Part Fourteen of Six Answers by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani
The Dictionary Meaning of Ihsan and its Derivatives
Verses about the state of Ihsan are so numerous that what we have quoted is sufficient. The true meaning of Ihsan, as the Prophet (s) defined it, which we will mention in the hadith we are coming to later, is to worship Allah in such a way that you strive and progress to make that worship perfect in both its outward form and its inward reality. One example of this is praying with humility and submission, (khudhu and khushu) as if you are seeing Allah and are aware that He is seeing you.
If we take the dictionary we find that the word Ihsan and its derivatives has many meanings and they are: ‘hasuna’: “become excellent, to make good, to seem good, to be beautiful” [To be beautiful means to decorate oneself with good attributes, to beautify inwardly and outwardly]. Other derivatives are: ‘Ihsanan’ means “to do excellently” ‘aahsanu’: “they did good” ‘ahsantum’: “thou did good”
‘ahsin’: “thou do good!”
‘ahsinu’: “you do good!”
‘hisaanun’: “beautiful ones”
We see here the difference in the meaning. When used as an adjective, it means kindness and an internal attitude and composure.
So the state of Ihsan mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is a very high state, which Jibril (as) showed to be an intrinsic part of the Din, and which he placed at the same level as the states of Islam and Iman. Din consists of three states, Islam, Iman and Ihsan, each of which has its own complete definition. That is why it was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in so many places and why the Prophet (s) when asked about it by Jibril (as), gave it the same importance as he gave to Islam and Iman.
This is the meaning of the whole Science of Tasawwuf. You can change that term if you don’t like it, but we like because it is a well-known and well-used term. In Arabic we say “mustallahat laa talghi al-ahkaam wal haqaa’iq” “terms don’t change the basic nature or the fundamental reality of a thing.” In English we say “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
If we continue quoting, we can present many verses, but we will stop now as we didn’t want to make it a long answer, but we may return to this subject at a later time.
© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America