Blessings, Bounties and Favors of Allah
(ālāʾ, baraka, faḍl, mann, niʿma)

Suheil Laher and Gibril Fouad Haddad

The broad connotation of “blessing” includes all that is beneficial and facilitates well-being. Its primary Qurʾānic usage is with reference to what is conferred by Allah Most High, Who is the Lord of the worlds, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful (Q 1:2-3), and Who alone controls good and adversity (e.g. Q 6:17); He is ultimately the Granter of all blessings (Q 16:53). Numerous Qurʾānic verses (as elaborated below) convey that Allah bestows countless blessings on human individuals and communities in general, and special blessings on specific individuals (most prominently His Messengers), places and times. Receipt of Allah’s blessings should lead to gratitude, a concept that Muslim theologians agree to be central to monotheism (see Tawḥīd) and worship, although they differ on whether its obligation is scriptural or innate in human nature (fiṭra, see Innate Nature). The Qurʾānic concept of blessings is not limited to material constituents of worldly sufficiency and comfort, for the blessings of revealed wisdom and guidance (Q 4:113; 17:87) are better than whatever [worldly things people] accumulate (Q 10:58). Worldly blessings are to be used to seek blessings in the Hereafter (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 28:77), and the unceasing blessing of Paradise is the supreme triumph and great bounty (Q 44:57; 35:35).

Definitions and Usage

Seven Qurʾānic nouns that can be rendered as “blessing” are scrutinized here: niʿma, ālāʾ, baraka (the last two sometimes each translated as “favor”), faḍl (sometimes rendered “bounty”), ṭawl (abundance), manna (to bless in a way that obliges thanks from the recipient), found only in verbal form, and raḥma (tenderness), a broader term (see Mercy) that overlaps with the sense of blessing. All share a common meaning of something desirable and pleasing, some implying increase as well as conferral, as discussed below. The verb yuṣallī in Q 33:53 is typically glossed as raḥma, and is therefore also relevant here. Iḥsān (Excellence) and ʿaṭāʾ (gift) are also relevant, but due to their broader scope are not explicitly discussed in this article. The word rīsh in Q 7:26 has also been glossed as “blessing” by some commentators (Abū Ḥayyān, sub 7:26), but the major lexicons do not list this meaning. Ṭabarī glossed it with the more specific meaning of “provisions and wealth,” which are a specific type of blessings, while most commentators understood the word even more specifically as “garments of adornment.”

Niʿma

The root n-ʿ-m has fundamental meanings of ease (taraffuh), pleasant life (ṭīb ʿaysh), and wellness (ṣalāḥ). The ostrich is called naʿāma because of the softness of its feathers, and the camel is referred to as naʿam (pl. anʿām, generically livestock: see Animals) because it is a source of good and blessing (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs). Naʿma denotes a soft, easy life in this world (Q 73:11), such as that enjoyed by Pharaoh (see Firʿawn) and his people (Q 44:27). Naʿīm refers to delight that is not intrinsic to a person, thus excluding, for example, the blessings of sound sleep and the senses (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 102:8). Niʿma denotes ease (taraffuh) more broadly, in the sense of a gift or favor that is conferred and that gives happiness (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs); hence its meaning has extended to wealth (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān). In the meaning of a gift or favor, niʿma is essentially synonymous with one of the meanings of the Qurʾānic cognate mann which is investigated further down.

The noun niʿma occurs in the Qurʾān 46 times in the singular and once in the plural niʿam (Q 31:20, although recited here too in the singular in the canonical reading of the Kufan reciter Ḥamza b. Zayyāt, see Readings of the Qurʾān); twice in the plural anʿum (Q 16:112, 121), and once in the feminine noun naʿmāʾ (Q 11:10). The more specific naʿīm (delight) occurs 17 times. The active participle naʿīm is used to describe other-worldly delight (which is of course itself a blessing) on the faces of the righteous on the Day of Resurrection (Q 88:8). The verb anʿama (“to bestow blessings”, occurring with the preposition ʿalā) occurs 17 times, and the synonymous (but directly transitive) verb naʿʿama once (Q 89:15).

According to the vast majority of exegetes, niʿma (as gift) is also synonymous with ilā (alternative vocalizations: [plural] ālāʾ; sing.:  ily, ilan, alw; cf. Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, faṣl al-alif, wāw-yāʾ). Only the plural of ilan, namely ālāʾ, occurs in the Qurʾān—although “one of the Muʿtazilīs” construed the word ilā in Q 75:23 to be the singular of ālāʾ (which has three more forms: ily, aly, and alā, see Ṭabarī, sub Q 53:55) , rather than a preposition, in support of the Muʿtazilite doctrine that Allah cannot be seen (see Allah Most High; Face of Allah) (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Rāghib, Mufradāt). Niʿma and ālāʾ, however, differ as the latter refers to internal, spiritual blessings and is thus more specific than the former (Qushayrī, Tafsīr, sub Q 7:69). This might draw some lexical support from the view that holds ilā to derive from the root w-l-y (denoting closeness) (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs). An alternate etymology (its lexicological relevance not explored by exegetes) identifies the root of ilā as ʾ-l-w, which has two opposite meanings: incapacity / weakness and ability / effort (Ibn Manzūr, Lisān).

Faḍl

Faḍl also has the sense of increase (ziyāda), and hence of good (khayr), but it does not necessarily connote growth, and so is narrower in scope than baraka. Faḍl is usually associated with a sense of comparison, because increase is comprehended with reference to something lesser, and this elative aspect is especially prominent in the derived verb faḍḍala (to confer distinction upon, and hence to favor) (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs). The noun faḍl as blessing occurs 82 times. In Q 2:237 it refers to the graciousness enjoined between a divorced couple rather than the normal sense of a blessing. The verb faḍḍala (to prefer, in the sense of granting special blessings) occurs 18 times, and its verbal noun tafḍīl twice (Q 17:21, 71). Faḍl is sometimes coupled with raḥma (Q 2:105; 3:74; 4:175; 10:58; 17:87; 24:10, 14, 20, 21). In keeping with the lexical overlap discussed above, niʿma and faḍl (or their cognates) occur together in seven verses (Q 2:47, 122; 3:171; 4:70, 73; 7:140; 45:16).

Mann

The triliteral root m-n-n signifies cutting, reducing, or weakening (manīn being a rope that is weak or truncated), or a deed of goodness and hence conferring favor. (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān) The second meaning might be a derivative of the first,  because the patron “cuts off” a portion of his wealth to give the beneficiary, or because he alleviates the latter’s need to beg (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 49:17). The conferral may be a favor bestowed without seeking anything in return (Ibn al-Athīr, Nihāya), or it may be a pure gift from Allah requiring no effort from the recipient (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān). Mann can also denote enumerating one’s own favors to the recipient, as a form of reproach and seeking gratitude or credit for those actions (for which meanings see Demanding Gratitude).

