On the last days of the year, we usually look back at what we did and what were the things we gained in that 365 days that passed. Sometimes, we would regret the times that were wasted or the opportunities that were lost, but at the end of the day, we feel grateful for what we achieved and for having the chance to enjoy the rest of our lives.
Thanksgiving is one of those opportunities that make us stop for a moment and look closer at our life, embracing what has been given to us freely, that is the love and support of our family, and be grateful for what we have gained so far.
Let’s have a quick glance at the history of Thanksgiving and Islam’s attitude toward celebrating it.
Thanksgiving roots back to some traditions held during English Reformation in Britain. However, in 1621 the first Thanksgiving day was held by “the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians” in North America, after a successful autumn harvest. However, “It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November” .
Whatever be the history of this day – having some explicit or implicit negative points aside from its positive aspects -, Islam holds a positive attitude toward the concept of thanksgiving. In what follows we will have a brief look at this view of Islam.
As we said in the article on Halloween, Islam is not against celebrating and having fun. There are four points that we, as Muslims, should observe in any tradition or celebration that we intend to take part:
1. It should not be harmful to ourselves and others, physically and mentally. A superstitious ceremony which is not based on any logical reason, and has no benefit for our mind and soul is not considered a proper kind of celebration according to Islam.
2. It should not result in ignoring our Islamic duties. Meaning that participating in a celebration should not lead us toward doing what we are not supposed to do as Muslims (e.g., drinking alcohol, eating Haram food, wearing immodest clothes, etc.) or forgetting what we must do as Muslims (e.g., praying, fasting, etc.).
3. It should not be a worthless and aimless pleasure that would only waste our time. “Islam always recommends us to be aware of what we are doing and think about our intention before any action. Even when we are having fun, there should be something behind it that makes it worthwhile. When enumerating the characteristics of a faithful person in Quran, Allah also mentions those who avoid vain actions (23:3); i.e., those activities that have no use for us and would only waste our time” .
4. Participating in that celebration should not make us like atheists or those who are against the belief in one God. That is to say, “A Muslim’s life should mirror his beliefs in every aspect. So, if an action even in appearance, represents what is against Islam or far from its teachings, then it should be avoided by Muslims” .
Thanksgiving is one of those celebrations that are very close to Islamic teachings. Being grateful to the creator for the blessings He had bestowed upon us  and also thanking other people for what they did for us, is one of the encouraged manners in Islam.
Also, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family and relatives and enjoy their company which is very much recommended in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) said that: “I command all the people of my followers (Umma), whether present or not, and those generations which are to come … to maintain family kinship even if they live at a distance of a year's journey.” . The family is one of the most significant blessings of Allah to us, so we should give thanks to Allah for this precious blessing.
As a way to thank for God’s blessings, some people would give charity to those who are less privileged or are under financial pressures . This is one of the most praised actions in Islam and is highlighted in many narrations [i] as well as verses of the Quran: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend on anything, Allah indeed knows it.” (3: 92). Thus, Allah would consider helping others as an act of gratitude.
Some American families would watch football games together, and some would play football together. Some others would pack up and go on a journey. Islam always recommended having fun, playing sports and traveling [ii]. Muslims should not keep themselves from enjoying Halal and lawful activities [iii].
As Muslims, we should keep in mind that whatever we have is granted by Allah. Thus the ultimate one to whom we give thanks is Him. That is the least we can do in return for Allah’s blessings. According to Imam Ali (AS), those who worship Allah as a way to appreciate His favors, are the most free-spirited ones, comparing with others who worship Allah with other purposes .
Thanksgiving Day is only a reminder. We should always thank Allah, in every breath and every moment of our lives. A Muslim knows the reason that he/she is alive, and is enjoying all kinds of opportunities and blessings is only Allah. Therefore, every day is a Thanksgiving Day for a Muslim.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to be thankful for what they have. Sometimes we find more things to complain than to be grateful. While if we consider what we have instead of what we don’t, our life would be much happier and more satisfactory. So, giving thanks is itself a blessing that Allah bestows upon the ones who believe in Him. Thus He says in the Quran, “And few of My servants are grateful” (34:13).
