The Thanksgiving holiday truly has a universal and never-ending appeal. The tradition is believed to have started by the early 17th century Pilgrims, who reaped successful harvests and thus were able to make their abode in the land that came to be known as the United States of America.
The Pilgrims were also known to have migrated to America to escape religious persecution in their former homelands. Having a good harvest and the freedom of religion, there was much for them to be thankful for.
Even today, there are many who come to America to escape persecution, build better lives and to be free to express their beliefs. The same is true for American Muslims like myself. As an Ahmadi-Muslim, I am not even permitted to express my true beliefs in my former country for fear of persecution.
In general, world political and social thought has significantly shifted toward the right. This has caused stiffening attitudes and harsh treatment of minorities in many countries. Those who are fortunate enough to immigrate to the United States and enjoy the freedom here have an inestimable debt of gratitude.
The spirit of Thanksgiving isn’t just celebrated to commemorate the success of the Pilgrims and other immigrants who followed in their wake. Indeed, gratitude is a universal ideal, even for the most basic of our wants and needs that we take for granted day to day. It is also a great religious ideal; many of us take it as a religious practice to express gratitude in some form to the being that we believe has granted us all the provisions and charms of life.
The Holy Quran lays a great emphasis on gratitude: “Therefore remember Me (God), and I will remember you; and be thankful to Me and do not be ungrateful to Me.” (21:53).
Gratitude is not just between people and God, but owed among people themselves. It fosters good relations between neighbors and communities and breeds general goodwill.
The Prophet Muhammad had once said: “One who is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah (God).” In today’s increasingly polarized world politics, more expressions of gratitude in international relations would help mitigate tensions and renew a sense of trust. World religious leaders such as the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, continually reminds world leaders and communities to remain cognizant of a deep sense of gratitude to our creator and to each other.
During this Thanksgiving, let us remember the struggles of the pilgrims who built an abode here that we benefit from, be grateful for all the freedoms and rights we enjoy and pray for hope for all those who endure hardships and persecutions around the world.