Learning our Deen (Islam)

March 31, 2008

The Concept of Ihsan

Filed under: Hadith-Hadeeth, Intermediate, Tazkiyah — Um Abdullah M. @ 5:07 pm

The Concept of Ihsan

 

by Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi

 

Abu Ya’la Shaddad ibn Aus, radiyallahu ‘anhu, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:

“Verily, Allah has enjoined excellence (ihsan) with regard to everything. So, when you kill, kill in a good way; when you slaughter, slaughter in a good way; so everyone of you should sharpen his knife, and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably.”

[Muslim]

background

Ihsan is a comprehensive concept. It denotes doing things completely, nicely and in a tasteful manner. It comprises four components:

  1. Sincerity (Ikhlas)
  2. Completeness
  3. Tastefulness (doing things in a nice manner), and
  4. Correctness (doing things in the right way).

This concept is translated by commentators and interpreters as Excellence. Being a comprehensive concept, the term Ihsan cannot be translated word for word because there is no word in the English language that gives its exact meaning. Therefore, it is better to use it as it is.

Islam commands Muslims to practice and apply Ihsan in all that they do – hence it is an obligation (wajib).

It has been mentioned in the Qur’an as well. Allah the Almighty says:

“Verily, Allah enjoins Justice, and Ihsan and giving help to kith and kin,…”

[Surah Al-Nahl (16 ): ayat 90]

In Surah Al-Mulk (67), ayat 2 this concept is mentioned as one of two main purposes of human creation, Allah the Almighty says: “The One Who created death and life so that He may test you which of you is best of conduct.”

lessons

The hadith contains a principle and provides an example of applying that principle. This is a Prophetic method, as mentioned previously, to enable Muslims to apply the same principle to other similar situations. It can also be said that providing the example is a way of explaining the principle so it is easily understood. Most of the forty hadiths collected by Imam Nawawi are of this nature. It was also previously mentioned that Muslims have a tendency of taking the example and forgetting about the principle. This may explain why Muslims are reminded of this hadith only once a year, during Eid ul-Adha.

The concept of Ihsan means that a Muslim is a responsible person and a person of quality where he does things in a very good manner, in a complete sense, in a nice and tasteful way and is never satisfied with anything other than a quality job in all that he/she does, motivated by realizing that Allah prescribed Ihsan to everything and to all deeds.

The term ‘amalan in its selected form as mentioned in Surat Al-Mulk ayat 2 implies any kind of deeds. It is not just the religious deeds (ibadah), but also all that we do which is lawful. It should be done according to the concept of Ihsan and we should exert our efforts to live up according to its implications. The way we look and dress, the way we eat, the way we sleep, our work, our profession, our da’wah, teaching and learning, our relationship with our family, relatives, neighbours, and with others in general – Ihsan should be observed and practiced in all these actions. These actions and good deeds can be considered as ibadah thereof.

The superlative form of the verb used in the same verse (ahsan) implies that all good deeds and actions that we do should be done in a competitive way. However, competition in Islam is not for achieving personal interest but rather for seeking the pleasure of Allah.

The hadith mentions one way of dealing nicely or being merciful with animals and that is in the case of slaughtering. In another hadith the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said: “Whoever shows mercy even when slaughtering a bird, Allah will have mercy on him on the Day of Judgement.” [Recorded by Al-Bukhari]

In another hadith, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, related this story: “While a man was traveling, he felt very thirsty. He found a well and went down to have a drink. When he came out he found a thirsty dog. He said to himself, “This dog is as thirsty as I was.” He then went back inside the well and used his shoe to bring out some water for the dog. Allah was pleased with him and forgave his sins because of he had done.” [Recorded by Al-Bukhari]

In other hadiths the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, warns us not to frighten animals. While he was with his companions he found a bird making a greaving sound. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, immediately said: “Who has frightened this bird by taking its offspring?” Then he commanded: “Return back her offspring.” In another hadith the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, warned Muslims not to harm animals. He said: “A lady was put into the hellfire because of a cat. She tied up the cat and did not give her anything to eat nor did she allow it to look for food.”

One more ruling concerning dealing nicely with animals is not to abuse the animals we use for achieving certain work (i.e. carrying things) and not to overburden them. In one hadith (which shows a prophetic miracle), the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was passing by a farm in Maddinah when he came across a camel. The camel approached the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, as if it was telling him something. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, asked about the owner of of the camel and called upon him and told him, “Your camel is complaining that you overburden him with work, and gives him too little to eat.” [Narrated by Abu Daud, Al-Hakim, Imam Ahmad, and others and it is an authentic hadith]

Shaykh Abdullah bin Jibrin, a contemporary scholar, is in the view that animals should not be used as a testing instrument in the lab (like what is being done in the West) based on a basic ruling derived from this Hadith 17, where it is prohibited to harm an animal. The testing is only allowed if it can be ensured that the animal will not be harmed. All this shows that Islam is the religion of Ihsan and mercy, which is totally contrary to the image of Islam being promoted in the West. Not only that, but this evidently proves that the West are the ones who abuse and harm animals.

Even in Jihad (fighting enemies), Muslims are to apply Ihsan. We are not allowed to kill the elders, children, women, and those who are not fighting. When killing the aggressive enemy who deserves to be killed, Ihsan has to be applied and observed. We have to make sure not to cause any harm or suffering to anyone we kill. The captives have to be treated with Ihsan as well. It is Islam who introduced a new way of dealing with captives. We are to free them on the basis of them teaching some Muslims something beneficial.

