Opinions of the Majority of Muslim Scholars about the meaning of Hasana
Al-Raghib said1: “Hasana is used to express any kind of blessing that benefits the human being in his spirit, body and circumstances.” So, Hasana does not only mean reward! Almighty Allah says (what means): “And in case a fair (thing) alights upon (Literally: afflicts) them, they say, “This is from the Providence of Allah.” And in case an odious thing afflicts them, they say, “This is from your presence.” Say, All is from the Providence of Allah.” What is it then with these people! They almost do not comprehend any discourse.” [Surat An-Nisa: 78]
Hasana according to the majority of mufassirun2: “And in case a fair (thing) alights upon them means If a Hasana befalls them, i.e abundance, sustenance, richness and victory.”3 As for Ihsan4, it is interpreted into two meanings, as mentioned before, the first is fairness to others and the second is fairness in the deeds or sayings. It was narrated from Ali (RA)5: “People are the sons of their Ihsan”6 That means people are attributed or linked to what they do or perform in deeds and acts.
The relationship between Hasana and Ihsan is very clear, because whoever performs ihsan towards himself will get a hasana, which means to be steadfast and faithful in worshipping Allah and to believe in the oneness of Allah (AWJ)7, and also to be good to others in say and deed. All this produces or leads to fairness and goodness (Hasana). Thus, the relationship between Hasana and Ihsan is strong as one leads to the other. Almighty Allah says (what means): “To the ones who are fair-doers is the fairest reward and an increase; (i.e., a surplus) (and) neither gloom (Literally: grudging circumstances) nor humiliation will oppress their faces; those are the companions (i.e., inhabitants) of the Garden; they are therein eternally (abiding).” [Surat Yunus: 26]
In the previous verse, fairest reward means Paradise and an increase means looking at the Face of Almighty Allah (SWT)8.
So, Hosna is a fruit of Ihsan, which means the good reward is a result of doing goodness and fairness in the present life. Also, another meaning of Hosna is Tawheed9 (believing and witnessing that Allah is one) and the fruit of Tawheed is paradise. Almighty Allah says (what means): “Should the recompense of fairness be (anything) except fairness?” [Surat Ar-Rahman: 60]
Ikramah said: “The recompense of the one who says “la ilha ila Allah” is nothing but paradise.”10
Ibn Zayd said: “The recompense of the one who does fairness in life is to receive fairness from Almighty Allah in the hereafter.”11 The meaning of Ihsan in this verse is saying ‘la illah ila Allah” (bearing witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah).
(1) Al-Mufradat by al-Raghib (323) and Tag al-Arous by al-Zubaidi (8008)
(2) Tafsir "interpretation" is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary of the Qur'an. An author of tafsir is a mufassir and the plural is mufassirun.
(3) Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surat An-Nisa, aya 78.
(4) The word "Ihsan" in Arabic is a derivative of the verb "ahsana," which means doing things better and in an excellent manner so Ihsan is fairness.
(5) RA: Radya Allah anhu/anha [May Allah be pleased with him/her].
(6) Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surat An-Nisa, aya 78.
(7) AWJ: Aza-Wa-Jal [Glorified and Sublime be He].
(8) SWT = Suhanahu wa Ta'ala [Glorified and Exalted Be He]
(9) Tawhid is the doctrine of Oneness [of God], it is the concept of monotheism in Islam. It means Allah is one (waḥid) and unique (ahad).
(10) Tafsir al-Qurtubi (17/182), Surat Ar-Rahman, aya 60 and Tafsir al-Tabari (33136)
(11) Previous reference.