The verb manna occurs 16 times in the Qurʾān. Of the twelve instances that clearly relate to blessings, five refer to worldly deliverance or honor (Q 12:90; 20:37; 28:5; 28:82; 38:39), six to spiritual blessings such as guidance and prophethood (Q 3:164; 4:94; 6:53; 14:11; 37:114; 49:17), and one to deliverance in the Hereafter (Q 52:27) (see Deliverance). (For the remaining four instances, namely Q 26:22; 49:17x2; 74:6, see Demanding Gratitude.)

Raḥma

Raḥma (see Mercy), which originally means tenderness or compassion (al-riqqa wal-taʿaṭṭuf) (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs), also has connotations of blessing, for conferral is often a consequence of tenderness. Thus, Allah is the Possessor of Mercy (dhū-l-raḥma) which implies “the Possessor of completegraciousness” (al-tafaḍḍul al-tāmm) (Abu Ḥayyān, Baḥr, sub Q 6:133). The exegetical explanations of Q 7:56 (Allah’s mercy is close to the doers of good) integrate the concept of blessings, whether generally—e.g. Allah’s mercy is kindness (iḥsān), granting good (ītāʾ al-khayr) or reward (thawāb) (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ, sub r-ḥ-m; Ibn ʿĀshūr and Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr)—or specifically, such as the interpretation, quoted anonymously by Ṭabarī and attributed by Abū Ḥayyān (d. 745/1344) to al-Akhfash al-Awsaṭ (d. 215/830)], that it means rain (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Abū Ḥayyān, Baḥr). It has been suggested, consistent with its lexical meaning, that when contrasted with baraka (e.g. Q 11:73), rahma connotes the granting of blessing, and baraka its continuance (Ibn al-Qayyim, Badāʾiʿ al-fawāʾid 2:404-408).

Ālāʾ

The noun ālāʾ (favor) occurs 34 times, 31 of these in the contemplative refrain of Sūrat al-Raḥmān: Which, then, of the favors of your Lord will you [both] deny? (nearly every alternating verse from Q 55:13 through 55:77). Each instance of this refrain impels reflection upon the blessing mentioned immediately prior, and that its source is Allah alone. The refrain serves as a reiterated rebuke to those who ascribe partners to Allah, partners who are incapable of bestowing blessings (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 55:16). The other three occurrences of ālāʾ are Q 7:69, 74 (which explicitly enjoin call to mind the favors of Allah), and 53:55 (which, after enumerating various exemplary punishments inflicted on past disobedient nations, warns against doubting the favors of Allah).

Baraka

The word baraka occurs in the Qurʾān only in the plural barakāt, which are described as being bestowed from the heavens and earth upon righteous communities (Q 7:96), and specifically upon the Prophets Nūḥ (Q 11:48) and Ibrāhīm (Q 11:73), upon them peace. Baraka involves constancy, the simple verb being used to describe a camel kneeling and remaining in one place (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub b-r-k). When a she-camel has been kneeling overnight, milk collects in her udders, and she is also milked while kneeling. A small pond is similarly called birk or birka because water remains in it. Thus there emerge the meanings of plenty (bark: a large number of camels), increase (the verb abraka: increasing the pace of a gallop), and growth (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān). From these comes the meaning of the persistence of Divine goodness in something (Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir 2:209) and hence blessing, or specifically, according to al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822), happiness (Lisān; Farrāʾ, Maʿānī, sub Q 10:72; 2:23). The associated verb bāraka (to bless) is found eight times, and the passive participle mubārak (that which is blessed) occurs as an adjective twelve times, in reference to the following concepts.

  • Living beings: The Prophets Ibrāhīm (q.v.) and Isḥāq (q.v.), ʿĪsā (q.v.; Q 37:113; 19:31), and the creatures (according to commentators, angels and the Prophet Mūsā himself) near the blazing fire which Mūsā encountered in the wilderness (Q 27:8);
  • Locations: the earth itself is blessed (Q 41:10), and some places more specifically so: namely the city of Bakka (Q 3:96) (see Makka), the site of the fire encountered by Mūsā (Q 28:30), the destination for which the Prophet Nūḥ was asked to pray (Q 23:29), the environs of the Farthest Mosque (see al-Aqṣā Mosque) (Q 7:137; 17:1; 21:71, 81), certain cities around Sabāʾ (Sheba) (q.v.) (Q 34:18);
  • Times: the Qurʾān descended on a blessed night (Q 44:3) (see Descent of the Qurʾān), and according to a hadith the entire month of Ramadan is blessed (Nasāʾī, Ṣiyām, faḍl shahr Ramaḍān). Another hadith mentions that good deeds in the first ten days of the month of Dhūl-Ḥijja are more blessed (afḍal) and more beloved to Allah than others (Bukhārī, Dayn, faḍl al-ʿamal fī ayyām al-tashrīq);
  • The Qurʾān itself (Q 6:92, 155; 21:50; 38:29)—perhaps in the sense of its being a constant source of guidance, growth, and wonder as suggested by the Caliph (q.v.) Abū Bakr’s comment that “Its wonders (ʿajāʾib) are inexhaustible (lā tafnā)” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 59:19). A hadith names Sūrat al-Baqara as being blessed, and warns that neglecting it leads to regret (ḥasra) (Muslim, Ṣalāt al-musāfirīn wa-qaṣruhā, faḍl qirāʾat al-Qurʾān wa-Sūrat al-Baqara);
  • Distinct natural phenomena: rain (Q 50:9)—and per a hadith, Zamzam water specifically, in its nutrition and healing (Muslim, Faḍāʾil al-Saḥāba, min faḍāʾil Abī Dharr; cf. Ibrāhīm, Muʿjizāt)—and the olive tree (Q 24:35), as confirmed in a hadith, “Eat olive oil and use it as an ointment, for it is from a blessed tree” (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Aṭʿima, mā jāʾa fī akl al-zayt; rated gharīb).
  • The salām or greeting of peace (Q 24:61) enjoined upon believers when entering homes.
  • The reflexive verb tabāraka (“Blessed be…”) occurs eight times with Allah Most High as its subject; a ninth instance applies to Allah’s Name rather than Self (Q 55:78). A hadith applies the description of “blessed” to Allah’s attribute of yad (lit. “Hand”) (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, wa-min Sūrat al-Muʿawwidhatayn; rated ḥasan gharīb). In light of the lexical root and the context of these verses, such descriptions can be seen to allude to two meanings (Ibn al-Qayyim, Badāʾiʿ al-fawāʾid, 2:410-411):
  • A meaning relating to Allah’s Essence and Attributes, which in turn implies permanence, highness, grandeur and mercy, the uniqueness of these epithets intimated by the fact that the word tabāraka is not used of anyone or anything else;
  • A meaning relating to Allah’s actions, namely the countless benevolent acts which bestow and confer baraka on creation, such as initiating creation and maintaining its order (Q 7:54; 23:14; 25:61; 40:64; 43:85; 67:1), revelation of Scripture (Q 25:1), the ability to grant rivers and gardens in Paradise (Q 25:10), and more generally that He alone can grant worldly and otherworldly blessings (Q 55:78).

