Islamic Voice
Zul Hijja / Muharram 1422 H
March 2002
Volume 15-03 No:183

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Living Islam


Excellence in Every Action


Excellence in Every Action

It is stated in the Quran that "Allah loves those who practice Ihsaan." Ihsaan represents benevolence towards people and graciousness in dealings. The most important in this respect is Ihsaan towards one's parents.

Ayub Hamid

Ihsaan means striving to reach the best standards of performance in any circumstance or situation. It represents excellence, graciousness and benevolence. While ‘Adl’ (fairness and justice) requires satisfactory performance of one’s obligations to others and fulfilling the rights of others on oneself, Ihsaan suggests doing more than that which a person is obligated to do and giving more to others than what they are entitled to. Thus, while ‘Adl’ ensures peace and security of human society, Ihsaan makes it loving and caring and adds beauty to it. It is the single most distinguishing feature that raises a human society above any other creations of Allah. That is why Allah has mentioned the following in five different verses of the Holy Quran:

“Allah loves those who practice Ihsaan.” Al-Baqarah-2:195, Al-Imraan 3:134, 148, Al-Maidah 5:13,93. Like ‘Adl’, Ihsaan is

A person came to the Messenger of Allah, leaving his parents who were weeping, to make a commitment for migration to Madinah. The Prophet sent him back saying, "Return to them and make them happy just as you caused them to cry.


a comprehensive concept that covers all human affairs whether it is about one’s relationship with Allah, interactions with people or fulfilling social obligations. When it is applied to one’s relationship with Allah, it represents excellence in servitude to Allah so that a person performs his servitude to Allah as if Allah is right in front of him keenly observing his performance. Naturally, when we perform in this world with a consciousness that we are being observed by Allah, our performance is going to be the most sincere and the most excellent, just as people perform better when they are being watched by those in whose good books they want to be in- e.g. a supervisor or best friend. When the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was asked what is Ihsaan, he responded: “You fear Allah as if you are seeing Him, because if you cannot see Him, He is watching you.” (Reported by Abu Hurairah in Bukhari and Muslim). When it is about people, it represents benevolence towards people and graciousness in dealings. The most important in this respect is Ihsaan towards one’s parents. “We have enjoined on man to behave with his parents with Ihsaan.” Al-Ahqaaf 46:15. While dealing with other people, the most important aspects of Ihsaan are giving, patience and forgiveness: “Those who spend (in the way of Allah) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress their anger and who forgive people, and Allah loves Muhsineen (those who practice Ihsaan).” Al Imran 3:134. Ihsaan in Islamic terminology is not the same Ihsaan that is used in Urdu. The Arabic word for Urdu Ihsaan is ‘Mann’. Just as the starting point of practicing ‘Adl is fairness in fulfilling the rights of Allah on us as our Creator and Master without letting anything come in our way of our obedience to Him or of our performance of the duties assigned by Him, the starting point of practicing Ihsaan is the excellence in our interaction with our parents. In the Holy Quran, Allah has enjoined excellence in one’s behaviour with one’s parents immediately after mentioning Tawheed and pure submission to Allah. In Surah Bani Israel: 17:23, it says:”Your Lord has decreed that you do not serve anyone like a slave except Allah and deal with parents in an excellent manner. If one or both of them reach old age in front of you, do not express any annoyance to them, do not raise voice to them and speak pleasantly and say only respectable things. And lower yourself in humility with kindness in front of them and pray: O Lord have mercy on them as they brought me up when I was little.”

The same style of commanding Ihsaan towards parents immediately, after emphasising Tawheed as our duty to Allah is repeated in the following verses: “And remember when we took a promise from Israelites that: Dedicate your servitude exclusively to Allah and be good to your parents, to close relatives, to orphans and to the poor and talk nicely to people, establish Salat and pay Zakah.” Al-Baqarah 2:83.

“And serve Allah, do not equate anyone or anything with Him and treat parents superbly. And be nice to close relatives, orphans, the poor, close neighbours, and a fellow traveller, and the wayfarer.” An-Nisa 4:36.

