Allah wants us to do our best at everything we do
“Ihsan” (Benign) is one of those Arabic terms that can’t be translated into just one English word but has a rather broad and deep meaning. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Allah yuhibbul-muhsineen.”; that can be translated as, “Allah loves the fair-doers.” (TMQ, 3:148). Al-muhsin is the one who does good actions and Ihsan is goodness itself. 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”. We, Muslims, need to strive to achieve excellence, proficiency, and perfection in all good actions we make.
A civilization can’t rise if people don’t try their best to achieve the best results in what ever they are doing. If you are a student you should not focus your efforts on barely passing your exams. You should be aspiring to actually increase your knowledge throughout the academic year and at the end prove that you’ve learned by achieving the best results you could. If you are a teacher, you shouldn’t just stand in front of the class and recite a lesson. You should try your very best to have a positive impact on your students, to add something to their knowledge. The same thing applies if you work in a factory or produce any type of product. Don’t just make something that looks good on the outside but will function for only half of its intended life. This may seem as a general behavior that everyone should apply regardless to his or her belief, but aside to that, it’s a fundamental Islamic behavior. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does a job he should perfect it”. Unfortunately, Muslims have forgotten this concept and abandoned it. On the other hand, the West realized the importance of quality and perfection and by applying them their civilization grew and became more powerful. This is a Divine Law and it applies to Muslims and non-Muslims; If you perfect what you do, you will improve your condition and the condition of your surrounding. It applies to people regardless of their belief, the same way the law of gravity applies to us all.
A study was made to estimate the number of hours worked by employees each day in different countries all over the world. Not the number of hours they spend in their workplace, but the “net hours” spent actually working (i.e. after subtracting lunch breaks, going to the bathroom, chatting etc.). While some Western countries and reached high numbers like 8 hours, some Muslim countries reached as low as 12 or 5 minutes! Five minutes of pure work! Can you believe that? And we want Allah to grand us victory! How could you expect Allah to give Muslims victory and let them lead the world if some Muslim countries work less than an hour a day? We’re not applying the Divine Rule and therefore our situation will stay as it is. Brothers and sisters, we need more “Ihsan” in our lives, with both of its meanings, goodness and perfection. Allah says what can be translated as, “Surely Allah commands to justice and fairness and bringing (charity) to a near kinsman, and He forbids obscenity and maleficence and iniquity. He admonishes you that possibly you would be mindful.” (TMQ, 16:90).
Maintaining Ihsan is something Allah The Almighty commands us to do, why is it then that we Muslims are sometimes the laziest or the sloppiest? Of course not all Muslims are like that, but it seems to be the current theme in our ummah. Some countries are famous for certain products because they perfect them and have the highest quality. For example you have Japanese electronics, Italian shoes and Swiss watches, army knives and cheese. What about Muslim countries; how many products have we perfected to the extent that a customer buys it while confident that it’s the best in the market? Advancing and achieving such a reputation isn’t a “Modern World” concept, it’s Islamic, and it’s in our religion. Someone once told me, “Thank God the non-Muslims in the West are so advanced and are discovering all these new things every day so that we could benefit from them directly without effort, and at the same time have more time to worship Allah!” At first I thought he was joking but unfortunately he wasn’t. He forgot that working is a form of worshiping Allah if the intentions are correct. Didn’t Allah say in the Qur’an, “And say, “Do (right deeds); so Allah will soon see your doing, and His Messenger and the believers (will see). And you will soon be turned back to the Knower of the Unseen and the Witnessed; then He will fully inform you of whatever you were doing.” (TMQ, 9:105).
Muslims should participate in making this world a better place and we must have our contribution. Worshiping Allah isn’t only by performing rituals. For example, going to school or work every day could be a form of worship if your intentions are to obey Allah, acquire knowledge for the betterment of Muslims and Humanity, and being a good example of a Muslim. If we are not successful and at the forefront, how will we attract non-Muslims to Islam?
One meaning of Ihsan is doing good actions, but when doing good deeds we should also try to perfect it. For example, greeting another Muslim by saying “Asalamualaykum” (Peace upon you) is a good act, but saying “Asalamualaykum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu” (peace and Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you) is even better. There’s even another step higher, which is saying the greeting and shaking his hand, and you could approach perfection even more by also smiling. See how we should try to achieve perfection and excellence in our acts. It should be a constant attempt in all aspects of life whether its rituals, working, relationships with others etc. We need to try to implement Ihsan in everything we do.
Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) instructed us to perfection in several ways and situations. One of the Prophetic sayings dealing with Ihsan is particularly interesting. Please read the explanation after it to understand what the Prophet (SAWS) meant. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” One might wonder why the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) didn’t say, “If you pray, pray well, and if you fast, fast well”, why kill and slaughter? Do you know why Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) referred to slaughter in this Hadith? Not because Muslims are blood thirsty, absolutely not, but because slaughtering an animal means that you are ending its life. What difference does it make if I kill it well or not, it’s going to die anyway, it won’t have any “bad memories” about it, and so what’s the big deal? No, that’s not how a Muslim sees things. A Muslim should implement excellence in every aspect of life, even when it comes to an animal’s final moments in life. If you treat the animal well and with perfection when killing it, you will certainly treat it even better while it’s alive; you will shelter it with excellence and mercy, and you will feed it in such a manner as well. Not only did the Prophet (SAWS) teach us this with just words, he demonstrated to us how to achieve this proficiency in a practical sense as well (sharpening the blade and sparing suffering). This shows us that proficiency isn’t just “an idea” but one must also seek the means to apply it.
Another example is Divorce. Usually one correlates divorce with arguments, fights and going to court. But look what Allah says, “Divorce is twice; then retention with beneficence or release in fairness…” (TMQ, 2:229). Even during divorce a person is supposed to maintain Ihsan. If you manage to do so during divorce, you will certainly be able to do so during a happy marriage. Do you see how the Qur’an or Prophetic sayings give examples of certain extremes in life? If you achieve Ihsan during these extremes, you could certainly achieve it in normal situations also.
Yusuf (AS) (Joseph) was imprisoned unjustly. He (AS) was falsely accused of trying to rape the wife of the Minister, it’s a disgraceful accusation, but he was patient. Many years later while still in prison, he was told that the King of Egypt had a dream. Allah says what can be translated as, “And the king said, “Surely I (do) see (in a dream) seven plump cows which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears (of grain) and (seven) others dry. O you chiefs, pronounce about my vision in case you can explicate vision (s).” (TMQ, 12:43). Yusuf (AS) knew what it meant, a devastating starvation that would last for seven years. What did he do? Did he request that they should set him free first? Did he decide not to tell them what it meant so all those non-Believers would starve to death? No, instead he demonstrated to us the meaning of Ihsan. Without putting any conditions, he interpreted the dream for them; seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of devastating drought and starvation. Not only that, but even though he wasn’t asked, he gave them the solution to this coming crisis. He planned for them what to do in the following 15 years. He told them to increase their productivity as much as possible in the first seven years while minimizing their consumption so that they would have enough food to survive the seven years of drought. When he was freed from prison and became the Minister of Agriculture and Economy he organized the process of storing the food and then distributing it during the second seven years. Since the drought was all over the Middle East, he introduced a system where foreign countries could exchange food from Egypt with any of their homemade products. He did this in order to encourage them to be productive and so they would look at the food they get from Egypt as trade and not charity. He did all this even though they were all non-Believers. This is a message to all our brothers and sisters that are living in non-Muslim countries. Wherever you are, you must have a positive impact; you have to make a contribution, because you’re a Muslim.
The best type of Ihsan though is “Ihsan in your relationship with Allah”, your Creator. To worship Allah as if you see Him, and even though you can’t really see Him, always keep in mind that He sees you.
Excellence leads to perfection, and perfection is our ultimate goal. We strive to perfect our characters so that we could reach the highest attainable status in the sight of Allah, and also to perfect our surroundings and our work so that we wouldn’t feel ashamed when we present them in front of Allah, the Messenger (SAWS) and the Believers.
Those who achieve excellence and perfection in this world will lead because the Divine Rule says so, and if anyone else leads us, we will always be lagging behind. So we must change our current condition, and when we do that, certainly, Allah will change the condition of our entire ummah, and we will lead the world if Allah wills.
source: until they change what is in themselves by amr khaled