Ṭawl

Ṭawl is a near-synonym of faḍl (Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs), and the word is used in the description of Allah as Dhī al-ṭawl (Owner of abundance, Q 40:3), and elsewhere (Q 4:25, 9:86) to refer to human wealth.


Typology of All Divine Blessings

Nāṣir al-Dīn ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar al-Bayḍāwī (d. 708?/1308?) gives a systematic recapitulation of various types of Divine blessings in his commentary on the last verse of the Fātiḥa, The path of those You have favored (Q 1:7):

The favors of Allah, although uncountable—as He said, if you would count the bounty of Allah you cannot number it (Q 14:34)—can be subsumed under two sets: this-worldly and next-worldly. The first is in two parts: gifted (mawhibī) and acquired (kasbī).

The gifted is it­self in two parts: (i) spiritual, such as people’s ensoulment (nafkh al-rūḥ) and enlightenment through the intellect and all the faculties that depend on it such as compre­hen­sion (fahm), reflection (fikr) and speech (nuṭq); and (ii) corporeal, such as the fashioning of the body, the powers im­manent in it, and its accidental aspects such as good health and well-proportioned limbs.

The acquired include the purification of the self from vices and its adornment with refined traits and worthy skills; the em­bellishment of the body with elegant miens (al-hayʾāt al-maṭbūʿa) and prized ornaments; and the acquisition of repute and wealth.

The second [type of divine favor] is for Him to forgive one what one did thought­lessly; be well-pleased with one; and make one dwell in the High­est with the angels brought near, forever and ever.

[The favor that is] meant is the latter [next-worldly] type and everything from the former that serves as a link (wuṣla) to attain it. The rest is all, without exception, the lot shared by both believ­ers and unbe­lievers. (Tafsīr)


Spiritual Blessings

While the Muslim is not to be dismissive of the value of material blessings, nevertheless spiritual blessings are greater: Say, “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy—in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate” (Q 10:58). The bounty and mercy referred to here are glossed by Ibn Kathīr as “that which Allah has brought them by way of guidance and the religion of truth.” (Tafsīr). Al-Ṭabarī comments, “Islam and the Qurʾān are better than the scraps of this world, its possessions and treasures” (khayrun min ḥuṭām al-dunyā wa-amwālihā wa-kunūzihā). To be maintained steadfast in guidance is also a blessing (Q 4:113; 17:87); this includes being granted love for faith and aversion for unbelief, transgression, and disobedience (Q 49:7-8), and the resulting Godwariness (see Taqwā) leads to forgiveness (Q 8:29). Without such blessings from Allah, people would not become purified (Q 24:21), would remain blameworthy and ignoble after their sins (Jalālayn and Bayḍāwī, Tafsīrs sub Q 68:49), and in fact might be misled by the wrongdoers and dishonest (Q 4:113), or even support the miscreants (Q 28:17), end up following Satan (Q 4:83), become losers (Q 2:64), incur painful punishment for some of their misdeeds (Q 24:14), and be brought to Hellfire (Q 37:57); but Allah is Accepting of Repentance and Wise (Q 24:10) and Kind and Merciful (Q 24:20).

In this regard, the Prophets were especially blessed by Allah (Q 4:69; 6:86; 19:58; 43:59): We granted favor (manannā) to Mūsā and Hārūn (Q 37:114). When past nations remonstrated that the Messengers sent to them from Allah were mere humans, the messengers replied, “We are only men like you, but Allah confers favor (yamunnu) upon whom He wills of His servants” (Q 14:11). The exclusive favor that Prophets are blessed with is prophethood, including the spiritual power and illumination required for the prophetic mission (Qurṭubī, Rāzī, Tafsīrs).  There are degrees of rank (and thus of blessings received) among the Prophets themselves (Q 2:253; 17:55); some have been singled out for mention as having received unique blessings. The Prophet ʿĪsā, upon him peace, was supported by the Spirit of Holiness and given numerous miracles (Q 5:110, 6:48).

Among the blessings bestowed upon the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, were his innocence of being a soothsayer or madman (Q 68:2; 52:29) or poet (Q 69:41), and the completion of Divine favor upon him (Q 48:2) by the glad tidings of his being forgiven (Tabarī, Tafsīr). Qāḍī ʿIyād b. Mūsā al-Yaḥṣubī (476-544/1083-1149) devoted the fourth chapter of the first section of his monumental al-Shifā (The Healing) to “those miracles that Allah Most High manifested at his hands, and those special things and marks of respect with which He honored him.” (see Miracles) Dhahabī's critique of the book's use of weak ḥadīths and far-fetched interpretations, while reminding us that all human works have shortcomings, is nevertheless a bit exaggerated, and the Shifa is widely acknowledged to be a central book on the virtues of the Prophet (See: Shuwāṭ, al-Qāḍī ʿIyād, 220-221).

Notwithstanding the special blessing of prophethood, the general blessing of Divine guidance (Ṭabarī, sub Q 14:11) is accessible also to those who are not Prophets. Monotheism is a great blessing to mankind, but one for which most of mankind do not give thanks (Q 12:38). The Khūzistānī Sufi and sage Abū Muḥammad Sahl al-Tustarī (d. 283/896) interpreted the “favor” in Q 14:11 as “reciting and understanding the Qurʾān” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr), a statement reminiscent of the saying of ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ (d. 63/683), “Whoever recites the Qurʾān, it is as if prophethood has been enfolded between his sides, short of receiving [direct] Revelation (waḥy)” (Ibn al-Mubārak, Zuhd, Mā jāʾa fī dhamm al-tanaʿʿum fīl-dunyā). Allah conferred [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves (Q 3:164). The sending of Prophets is a blessing to all people, but only believers benefit from it (Rāzī, Tafsīr). Some have inferred the favor here to be an honor for the Arabs, since the verse most immediately addressed the Prophet’s Arab contemporaries (Qurṭubī and Rāzī, Tafsīrs), but this should not be taken to negate the more important and universal blessing of guidance through “a [human] Messenger from among them, so that it is possible for them to address him and consult him regarding understanding of his speech” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr).

