Thankful Thumbs

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“We must always remember that our problems are very small compared to other peoples. There are people around the whole world who are in very difficult situations, who are going through tough times that we can’t even begin to imagine. So instead of complaining and whining, we must be grateful for all the other things Allah Ta’ala has blessed us with. How many things do we have?”

I looked around the room, my gaze running over each face as I saw the mental wheels in their heads turn as they pondered over my question.

“A lot of things!” a seven year old exclaimed.

Everyone laughed.

“How many? Can we count them all?” I asked, posing my next question. Over a dozen pair of eyes stared back at me. I loved these moments, not because they were focused on me, but on my words. I could hear them thinking, contemplating what to say.

“This many!” a little girl in a pink hijab said from the front row. She held out her arms as though she was holding an invisible beach ball. I smiled.

“We can count them but it will take ages,” a little boy’s voice said from the far end of the room. He tilted his head to the side, a mop of blonde curls falling into his eyes.

“Yes! We would be counting for a very, very long time. Okay, I want you to hold up your thumbs. Yes, like this,” I said, holding up my right thumb. A few giggles and exchanged glances erupted across the room as they excitedly held up their small thumbs. “Now imagine for a minute that you didn’t have this thumb. Imagine one day you woke up and your thumb disappeared. What would happen?” I asked, tucking my thumb into the fold of my palm and holding up my hand.

A noisy discussion broke out in the room as the children held up their thumbless hands and showed their neighbours. Some of them laughed amongst themselves while others studied their hands looking confused and bewildered.  When the session ended and the kids started to pile out the room, one child stayed behind and sat quietly in his seat.

“Hamzah, don’t you want to go home?” I asked as I put away my laptop and cleared the desks.

“I do, but I wanted to show you something,” he said, getting up and closing his bag.

“Really? All right, come on. Show me.”

He walked over to where I was sitting and stopped just a few feet away. He wasn’t holding anything –  no paper or drawing or writing – so I was a little surprised and curious regarding what he was going to show me.

“You know when you asked us to pretend we didn’t have any thumbs?” I nodded. “Well I found out something: when you have no thumb, you can’t hold anything,” he said, his big eyes wide with wonder and newfound realization. He held up his thumbless hand and demonstrated how he would try to hold something. “Look, how would you hold a pen? Or a cup?”

Something big dropped to the pit of my stomach and settled there. I stared down into his small face, into eyes which had yet to see so much of everything and I couldn’t help but smile. This was exactly what I wanted the children to realize.

“And you can’t even open doors without a thumb. How would you twist the handle?” I added and then watched as he raced to the door and tried to open it with his thumbless hand. We both burst into a fit of giggles at his helpless attempts.

“It’s such a small thing isn’t it? Yet it plays such a massive role in our lives. We wouldn’t be able to do so many things without it,” I told Hamzah as he held his bag and we walked out of the classroom. He nodded.

“Every night when I lie in bed, me and my mum look at the ceiling and my mum tells me to remember all the things we have to say thank you to God about. Tonight I’m going to say thank you about my thumbs. I’ve never done that before,” he told me, his voice filled with innocent excitement and childhood dreams.

The truth is that if we were to start counting our blessings we would never be able to stop. We have so much to be grateful for, every breath and step, for every sight and touch, for every loved one and everything. We must be grateful for every movement and every moment, for every day. For every daylight we get to witness and every night we get to sleep.

As Allah says in the Quran, “Therefore remember me, I will remember you. Be thankful to me and do not be ungrateful to me” (2:152)

Wait. You can’t leave just yet! I want you to hide your thumb away and think of other things you can’t do.

Yes, you heard me.

Do it!

Born and raised in the UK, Ruqaiyya Maryam loves reading, cooking and sleeping. All of these things are nearly impossible with a super active and super naughty 2 year old who drives her absolutely mad. She is constantly asking God for strength and patience 🤦🏻‍♀️ Organic eggs are still a biggie, but the shoe obsession has quietened down due to lack of shoe space and fear of falling whilst running after above mentioned toddler! She is a part of MYM as she wants to reach out to the Muslim Youth of today through her writing and experiences and of course play a tiny part in spreading this beautiful deen of ours.


  1. ·     
    What a cute piece! You’ll definitely have
    all the sisters “awwwwwing” and gushing over this piece (maybe even some
    brothers too if we’re lucky!). Aside from the absolute adorableness of this
    piece, it hits at something very important as well – beautifully shown through
    the eyes of a young child. It’s a topic often done but you did it in a very
    memorable way! I loved the conversational style and how you brought that little
    room where you were teaching alive. 

    All in all, thumbs up on ‘grateful thumbs’!
    (: What a cute and original way to express a commonly expressed idea. It was
    written with clarity, organization, and thoughtfulness. I admit – just like one
    of the little kids who hid their thumbs and giggled at the gesture – I too did
    the same! Thanks for taking me back to a little childhood glimpse of myself! I
    look forward to reading your next piece.

  2. Great post mashallah. I absolutely love working with kids. The looks on thier faces when they learn something new is just adorable. :)

    Your post reminds me of this ayah: And if you should count the favors of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. 16:18

    I remember hearing in a lecture once that in this ayah Allah used the word ‘Ni3mah’ which is singular. Meaning forget trying to count all the blessings and favors that Allah has given us, if we just focus on one favor, for example our hands, we would never be able to list all the benefits we get from that single blessing. Subhanallah…

  3. Did, and now I find it so hard to hit the space key without thumb(so every space we see in all those long articles is basically a THUMB). And totally helpless with cell phone, I don’t understand what to do with it without thumbs.

    And I begrudge you for teaching kids. Thanks for the reminder, to thank HIM tonight.

  4. SumaiyahKhan Reply

    awwwww!!!!! masha Allah too cute! <3 ( i know, fatimah just said that…)
    luv how u put it in the perspective of a child

  5. I thought this piece was absolutely adorable as well! How do you ever teach students that include “a little girl in a pink hijab”, a little boy with “a mop of blonde curls falling into his eyes”, and their faces filled with “big eyes wide with wonder and newfound realization”?! I’d just spend the whole day pinching their cheeks till they’re crimson :)

    I’ve always have a soft spot for pieces dealing with our childhood (personal example) or about children and I must say that you’ve done a superb job with this piece. Keep it up!

  6. aww this just melted my heart. Really love the diversity at MYM, everyone has their wonderful story to tell, mashaAllah <3

  7. I think that was so adorable =). I love it when little kids think outside of the box and say thing that are cute and deep at the same time.

  8. this was soooooooo cute masha’Allah….and beautifully written! Keep writing amazing pieces like these=) btw, are you a teacher or a volunteer in a school or something? i want to be a teacher insha’Allah and that’s why this piece touched my heart even more…it was just so cute! i remember that when i was in elementary school, our teacher gave us the same example of the thumb. We were also trying to hold things and couldn’t-it was bewildering! May Allah reward you and Bless you for writing this (and for teaching tiny kids)! Ameen=)

    • Ruqaiyya Maryam Reply

      Salaam Shiney :)
      Im actually a volunteer for a youth club at the mosque. I, too want to go into teaching so this is good in terms of gaining experience and a little taste. What do you plan on teaching? Best of luck with it all! Thank you so much for the lovely comment and ameen to your duas. 

  9. Masha’Allah, what an adorable and insightful piece! It’s refreshing to hear of children being ponderous and reflective of life and Islam nowadays. :)
    May they continue to be reflective and ponderous and grow up to be knowledgeable believers. 

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