In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
The Creation (Humankind and Jinns) find themselves within two types of neediness. The first type of neediness is inevitable- a type of neediness which every everyone is (attached to), 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 and at every moment).
The second type of neediness is one based on choice from which emanates two noble aspects of knowledge: the first 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.
The one who knows that his Lord (Allaah) is the Self-Sufficient One (absolutely free from all wants and to Whom everyone and everything depends, and none can do without Him in the twinkling of an eye), he will know that he is completely in need.
The one knows that his Lord (Allaah) is alone the Possessor of Perfect Ability (possessor of All-Encompassing Ability and able to do all things and not incapable of doing whatever He wills), he will know that he is completely unable (cannot do anything in the twinkling of an eye without the help and permission of) his Lord.
The one who knows that his Lord (Allaah) 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). The one who knows that his Lord (Allaah) is the possessor of All- Encompassing knowledge and Wisdom, he will know that he is ignorant.
Allaah brought the person out of his mother’s womb whilst he knew nothing- not able to do anything and owned nothing; neither able to give nor take, and 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 it 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 recognize 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 recognize 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. (1)
The Pillars of Gratitude
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!” [43:13-14]
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Mentioned in this Aayah are the three pillars of gratitude and they are: acknowledgement of Allaah’s blessings, proclaim and speak about Allaah’s blessings, 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 make preparations 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 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 Him for His Favours) is a medication for this destructive ailment. When the person 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. (2)
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from Tareequl Hijratayn. pages 9-10. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from Fataawa Sa’diyyah page: 61. slightly paraphrased]