Allah may also grant greater spiritual blessings (sometimes coupled with worldly blessings) to certain individuals or groups. The Israelites had been blessed over all other nations—of their time (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:47)—for example, through their deliverance from bondage and persecution in Egypt (Q 14:6), Divine guidance (Q 2:40, 47, 122; 7:140) Scripture, Prophethood, judgment and kingship (Q 5:20, 45:16), and noble lineage (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:47). The Qurʾān reminds us, however, that Allah’s spiritual blessings (of guidance and revelation) are not given exclusively to a particular community; Allah grants it to whom He wills (Q 3:73), and those who are outraged and envious that the final Prophet is an Arab are censured (Q 2:90, 105; 3:73-74; 4:54; 57:29). Allah completed His favor upon the believers of the umma (see Community) of the Prophet Muhammad (Q 5:3): by the perfection of Islam (Jalālayn, Tafsīr); by making them triumph over the polytheists who had been persecuting and attacking them (Q 5:11; 33:9); and by allowing the Muslims to return in safety to Makka, and to perform the pilgrimage free of the spiritual pollution of polytheism (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:3). Allah uniting the formerly warring Arab tribes in the brotherhood [see: Brother and Brotherhood] of Islamic faith was also a great blessing (Q 3:103), as was His forgiving them for having disobeyed the Prophet in the Battle of Uḥud (q.v.) (Q 3:152). When, during a journey with the Prophet and his Companions, the young ʿĀʾisha’s (d. 58/678) losing her necklace and the ensuing search for it in the wilderness led to the revelation of the regulations of dry ablution (Q 4:43 or 5:6) (see Ablution; Calumny; Falsehood), Usayd b. Hudayr (d. 20/641) saw this as a blessing associated with her. This shows that the Companions saw the revelation of sacred law as a blessing (Bukhārī, Tayammum, wa-qawl Allāh taʿālā fa-lam tajidū māʾan....). Allah has favored those who strive for His cause (mujāhidūn) in a just war (see Jihad) over those who stay behind (qāʿidūn) (Q 4:95), and martyrs’ souls are conferred special bounties in the realm of the unseen, so that they rejoice in favors and grace from Allah (Q 3:169-171) (see Manifest and Hidden). In general, there are degrees of blessing (in the form of reward and thus rank) in the Hereafter (Q 17:21), and a hadith tells of one hundred levels in Heaven for those who strive (Bukhārī, Jihād wal-Siyar, darajāt al-mujāhidīn fī sabīl Allāh). Protection from the punishment of hellfire and admission into the heavenly abode is the immense bounty (Q 35:35; 42:22; 44:56-57).


Worldly Blessings

The extent of the blessings of Allah is unfathomable by humans (Q 14:34; 16:18), even in unqualified terms (ʿalā al-ijmāl), let alone the detailed enumeration of which only Allah is capable (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf). If people cannot enumerate these blessings, still less are they capable of showing the due measure of gratitude for them (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr). Some blessings are manifestly evident, being tangible (such as health, beauty, good deeds, and the sending of Prophets); others are more hidden, being known to us only by inference (such as reason, knowledge, faith, the removal of specious arguments) or not known to us at all (Ṭabarī, Zamakhsharī, Qurṭubī, Ibn Kathīr, sub Q 31:20). Allah is the Bestower of Blessing (dhū faḍl) upon all creatures (al-ʿālamīn, Q 2:251) in this world and specifically upon humankind (Q 27:73), not only by implication but specifically in the ennoblement of the Children of Adam, their ability to travel upon land and sea, and their being preferred over many other creatures (Q 17:70). Characteristic of the generosity of Allah to the human being is that He has given him knowledge (Q 96:3-5) and taught him abstract thought, expression, and eloquent language (bayān, Q 55:4), to the extent that the angels were impelled to submit to Allah and glorify Him when they realized Ādam’s superior knowledge (Q 2:32). Other aspects of the human superiority to the animals include upright posture and manual dexterity in eating and in work, gesturing, and writing (Ṭabarī, Rāzī, Qurṭubī, Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs, sub Q 17:70).

People in general enjoy the blessings of life, food and drink (Q 55:1-13), clothing and shelter (Q 16:80-81), and partners and offspring (Q 16:72). Allah sustains human life beyond its mere subsistence, embellishing it by providing good things (Q 16:72) beyond necessity (Qurṭubī) such as varieties of fruits and vegetables (Jalālayn), beauty (Q 16:6) beyond functional need (Zamakhsharī), and adornment such as pearls and coral (Q 55:22) beyond necessity or utility (Qurṭubī). Also among the communal blessings enjoyed by human beings are security (Q 106:1-4) and oppressors being restrained by opposing forces (Q 2:251). The Qurʾān is replete with reminders of Divine worldly blessings, but Sūrat al-Naḥl (Q 16) in particular was called “The Sūra of Blessings” (Sūrat al-Niʿam) by the Basran Follower (tābiʿī, i.e. from the generation after the Companions) exegete Qatāda b. Diʿāma (d. 118), because it mentions so many blessings (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr and Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar, sub Q 16:81). All of these blessings continue to be conferred and in general (exceptions are discussed below) are not withheld as a collective punishment, despite the evil and ingratitude displayed by many humans (Ṭabarī and Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs, sub Q 27:72).

Besides these universal blessings, there are also particular blessings conferred by Allah only on some. Thus, there are gradations in the sustenance received by different people (Q 16:71; 17:21), whereby individuals seek the service of one another (Q 43:32) and are kept busy rather than being left to potentially destructive idleness (Q 42:27). Each gender has been granted unique abilities and corresponding, complementary responsibilities of greater benefit (Ṭanṭāwī-Kūmī, Wasīṭ, sub Q 4:34; Laḥḥām, Min hady Sūrat al-Nisāʾ, p. 122). People are instructed not to covet others’ blessings (whether material or otherwise), but rather to ask Allah of His bounty (see Supplication and Answer), implying that one should strive for whatever bounty one can attain by oneself in work (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 4:32). Health and leisure are two blessings that are frequently assumed or not acknowledged (Bukhārī, Riqāq, lā ʿaysh illā ʿaysh al-Ākhira). The Qurʾān encourages hope in better things to come even in straitened financial circumstances, such as poor people intending marriage, a community fearing a decline in trade (Q 9:28; 24:32), and the emotional and material upheaval of divorce (Q 4:130).

Allah blessed some of His Prophets with specific worldly blessings, Dāwūd (q.v.) and Sulaymān (q.v.) being notable examples (Q 27:15-16, 40). Sulaymān, peace upon him, was given the option to grant (umnun) or withhold without account (Q 38:39). The gift here is likely the kingdom bestowed upon him (Ṭabarī), including power over the winds (Q 38:36), jinn who erected buildings and dove into the seas for him (Q 38:37), and others chained in his service. However, some have interpreted the blessing of Q 38:39 as referring specifically to the jinn, to “set free or keep [them in service] without account” (Ālūsī, Rūḥ). Similarly, if Muslims take prisoners after a battle, then they are to either confer favor (mann) afterwards, or ransom [them] (Q 47:4). The more evident meaning of “conferral of favor” is to set the prisoners free without demanding anything in return (as concluded by Ṭabarī, Zamakhsharī, Qurṭubī); but some take it as allowing their enslavement, because sparing them death is a favor (Rāzī, Ibn ʿĀshūr) (see Captives). The Prophet Yūsuf’s (q.v.) remark, “Allah has certainly favored us” (Q 12:90) may refer to Allah having removed calamity from him, or granting him worldly honor and status, or re-uniting him with his family (Ṭabarī), or all of these (Shawkānī). When the Israelites were, much later, enslaved and oppressed in Egypt by the Pharaoh, Allah wanted to confer favor (namunnā) on them, and make them leaders and make them the inheritors, and establish them in the earth, and to show Pharaoh, Hāmān, and their soldiers from them that which they had feared (Q 28:5-6). When Allah caused the earth to swallow Qārūn (q.v.), the arrogant wealthy Israelite ally of Pharaoh, those who had envied his position the previous day realized their error, and that Allah had favored them (manna) by sparing them (Q 28:82). Allah conferred favor on the Prophet Mūsā (), peace upon him, by saving him from death during Pharaoh’s campaign of slaughtering the newborn sons of Israel (cf. Q 2:49; 7:127, 141), and later by granting him Hārūn (q.v.), peace upon him, as a companion Prophet (Q 20:37). Allah sustained the Israelites with manna and quail (al-mann wal-salwā) in the wilderness (Q 2:57; 7:160; 20:80). Most exegetes took al-mann here as being a kind of dew (taranjabīn: Persian manna), but ʿImād al-Dīn Ismāʿīl b. ʿUmar Ibn Kathīr (700-774/1300-1373) includes the broader lexical meanings in his interpretation, and thus it includes not only the heavenly food, but also “all that Allah blessed them with by way of food, drink and other things” (Tafsīr). A hadith mentions that truffles (al-kamʾa) are a kind of manna (Bukhārī, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, Sūrat al-Aʿrāf)—perhaps because truffles are obtained without the effort of planting, watering or cultivation, as was the case with the Israelites’ manna (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr).


