Ihsan : the race for perfection
And We certainly gave David from Us bounty. [We said], “O mountains, repeat [Our] praises with him, and the birds [as well].” And We made pliable for him iron, [Commanding him], “Make full coats of mail and calculate [precisely] the links, and work [all of you] righteousness. Indeed I, of what you do, am Seeing.” [Surah Saba: Ayah 10]
Allah (SWT) could’ve just told us about Daud ‘alaihissalam to work on the metal, to craft. But He even goes, “Qaddir fis-sard.” (QS Saba verse 11)
Prophet Dawud (AS) was blessed with numerous gifts – a beautiful and melodious voice. When he would recite the Zabur and glorify Allah, even the animals and birds would gather around him to listen and join in. Dawud (as) had other blessings from Allah. He was renowned for his great wisdom, and ability to judge between people when they had disagreements. Another gift from Allah to Dawud (as) was that when he held hard metal in his hand, it became soft and he could bend it any way he liked.
Toward the end of his life, Dawud (as) started to rebuild Masjid al-Aqsa. The blessed Masjid had first been built by Adam (as) after he had built the Ka’bah in Makkah. After many years Masjid al-Aqsa lay in ruins and was rebuilt by Ibrahim (as). After generations, when Dawud (as) was King of Jerusalem, Masjid Al Aqsa was again in need of rebuilding. Rebuilding Masjid Al Aqsa was a huge project and, sadly, Dawud (as) passed away before he could complete it. It was Dawud (as)’s son, Sulayman (as), who continued the work and completed rebuilding Masjid al-Aqsa.
The ayah recited above shows how Allah(SWT) specifically tells Dawus (AS) to “make sure every single link in the chain that you make is perfectly calculated.”
Lesson: When you do a job, do it to the best of your ability.
It doesn’t matter if you are a high power executive or a cleaner. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old – whatever you do, be the best at it. And you’d better be earning every penny that you’re given. You’d better not be the one sleeping on your job. Your work should be define by ihsan. There are people who have jobs who hate their job. They hate their job. The only reason they are in their job is because of the paycheck.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah (SWT) loves if any of you has done a deed to perfect it”. (Narrated by: Tabarani, 901 – Hathami, 98/4 – Al-Suyuti, 5232).
Don’t you yearn for Allah’s (SWT) love? Then perfect your actions; the more you work to attain perfection, the more Allah (SWT) loves you.
Shaddad ibn Aws reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. If you have to kill, kill in the best manner. If you have to slaughter, slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife, so his animal is spared of suffering.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1955]
Even while slaughtering a chicken or a lamb, we should be aiming to attain perfection! If we can aim to attain perfection while slaughtering, then we must aim to attain perfection in every other aspect of our lives. We must also consider the state of our equipment; for instance, to attain perfection whilst slaughtering one must sharpen the knife and rest the animal. When studying, you intend to study well, however the intention alone is not enough. You must first choose the most appropriate time, place and lighting, to get started!
And in another narration, “Verily, Allah Almighty is excellent and he loves excellence.” Source: al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 5884
This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the way Luton reacted to coronavirus restrictions was the “way forward for the entire country“. Only a few months ago, Luton was an area of intervention and now again, we are have been marked as an “area of concern” by the Department of Health and Social Care, meaning the council has the power to take action to reduce a rise in cases.
Whatever job or task you have, you must now feel that you have to bring ihsan to it, you have to bring excellence to it, your very best to it. Just because this is a favor from Allah to you.
If this job wasn’t there, if that work wasn’t there, you would be asking people. You would be asking to borrow money from them, to take a favor from them to pay the electricity bill, to pay for the groceries at home, to pay your children’s food. We don’t want to ever be in that position where we have to ask somebody else.
“‘Izzur rojulu istighna’uhu ‘anin naas.” “The dignity of a person is that they don’t feel in need of other people.”
The fact that I’m independent that I drive my own car, that I can live in my own housing, that I can pay for my own cloth and my own food, that’s part of my dignity. Having to ask someone is humiliating and embarrassing.
In the famous Hadith, where Jibril (Gabriel) came to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and asked, “Tell me about perfection”? The Prophet replied: “It’s to worship Allah as if you can see him, and if you are not able to see him then he could see you”. (Narrated by Bukhari, 50/ 4777).
Can you feel this while praying? How would such a prayer be performed? I’m sure it would be perfect. This is a very nice idea; let us agree to try it. Let us worship Allah (SWT) as if we can see him watching us for a day, and let us remember that even though we cannot see him he is watching us.
And ihsan is in so much more – be as perfect in your manners with your parents as you are to your friends. Aim for perfection in your treatment to those who can’t help you – the poor, the young, the vulnerable – as much as those who you need. Aim for perfection in your greetings to others giving the full salaam, not just Whagwarn or Easy Cuzi. Aim for perfection in your speech so that the listener knows that a Muslim is educated, not vulgar in their conversation and living the message they believe. Aim for perfection in marriage and family relations, even if you have been offended. Aim for perfection in your studies, your cleaning, your cooking, everything you engage in remembering that Allah(SWT) loves perfection sought for His sake.
There is a saying that “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.
He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favour. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”
What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.
So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realised that we would have done it differently.
Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity. The plaque on the wall says, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.