Meaning of Ihsan ()
Let’s wander around a verdant garden filled with rich roses, flowers, plants and blossoms with good fragrances. I would say that we can never pick all the fruits of such rich garden. It is easy to pick a flower in the middle of a lifeless desert, because it will naturally attract our attention. Yet, it is very hard to pick a rose in a flowering garden stuffed with all kinds of beautiful roses, flowers, fragrances and scents.
The Arabic saying “you can choose from what is flourishing” applies to the garden of Ihsan, but in this situation it can mean “you can get confused when you choose from what is flourishing,” as flowers of Ihsan are many and lessons are countless. Ranks and degrees of Ihsan are as diverse and wide as Islam which will be later explained.
Dear reader, let’s take a tour in the rich garden of “Ihsan”. May Allah make us of those who practice Ihsan. Allah is my witness that talking about Ihsan is not because I see myself as a muhsin (), but rather because I feel responsible to talk about it. It is an attempt to understand Ihsan to pursue it. If we lack Ihsan, then we should seek it. The religious rule states: “Who does not have access to water, should seek Tayammum ()”. This is an attempt to dive in the priceless meanings of Ihsan, hopefully to be of the muhsineen.
We have not reached the ranks of the righteous predecessors, we just follow their footsteps. May Allah gather us on the Day of Judgment with the muhsineen, the ones who follow perfection and excellence in deeds and sayings. Allah says in the Qur’an (what means):
“Verily, Allah loves AlMuhsinun (gooddoers)” (Al-Ma’idah: 13) In another verse, Almighty Allah defines the Muhsin: “Yes, but whoever submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e. follows Allah's Religion of Islamic Monotheism) and he is a Muhsin (good-doer i.e. performs good deeds totally for Allah's sake only without any show off or to gain praise or fame, etc., and in accordance with the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger Muhammad Peace be upon him) then his reward is with his Lord (Allah), on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al-Baqarah: 112, See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol.1, Page 154)
We shall give a general view over Ihsan and then by Allah’s will, we shall go deeper in Ihsan to give more details. This is an introduction on Ihsan, to know it linguistically and idiomatically. Let’s read through some verses from the Glorious Qur’an and the ahadith (prophetic sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him).
Now we will focus on some prophetic sayings by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) on Ihsan. When the Prophet (PBUH) was asked about Ihsan he replied:
“It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
The hadith is divided into two main axes; the first is worship, which we shall explain extensively as it is the reason for which Allah creates the whole universe. Worship is the first and main origin of Ihsan: “To worship Allah as though you see Him”. Hence, we shall talk about worship linguistically and idiomatically. We shall talk about the ranks of people in worship, how we worship and the reason to worship.
Following this, we shall talk about Ihsan in worship and then, by Allah’s will, we shall talk about the second axis of Ihsan’s origin, namely the part of the hadith “though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you.” We shall talk about Muraqabah (), Inabah (sincere penitence), fear and love towards Almighty Allah, in addition to all ranks of Ihsan. This shall require focusing on many religious teachings as it was mentioned above.
May Allah give us a marvelous destination and blessed sustenance. May Allah make us from his sincere devout worshippers. May Allah bestow Ihsan upon us to become of the muhsineen. Indeed, He is the Omnipotent.
() Ihsan is an Arabic term meaning goodness or excellence, which is related to the word "goodness" (Arabic Husn). It is a matter of taking one's inner faith (iman) and showing it in both, sayings and actions, a sense of social responsibility borne from religious convictions. Ihsan also means to perfect, to excel or to show proficiency and excellence. Therefore it could be considered that the Arabic word ihsan has a dual meaning, goodness and excellence.
() Muhsin is the one who performs Ihsan or good deeds. Plural is muhsineen (those who do goodness).
() Tayammum is the Islamic act of dry ablution using sand or dust, which may be performed in place of ritual washing (wudu or ghusl) if no clean water is readily available.
() Muraqabah is the endurance of the servant's knowledge and his conviction and certainty that Allah is watching over his internal and external affairs. To have this knowledge and certainty at all times is called muraqabah. It is the fruit of the servant's knowledge that Allah is his Watcher, Over-seeing him, Hearing his utterances and Observing all of his deeds at all times.