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Alhamdulillah: The Ultimate Thanksgiving

The notions of gratitude and thankfulness always go up in popularity when November comes around as Thanksgiving themed commercials, products, and foods start taking all of the public and sometimes private space. As Muslims, we know however that gratitude and thankfulness are not limited to this specific time of year, even though it can be a good reminder. We say Alhamdulillah in all circumstances, at all times, in all our affairs. But what does Alhamdulillah mean exactly?

While there is no wrong timing to say alhamdulillah, as long as it is done genuinely and not in a sarcastic way due to hardships we are facing, or as a mockery, many Muslims use this phrase without realizing its true and deep meaning, leading them to misuse it or miss out on the virtues of this beautiful expression. Let's learn together about the meaning of Alhamdulillah!

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Alhamdulillah: Overview And Usage

Alhamdulillah is an Arabic phrase usually translated as "praise be to God", sometimes more simply "thank God" In Arabic, it is written ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ and it is pronounced [al-Hamdu lillah]. This phrase appears 23 times in the Quran, including  times in its longer variant (such as in the second verse of Surah Al-Fatihah), ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَالَمِينَ, which is pronounced [al-Hamdu lillahi rabbi l-ʿaalameen] and is usually translated as "all praise is due to Allah, Lord of all worlds".

This expression is known as Tahmid or Hamdalah, both of which imply "praise", and reminds us of one of Allah's names, Al-Hameed, which means "The Praiseworthy."

Due to its prominence in the texts of the Quran and Hadith, it is widely used by Muslims of all backgrounds, and its meaning and in-depth explanation have been the topic of considerable analysis. It is also widely used by non-Muslim users of Arabic.

This phrase is used so frequently by Muslims, Arabic-speaking Jews, and Christians that the quadriliteral verb hamdala, "to say al-hamdu li-llah," was formed, and the derivative word Hamdalah is used as a label for it.


Alhamdulillah: Meaning in English

Alhamdulillah has been translated in different ways by different scholars. They all indicate the same meaning. English translations of alhamdulillah include:

"All praise is due to God" (Saheeh International)
"All praise is due to God alone" (by Muhammad Asad)
"praise be to God" (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Marmaduke Pickthall)
"All the praises and thanks be to God" (Muhammad Muhsin Khan)
"All perfect praises belong to the Almighty alone." (A. R. Rahman)
"Praise belongs to God" (M. A. S. Abdel Haleem)

These different translations show the difficulty that we face sometimes in trying to convey the exact meaning of a word or phrase in Arabic. There are so many nuances that are worthwhile to look into in order to fully grasp the power and beauty behind alhamdulillah. Let's take a closer look!


Although it usually looks like one word in English, Alhamdulillah is actually made of four words in Arabic:

  • al (Arabic ال): the definite article, "the". In Arabic, the article ال specifies the noun that it is attached to, in a similar way that we use "the" in English. In Alhamdulillah, the article ال is used to define the word حَمْد - praise. What is implied here is that it is all praise that is due to Allah SWT, not just one praise, or a praise in the regular sense: the ultimate praise, special and unique.
  • Hamd(u) (Arabic حَمْدُ): literally "praise", "laudation" or "commendation", sometimes also "favor", "reward". This word comes from the root letters ح م د from which we also derive: حَامِد (Haamid) the one who praises; حَمِيد (Hameed) worthy of great praise - an attribute of Allah SWT; مَحْمُود (maHmood) praised, exalted, praiseworthy; أَحْمَد (aHmad) most praiseworthy; مُحَمَّد (muHammad) one worthy of much and constant praise.
  • li (Arabic لِ): a preposition (called "lam tamleek") that denotes here ownership, deservedness, attribution. It shows a relationship of belonging.
  • Allah (Arabic الله) means "The God," and it is a combination of the definite article "al" and the word "ilah" (Arabic: إِلَه, "god, divinity"). The article, as in English, is used here to distinguish the noun as the only one of its kind, "the God" (the One and Only) or "God". The word "Allah" can therefore be translated simply as "God".


In Classical Arabic, there are other words to say "praise" such as مَدْح (madH) and ثَنَاء (thanaa'). Linguistically, madH, thanaa', and Hamd all refer to praising someone, either for their excellence, good attributes or deeds. However, the term Hamd has certain distinctive, beautiful characteristics that makes it the most appropriate and fitting when praising Allah SWT.

Ibn al-Qayyim states that hamd is not only the act of acknowledging and stating the good qualities of an individual, but doing so from a position of mahabba (love) and ta'dheem (respect). Madh, on the other hand, refers to praising someone's good qualities but doesn't necessarily imply anything about the feelings or state of the person giving praise (Sharh al-Aqeeda al-Wasitiyya by Ibn Taymiyya). What we learn from this is that expressing hamd for Allah SWT is more than a simple acknowledgement of His excellence and goodness; it is an expression of praise made with love, reverence, honor, and veneration for Allah Most High.