Blessings on the Just and the Unjust

While worldly blessings are not to be ignored or trivalized, they are not proportionate to the righteousness of the recipient. To the contrary, “If this world had the weight of a mosquito wing in the sight of Allah, He would not give a disbeliever [so much as] a drink of water” (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Zuhd, mā jāʾa fī hawān al-dunyā, rated ṣaḥīḥ). Worldly blessings are not in themselves a sign of Divine approval or reward. Do they think that what We extend to them by way of wealth and children is [given because] We hasten for them good things? Rather, they do not realize (Q 23:55-56). Allah may allow wayward people to enjoy what appear to be tremendous blessings, so as to give them time to show their true nature. So let them be ungrateful for what We have given them, and let them enjoy themselves, for soon they will know (Q 29:66) and likewise We shall lead them on, little by little, whence they know not (Q 68:44). The doors of repentance remain open, and the people of the Prophet Yūnus (Jonah; q.v.) are presented as an example of those who benefited from their reprieve (Q 10:98; cf. 26:205-207). But if they continue to live forgetful and even hedonistic lives, not humbled (Q 6:43) and eating like cattle (Q 47:12)—that is, without using the blessings of intellect and Divine signs to realize the deeper realities of monotheism and moral accountability (Ṭabarī)—then the doors of every [good] thing of this world may be opened for them (Q 6:44), so that they exhaust their share of enjoyment in this world (Q 46:34), eventually being seized suddenly, to move on in despair to Hell (Q 6:44; 47:12). We allow them their pleasure for a short time, then We drive them toward the punishment (Q 31:24; cf. 3:178; 10:69-70; 15:3; 16:55).

In consideration of the eventual fate of disbelievers, some Muslim theologians concluded that the disbeliever cannot be said to be honored with Divine blessing (munʿam ʿalayh), for something that leads to suffering cannot truly be said to be a blessing, although it may have brought some temporary enjoyment. The Muʿtazila denied that unlawful (ḥaram) sustenance could be called rizq on those grounds and were refuted (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:3). Others maintained that the intrinsic goodness of blessings means that the term can still be meaningfully used, even with reference to someone who misuses them and consequently suffers. This latter view is also supported by the fact that the Qurʾān lists a number of worldly favors, which are explicitly described as blessings (Q 16:5-18). The actual scope of this scholarly disagreement is ultimately limited (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 3:197; Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 40:13), for both sides agree that the truly significant blessings are those of the Hereafter, which are conferred upon those who make appropriate use of worldly blessings; the disagreement is a matter of whether the term ‘blessing’ should be applied based on potential good or subject to its eventual actualization.

Indeed, Allah might have given even more worldly wealth to disbelievers, were it not that the resulting temptation would prove too great a test even for believers. If it were not that the people would become one community [of disbelievers], We would have made for those who disbelieve in the Most Merciful—for their houses—ceilings and stairways of silver upon which to mount; and for their houses, doors and couches upon which to recline; and gold ornament. But all that is naught but the enjoyment of worldly life; and the Hereafter with your Lord is for the righteous (Q 43:33-35). Even the believer with the lowliest worldly station has been (spiritually) favored by Allah, notwithstanding the (feigned and sarcastic) incredulity of wealthy, arrogant unbelievers who claim themselves to be more worthy of guidance: And thus We have tried some of them through others, that the disbelievers might say, “Is it these whom Allah has favored among us?” Is not Allah most knowing of those who are grateful? (Q 6:53). Hence, rather than those who arrogantly feel entitled to guidance by virtue of their lives of luxury, in fact the destitute, weak, and humble are often more disposed to show gratitude to Allah, and consequently to be blessed with guidance (Ibn Kathīr and Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīrs).


Human Responses to Blessings: Gratitude

Enjoyment of worldly blessings within the bounds of sacred law is not blameworthy (Q 7:32); indeed, if lived in obedience to Allah, the life of this world may be considered a blessing (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 57:20). In this light, the ascetic of Rayy (see: Yāqūt, Muʿjam, sub al-Rayy), Yaḥyā b. Muʿādh (d. 258/871) said, “How can I not love a world in which there is apportioned to me sustenance by which I can earn a life in which I obey Allah and thereby attain the Hereafter?” (Ibn Rajab, Jāmiʿ al-ʿulūm wal-ḥikam 2:193). Furthermore, a communal dearth of blessings may generally be a sign of spiritual misconduct or deviation in that community: And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the Messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning (Q 7:96); And Allah presents an example: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what [its people] had been doing (Q 16:112). Only when a people change their conduct and attitude to blatant ingratitude and disobedience does Allah exchange His blessings for affliction (Jalālayn, Tafsīr, sub Q 8:53; cf. sub Q 2:211; 14:28). In contrast, one of the hadiths concerning the Last Days foretells great prosperity during the period of righteousness immediately after the annihilation of Gog and Magog (see Yaʾjūj and Maʾjūj): “Then the Earth will be told: produce your fruits, and restore your blessings. On that day a band of people (ʿisāba) will eat from a [single] pomegranate, and will take shade under its shell, a milk-camel will even suffice a company of people (fiʾām)” (Muslim, Fitan wa-ashrāṭ al-sāʿa, dhikr al-dajjāl wa-ṣifatihi wa-mā maʿah).

A recurrent theme of the Qurʾān is that Divine blessings should elicit a spiritual response of loving gratitude (Q 5:6; 8:26; 16:14, 114; 28:73; etc.), which in turn leads to greater blessings (Q 14:7), including deliverance from Divine chastisement as in the case of the Prophet Lūṭ (Q 54:35). The Prophets of Allah, paragons for humanity (Q 6:90), are exemplary in their gratitude; Nūḥ, q.v. (Q 17:3) and Ibrāhīm, q.v. (Q 16:121) are named.

