This was a speech given for a FAYM Girls Youth Camp in Margate, FL Nov 2009. (www.faym.org)
There was a man who declared he was a Muslim in 1964. He was an American man who exemplified what is means to live your life with excellence or Ihsaan. So much so, that his choice to become a Muslim caused thousands of people all over the world, in America, in China, in Japan, to also become Muslim, all because of his influence upon them. He was a black man from the South. Does anybody want to guess who I am talking about?
None other than Muhammad Ali.
This man was born as Cassius Clay, but chose to change his name in devotion to this Deen. Allah blessed him with many talents, one of which is boxing. He took this gift, and didn’t just fight here and there, he chose to have Ihsaan by becoming a World Heavyweight Champion. He famously said he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” The world was amazed by not only his talent and ambition, but his presence and deep belief. He attributes his success to his spiritual relationship with Allah; the physical body is only going to take you so far, the mental control will push you to the limits.
He had so much Ihsaan in everything he did, that he refused to fight in the Vietnam War, because his understanding of Islam convinced him that peace is more important. He was suspended from boxing for three years, but this didn’t stop him. He didn’t waiver.
Allah tested him with the Parkinson’s Disease. He didn’t let it stop him, he instead created a Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Ihsaan.
He recently attended the Presidential Inauguration and accepted a President’s Award from NAACP for his continued involvement in helping others. This is Ihsaan.
When somebody truly understands the concept of Ihsaan, they are never ordinary people. They live their lives on a different level. We are the people of Ihsaan, the Muhsineen.
Allah has told us in the Qur’an: Qad af la hal mu’minoon – Successful indeed are the believers. This ayyat in Arabic is in the past tense, Allah has already declared the believers, the Muslims, as successful. We are winners and should not operate as failures. We are the people of success, a title given to us by Allah. We have been given honor; a person of Ihsaan understands this.
So let me give you some background.
The word Ihsaan comes from the word Hassan which means to be good. It is the superlative, as in good, better and best. It also is used to mean kindness. It is an Islamic Concept which we often refer to as excellence or perfection. It is doing things to the best of your ability, striving to meet high standards. The Prophet Muhammad(saw) said: Innallaha katabal Ihsaana ‘ala kulli shy’ (Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things).
It is important for us to understand that every action we do has a duel consequence, one here and one in the hereafter. Allah says in Surah Zilzal- Fa may ya3 mal mith qal tharatin khy ry yarah; Wa may ya3 mal mith qala tharatin shary yarah “So he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it, And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.”
Therefore, we learn that every action you do, you will meet again in the Akhirah and it will meet you whether good or bad. You should strive to do everything in the best way possible. On Yomul Qiyaamah when Allah says, who’s good deed is this, you will be proud of it. Sometimes when you have a homework assignment or maybe a project, we procrastinate and end up with a result that wasn’t the best effort. When people look at it, you are ashamed. Not necessarily because it is poor, but because you know you are capable of more.
See, Ihsaan is not just something we should do. It is our very nature. Allah has created this Dunya or World, and we can see that everything around us has been created with precise perfection, it is well ordered, interdependent, and regulated. The animals live in a certain pattern that is aligned with the role or plants and trees. This is the natural order.
Without Ihsaan there will be total chaos and disorder in the world because the opposite of Ihsaan is chaos. Allah did not create a world of chaos. If you are not doing things with Ihsaan you will have a stressful life, because it goes against our very nature. In Surah Tin Allah tells us, La qad kalaq nal insaana fee ahsanee taw weem, Certainly, We created man in the best make. We must embody this Ihsaan and when we don’t is when we become uneasy, depressed, stressed, angry and a whole whirl of problems develop in our lives.
So what are some criteria of Ihsaan?
- A niyyah or intention that it is in the way of Allah (Fi Sa bi Lil lah)
- Your action must be correct according to the rules of Shariah (Islamic Laws)
- You must begin with Bismillah
- You must end with Alhamdulilah
- Your action should be one that seeks to yield the greatest benefit in the minimum time and effort because Allah has not guaranteed us to live till we reach old age; we must seize the present.
Some other conditions:
At conclusion of action, you should have an evaluation, mental assessment which will determine if you do that action again or not. These are steps that will help you figure out if your action was one of Ihsaan.
The Prophet (saw) also defines Ihsaan when he was asked by Angel Jibraeel “Tell me about Ihsaan” and he (saw) said: “It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and if you do not see Him, then (knowing) truly He sees you.”
Worship is everything we do not just ibadaah. So even though we cannot see Allah, be aware that he is watching us.
If you work with your boss/parent in front of you, watching closely, you tend to do a better job and be more careful. The nvention of the Nanny Cam, where parents can video tape their babysitters, caused babysitters to become more cautious when they knew they were being watched. This is the same way we should conduct ourselves, because Allah is always watching us.
This demonstrates how we should live our lives, every aspect we should seek to get to Ihsaan. Especially when it comes to doing the work of Allah, do it in the best way because you will be asked to take ownership of all that you put forward. If you attend a camp or class, don’t just pass through it with little care, a bad attitude and do less than our capabilities.
The most precious thing you have been given after life is guidance to Islam and the way to show thanks and appreciation to Allah is by doing acts of Ihsaan.
As we begin to do actions of Ihsaan, Allah steps in to help us as he tells us in Surah Baqarah- have Taqwah for Allah and He will teach you.
Ihsaan is a way of living, it is not a onetime activity. It is a manner of how you think and how you conduct yourself. We are Muslims and we must operate like winners. This is not arrogance.
Remember, Qad af la hal mu’minoon – Successful indeed are the believers. Allah says in Surah Tawba Verse 120- “Surely Allah does not waste the reward of the doers of good.”
The best dawah you can give is your personal achievement and accomplishment. When you do something with Ihsaan, the whole world will notice, no matter the field. We saw this example in Muhammad Ali.
The Prophet (SA) said – “Allah is good and loves everything that is good.”
I pray we understand what it means to live with excellence and inspire ourselves enough to conduct ourselves as winners and the people of Ihsaan or Muhsineen during this camp.