“He said, ‘Tell me about al-Ihsaan (goodness).'”
After asking about Islam and Imaan, the angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) to tell him about Ihsaan. Ihsaan is mentioned in a number of places in the Qur’an including:
“On those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin for what they ate [in the past], if they fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and again fear Allah and believe, and once again fear Allah and did good deeds with ihsaan (perfection). And Allah loves the good-doers (muhsineen).” (Surah al-Maaidah:93)
Ihsaan is a very comprehensive term that can be translated as ‘perfection’ or ‘goodness’, and implies doing something well, or in the best way, and perfecting something. It also incorporates in its meaning all types of goodness, including using one’s wealth, knowledge, position or physical capacities for the benefit of others.
If one gives part of one’s wealth in charity, this is Ihsaan with respect to wealth. If one spreads their knowledge and never misses an opportunity to guide others, this is Ihsaan with respect to knowledge. If one uses one’s position and influence to help those that are deserving and in need of help, this is also considered Ihsaan. If you help someone to get into their car or carry something for them, this is Ihsaan with respect to the body. So we can see that Ihsaan incorporates using all our faculties in the best possible way for the best possible purpose.
In the Hadith of Jibreel, the focus is not on what Ihsaan is, but rather on the correct motivation for it. That is, the awareness that Allah (swt) is watching one’s actions, and seeking to please Him (swt), as we shall see when we look at the next part of the hadith. It is only this type of awareness that will bring about the requisite purity of intention, to ensure that an act is truly for the sake of Allah (swt) alone.
The result of a deeper understanding of Ihsaan is that we will be concerned about the quality of our deeds, and not simply their quantity or outward execution.
Reflect on the deeds that your did today and ask yourself how many of them did you perform with the conscious intention of pleasing Allah (alone) and how many of them did you perform to the very best of your ability?