Gratitude begins with thought and reflection: O mankind, recall the favor of Allah upon you (Q 35:3; cf. 2:40, 47, 122; 5:110). Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310/839-923) comments, “Look and see if there is a creator besides Allah who provides for you from the heavens and the earth; [and when you realize that Allah is the only one,] then do not worship any other than Him.” Jār Allāh Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd b. ʿUmar al-Zamakhsharī (467-538/ca.1074-1143) observes that the injunction “recall” (udhkurū) involves both tongue and heart: “by safeguarding the blessings from ingratitude (kufrān) and undervaluing, and by being thankful for them by realizing their reality, acknowledging them, and obeying their Bestower.” (Kashshāf, sub Q 35:3).

Allah completes His favors upon humankind in order that they may contemplate them (Ibn ʿAjība, Baḥr, sub Q 16:81) (see Contemplation; Contentment). Through the resulting awareness of Allah’s blessings, Allah might protect the person from following lower desires (hawā) until they prefer that which pleases Allah (Qushayrī, Tafsīr) (Q 16:81: perhaps you will submit).

The family of Prophet Dāwūd, upon him peace, was commanded to work...in gratitude (Q 34:13), namely to act and worship because of gratitude for Allah’s blessings. From this it can be inferred that worship should be performed as a means of offering thanks (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf). Part of gratitude for a Divine blessing is to share it with others (see Almsgiving; Spending), particularly the less fortunate. Qārūn, a wealthy man from the people of the Prophet Mūsā was advised to do good as Allah has done good to you (Q 28:77). Giving in charity from one’s wealth is a recurrent teaching in the Qurʾān; it is a good deed that contributes to social growth and betterment, and the obligatory zakāt (q.v.; in the literal, linguistic sense, “growth”) may be so named because of the hope of blessing[s] (rajāʾ al-baraka) and resulting growth in this world and the Hereafter (Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir 3:132). Charitable spending is also a means to seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter (Q 28:77), that is, to seek its delight (naʿīm) and reward (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr). Similarly, the gratitude due for blessings having been made subservient (taskhīr) to humankind—whether internal, such as sight, hearing, and intellect, or external blessings of natural phenomena—is to use them to perform what is intended by and dear to the Benefactor (al-qiyām bi-mā huwa maqṣūd al-Munʿim wa-maḥbūbuh), that is, in the service of Allah; and to avoid using them in disobeying Him (Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ 4:81-84, 4:116-118). For more on this theme, see Gratitude.

The Obligation of Gratitude for Blessings

The centrality of gratitude to the Qurʾānic discourse on faith is undisputed among Muslims, but theologians have debated whether such gratitude is obligatory independently of revelation or whether it must be awakened by revelation. The discussion involves two Qurʾānic verses, along with disagreements regarding the capability and role of the human intellect (Bakhīt, al-Qawl al-mufīd p. 13-14). In general, the Ashʿarīs and Ḥanbalīs hold that good and evil are not inherent but determined through Divine order and prohibition, and can therefore only be known after receipt of Divine revelation. They find support for their position in a Qurʾānic verse that, at face value, might suggest that people who have not received the message of revelation are not subject to Divine punishment: And never would We punish until We had sent a Messenger (Q 17:15).

The Muʿtazilīs, on the other hand, claim that the intellect can, independently of revelation, realize the necessity of thanking the Benefactor (beginning with the blessing of having been granted a life through which one can experience enjoyment and obtain benefit) and hence the obligation to deduce the existence, oneness, and fundamental attributes of Allah (which are necessary in order to be able to recognize and thank Him). They interpret Q 17:15 differently, such as by interpreting the Messenger to mean reason—a point over which Rāzī agreed with them in one place (Tafsīr; cf. Qūnawī, Ḥāshiya, 1:239) but disagreed in another (Muḥaṣṣal, pp. 46-47)—or by taking the verse to refer to worldly annihilation (Ālūsī, Rūḥ). Most Māturīdīs (Usmandī, Lubāb, section 9; Bayāḍī, Ishārāt, p. 53, points 13-22 beginning yajib bi-mujarrad al-ʿaql; Khādimī, Barīqa, 1:314, first point) agree with the Muʿtazilī position that reason (al-ʿaql) suffices for one to recognize and consequently worship Allah (Zamakhsharī, Minhāj, p. 67, Nubuwwāt), while some other scholars of the school take an intermediate stance: that even though it is possible for the mind to discern the desirability of thanking the Benefactor, nevertheless people are not necessarily rewarded for doing it, or punished for neglecting it, until they have been made aware of the consequences by receiving a revealed Message (Abū ʿAdhba, al-Rawḍa al-Bahiyya fī mā bayn al-Ashāʿira wal-Māturīdiyya, 34-39; Anṣārī, Fawātiḥ, 1:23-27, 1:40-44). Ashʿarīs and some Māturīdīs (Ghaznawī, Uṣūl, pp. 158-159) consider the verse And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam—from their loins—their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes indeed, we have testified.” [This] lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Truly we were not aware of this” (Q 7:172) literal while Muʿtazīlīs and most Māturīdīs—among others—consider it figurative as an allegory of Innate Nature (q.v.) and the intellect’s ability to discriminate right from wrong: “Allah set up for them the evidences for His lordship and oneness; and their minds and insights, with which He endowed them and which He made [able to] discriminate between misguidance and guidance, attested to it. Thus, it is as if He made them testify of their own selves, made them acknowledge, and said to them, ‘Am I not your Lord?’” (Kashshāf; cf. Pazdawī, op. cit.; Nasafī; Ibn Kathąr; Abū al-Suʿūd; Ālūsī).


Proclamation of Blessings

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, was enjoined, As for the favor (niʿma) of your Lord, proclaim [it]! (Q 93:11). A rhetorical analysis of this in the context of preceding verses yields the gloss, “tell of that with which Allah has blessed you, in recognition of His favor; and that is part of gratitude” (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 93:11). This same spirit has been illustrated by Prophets Dāwūd and Sulaymān: And indeed We gave Dāwūd and Sulaymān knowledge, and they said, “Praise [is due] to Allah Who has favored us over many of His believing servants.” And Sulaymān inherited [from] Dāwūd. He said, “O people, we have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from all things. Indeed, this is evident bounty” (Q 27:15-16). And when Sulaymān saw the throne of the Queen of Sabaʾ (q.v.) transported to him in the blink of an eye, he remarked, “This is [part] of the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful, his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful, truly my Lord is Free of need and Generous” (Q 27:40).