The more we are thankful, the more blessings will rain down on our life . A simple Physics formula that every action will have a reaction. The result of our thankfulness will be Allah’s favor on us. Therefore, Allah says: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]” (14:7).
Being thankful is not limited only to significantly great things. Even small or seemingly insignificant favors should be appreciated. Sometimes what we consider small or insignificant is far more important than what we think. Like having the chance of embracing our parents, kissing our kids, finding the nature’s beauties, being healthy or even breathing clean air. When we appreciate these favors and much more that are less seen by others, we realize Allah’s great love and care that includes every living creature, especially us.
It is not enough only to say you are thankful. You should show it in your actions as well. Whether it is God that you are grateful or your fellow human beings, you should do something that represent your thankfulness. Knowing that all we have is from Allah and not participating in sinful actions with the use of Allah’s blessings are only two ways of showing your thankfulness . Also, helping others and giving away to the needy are other ways of appreciating your privileges .
Having said that, don’t forget that expressing your gratitude in words is cherished by Allah and there are many recommended and specific manners in doing so. For instance praying to Allah, performing a two Rak’aa prayer (Salat) with the intention of giving thanks to Allah, repeating some Zikr (short Islamic phrases for praying; e.g. Alhamd-u-lillah (praise be to Allah), Shukr-an-lillah (Thanks to Allah), Allah-u-Akbar (Allah is the greatest), Subhan Allah (Glorious is God)), etc.
[i] Imam Reza (AS) stated in a narration that after having faith in Allah and his messengers, there is no better way of thanking Allah than to help your fellow human beings in their worldly matters .
[ii] Quran (29:20)
[iii] Quran (5:87)
In the two previous parts of the solutions to depression, we introduced some of the recommendations on how to avoid anxiety and stress in Islam. Those examples included both spiritual and material advice. And they show that Islam considers the existence of human beings as a whole. That is why Islam has forbidden the unlawful (Haram) “temporary solutions” of relieving stress and emotions (like starting a dangerous relationship or spending the time in bars, etc.). Since in those cases, one usually gets nothing for what he\she spends.
Many people try to keep up with the newest standards of body hygiene to prevent various diseases. The same should be done for the mental hygiene. Much effort is needed to have a healthy soul and prevent disorders like depression, anxiety, stress in Islam, etc.
Some approaches to reduce depression act like an immediate treatment. The problem with those solutions is that they give a good feeling at the beginning. It normally does not last long and later on results in adverse effects. So, one should avoid whatever undermines the consciousness or causes deeper depression. These are:
Whatever destroys one’s mind and deprives him of the ability to thinking and reason is a sort of intoxicant, then, must be abandoned ;
Alcohol is harmful and adversely affects the mind and the body. Imam Reza (AS) said that God has prohibited drinking alcoholic beverages since they contaminate the mind ;
Spending a lot of time with such a person will destroy the wisdom  and misleads whoever he/she interacts with;
Eating too much will degenerate one’s mind and weaken the thinking power [4,5]. According to Islamic teachings, overeating turns one to a weak-willed, sleepy, stupid person ;
Wasting time and doing nothing in life corrupt the mind ;
Making jokes and laughing too much causes one to seem stupid .
Moreover, anything that causes one to forget God and weakens one’s faith acts like a poison that darkens one’s soul:
The one who thinks that will live a long life and forget about his/her death insists on his/her mistakes and cannot catch up. Since he/she supposes that there are still many chances to compensate. This clouds his/her heart and soul ;
Vain conversations and hostility with others will weaken the soul ;
Having such great wealth can harden the heart ;
Whoever does a sin several times and repents each time but does not stop committing that sin, is known to mock God . It is also said that repeated sins seal and kill the heart ;
To spend time with those who are lost in their lives and oppose the divine guidelines, will mislead one to the wrong path .
Looking freely at any scene and anybody, especially non-Mahrams, causes anxiety and inquietude. Looking at a beautiful flower, for example, might take only some seconds but its smell and beauty stays in our mind longer. The same thing happens when looking at another person; especially due to the emotional impacts that men and women have on each other.
