[Chapter 15] Taqwa, Ihsan and Itqan
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
Taqwa, Ihsan and Itqan
Then – again remember I am not suggesting these things in any particular order – it is the turn of Taqwa, which is a summary term Islam uses to characterize the optimum human relationship with Allah – as manifested in a variety of human speech and behavior.
It is the stage when the heart is fully attuned to the pleasure of Allah in the whole span of a person’s actions and choices.
People with Taqwa in their heart are always mindful of Allah – of Allah’s watchful presence – and the need for them to do the right thing every time and in every situation.
With Taqwa in our heart, we are better equipped to take advantage of whatever good things Allah brings before us, including the opportunity to discuss the topic of working for Allah with our fellow Muslims.
Taqwa, however, and more so than many other things, is not a one-shot deal. It takes time to process and acquire and it takes time to mature. It is a long-time commitment. In fact it is a life-long pursuit.
Therefore, begin working on your Taqwa now – before you come to the seminar; keep doing it throughout the seminar; and keep working at it after you leave the seminar.
There is one final thing I want to say on this topic – and I don’t know what more anyone could say, ask for or dream about, either in this world or in the next world? If we let Taqwa take hold of our lives, we live in Allah’s company – he becomes our companion. Can we pause here for a moment and reflect on what this could mean and what implications this could have for us in this life as well as in the next life?
May Allah grant me and you – and those we love – the great boon of Taqwa, for, in this great journey we call life, there is no better provision anyone can have.
Before we leave this topic, let me suggest that everyone of us try to sit down some time and read Surah At-Talaaq, which is the 65th Surah of the Qur’an. That Surah has some amazing things to say about those who cultivate Taqwa of Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
Ihsan is what transforms our work from drudgery to a labor of love. It is what propels us from being mere menials into honored deputies speaking and acting in the name of Allah himself. Therefore, in reality, and for those who know and understand it, Ihsan is not just the icing on the cake, it is the cake itself.
Ihsan is doing things not just well enough or well; doing them not just right; but doing them over and above the call of duty. It is doing anything we do over and above expectations. It is pushing the level of excellence to the nth degree in all our behavior – for, all our behavior is worship. The Qur’an and the Hadith call it 'Ibadah.
Ihsan, therefore, is acting all the time, and with regard to everything, as if we are right in front of Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. Do you know any time or place where you are not – in front of Allah I mean? Once we understand this – and fully internalize it – we would solve all our problems – including many of the problems that plague the world.
There is no greater glory in life than that: to see and feel oneself in the presence of Allah. And there is no higher and more rewarding or exciting way to live – to do things. Once we realize this, it turns out that Allah himself is with us. Who dares to ask for more?
Wa Innallaha La-Ma’al Muhsineen Qur’an (29:69)
Is this reward enough for all the hard work and compensation enough for all the frustrations that so often accompany hard work – including working for Allah? Or is there anything else beyond that?
Ihsan is doing more – more than what is normally expected. And for those who do more there is more. Hear Allah himself speak in the Qur’an: (10:26)
Lilladheena Ahsanul Husna wa Ziyaadah
For those who do more – Ihsan that is – there is goodness – and more!
There is no reason why the worst among us should not aspire to this highest form of consciousness and noblest form of life. The process, however, is often a gradual one. The commitment needs to come from us – to the extent it does – while the blessings and crowning of our efforts with success will come from Allah. That means the application needs to go up from below; the acceptance – or rejection – will come from above.
But Allah is not a rejecter; he is not a chaser away of people who come to him beseeching his boon and blessing; he is the giver, who loves to give. If someone has not received, it is because that person did not ask; or because that person went to the wrong door; or because he or she did not knock at it hard enough – and did not cry and cringe and grovel before that door long enough.
Do you think we can all aspire to take a stab in the direction of Ihsan in this seminar – in the way we come or go; in the way we sit or stand; in the way we talk or listen; in the way we use the bathrooms and the dining halls; in the way we drive; in the way we park our cars; in the way we perform our Salah; … you figure out the rest.
This is called superior and outstanding performance – Ihsan is just a tad above superior and outstanding. It is the highest point to which your spirit – soul – can soar in this world – direct access to Allah’s presence and grace and unhindered personal communion with him. How dare we dream of more!
And – Woe to us! – how dare we turn our back on it and live in such utter disregard of it!
Thoroughness. I am not going to say much about this except to point out that it refers to how Islam requires us to do well whatever it is that we undertake to do. There are no half-hearted measures in Islam. No sloppy, shoddy work. No perfunctory performance, no lackadaisical attitude. If you are a Muslim, and you do something, do it well.
That is what Allah likes and that is what Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, asked us to do.
But unfortunately this is something many of us have forgotten how to do. This is one of those important lessons of our culture and history that we need to relearn. When we do something – whatever it may be – those looking at our work should be able to say: “Ah, a Muslim must have done it!”
That is how our Aslaaf used to be – and that is what we need to become. The buck of excellence and superior performance needs to stop at us.
END OF CHAPTER 15
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.