Except for the Prophets, talking about one’s blessings bears the danger of ostentation (riyāʾ, see Pride, Arrogance, and Boastfulness), and hence the Makkan Tābiʿī (Successor) exegete Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. ca.104/722) recommended that people restrict themselves to proclaiming the blessings of having received the Qurʾān and Prophetic guidance. Mujāhid’s Basran contemporary, Abū Naḍra al-Mundhir b. Mālik (d. ca.107/725), on the other hand, held that the injunction to proclaim Allah’s blessings applied to all believers. This was echoed by later scholars such as al-Qurṭubī and Qāḍī ʿIyād while some others, including the Mālikī judge Abū Bakr Ibn al-ʿArabī (468-543/1076-1148), took a middle position, opining that one should only divulge one’s blessings to trusted friends (Tafsīrs of Qurṭubī, Ibn ʿĀshūr, Ibn al-ʿArabī, sub Q 93:11). Fakhr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) noted that the stipulation of avoiding ostentation must still apply (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 93:11). Ibn ʿĀshūr points out an additional danger of speaking of one’s blessings: causing dejection to listeners who have not been similarly blessed. Where exercising such psychological discernment causes one to fear ostentation, the verbal expression of gratitude should be restricted to recalling the blessings in one’s supplication, as was done by the Prophet Sulaymān (q.v.), upon him peace, when he heard an ant warning her colony lest they be trampled underfoot by his army (Q 27:19), and as people in general are taught to do on reaching forty years of age (Q 46:15). One can also make blessings known in a non-verbal way, by using them to fulfill one’s needs: “Allah loves to see the sign of His blessing upon His servant” (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Adab, mā jā’a anna-Llāh taʿālā yuḥibb an yarā athar niʿmatih ʿalā ʿabdih; rated ḥasan).


Concealment and Turning Away

Rather than proclaiming Divine favor, the miser conceals it—for example by pretending to be poor—such that the effects of his wealth do not show even in his own life, let alone benefit others (Ibn Kathīr and Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs, sub Q 4:37). The miserliness that is religiously blameworthy is to withhold what Allah has commanded one to give (Qurṭubī). Those who are blessed with greater sustenance should give greater thanks, and yet it was some of the wealthy who were the most vehement in opposing the Prophet, and thereby rejecting Allah’s favors (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 16:71). Such rejection and denial (cf. Q 16:83) of Allah’s blessings are the summit of ingratitude, and are tantamount to covering them up—precisely the lexical meaning of kufr, particularly if the blessings are attributed to other than Allah. A connection between denying disbelief (kufr) (q.v.) and concealing or denying blessings is made in Q 4:37, and more explicitly in Q 14:28. The Prophet declared, “There is no blessing (baraka) that Allah sends down from the sky except that a group of people commit kufr thereby.” Another narration explains this: Allah says, “Whoever says, ‘We received rain by the favor (faḍl) and mercy of Allah,’ is a believer in Me, a disbeliever in the star [as a deity]. And whoever says, ‘We received rain by such-and-such star,’ is a disbeliever in Me, a believer in the star” (Muslim, Īmān, bayān kufr man qāla muṭirnā bil-nawʾ). There are degrees of disbelief (kufr), to be sure, but the hadith calls for care in speaking, lest one’s words contain any hint of ingratitude. Concealing can also occur with spiritual blessings (of Divine revelation), through a refusal to impart religious knowledge when called upon to do so, or when recipients of earlier Scriptures withheld public acknowledgment from the final Prophet whom they found prophesied in their own Books (Ṭabarī and Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs, sub Q 4:37).

Unacceptable responses to Divine blessings include turning away from the Bestower and shying away from giving thanks (Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:83; cf. Q 41:51). The human being is prone to becoming exuberant and proud while enjoying worldly blessings, only to cry for succor when adversity strikes (Q 16:53). But as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me (ahānani)” (Q 89:15-16). The humiliation mentioned here is only in the eye of the disbeliever, whose concept of blessing is restricted to this world, whereas the believer realizes that faith and guidance are greater blessings than material bounty (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). The helpless dependence solely on Allah experienced during adversity is often quickly forgotten when blessings of plenty resume (Q 39:8; cf. Q 11:9-10; 41:49-51; 70:19-20), with polytheists (q.v.) returning to their idolatry (shirk). Q 22:11 warns against being willing to worship Allah only when things are easy.


The Pursuit of Blessings by Various Means (tawassul, ṣalawāt, tabarruk)

Humankind is instructed to seek the bounty of Allah (Q 73:20), the primary implication being that of trade and commerce (e.g., gloss of Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr), which is permissible even during the days of Pilgrimage (Q 2:198, see Hajj) and after the Friday prayer (Q 62:10). In fact, daytime has been created specifically for human beings to pursue the bounty of Allah, while night time is primarily for rest (Q 17:12; 28:73; 30:23). According to a hadith, work in the early part of the day is especially blessed (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Buyūʿ, mā jāʾa fī al-tabkīr bil-tijāra; rated ḥasan). Ships traversing the oceans for trade are specifically mentioned as a momentous blessing (Q 16:14; 17:66; 30:46; 31:31; 35:12; 43:13; 45:12). Giving charity leads to increase, in contrast to the destruction resulting from dealing in interest (Q 2:276, 30:39) (see Usury).

The believers are commanded to seek a means (wasīla) to Allah: O you who believe, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him; and strive in His cause that you may succeed (Q 5:35). The Ḥanbalī theologian and spiritual master Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr b. Ayyūb Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya al-Zurʿī (691-751/1292-1350) wrote, “There is no path to happiness and success in this world or the Hereafter except at the hands of the Messengers [of Allah], nor is there any way to know good and bad in detail other than by way of them, nor can Allah’s pleasure be gained except at their hands” (Zād, 1:68-69). Hence, after the coming of the final Messenger, his Message, teachings and practice are the means to spiritual blessings, and the primary implication of the “means” that believers are to seek to Allah is that of endearing oneself to Allah Most High through righteousness (e.g., Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar).

The Prophet’s status is such that Allah and His angels confer blessings upon the Prophet) in recognition of which the believers are instructed to invoke blessings upon him and greet him with abundant salutation (Q 33:56). The Baṣran exegete Abū al-ʿĀliya (d. 90/709) explained Allah’s conferring blessings on the Prophet as Allah’s praise of him to angels and humans; others added to that Allah’s supporting him and his mission in this world and honoring him and his followers in the Hereafter; the angels’ invocation of blessings is their supplication on his behalf; and the implication of the command to the believers is for them to pray to Allah for blessings upon him (Ālūsī, Rūḥ, sub Q 33:56). The blessings of such supplications (ṣalawāt) devolve upon the supplicator as well, as the Prophet said, “Whoever asks for blessings upon me once, Allah thereby sends blessings upon him ten times” (Muslim, Ṣalāt, al-ṣalāt ʿalā al-Nabī baʿd al-tashahhud). From this Qurʾānic foundation there has sprung forth an entire genre of literature in praise of the Prophet, among which the Sufi al-Būṣīrī’s (d. 695/1294) Burda (The Mantle Ode: al-Kawākib al-durriyya fī madḥ Khayr al-Bariyya) and al-Jazūlī’s (d. 870/1465) compilation of invocations of  blessings Dalāʾil al-khayrāt (The markers of good things) are especially widespread. While these works do contain some ambiguous wordings that might be theologically problematic (or misinterepreted as such by the ignorant), a charitable reading can dispel most or all of these, without casting aspersions on the sincerity of the authors (See -Ghumārī, Rafʿ al-ishkāl, pp. 28-33). Sakhāwī’s al-Qawl al-badīʿ fīl-Salāt ʿalā al-Ḥabīb al-Shafīʿ (The best statement concerning the invocation of blessing on the beloved Intercessor) is perhaps the most famous of many works devoted to expounding the virtues and regulations of invoking blessings on the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace.

