In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
When Sulyamaan Saw The Throne of Bilqees In His Presence
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
فَلَمَّا رَءَاهُ مُسۡتَقِرًّا عِندَهُ ۥ قَالَ هَـٰذَا مِن فَضۡلِ رَبِّى لِيَبۡلُوَنِىٓ ءَأَشۡكُرُ أَمۡ أَكۡفُرُۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشۡكُرُ لِنَفۡسِهِۦۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّى غَنِىٌّ۬ كَرِيمٌ۬
Then when he (Sulayman) saw it (Bilqees’s Throne) placed before him, he said: “This is by the Grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his ownself, and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his ownself). Certainly! My Lord is Rich (Free of all wants), Bountiful].
[فَلَمَّا رَءَاهُ مُسۡتَقِرًّا عِندَهُ – Then when he (Sulayman) saw it (Bilqees’s Throne) placed before him], he praised Allaah [The Exalted] for ability placed at his disposal, his kingdom and the affairs facilitated for him. Then he said:
[هَـٰذَا مِن فَضۡلِ رَبِّى لِيَبۡلُوَنِىٓ ءَأَشۡكُرُ أَمۡ أَكۡفُرُۖ – This is by the Grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful!]- Meaning, to test me by way of of it. He was not beguiled kingdom, authority and power as is the habit of the ignorant kings (See footnote a); rather he knew that this was a test from his Lord, so he was scared of not being thankful for these blessings. (See footnote b)
Then he clarified that being grateful to Allaah does not benefit Allaah; rather its benefits returns to the grateful one; so he said: [وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشۡكُرُ لِنَفۡسِهِۦۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّى غَنِىٌّ۬ كَرِيمٌ۬- and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his ownself). Certainly! My Lord is Rich (Free of all wants), Bountiful]- Meaning, Allaah is not in need of a person’s deeds, and He is generous, bestows abundant good that to both a grateful person and an ungrateful person, except that being grateful for the blessings He bestows leads to more blessings and being ungrateful leads to its decrease. (See footnote c) [An Excerpt from Tafseer As-Sadi]
Footnote a: Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: The Creation [i.e. Humans and Jinns] find themselves within two types of neediness. The first type of neediness is inevitable. It is a type of neediness that applies to everyone – the righteous and the wicked. It neither necessitates praise nor dispraise, neither reward nor punishment; rather it is solely due to the fact that the creation are created beings [i.e. absolutely in need and completely dependent on their Creator in every way].
The second type of neediness is one based on choice from which emanates two noble aspects of knowledge. The first one is the servant’s knowledge and awareness of his Lord and the second is knowledge and awareness of oneself in reality. As soon as one acquires these two types of knowledge, it brings about a type of neediness that becomes a person’s distinguished and most precious source of wealth, the means to success and happiness in [this life and the next]. The people’s different stations in this type of neediness depends on their different stations in these two affairs of knowledge.
Whoever knows that his Lord is the only One Who is Self-Sufficient [absolutely free from all wants and to Whom everyone and everything depends, and cannot do without in the twinkling of an eye], then he will know that he is completely in need.
Whoever knows that his Lord alone is the Possessor of Perfect Ability [possessor of All-encompassing Ability and able to do all things], he will know that he is completely unable [cannot do anything in the twinkling of an eye without the help of] his Lord.
Whoever knows that his Lord is The All-Mighty, he will know that he is one completely in a state of [complete poverty, weakness and want unless his Lord provides for him etc]. Whoever knows that his Lord is the possessor of All- Encompassing knowledge and Wisdom, he will know that he is ignorant.
Allaah brought the servant out of his mother’s womb whilst he knew nothing, not able to do anything and owned nothing; neither able to give nor take; neither able to harm nor benefit. This state of neediness until he reached a more perfect state is something witnessed and tangible for everyone [to see], and i is well known that this is the very essence of the human being and he remains upon that state. He does not move from this state and enters into a state of Lordship – a state in which he becomes absolutely self-sufficient and not need of anyone and anything; rather he does not cease being a slave, a needy one to his Rabb [Allaah the Creator, All-Provider and the Only One Who Controls and Sustains Everything] and His Faatir [Allaah, The Originator and Creator of Everything].
