Al-ihsaan (Perfection) : It’s Categories and Levels – Shaykh Fawzan | Dawud Burbank [Audio|En]

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Sharh-ul-Usool-ith-Thalaathah : Lesson 36 – Part B & Lesson 37
Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzan | Dawud Burbank [Audio|English]

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The Third Level is al-Ihsaan 

The Definition of Ihsaan 

Imaam Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhaab (rahimahullaah) said:

:المرتبة الثالثة : الإحسان ، ركن واحد ، وهو 

أن تعبد الله كأنك تراه ، فإن لم تكن تراه فإنه يراك

The third level is al-ihsaan. It is a single pillar and it is: «That you worship Allaah as if you were seeing Him, and even though you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.»46


[46]: Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzan’s Explanation :

Al-Ihsaan in the language means to perfect something and complete it. It is derived from al-husun which means al-jamaal (beauty), the opposite of ugliness.

And it is divided into (three) categories: 

  • Firstly: Al-Ihsaan (Perfection) of what lies between the servant and his Lord. This is what is meant (in this book here). 
  • Secondly: Al-Ihsaan (Perfection) of what is between the servant and the rest of the people. 
  • Thirdly: Doing well and perfecting what you do. When a person makes something or does an action, then it is obligatory upon him that he perfects it and does it completely. 

[1] Ihsaan (perfection) of what lies between the servant and his Lord


The first type is ihsaan (perfection) of what lies between the servant and his Lord. The Messenger sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam explained it when Jibreel asked him in the presence of the companions as will follow. He said:

«Ihsaan is that you worship Allaah as if you were seeing Him,
and even though you do not see Him, He certainly sees you

So ihsaan between the servant and his Lord is his perfecting the action which Allaah has made a duty upon him, that he does it correctly, purely and sincerely for the Face of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

So, an action in which there is ihsaan between the servant and his Lord is that which is done sincerely for Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and done with the following of the Messenger sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam.

Al- ihsaan is of two levels :

The Prophet sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam made clear that ihsaan is of two levels, one of them being higher than the other: 

The first level is that you worship Allaah as if you were seeing Him such that your certainty and eemaan in Allaah reaches such a level that it is as if you are actually seeing Allaah with your eyes. You have no hesitancy or doubt, rather it is as if Allaah is in front of you, He the Perfect and Most High, and you are seeing Him openly. Whoever reaches this level has reached the limit of ihsaan. You worship Allaah as if you are seeing Him on account of the completeness of certainty and sincerity, which is as if you are seeing Allaah with your eyes.

Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, will not be seen in this world, rather He will only be seen in the Hereafter. However, you see Him with your heart to the extent that it is as if you are seeing Him with your eyes. Therefore, He will reward the people of ihsaan in the Hereafter that they will see Him, He the Perfect and Most High. This is since they used to worship Him as if they were seeing Him in this world. So, Allaah rewards them by giving them the opportunity to see Him with their eyes in the abode of bliss. He, the Most High, said:

لِّلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا الْحُسْنَىٰ وَزِيَادَةٌ

«For the people of ihsaan there will be the best reward of Paradise and something extra.» [10:26]

Something extra is looking upon the Face of Allaah. The reason is that they perfected their deeds in this world, so Allaah gave them the best reward which is Paradise. And He will give them an increase which is seeing Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. So therefore, you worship Allaah as if you are actually witnessing Him, upon love and longing to meet Him, He the Perfect and Most High. You feel delight in obedience to Him and you feel calm and obedience to Him, He the Perfect and Most High. You eagerly desire obedience to Him. This is the path of the people of ihsaan. 

The second level: If you do not reach this tremendous level (first level), then you worship Him upon the path of al-muraqabah (watchfulness) such that you know that Allaah sees you, knows your condition, and knows what lies within yourself. Therefore, it is not befitting that you should disobey Him and contradict His command when He sees and observes you. This is a good state, however, it is less than the first one. So, as long as you know that He sees you, then you therefore perfect your worship of Him and you do it well, because you know that Allaah is seeing you. And for Allaah is the Highest example. If you were in front of a created being who had status and he commanded you with a command, and you were carrying this matter out in front of him and he was looking at you, would it be befitting that you be negligent in the performance of this action? 

So in summary, ihsaan is of two levels: 

  • The level of witnessing with the heart: It is that you worship Allaah as if you are seeing Him from the strength of certainty and eemaan. It is as you are seeing Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, with your eyes. 
  • The second level: It is that you worship Allaah knowing that He sees you and observes you, therefore, you do not disobey Him and contradict His command, He the Perfect and Most High.