Staring at a non-Mahram will busy one’s mind with different thoughts for some time. It might also stimulate his/her feelings. Repeating these looks will cause one to get distracted and lose control in his/her mind. Also, it disturbs his/her inner peace and causes mental problems . That is why Imam Ali (AS) said: “Whoever keeps the gaze down, relieves” .
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 6, p. 412.
- S. H. al-Amili, “Wasail al-Shia”, vol. 25, p. 329.
- Karajaki, “Kanzul Fawaid”, vol. 1, p. 199.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 16, p. 458.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 63, p. 72.
- N. Makarem Shirazi, “Tafsir Nemooneh”, vol. 6, p. 153.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, p. 222.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.4, p. 366.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 228.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 300.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 4, p. 168.
- Sheikh al-Mufid, “Al-Amali”, p. 83.
- stress in islam
- M. Reyshahri, "Mizan al-Hikma," T. 6141".
Almost everyone is scared of death; Even those who may commit suicide in a specific mental condition. If a physician tells us that we have an unknown disease and we will only live for a few more months, we would panic and stop living our normal life (we might live better or worse).
The reason that makes most of us scared of death is that we think all the things that we have tried to gain in this life, such as our belongings, our beloveds, our success, and experiences are going to disappear after death. Or that there is still a lot for us in this world to experience, achieve and enjoy.
However, this fear of death is mostly because the other world and the life after death are quite unknown to us, but if we come to understand the afterlife, we may even become eager to fulfill our duties in this life and get ready to travel to the other world.
Now, let’s see if it is true that we will lose everything after death and also what Islam says about death and the life after it.
Having faith in the afterlife (Ma’ad) is so important that it is one of the pillars of Islam. The main reason is that it is by believing in the fact that we will be resurrected after death and we will be held responsible for all of our actions, that we are careful about our manners and behaviors in this worldly life. It is mainly this idea that shapes our lifestyle and our relations with God, people, environment, etc.
We usually take the earthly life very seriously, as if there is nothing more significant than our goals, actions, and relations in this world. Although the way we live in this world is significant and it is our worldly actions that shape our lives in the hereafter, the Quran emphasizes that the real life is to come: “The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself), had they known!” (29:64)
“Then He made him die and buried him” (80: 21).
After we are dead and buried in a grave, our grave phase starts. But how is this phase?
It is narrated that “the grave is either a garden from heaven’s gardens or a corner of hell” .
When the dead person is buried, he will not feel suffocated, but he will experience a sort of pressure that is indescribable for people in this world as if he is being squeezed to pass a needle hole. This pressure would work as a purifier for believers but unbelievers has nothing but pain and sorrow .
This pressure does not belong to those people who are buried, but every dead person will have this experience, even if they are dead hung or burnt into ashes. The pressure belongs to the soul, and every soul will go through the experiences of the afterlife .
But does everyone experience the grave pressure? It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that only very few people will be saved from going through this pressure .
Some of the reasons that will increase the grave pressure are backbiting, gossiping, disrespecting parents, usury, immorality, unpleasant manner towards family and friends, devastating the rights of other humans, etc. , while behaving based on Islamic teachings and ethics will reduce the grave pressure.
When the dead person is buried, his/ her soul will leave the body but will still stay close to it. So he/she can see the burial ceremony and what is going on around. When his/ her relatives leave the grave, he/she finds him/herself alone in the dark and small grave.
Here, people are divided into three groups: perfect believers, complete atheists, the middle ones. The first group will start their heavenly life right away, the second group will start their eternal life in hell, and the middle that includes the majority of people will remain in hope and fear until the Resurrection Day when their situation will be determined .
The first and the second group will experience the grave questioning by two angels; Nakir and Munkar so that they quickly start their eternal life in heaven or hell. But the third group will not be questioned until the Judgment Day .
It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that limbo (Barzakh) means human’s grave from the time he dies until the day he is resurrected . We know that most human bodies will be destroyed after some time in the grave, but what happens to the soul?