However, after the human being was granted blessings, shown mercy, granted the means to reach a more perfect state, and Allaah -out of His Perfect Kindness and Generosity- granted him apparent blessings [i.e. to recognise the Messengers who were sent with Islamic Monotheism, granted him the lawful pleasures of this world, including health, good looks, etc.] and the hidden blessings [i.e. granted him the innate disposition to recognise his Lord when the Messenger calls him to Eemaan, and granted him knowledge, wisdom, guidance for doing righteous deeds, and also the pleasures and delights of the Hereafter in Paradise, etc.], granted him hearing, sight and a heart, and taught him [i.e. gave him the means to knowledge], granted him ability, subjugated things to him, granted him [the desire and enthusiasm to pursue what is beneficial, and take action], enabled him to receive the service of those of his kind [i.e. gave him authority over other humans], subjugated to him horses and camels, gave him the ability to capture the animals in the sea, drop birds from the sky, subjugate wild animals, dig wells [irrigate water etc], plant trees, dig the earth, learn how to build, acquire the things that are of benefit to him, guard against and protect himself from that which is harmful to him; then the Miskeen [i.e. this absolutely poor, dependent human being] thinks that he has a share of authority and claims – for himself – a kingship [or authority] similar to that of Allaah [Glorified be Allaah and free is Allaah from all imperfections, partners, coequals, similarities etc], and begins to see himself in a manner other than what he was at first, forgets his [prior] state of non-existence, poverty and neediness, until he becomes as if he was not that poor and needy thing. [An Excerpt from Tareequl Hijratayn. Pages 9-10. Slightly paraphrased]
Footnote b: Allaah (The Most High) said:
لِتَسْتَوُوا عَلَىٰ ظُهُورِهِ ثُمَّ تَذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ رَبِّكُمْ إِذَا اسْتَوَيْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ وَتَقُولُوا سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ لَنَا هَٰذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لَهُ مُقْرِنِينَ
وَإِنَّا إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا لَمُنقَلِبُونَ
In order that you may mount on their backs, and then may remember the Favour of your Lord when you mount thereon, and say: ”Glory to Him Who has subjected this to us, and we could never have it (by our efforts). And verily, to Our Lord we indeed are to return!” )
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Mentioned (in the above ayah) are the three pillars of gratitude, and they are: to acknowledge Allaah’s blessings, proclaim Allaah’s Blessings, speak about them and Praise Allah for it. Submit to Allah and utilise these blessings to carry out acts of worship for the sake of Allaah (alone). That is because the intent behind the statement of Allah: [وَإِنَّا إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا لَمُنقَلِبُونَ – And verily, to Our Lord we indeed are to return] is an acknowledgement of recompense and to prepared for it. The objective behind these favours is that they are an aid by way of which the slave (seeks) to fulfil that which Allah has commanded him (i.e. acts of worship and obedience etc)
And regarding Allaah’s saying: [ثُمَّ تَذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ رَبِّكُمْ إِذَا اسْتَوَيْتُمْ – And then may remember the favour of your Lord when you mount thereon]; this is a specific mention of the (favour) in that instance (i.e. at the time in which the person enjoys those favours) because blessings intoxicates many amongst the creation, makes them heedless, evil and ungrateful. Therefore, this state in which Allah commanded (a person to remember Allah for His Favours) is a medication for this destructive ailment.
When the slave recalls that he is completely surrounded by the blessings of Allah and that nothing is from him (or herself), but rather blessings are (from Allah) -its means are facilitated and its obtainment made easy (by Allaah)- he (she) submits to Allah, humbles him (or herself), thanks and Praises Allaah. And by way of this he (or she) is given continuous blessings. [An Excerpt from Fataawa Sadiyyah page: 61. Slightly paraphrased]
Footnote c: What if a person receives more blessings whilst persisting upon evil? Allaah [The Most High] said:
وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
وَأُمْلِي لَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ كَيْدِي مَتِينٌ
Those who reject Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), We shall gradually seize them with punishment in ways they perceive not. And I respite them; certainly My Plan is strong. [Surah Al-A’raaf. Verses 182-183]
[سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم – We shall gradually seize them with punishment] – by granting them plentiful provision and respite until they think that they will neither be taken to task for their disobedience nor punished, so they increase in disbelief and transgression, and evil upon evil. And through this their punishment is increased and multiplied, so they harm themselves in ways they perceive not. This is why Allaah said: [إِنَّ كَيْدِي مَتِينٌ -certainly My Plan is strong]. [Tafseer As-Sadi]
[ سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ – We shall gradually seize them with punishment in ways they perceive not]: Imaam Sufyaan Ath-Thawree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said that this means, “Whenever they commit (major) sins, Allaah bestows a blessing on them and make them forgetful of seeking forgiveness. [Al-Mukhallisaat 2352]
The Danger of Being Bored With Blessings
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: One of the common hidden afflictions is when a person has a blessing bestowed on him by Allaah; but he becomes bored with it, seeks to do away with it, and – due to ignorance- turns to what he claims is better for him than it. His Lord – out of Mercy- does not remove him from that blessing- excuses him for his ignorance and the bad choice he make for himself, until he becomes fed up with the blessing, angered and dissatisfied due to it, and being fed up becomes firmly established; then Allaah takes it away from him. After turning to what he sought after and then see the difference between the state he used to be in as opposed to his affair at present, his anxiety and regret intensifies, so he seeks to return to the state he was in.
If Allaah wants good and guidance for His servant, He makes him witness the fact that the blessing he has is one of His blessings and enables him to be grateful for it. If his soul whispers to him to move away from it, he seeks guidance from His Lord – by way of Istikhaarah – as one who is ignorant of his welfare and unable to attain it, and then delegates the affair to Allaah by asking Him to make a good choice for him. There is nothing more harmful to the servant than being fed up with Allaah’s blessings, because neither does he see it as a blessing nor thank Allaah him for it, nor rejoice regarding it; but rather it angers him. He complains and considers it a calamity, even though it is one of Allaah’s greatest blessings conferred on him. The majority of the people are enemies of Allaah’s blessings and they do not realise the blessings Allaah has made available at their disposal, whilst striving to repel and reject them out of ignorance and wrongdoing. And how numerous a blessing is granted to one of them, whilst he is eager to strive his hardest to repel it! And how much reaches him while he was eager to repel and remove it due to hisinjustice and ignorance! Allaah [The Exalted] said:
[ ذَٲلِكَ بِأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمۡ يَكُ مُغَيِّرً۬ا نِّعۡمَةً أَنۡعَمَهَا عَلَىٰ قَوۡمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنفُسِہِمۡۙ – That is so because Allah will never change a grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their ownselves]. [Surah Al-Anfaal. Verse 53]
Allaah said: [إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوۡمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنفُسِہِمۡۗ – Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah)]. [Surah Rad. Verse 11]
There is not a greater enemy against a blessing than the soul that (whispers evil to the person), because he overcomes himself together with his enemy. His enemy throws fire on his blessings while he blows on itenables him to throw fire and then helps him to blow it; but he calls for help to avoid being burnt when the fire intensifies, whilst his aim is to reprimand Qadr. [An Excerpt from Al-Fawaa’id 259-260. slightly paraphrased]