One of the cornerstones of our Islamic teachings is derived from the Hadith Jibraeel where Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, in the midst of his companions (RA), was visited by Jibraeel (AS). This meeting occurred towards the end of the Prophethood with the intention of summarising the core teachings of Deen for all Muslims.
One of the question asked by the angel (AS) was, “What is Ihsaan?” to which Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam replied, “it is to worship Allah as if you are seeing Him. For though you see Him not, verily He is seeing you.”
Of all the teachings of Islam, Ihsaan seems to be the forgotten treasure. Ihsaan is derived from ??? which means “the beauty that is seen”. The very idea of Ihsaan is linked to the concept that human beings are beings that recognise beauty. Something within our build up innately recognises things that are beautiful. Our eyes single out beautiful things in our surroundings; things that make us smile; that create feelings of warmth within us.
As human beings, we subconsciously realise the truth of Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam’s words that “Allah is beautiful” [Sahih Muslim] and so we find ourselves inextricably drawn towards that which takes our breath away.
But it is not enough: as believers, not only do we need to make Qadr of the majesties Allah has surrounded us with, we also need to produce beauty of our own. In everything that we do, say or create, that level of excellence must be there.
When the Muslim Ummah was at its very peak, we produced such works of history, geography, mathematics, poetry and science that we became the super power of the world. Everything that our ancestors did, they did to the point of excellence. Be it worship, ruling a country or a simple bowl from which to drink, they beautified their actions and the very objects they used. They not only loved beauty but they desired it too. Inwardly, they perfected their worship and their character and this constant polishing manifested itself in all that they did, said or touched.
They understood the lesson of Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam when he said, “Allah as mandated excellence (Ihsaan) for all things”. [Sahih Muslim]
To deliver Ihsaan is a promise that the Muslim makes when he undertakes a project or dealing. It keeps him focussed on all that is good, just and kind. It transcends him from the bestial qualities that make him an erring human.
Ihsaan sets the bar higher for the Muslim so that mediocrity is never an option. It guarantees that a job be done to perfection, that people be treated with kindness, that the law be just, that business dealings be honest, that animals be afforded their rights, that the weak be protected and that the powerful be honourable.
This is why the Ummah of today is so very feeble compared to the generations that preceded us. People are measured by what they produce and for the past century, we’ve produced sadly little.
To remain on the fitrah and to stay true to our natural inclination towards goodness means it is vital that we mimic the great Muslims that have preceded us: they truly understood that Ihsaan can only be achieved through hasana. They knew that to desire Ihsaan in absolutely everything and to desire to create things of beauty is the highest act of worship. For to be in the presence of beauty is to be in the presence of the Divine. And what better place is there to be?