Over the last 11 years in Georgia, I have always felt surprised when someone asks me if I observe Thanksgiving. Yes, is the short answer, but the truth is that every day is Thanksgiving, for a Muslim.
I love turkey, so my husband, who does not, lets me fuss over my bird and all the trimmings with a tolerant smile. Since my family arrived in Hebron, New Hampshire, in 1650, Thanksgiving is truly an historic event for me with many happy family memories. But as my husband hails from Pakistan, he is more used to drinking buffalo milk than he is to eating turkey.
For our children, it is different. They look forward to the food and the company. My oldest daughter will eat as much turkey meat as I will pass to her, while my oldest son looks forward to the gravy and my youngest wants a special dessert. My specialty is cheesecake.
Thanksgiving is about gratitude and Islam teaches us that: “God will certainly reward the grateful.” (3:145) But as I teach my children, the first step towards gratitude is that they understand and appreciate what they have to be grateful for since gratitude begins in the heart.
After each prayer, we say our “tasbeeh,” which is a verbal thanks to God: first, “Subhanallah,” which means “Holy is God;” second comes “Alhamdulillah” which means “All praise belongs to God;” and last, “Allahu Akbar,” which means that God is greater than anything that we can comprehend. Each of these words is repeated 33 times and one extra to make one hundred. My husband calls it the bouquet of flowers we present to God after our prayers.
The third level of gratitude is to act in a grateful way. For example, we say: “Spend out of the wealth which God has given you.” Yesterday the children asked me what the Ziploc bag of money on the counter is for. I told them I had just decided to collect all the money I “found” around the house. Everyone felt surprised how much change we literally had lying around. I also have canned goods for others who need a little help this year.
Islam’s concept of true gratitude is to sacrifice for the sake of mankind, so that you get a reward for that sacrifice in the next world. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, highlighted the irony of sacrifice when he said: “The part you give away is the part you keep.”
When we were having tough times, my mother-in-law kept reminding me that I needed to be grateful for what I had received because the Qur’an states: “If you are grateful, I will, surely, bestow more favors on you.”(14:8) We all like grateful people, so our Creator must appreciate grateful people even more. It is a wonderful quality to possess.
Before I go to sleep, I try to list all the strange and wonderful things that I feel grateful for during the day, from the neon green paint that my daughter picked for the bathroom which makes me feel like spring or how happy I feel when I see my two sons snuggled together, sharing the same pillow.
Personally, I think that America is celebrating a truly important religious quality on Thanksgiving. I wish more countries would follow this tradition of sharing and caring.
Peace be upon you and yours this Thanksgiving.