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IslamiCity > Articles > Ihsan, The pursuit of Excellence
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Ihsan is like the 'icing on the cake,' for the believer and his or her faith. Ihsan is a human reflection, a human attempt to achieve excellence in faith and high level in the areas covered by the reveled 99 beautiful names of Allah swt.
Audio Ihsan, The pursuit of Excellence

Ihsan, The pursuit of Excellence
11/26/2013 - Interfaith Education Religious - Article Ref: UC0802-3514
Number of comments: 17
Opinion Summary: Agree:16  Disagree:0  Neutral:1
By: UCLA Sister Halaqa
uclahalaqa.wordpress.com * -

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

- Aristotle

 

Ihsan (Excellence in faith)...just thinking the word in my head has a special ring to it, brings a certain unique, inspiring feeling to my heart. This word, this topic moves me. I hope it has that effect on you as well. Our religion, our way of life is composed of three parts:

  1. Iman
  2. Islam
  3. Ihsan

 

 To discuss ihsan, we must briefly go through the first two, Iman and Islam.

Iman

Iman or faith must be mentioned as the first part of our deen because it serves as our roots. For many years of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad, Allah (God) revealed nothing except the concept of taqwa (God consciousness), ikhlas (sincerity) and Iman (faith). It was not until the hearts of the first Muslims became saturated and strong with true Iman did Allah (swt) begin introducing the next concept - Islam, to the Muslims. 

ISLAM
After our roots are firmly in place and take hold within the rich soil of Iman and that is watered and nourished continually, we can begin understanding and encouraging the practice of Islam or submission to the will of Allah. This Islam, or submission, is like the trunk of the tree, sturdy, reaching up to heights. Muslim children are not required to pray until they are 7. Why? Because these first seven years are to be used by parents to plant the seed of Iman and help this seed to grow strong roots by teaching their children about Allah (swt), about jannah, about the miracles and the angels and preparing them to have a strong, balanced character. The "rules" of Islam come more easily to those who have prepared their hearts with Iman.

IHSAN

Ihsan, which means excellence in belief is the neglected 1/3 of our deen. It is to believe in God Almighty without the slightest speck of doubt. It is similar in idea to the bodhisattva concept the Buddhists hold. And, when attained, it is like the "icing on the cake," for the believer and his or her faith. "Ihsan is the fruit that blossoms from our planted trees and shows up when the roots are strong and nourished, free from disease and harmful insects. If we fail to nourish our Iman by submitting to Allah, we will bear no fruit and our soul will die. But look into the Islamic legacy. It is rich with ihsan. All the achievements in art, science, architecture, literature, geography, politics, economics, social movement, philosophy, medicine and more came from the Muslims' desire to attain ihsan. Ihsan is our lost treasure that we must unearth and revive.

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Ihsan...what does it mean? Like so many other Arabic words that I have mentioned, it has a vast array of meanings. It cannot be summed up prettily in one English word or phrase. Ihsan is excellence. It is perfection. It is beauty. It is balance, harmony, discipline, good character, softness, gentleness, improvement, drive, will power. Ihsan is a human reflection, a human attempt to achieve a high level in the areas covered by the reveled 99 beautiful names of Allah (swt).

In Surat Ar-Rahman, (Quranic chapter "The Merciful"), Allah (swt) uses one of the most powerful and difficult to use literary devices - the rhetorical question. If you have studied literature to any extent, you will know that the rhetorical question can only be used in very special, particularized situations and it can only be used when the author has much confidence and much leverage in the answer and the motivation for asking the question. The rhetorical device is amazing because, as it gives the answer to the question away, it leaves the reader to contemplate deeply on the meaning of the question, and the profound reasons behind the obvious. Allah (swt), in Surat Ar-Rahman, conquers this literary device and uses it in truly miraculous ways.  

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