The Elucidation of the Meaning of ‘Favours’

Ibn Majah records on the authority of Anas that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There is no favour which Allah bestows upon His servant for which he says, ‘Alhamdulillah’ except that which he gave was better then that which he took.” This was also stated by Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, al-Hasan and others from amongst the Salaf. (Bayhaqi)

The meaning of this has troubled a great number of scholars, past and present, but if it is understood in the light of our preceding discussion, its meaning is obvious. The meaning of favour mentioned in the hadith is wordily favour and the statement of praising Allah is one of the religious favours. Religious favours are better than wordily favours. Now, because the favour of praising Allah has been attributed to the servant since he articulated it, Allah considers him as giving the greatest favour as a return for the original favour. [When in reality Allah had granted both] This why it is mentioned in a narration, ‘Alhamdulillah’ with a praise that befits and suffices His favours; repress His retribution; and acts as return for His addition.’ (Ibn Hajr) When understood in this light, the statement of praise is the imbursement of Paradise.

The Journey to Allah by Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali Pages 24-25