This is the level of al-ihsaan and it is highest of the levels of the religion. Whoever reaches it has reached the highest of the levels of the religion. Before it is the level of eemaan, and before that is the level of al-Islaam.

The deen has a number of domains: 

The first domain: al-Islaam. It is wide to such an extent that the hypocrite enters within it and is called a Muslim and is treated like a Muslim, because he has submitted to Islaam outwardly. So therefore, he enters within the domain of Islaam. And the person who is weak in eemaan [enters the domain of Islaam], but he has nothing from eemaan except a mustard seed of it. 

The second domain: It is more restricted and more specific – the domain of al-eemaan. The hypocrite in belief does not enter into it whatsoever. Rather, only the people of eemaan enter into it, and they are two categories: those who are complete in eemaan and those who are deficient in eemaan. So, the sinful believer and dutiful believer both enter into it. 

The third domain: It is more restricted than the second one – the domain of al-ihsaan. It just as the Prophet sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam made clear. No one will enter into it except the people of complete eemaan.


The Evidence for al-Ihsaan 

And the proof is His saying, He the Most High:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوا وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ

«Allaah is with those who fear Him and are dutiful to Him; and He is with those who are people of ihsaan.» [16:128]

And His saying, He the Most High:

وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ الَّذِي يَرَاكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِدِينَ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

«And place your reliance upon the All-Mighty, the Bestower of Mercy. He who sees you when you stand to pray. And who sees your movements along with those who pray along with you. Indeed! He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.» [26:217-220]

And His saying, He the Most High:

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِن قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَن رَّبِّكَ مِن مِّثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَا أَصْغَرَ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ

«And you are not (O Muhammad sallallaahu`alaihiwasallam) engaged in any matter nor do you recite the Book of Allaah, – nor do you do any action (O people), except that We are witness in your deeds when you do them. And not even that which is of the weight of the tiniest ant is hidden from your Lord on the earth or in the heavens. Nor is there anything smaller than that or greater than it except that it is written in a Clear Book [10:61] [47]


[47] : Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzan’s Explanation :

This is the proof for the first level of al-ihsaan:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوا وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ

«Allaah is with those who fear Him and are dutiful to Him, and He is with those who are people of ihsaan.» [16:128]

The aayah proves that Allaah is with the people of ihsaan. They are those who worship Allaah as if they were seeing Him, so Allaah is with them in a specific sense of Ma`iyyah (Allah being with creation) – the Ma`iyyah with regard to aiding, helping, and tawfeeq (guiding them to and granting them attainment of correctness).

And His saying, He the Most High:

وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْعَزِيزِ الرَّحِيمِ الَّذِي يَرَاكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِدِينَ

«And place your reliance upon the All-Mighty, the Bestower of Mercy. He who sees you when you stand to pray. And who sees your movements along with those who pray along with you.» [26:217-219]

This is a proof for the second level. This is a proof for his saying [sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam]: «Then, He certainly sees you

«And place your reliance» Meaning: trust your affairs «to the All-Mighty, the Bestower of Mercy» He is Allaah, the Perfect and Most High.

«When you stand to pray» You stand for worship and the prayer.

«And who sees your movements along with those who pray along with you» He sees you whilst you are performing your rukoo` (bowing) and whilst you are performing your sajdah (prostration). He sees you in all the states of worship; standing, bowing, and prostrating. He, the Perfect and Most High, sees you.

«Indeed! He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing» The One who hears your sayings. The One who knows your sayings, He the Perfect and Most High.

And His saying, He the Most High:

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِن قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ

«And you (O Muhammad sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam) are not engaged in any matter nor do you recite the Book of Allaah, – nor do you do any action (O people), except that We are witness in your deeds when you do them.» [10:61]

This is a proof for the second level.

«And you (O Muhammad sallallaahu`alaihiwasallam) are not engaged in any matter» This is an address to the Messenger sallallaahu`alaihiwasallam. In any affair from your affairs, from the affairs of worship or other than it – all of your actions and your movements – you will not be engaged in any affair at all.

«Nor do you recite from it (i.e. Book of Allaah)» Meaning: from Allaah, because the Qur`aan is from Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. Or the pronoun could refer back to the affair, so the meaning would be: From the affairs which you are engaged in is recitation of the Qur`aan.

«Nor do you do (O people)» This is [an address] for all of the nation, for the Messenger sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam and other than him.

«Any action» Meaning: Any action from the actions, whether good or bad.