The Companions would also seek blessings (baraka) from the person of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace—jostling each other for the remnants of the water he had used for ablution (Bukhārī, Wuḍūʾ, istiʿmāl faḍl waḍūʾ al-nās), cutting out and keeping the part of the waterskin which had touched his mouth when he drank (Ibn Mājah, Ashriba, al-shurb qāʾiman), and keeping some of his hairs in a bottle of water for use in healing (Bukhārī, Libās, mā yudhkaru fī-l-shīb). The Prophet’s supplications for people were blessed in their outcomes: for example, when he invoked blessings upon the marriage of the Companion Abū Ṭalha Zayd b. Sahl al-Najjārī al-Anṣārī (d. 34/654) and his wife, the couple came to have nine children, all of whom memorized the Qurʾān (Bukhārī, Janāʾiz, man lam yuẓhir ḥuznahu ʿinda al-muṣība).

Notwithstanding the numerous hadiths that show that the Companions sought blessings from the Prophet’s physical person, there are other narrations that indicate that there is a limit to the benefit of such physical items. Neither the Qurʾān nor the hadith literature supports the popular perception that blessing (baraka) is a physically transferable substance with guaranteed efficacy. Even the blessings of the person of the Prophet and his intercession (q.v.) may be ineffective for a spiritually corrupt person, for although a hypocrite was shrouded—at his request—in one of the Prophet’s own tunics, the Prophet is said to have remarked that the tunic would not avail him (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 9:84). Similarly, even though some lands are blessed (see above), the Companion Abū ʿAbd Allāh Salmān al-Fārisī (the Persian), nicknamed Ibn al-Islām and Salmān al-Khayr (d. 36/656), remarked, “a land does not sanctify anyone; a person is sanctified only by his actions” (Mālik, Muwaṭṭaʾ, Waṣiyya, jāmiʿ al-qaḍāʾ wa-karāhiyyatuh). It can be concluded that the most effective way to seek spiritual blessings is through one’s own righteous conduct (cf. Q 4:123). Hence the Qurʾānic descriptions of believers seeking Allah’s bounty and approval by habitual bowing (rukūʿ) and prostration (sujūd) (Q 48:29) (see Bowing and Prostration), circumambulation of the Kaʿba (Q 5:2), and emigration for the sake of Allah (Q 59:8) (see Hijra). Similarly, when the Companion Rabīʿa b. Kaʿb al-Aslamī (d. 63/683) asked for the Prophet’s company in Heaven, he was told to assist in the fulfillment of this request “by [performing] abundant prostration” (Muslim, Ṣalāt, faḍl al-sujūd wal-ḥathth ʿalayh). Some Prophetic supplications explicitly ask for blessings, such as that of the Guidance Prayer (istikhāra) (Bukhārī, Daʿawāt, al-duʿā ʿinda-l-istikhāra), the supplication for a newly-married couple (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Nikāḥ, mā jāʾa fī-mā yuqāl lil-mutazawwij; rated ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ), the supplications before drinking milk and generally before eating (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Daʿawāt, mā yaqūl idhā akala ṭaʿāman; rated ḥasan), and a supplication the Prophet made for people who hosted him for a meal (Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, Ashriba, fīl-nafkh fīl-sharāb wal-tanaffus fīh).


Seeking Blessings in Trade, Food, and Righteous Conduct

Hadiths also enjoin seeking blessings through specific practices relating to trade, food, and moral conduct. Legitimate means of earning are blessed; in contrast, those who seek money through unjustified begging and the like are never satiated (Muslim, Zakāt, anna al-yad al-ʿulyā khayr min al-yad al-suflā). If buyer and seller are honest and transparent, then their transaction is blessed (Bukhārī, Buyūʿ, al-bayyiʿān bil-khiyār mā lam yatafarraqā). The proceeds of selling a tract of land may not be worthy of being blessed until they are re-invested in another (Ibn Mājah, Sunan, Ruhūn, man bāʿa ʿaqāran wa-lam yajʿal thamanah fī mithlih). Food is more blessed if properly weighed out when buying or selling it (Bukhārī, Buyūʿ, mā yustaḥabb min al-kayl) but, once in one’s possession, it should no longer be weighed or measured lest its remnant—and blessing—end quickly (Bukhārī, Riqāq, faḍl al-faqr; Muslim, al-Zuhd wal-raqāʾiq, hadith 27) whereas, if left unmeasured, it may last longer (Tirmidhī, Ṣifat al-qiyāma wal-raqāʾiq wal-waraʿ, rated ṣaḥīḥ). Keeping sheep has been described as a blessed endeavor (Ibn Mājah, Sunan), and even sheep-pens are blessed locations in which it is recommended to offer some prayer (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Ṣalāt, mā jā’a fī al-ṣalāt fī marābiḍ al-ghanam wa-aʿṭān al-ibil; rated ḥasan saḥīḥ). Fasting people are exhorted to eat a pre-dawn meal (saḥūr), for it contains blessing (Bukhārī, Ṣawm, barakat al-saḥūr min ghayr ījāb), and to break the fast with dates, for they are blessed (Tirmidhī, Sunan, Ṣawm, mā jāʾa mā yustaḥabb al-ifṭār ʿalayh; rated ḥasan gharīb). The partaking of food can be imbued with blessings in various ways: by eating with others rather than alone, and invoking Allah’s name at the first bite (Abū Dāwūd, Aṭʿima, fī-l-ijtimāʿ ʿalā-l-ṭaʿām), leaving for last the food in the middle of a communal platter (Ibn Mājah, Aṭʿima, al-nahy ʿan al-akl min dharwat al-tharīd), and not discarding any morsels that may remain stuck to the plate and fingers (Muslim, Ashriba, laʿq al-aṣābiʿ wal-qaṣʿa), and asking for baraka and increase after drinking milk (see also Nawawī, Adhkār, chapter 205). In the domain of ethical conduct, maintaining ties of kinship can make one’s life more blessed, based on the hadith: “Whoever would like for his sustenance to be ample and his lifespan extended should maintain his ties of kinship” (Bukhārī, Buyūʿ, man aḥabba-l-basṭ fī-l-rizq). The Hadith master Abū al-Faḍl Aḥmad b. ʿAlī al-ʿAsqalānī, known as Ibn Ḥajar (773-852/1371-1449) explains that extension of lifespan may be taken either literally (in which case the increased time is a blessing), or figuratively (to refer to the baraka of productivity and facilitation to righteousness) (Fatḥ).


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See also

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