“The centrality of gratitude to God will permeate everything a believer does, sees, and experiences in the world. One of the great mystics of Islam, al-Junayd, says that to really reach the state of gratitude you must see yourself as undeserving of the bounty that God has given you.” — Asad Tarsin
“One of the reasons Seneca thinks evolution doesn’t tell the whole story with respect to gifting and gratitude is precisely because of the relationship between God and the world. God doesn’t need the world and nevertheless gives. God [doesn’t] profit off gratitude.” — Joshua Lee Harris
Asad Tarsin, author of Being Muslim: A Practical Guide, speaks with Joshua Lee Harris, a specialist on the work of Thomas Aquinas, on his article for Renovatio, “The Human Arts of Graceful Giving and Grateful Receiving.” In their conversation, Harris explains how his desire to understand gratitude grew from wanting to inculcate gratefulness in his own life and also from encountering people who affirmed gratitude despite facing extreme adversity. This experience, as well as his philosophical and theological exploration of the topic, led him to approach being grateful not only as an emotion, but as a matter of cognition and attentiveness to life. He also discusses how the Roman philosopher Seneca underscores the intention of the giver as an important consideration that distinguishes generosity and gratitude from other social interactions. Tarsin and Harris exchange ideas about humility as a prerequisite for true gratefulness, Imam al-Ghazālī’s three components of gratitude, and what evolution can’t explain about gratitude.
Joshua Lee Harris is assistant professor of philosophy at The King’s University in Edmonton, Canada, where he lives with his wife and two sons. Harris received a PhD in Philosophy from the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and has recently finished a dissertation project on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.
Asad Tarsin, an emergency room physician and a student of the Islamic sciences, has been designing Islamic educational programs and teaching the basics of Islam for more than a decade. He lectures and teaches across the country, often with a focus on his first published work, Being Muslim: A Practical Guide.
“Belief in the Obvious,” Joshua Lee Harris, Renovatio