«Except that We are witness [in your deeds]» We are seeing you, observing you, and witnessing you. This is a proof for his saying sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam: «Then indeed, He sees you

«When you do them» You are carrying it out and you are doing it. So, this gives a proof for the second level from the levels of ihsaan, in that He, the Majestic and Most High, witnesses the action of every doer of an action. He, the Perfect and Most High, sees him, knows him, and observes him. Nothing is hidden from him.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ

«Nothing whatsoever in the earth or in the heavens is hidden from Allaah.» [3:5]


[2] Ihsaan between the person and rest of the creation


As for ihsaan between the servant and the creation, then its meaning is: doing good to them and withholding from harming them.

Such that you feed the hungry person, cloth the person without clothing, assist the needy person with your position, and that you intercede for the one who needs to be interceded for. You do that which is good with all the different aspects of good. You are hospitable to the guest and you are generous towards the neighbor. Nothing but good emanates from you towards the neighbor, and you withhold harming him. So, no harm comes from you towards him or towards anyone else.

  1. From the people, there are who are such that nothing but harm comes from them, and
  2. From the people there are those whom harm and good comes. And
  3. From the people, there are those whom nothing but good comes from them. This is the highest of the levels.

Doing good towards the people and withholding harm from them is ihsaan (good and fine treatment) towards the people:

أَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

«Do good. Allaah loves al-Muhsineen (the doers of good).» [2:195]

Even towards the animals, it is obligatory that you treat them well and make available for them whatever they need and that you withhold harming them and that you are gentle with them. This is from ihsaan towards the animals.

Even a person who is going to be rightfully executed, you should not torture him, rather, you should execute him in a fine and tranquil manner. A person who is obligatory to execute, and someone it is obligatory to carry a hadd (prescribed punishment) upon, then it is carried out upon him with gentleness. There is to be no mutilation, no torture, and no beating to death.

He sallallaahu`alaihi wa sallam said:

»إن الله كتب الإحسان على كل شيء ، فإذا قتلتم فأحسنوا القتلة ، وإذا ذبحتم فأحسنوا الذبح«

«Allaah has obligated ihsaan with regard to everything. So, when you kill, then kill in a fine manner. And when you slaughter an animal, then slaughter in a good manner

[Reported by Muslim no. 1955 as a hadeeth of Shaddaad bin Aws, radiy Allaahu `anhu.]

So, [the principle of ihsaan applies] to execution or other than it from that which necessitates prescribed punishment.

«When you slaughter» Meaning: when you slaughter animals which are to be eaten, then slaughter in a fine manner:

» وليحد  أحدكم شفرته ، وليرح ذبيحته «

«Let one of you sharpen his knife and give relief to the animal which he is slaughtering

Therefore, you are to treat with ihsaan even the animals. Allaah forgave the prostitute woman from the People of Israaeel on account that she gave a drink of water to a dog which had its tongue hanging out from thirst. So, she gave it water to drink and Allaah thanked her for that and forgave her, her sin.[2] This is a tremendous sin and it is prostitution, meaning: zinaa (fornication). But Allaah forgave her on account of that – because she treated the thirsty animal in a fine manner.

So how about something other than a dog? If you were to treat a hungry person from the Muslims with ihsaan, or from the descendants of Aadam, even if he is a disbeliever – if you were to treat him well, then Allaah, the Majestic and Most High will thank you for that fine treatment. He, the Most High, said:

أَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

«Do good. Allaah loves al-Muhsineen (the doers of good).» [2:195]


[3] Ihsaan (Perfection) of the Action


The third type: It is perfection of the action. Whatever action you do, it is obligatory that you perfect it and not so that it should be said: “So-and-so has done such-and-such very well.” There occurs in the hadeeth:

» إن الله يحب إذا عمل أحدكم عملا أن يتقنه «

«Allaah loves that one when one of you does an action that he perfects it

[Reported by al-Bayhaqee in Shu`ab al-Eemaan 4/334 no. 5313 and no. 5314 from a hadeeth of `Aa.ishah, radiy Allaahu `anha. [Declared hasan (good) by Shaikh al-Albaanee in Saheeh al-Jaami`. He spoke about it in Silsilatul-Ahaadeeth asSaheehah no. 1113].


Footnotes:

[2] Refer to al-Bukhaaree no. 3467, Muslim no. 2245 as a hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah, radiy Allaahu `anhu.

Sharh-ul-Usool-ith-Thalaathah. Explanation of the Three Fundamental Principles of Imaam Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhaab by Shaykh Saalih ibn Fowzaan al-Fowzaan hafizahullaah. Translated by  Daawood  Burbank, rahimahullaah

Posted with kind permission from Dawud Burbank rahimahullaah

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