisfaction or satisfied acceptance (al-riḍā, riḍwān). Theological speculation – here represented by al-Ġazālī e Ibn Qayyim – takes a different line, continuing instead to conjoin human to divine behaviour, insisting on gratitude as a linking element between the creator and the virtuous believer, and to this end accepting and developing the Koranic references to a circular toing-and-froing of gratitude. In the second place, the traditional literature, in accordance with its largely behavioural emphasis, has concentrated on the pragmatic aspects of gratitude, having šukr coincide with acts of devotion even in their physical expression (ṭāʻa, ʻibāda) and furthermore equating gratitude with praise (ḥamd). As regards the šukr that men owe to one another, this is represented as an integral part of the religious duty of service, a wholly earthly extension of the gratitude due to God; thus to praise and eulogise one's brother for every favour he bestows on you is moreover equivalent to thanking the Lord for His numberless gifts. Whether speaking of God or a brother benefactor, the Tradition none the less emphasises a cognitive element (cf. the frequent use of the root ʻlm) and teaches that gratitude rests on a full awareness of the reward obtained. According, therefore, to the teaching of traditional Islamic thought, the virtuous believer is he who, well aware of the debt he owes to God, requites it also, before God, by honouring his debts to human society

Year: 2012
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)

  • To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.

    Suggested articles