Based on the fact that the limbo (Barzakh) is a place between this life and the other life, and that all human beings, even those who are burnt to ashes or those who are hunted and eaten by animals will experience the limbo (Barzakh), we can conclude that the life in the grave -mentioned as limbo (Barzakh) life- is not limited to the grave. So what and how is limbo (Barzakh) life?
Right after death, the human soul directly enters a new life in which he/she can feel everything. They can have pleasure and sorrow which is based on their actions and behaviors in their worldly life.
Therefore, human experiences two lives after death. One is the limbo (Barzakh) life that would end like our earthly life: “And before them is a barrier until the day they will be resurrected” (23:100), and the other is the eternal life that starts on the Day of Resurrection and people may go to eternal hell or eternal heaven based on their worldly actions .
“And because the Hour is bound to come, there is no doubt in it, and Allah will resurrect those who are in the graves.” (22: 7)
The Day of Resurrection does not only belong to human beings. All creatures will be resurrected on that day . On the Day of Resurrection, people will be queued to be questioned about their actions and to be sent to their eternal place. This day is not like our worldly days that are 24 hours. But as stated in the Quran “He directs the command from the heaven to the earth; then it ascends toward Him in a day whose span is a thousand years by your reckoning” (32: 5). And in another verse, it is stated that: “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose span is fifty thousand years” (70: 4).
Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked: “why is that in one verse Allah says that the Day of Judgment is equal to a thousand years and in another verse, it is said to be equal to fifty thousand years?” Imam (AS) answered: “On the Day of Resurrection there are fifty stops, each of them equals a thousand years of this world” .
It is on this day that people face their worldly actions: “The day when every soul will find present whatever good it has done; and as for the evil, it has done, it will wish there were a far distance between it and itself. Allah warns you to beware of [disobeying] Him, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants” (3: 30).
Unlike limbo (Barzakh) in which people wait to be resurrected and transported to a new world, the afterlife, which comes after the Day of Resurrection is eternal. Unlike this world in which we have to work and gain for the next life; in the eternal heaven there is no tiredness, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor hardship; “to remain in them [forever]; they will not seek to leave it for another place” (18: 108).
So, in the afterlife, people may become eternal in heaven or hell [i]. However, not all of those who go to hell will be eternal there, as it is narrated from the Imam Sadiq (AS) that “on the Day of Resurrection, God will expand His mercy so generously that even Iblis (Satan) will be greedy to receive it .
The role of remembering death in improving the worldly life and therefore the life in the hereafter is very important. Imam Ali (AS) says: “when deciding to do evil actions, remember death as it destroys the pleasures and weakens the desires” . But what is the most important benefit of remembering death?
If we do not believe in another life and remember death as the end of existence, then many things in life may sound vain for us, and we may even lose our motivation to keep on having a good life. But when we believe that there is another life which is the real life, our actions in this world become more meaningful and targeted. Allah says in the Quran: “Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly and that you will not be brought back to Us?” (23: 115)
When we believe that there is no life after death, we might face many anxieties, disappointments and live an aimless life. But keeping in mind that whatever we do is being seen by God and recorded by Him, we will have more motivation to do good things, even if no one in this world cares about us.
“They say, ‘There is nothing but the life of this world: we live, and we die, and nothing but time destroys us.’ But they do not have any knowledge of that, and they only make conjectures… Say, ‘It is Allah who gives you life, then He makes you die. Then He will gather you on the Day of Resurrection, in which there is no doubt. But most people do not know” (45: 24-6).
[i] Read about the concept of eternal life here: http://blog.holymoodpictures.com
- Allamah Majlesi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Sakarat al-mawt, narration No. 19
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 34
- Shaikh Al-Sadouq, Man la yahzuruhu Al-faqih, vol. 1, p. 279
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 6, p. 260
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 5, p. 265
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 41
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Ahwal-e barzakh, narration No. 116
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, Life after death, Vol. 3, p. 504
- An’aam (6), Verse No. 38
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 7, p. 126
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 7, p. 287
- Nahjul balagha, sermon No. 99