Ihsan linguistically is the opposite of offense. It came in Taj al-‘Arus of Al Zubaidi: “Ihsan is the opposite of offense, and Ihsan is above justice, and that is as justice is to give what is due and take what is due, and Ihsan is to give more than what one has to give and take less than what is for him, so Ihsan is more than justice. So, seeking justice is a duty, and seeking Ihsan is recommended and volunteering.”
As for Ihsan idiomatically, it has been defined in several definitions, all of which revolve around the reply of our Messenger (saw) to Jibreel’s (as) question about the meaning of Ihsan. He said: What is Al-Ihsan? He said:
» «أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ “Ihsan is that you worship Allah as though you see Him, for though you see Him not, He certainly sees you” So, Ihsan means that the believer worships his Lord, the Glorified the Exalted, in a way in which he senses that He is observing him in all his movements, because he feels that He is observing everything and He is knowing of all things, and that an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth is not absent from Him. So, he recalls the fear of Allah at all times and in every case, hoping for His Mercy and great reward by good work and glorifying Allah as though he sees Him, and avoids everything that he forbade so that he does not disobey Allah for fear of His (swt) punishment, and is not satisfied with performing what He asked him to the fullest, but he also strives to draw closer to Allah Almighty with extra actions than the obligations that were obligated upon him, and he would strive to be among the pious good doers (Al-Muhsineen) whom Allah promised great reward on the Day of Resurrection.
(لِّلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا الْحُسْنَىٰ وَزِيَادَةٌ)
“For the people of Ihsan, there will be the best reward, and something extra.” [Yunus: 26] Al-Tabari said in the interpretation of this verse: “Blessed is Allah and Exalted is He, has promised the good doers (Al-Muhsineen) of His servants good reward for their Ihsan, that He will reward them the Paradise for their obedience to Him, to brighten their faces, and promised them on top of the best reward something extra. The extra reward on top of entering Paradise includes the honor of looking at Him and to grant them chambers from pearls, and to increase them in forgiveness and satisfaction; all of that is from the increases that Allah gives to them over the goodness that Allah has given to the people of His Paradise. Our Lord has generalized by His saying: “and something extra”, the increases on top of “the best reward”, from which He did not specify something without another, and it is not strange of the virtue of Allah to sum all this for them, rather all of this is summed for them hopefully.”
A Muslim is ordered to do good in every work he does, whether this work is religious or worldly; he (saw) said:
«إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الإِحْسَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ، فَإِذَا قَتَلْتُمْ فَأَحْسِنُوا الْقِتْلَةَ، وَإِذَا ذَبَحْتُمْ فَأَحْسِنُوا الذَّبْحَ، وَلْيُحِدَّ أَحَدُكُمْ شَفْرَتَهُ، فَلْيُرِحْ ذَبِيحَتَهُ»
“Verily Allah has prescribed Ihsan (perfection) 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.”
Ihsan is required in worship, whether it is in individual acts of worship, such as prayer, fasting, zakat, performing Nafilahs (supererogatory) acts… etc., or on the broader level of the meaning of worship through man’s maintenance of the earth on which he was granted succession and his quest to arbitrate the law of Allah on it. And Ihsan is also required in the Muslim’s dealings with other people whether they are his family or others; he is required to live with them with goodness and to provide them with assistance. And at a higher level of Ihsan that not everyone reaches is to respond to the offense with Ihsan, restraining anger, pardoning and showing forgiveness for the wrongdoers and offenders. The Almighty said:
(وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ)
“And who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.” [Al-i-Imran: 134]. Also Ihsan is required in dealing with animals even when slaughtering them as is the hadith.
In order for there to be Ihsan in any work, there must be two aspects: The first is to sense Allah Almighty’s observance, the Almighty said:
(وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللَّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ)
“And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.”.” [At-Tawba: 105]. And many Ayat have linked piety (Taqwa) with Ihsan in more than one place in the Quran, of them Allah Almighty’s saying:
(إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَواْ وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ) “Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good.” [An-Nahl: 128].
And the second: perfecting the action and performing it rightfully. He (saw) said:
«إِنّ اللَّهَ تَعَالى يُحِبّ إِذَا عَمِلَ أَحَدُكُمْ عَمَلاً أَنْ يُتْقِنَهُ» “Allah loves someone who when works, he performs it in perfect manner.”
It is by Allah, the utmost loss and regret on the Day of Resurrection that one comes to us thinking that he is one of the obedient Muhsineen and then finds himself in the ranks of the losers. The Almighty said in Surat Al-Kahf:
(قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالاً * الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعاً)
“Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds? * [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.”” [Al-Kahf: 103-104].
O Allah, we ask you to make us among the doers of good (al-Muhsineen), whom you promised the best reward. O Allah, treat us with virtue and Ihsan and do not treat us fairly, you are the best of the Muhsineen.
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by