This teaches us that an expression of hamd is an implicit acknowledgement that Allah (may He be glorified and exalted) is (Ever) Living, and that He chose - by His grace and loving kindness - to bless us with all that we have.

Lastly, the term thana is said to be a more general, all-inclusive expression for all types of praise, or a generally more eloquent form of madh that does not have the distinctive qualities of hamd. (MuslimMatters.org)

Also notice how the first part of the phrase - "al-Hamd" - does not contain any verb (or fi'l) in Arabic, only a noun (or ism) which means that it is not limited by time: therefore the ultimate praise belongs to Allah SWT and this praise is not stuck in time: it was, is and always will belong to Allah SWT, whether we, His creation, exist or cease to exist, and whether we praise Him or not.


Keep scrolling to learn about the importance of gratitude in Islam, and find 8 tips to increase your gratitude and thankfulness towards Allah SWT!


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The Importance of Gratitude in Islam

What we find in the Quran and the Sunnah:

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
"And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.'" (Surah Ibrahim, 14:7)

وَاللَّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
"And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful." (Surah An-Nahl, 16:78)

وَمَن يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَن يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الْآخِرَةِ نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا ۚ وَسَنَجْزِي الشَّاكِرِينَ
"And whoever desires the reward of this world - We will give him thereof; and whoever desires the reward of the Hereafter - We will give him thereof. And we will reward the grateful." (Surah Ali 'Imraan, 3:145)

آتَاكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
"And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful." (Surah Ibrahim, 14:34)


Jabir ibn Abd-Allah (RA) narrated that the prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him), said: "The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat "laa ilaaha illa Allah" and the best prayer (dua) is al-hamdu li-Allah." (Narrated by Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and Hakim)

Abu Huraira (RA) said that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) said: "Any matter of importance which is not begun with al-hamdu li-Allah remains defective." (Abu Dawood)

Anas bin Malik (RA) wrote that the prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) said: "God is pleased with his slave who says, al-hamdu li-Allah when he takes a morsel of food and drinks a draught of water."

Ayesha (RA) said that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) used to pray at night until his feet would swell. She asked, "Why do you do this, O Messenger of God, when God has forgiven your past and future sins?" The Prophet replied, "Should I not be a grateful servant (Of God)?" (Bukhari)


Tips To Increase In Gratitude Towards Allah SWT

We can never be grateful and thankful enough towards our Creator for all the things He SWT blesses us with, whether we are conscious of those things or - most likely - not. Here are some tips to help us become more grateful and thankful to Allah SWT:

  • Fulfill your obligations towards Allah SWT: this should be our very first focus, such as performing our five daily prayers which are obligatory onto us. This is the best way to show our gratitude to Allah SWT - everything else comes second.
  • Thank the people: Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Whoever does not thank people has not thanked Allah." (Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4811)
    Make sure to thank the people around you who do you favors, whether you have asked for them or not, whether it is a one-time favor or a daily act of service they do for you.
  • Say your dhikr/adhkar: keep your tongue moist with expressions of praise towards Allah SWT such as alhamdulillah, subhanAllah, laa ilaaha illAllah. Also make sure to say your morning and evening duas.
  • Share the khayr: give from what you have, from what Allah SWT has blessed you with, especially the things that you cherish the most: time, money, valuable belongings.
  • Use the blessings that Allah SWT has given you to worship and serve Allah SWT the best you can: for instance, if Allah SWT has blessed you with beneficial knowledge, find ways to put this knowledge to practical use and to share it with others around you.
  • Write a gratitude journal: each morning, write down three things that you are grateful for, and try to be as specific as possible (i.e. instead of writing "I am grateful for my health", think deeper: "I am grateful for my sight which allows me to look at the beautiful colors of autumn and remind myself of the cycles of life, death and resurrection"). Then take a few minutes each night before going to sleep to read from your journal, and add to it if you would like. Thank Allah SWT specifically for each single thing on your list.
  • Remember Allah SWT when He gives you, not only when He withholds things from you. We easily turn to Allah SWT and make sincere duas when we face hardships, but are we as diligent when we enjoy His many blessings and live a good life? Let's keep ourselves in check!
  • Look at those who have less than you, not more: Abu Huraira (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Look at those below you and do not look at those above you, for it is the best way not to belittle the favors of Allah." (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6490, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2963)


Let us be of those who show gratitude and thankfulness to Allah SWT in all occasions, at all times!

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