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On Cultivating Gratitude (Shukr) in Sufi Virtue Ethics

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Gratitude or shukr is one of the most central of Islamic virtues, the importance of which is underscored by the fact that the defining notions of “faith” and “disbelief” revolve around the pivots of shukr and kufr (= ingratitude). The article focuses on treatments of the virtue within the Sufi tradition, and even here, with a concentration specifically on the importance attached to its cultivation within the inner life of the spiritual aspirant. This is accomplished through an analysis of authors ranging from al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī (d. 905–10) and Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 996) to Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 1240) and Aḥmad Zarrūq (d. 1493). In the process the article examines the semantics of shukr in Arabic as defined in the lexicographical tradition, its use in the Qur’an, definitions of the virtue in Sufi literature, the various strategies devised by a wide range of authorities on how to go about integrating the virtue within one’s life, and finally, what are believed to be the consequences or “karmic effects” of both gratitude and ingratitude for blessings (shukr al-niʿma and kufr al-niʿma).

Affiliations: 1: University of


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