“Do not equate anything or anyone with Allah, Be excellent to your parents, Do not kill your children fearing poverty because we provide for you and for them, Do not go near lewdness or shameful things, whether it is open or hidden; and, Do not take a life, which Allah has made sacred, except for the administration of justice. Thus does he command you so that you can attain wisdom. Al-Anam 6:151 This suggests that in terms of importance and status of one’s responsibilities, obligation to one’s parents is immediately next to one’s obligations to Allah.

One of the special characteristics of Yahya (John, the Baptist) and Eesa (Jesus), mentioned in the Holy Quran (Maryam 19:14 and 32) is that they were very respectful and dutiful in fulfilling their obligations to their parents/mother. Serving and obeying parents is also a topic that has been very strongly emphasised in the Hadith. Abdullaah Ibn Masood asked Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) about the actions Allah loves the most. He said, “Salah at its time.” “Serving the parents well,” and then “Jihad in the way of Allah.” “Allah’s pleasure is in the pleasure of father, and His displeasure is in the displeasure of father.”

‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Umar in At-Tirmidzee says: Fighting in the way of Allah and migrating for that purpose are the most virtuous actions to gain the pleasure of Allah. However, if someone has old parents who are dependent on him for their living and their survival, the serving of the parents takes precedence over migration and fighting in the way of Allah: A person came to the Messenger of Allah, leaving his parents who were weeping, to make a commitment for migration to Madinah. The Prophet sent him back saying, “Return to them and make them happy just as you caused them to cry.” A person came to the Messenger of Allah to seek permission for Jihad. The Prophet asked if his parents are alive. On receiving a positive answer, he said, “Perform Jihad (work hard) in their service.” A person came from Yemen to the Prophet and was asked if he had left behind some relatives in Yemen. When he said that his parents were there, the Prophet asked, “Did you seek their permission for migration?” On receiving a negative response, the Prophet said, “Go back and seek their permission. If they allow, then participate in Jihad. Otherwise, keep serving them well.” At the time of the Messenger, sons were closer to, more attached to and more subservient to the father than the mother and there was a chance that father may be favoured at the expense of mother. Hence, the Messenger of Allah emphasised that if someone has to choose between father and mother, the mother deserves three or four times more servitude than the father.


When the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was asked what is Ihsaan, he responded: "You fear Allah as if you are seeing Him, because if you cannot see Him, He is watching you."



A person came to the Prophet and asked who had more right on his companionship and service. The Prophet indicated it to be his mother. He was repeatedly asked Then who?” The Prophet repeated three times, “Your mother”. Then the fourth time, he said, “Your father”. Sometimes, we may feel that we have done enough in the service of our parents. Here is something to ponder for those who may think so: A person came to the Messenger of Allah and narrated, “O Messenger of Allah! I carried my mother on my back from Yemen for Hajj, performed Tawaf of the House, performed Sai between Safa and Marwah, stayed in Arafat, brought her to Muzdalifah, stoned the pillars in Mina. I did all this carrying her on my back, as she is too old even to move. Have I fulfilled my obligations to her?” The Prophet responded in the negative. The person wondered why. The Prophet responded, “Whatever she did when you were little, she did with a strong desire for you to live. Whatever you have done for her, you have done while desiring her death.” The Messenger of Allah also gave strong warnings to those who disobey or disrespect their parents or do not serve them lovingly.

Once the Messenger of Allah exclaimed, “May he be humiliated! May he be humiliated! May he be humiliated! He was asked, “Who? O Messenger of Allah!” He said, “Who finds one or both of his parents grown old, but he does not avail the opportunity to gain entry into Jannah.” (Reported from Abu Hurairah in Muslim) “He who keeps reminding after doing someone a favour, he who is disobedient to parents or he who is an alcoholic, cannot enter Jannah (paradise).” (Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar in Mishkaah) The Messenger of Allah also said: “The following are the major sins: Equating others with Allah in obedience or worship, disobeying the parents, taking a life, and telling a lie”. Kindness, humility and service to one’s parents is incumbent on Muslims regardless of whether the parents are Muslims or non-Muslims, guided or misguided, right or wrong. However, obedience to them is only in the things that are in accordance of Islamic teachings. In the ordinary worldly matters, the obedience and Ihsaan to the parents must continue in all circumstances.

