Ehsaan is the Islamic concept of doing and attaining excellence in "good" beliefs and deeds. The word can emphasise sincerity, earnest and seriousness to achieve good in an action, as well as doing an action in a good manner, i.e., discharging a duty or activity in the most efficient manner, compliant with the highest of Islamic ideals, like mercy, compassion, justice, without waste etc.
Unfortunately, like the concept of Tawhid, this ideal has undergone secularisation in the past century. Historically ehsaan referred to all things in a Muslim's life. All activities, skills and endeavour were pursued to perfection, in the worship of Allah (swt). Muslims were not content to do the bare minimum, but were always looking to develop themselves and their talents. However, a calamity hit the Muslim word that it never recovered from, colonialisation of the Muslim world in the 18th century. As each European power took a part of the Muslim world, they deposed the existing power structure, or held it captive, meanwhile changing the economy into one fitted purely for the extraction of natural resources for shipment to the West and the markets to be one suited to consuming the imported and higher priced produced goods of the Western industries (powered by the natural resources received). The education system was changed to teach Western ideas, philosophy and imitation of Western styles.
Muslims who kept themselves separate from this and being unable to change the political situation, retreated into aspects of Islam that didn't involve politics and thus were not disliked by the colonialists. This retreat was also marked by defeatism.
Along with this, the Western ideas of Secularism, entrenched this separation of Deen (way of life) from the affairs of mankind and the concept of Ehsan, along with many other Islamic ideas, was cropped into only the areas of Islam permitted to exist - the rituals, the personal emotions in the heart and personal transactions.
Therefore in today's secularised Ehsan, colonialised Muslims will preach the importance of perfection in the 'heart', or perfection in ritual prayers, or giving charity to the poor - some even convincing themselves that the degradation of the Muslim world is because of a lack of pursuit of these things. However, they forget that the causes of corruption of the heart and the biggest opposition to the perfection of the heart all come from the one area of human life they dare not tread into - society.
British colonial government over Egypt, Lord Cromer described this:
"the Europeanised Egyptian is in the majority of cases a Moslem. In reality, he is generally an Agnostic. The gulf between him and the " Alim " [Islamic scholar] of the El-Azhar University is as great as between the " Alim " and the European....The Europeanised Egyptian...will often look on the *' Alim " with all the pride of an intellectual parvenu [i.e. a person coming from backward origins]. From the pedestal of his empirical knowledge, he will regard the " Alim " as a social derelict, who has to be tolerated and even occasionally, for political purposes, to be utilised, but who need not be respected".(Modern Egypt, 1916)
The Qur'an teaches that Allah does not change a condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. It is notable that the verse in the Qur'an does not mention believers, but is generally for any society or people. Therefore Muslims should cast of the Secularised version of the Islamic concept of Ihsan and strive for ehsaan in all things, whether in themselves or their society. This means improving their understanding of the world, of all areas of human knowledge, of technology, engineering and medicine, of how Islam can be applied in a state using modern technology and in circumstances of modern urbanisation - all in the service of continuing the work of Porphet Muhammed (saaw) to acheive the Islamic world project of global justice, mercy and peace for all.
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