Three Levels of Shukr, Gratitude

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In his ‘Ihya’ ‘Ulum ad-Din, Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (r.a.) utilises an analogy to explain the different levels of gratitude.

He wrote, “Let us give an example.  We say that a king who desires to make a journey, grants a man, in his entourage, a favour in the form of a horse.  He imagines that the man to whom it is granted will be delighted with the horse for three reasons.

Firstly, he will be delighted because it is a horse, and because it has monetary value which can be of benefit to him; because he can use it for riding, and that suits his purpose; and because it is a valuable racer as well.  This kind of joy is for one who has no interest in the king; his interest is only in the horse.  Had he found the horse in a desert, he would have taken it, and his joy would have been similar to this joy.

The second kind of joy is when he delights in it, not because it is a horse, but because he infers the care of the king expressed in it, and the king’s compassion for him.  Had he found the horse in the desert, or someone other than the king had given it to him, he would not really be happy with it because, in principle, he has no need of the horse, and it is of no significance to him compared to his desire to have a place in the heart of the king.

The third kind of joy is when the servant delights in the horse in order to ride it, to go out in the service of the king, and bear the toil of the journey in his service, and to obtain the rank of nearness to the king.  Perhaps he will be promoted to the position of a minister, because he is not content that his position, in the heart of the king, should be limited to the king’s giving him a horse, and caring for him only to this degree.  Rather he does not want the king to convey the favours from his wealth on anyone except through him.  Yet, he does not want the ministry for the sake of the ministry, rather he wants to see the king, and be near him.  If he had to choose between this proximity to him without the ministry, and the ministry without proximity, he would choose proximity.”


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