Weapons that cause mass destruction have been initiated, introduced and used by the West. Using them contradicts with the concept of Ihsan. But how about if the enemies of Islam use them against us? Some cotemporary scholars say that Muslims are allowed to use them only in response and as a counter act.

conclusion

By living according to the concept of Ihsan and by applying it to all that a Muslim does, he/she will be rewarded and showered with mercy and forgiveness from Allah the Almighty. Furthermore, by doing that, a Muslim will ensure that he/she will pass the test and be amongst those of the best conduct.

Al Ihsan – A Must Read

Filed under: Beginner, Ibadah - worship, Tazkiyah — Um Abdullah M. @ 4:04 pm


Al Ihsan


Shaykh Muhammad ibn Salih al-`Uthaymeen (rahimahu Allah)

Explanation of the Three Fundamental Principles of Islaam

© 1997 al-Hidaayah

Al-Ihsaan is the opposite of behaving badly, and it means that a person strives to do what is good and to repel harmful things. So he strives to benefit the servants of Allaah through his wealth, position, knowledge and his person. So as for the case of doing good with ones wealth, then he spends and gives in charity, and pays the zakaat, and the best of the types of doing good through wealth is the zakaat since it is one of the pillars of Islaam, and one of its great foundations. A person’s Islaam will not be complete without it. It is the charity most loved by Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and that is followed by that which it is obligatory upon a person to spend upon his wife, mother, father, children, brothers, children of his brothers, sisters, paternal uncles, paternal aunts, maternal aunts, and so on. Then by charity given to the poor and to the rest of those deserving of charity – such as students of knowledge for example.

As for the case of doing good by means of ones position, then it is that people are found in different levels. Some of them have status with someone in authority and so strive to benefit the people by means of his position. So if a man comes to him and requests that he should intercede for him with the one in authority then he does so, either to repel some harm from him or to attain some good for him, As for doing good by means of his knowledge, then it is that he strives to pass on his knowledge to Allaah’s servants, in open and private gatherings and assemblies. Even if people sit socially, to drink coffee, then it pertains to good and fine behaviour that he should teach the people. Even if you are in a public gathering it is from what is good that you teach the people. However wisdom is to be used in this matter. So you should not weary the people making it a habit that every single time you sit in a gathering you admonish and address the people, since the Prophet used to give them admonition now and then, and not too frequently. This is because the souls become weary and bored. When they become bored they become languid and weak and may even come to dislike what is good merely because of the frequency with which the per son stands and addresses them.

As for seeking to benefit the people with ones person, then the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “… that you help a man to mount and ride his riding beast, or you lift up his luggage on to it for him, is a charity [Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Eng. Transl. 4/90-94/no. 161) and Muslim (Eng. transl. 2/483-484/ no. 2204)].

So you help this man to carry his luggage, or you guide him to the correct road to take and so on, all of this pertains to ihsaan. So this is with regard to striving to do good to the servants of Allaah.

As for ihsaan in the worship of Allaah, then it is that you worship Allaah as if you were seeing Him, as the Prophet ( said. So worship done in this way, that a person worships his Lord as if he were actually seeing Him is worship that is accompanied by yearning and seeking. So a person will find that his soul encourages him upon worship done in this way, since he is yearning for the one he loves. Therefore he worships Him as if he were seeing Him, and he directs his heart to Him and turns to Him and seeks to draw near to Him, He the One free of all imperfections and the Most High.

Then even though you do not see Him, then He certainly sees you.” This part shows worship done whilst fleeing and fearing, and is therefore the second level of ihsaan. So if you do not worship Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, as if you are seeing Him and seeking Him and your soul is encouraging you towards Him, then worship Him keeping in mind that He sees you. So you will then worship Him as one who fears Him and seeks to flee from His retribution and punishment.

This level is held by those having knowledge of these affairs to be lower than the first level. Worship of Allaah, the Perfect and Most High, is, as Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said: ‘Worship of the Most Merciful is utmost love of Him, along with the worshippers submission and humility, they are its two pillars.’

So worship is built upon these two matters: utmost love, and utmost humility and submission. Love causes one to desire and seek, and humility causes one to fear and flee. This is ihsaan in the worship of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. If a person worships Allaah in this manner, then he will become one who is pure and sincere in his worship of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. He will not desire with his worship that he is seen by the people, or heard of, nor will he desire their praise. It will be the same to him whether the people notice him or do not notice him.

He will worship with ihsan in every condition. Indeed part of the completion of purity and sincerity of worship (al-ikhlaas) is that a person should seek not to be seen by the people when he worships, and that his worship should be a secret between him and his Lord. That is unless there is some benefit for the Muslims or for Islaam in his performing it openly, for example if he is a person who is followed and taken as an example and he wishes to manifest his worship to the people so that they should take it as an example to follow; or that he manifests his worship so that his companions, friends and associates should follow his example, then this is good. This benefit which he takes account of may be more excellent and greater than the benefit of keeping it hidden. Therefore, Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, has praised those who spend of their wealth in charity secretly and openly. So whenever performing it secretly is better and more beneficial for the heart, and causes one to be more humble and submissive, and to turn to Allaah more attentively, then they give in secret. But when performing it openly produces benefit for Islaam, due to manifestation of its prescribed practices, and will mean that the people follow this persons example, then they do this openly. The Believer looks to what is most appropriate. So whatever is most appropriate and most beneficial in worship, then it will be what is most complete and most excellent.

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