“And if they coerce you to equate with Me others, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them, but continue to provide them good companionship in the world, and follow the path of the person who leads to Me.” Luqmaan 31:15 If the parents are not Muslims or are misguided, part of the Ihsaan is to earnestly pray to Allah for their guidance. How to serve the parents if they have already died? A person asked the Messenger of Allah if there was any obligation that he could fulfill to serve his deceased parents. He replied, “Yes, there are four ways: Praying for them, seeking forgiveness for them; fulfilling their words and commitments; maintaining the relationships with their relatives and friends. Those who keep their parents happy can immensely benefit from their dua “So, forgive them and overlook (their offensive behaviour), verily, Allah loves Muhsineen.” Al-Maidah 5:13. “Indeed, who maintains Taqwa and remains patient and steadfast, Allah does not let those who practice Ihsaan lose their reward.” Yusuf 12:90. It applies to what we say as well: “And say to my slaves that they should utter only what is the best.” Bani Israel 17:53.

Once the Messenger of Allah asked his companions: “Should I guide you to the qualities, because of which, Allah raises people’s ranks?” On affirmative response, he said, “Be patient (forbearing) with him who treats you ignorantly; forgive him who is unfair to you; give him who deprives you; and, fulfill social obligations to the relative who is delinquent in doing his part.” The same message was conveyed, among other things, in the following Hadith: The Messenger of Allah said, “My Lord has commanded for me nine qualities:

1. Fearing Allah both secretly and openly.
2. Saying only the words of justice both when angry and when happy.
3. Maintaining moderation both during poverty and affluence.
4. Making up (social obligations and relationships) with a relative who shirks his obligation to me or breaks away from me.
5. Giving even to the person who deprives me.
6. Forgiving him who is unjust to me.
7. Reflecting when I am quiet, remembering Allah when I speak and, learning lessons from what I see.
8. Enjoining good.
9. Forbidding evil.

Normally, responding to negative behaviour in the best manner and practising Ihsaan consistently as mentioned in the verses and the Hadith will win the hearts of many people. So much so that it has the potential of converting enemies into loving friends, as stated in the following verse:

“Good and evil are not equal. Respond in a way that is the best. Then, he between whom and you was enmity will become as if he was a close friend.” Fussilat 41:34. Sometimes, however, son practising Ihsaan may not individually witness the benefits of his best practices. In such situations, a sincere believer may feel discouraged, used or broken hearted. Allah assures them that : “Verily, Allaah does not let the Muhsineen (who practice Ihsaan) lose their reward.” Al-Tawbah 9:120, Hud 11:115, Yusuf 12:56,90.

“We do not let the reward of one who performs in the most excellent manner be lost.” Al-Kahf 18:30. He also assured:

“Allah is with those who have Taqwa and practice Ihsaan.” An-Nahl 16:128. “Allah’s Mercy is near those who practice Ihsaan.” Al-Araf 7:56. “Yes indeed, who turns his face submissively towards Allah and he practices excellence (Ihsaan), his reward is with his Lord.” Al-Baqarah 2:112. And the rewards Allah has promised to those who practice Ihsaan are also the best. For example: “Is the reward for excellence other than excellent.” Ar-Rahman 55:60.

“To reward those who do their best with what is the best.” An-Najm 53:31. “For those who perform excellently is the best (reward) and even more.” Yunus 10:26 Hence, Allah expects us to perform in the best possible way that we can: “Who can be better in deen than him who turns to Allah in submission and practices Ihsaan.” An-Nisa 4:125.

“And Practice Ihsaan, Allah loves those who practice Ihsaan.” Al-Baqarah 2:195.

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