What Is the Difference between Goodness and Excellence?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

Please help me differentiate between goodness and perfection (Ihsan).

Answer

The terms you have stated in English are not necessarily mapped onto Arabic equivalents intuitively. If we take “goodness” to mean the Arabic word “salah,” or righteousness, it is when a person’s outward actions are good, and their inward states are rectified and straight. [Ibn ‘Ajiba, Mi’raj al-Tashawwuf]

“Perfection” in Arabic is “kamal” and not “ihsan”; “ihsan” is closer to meaning “showing excellence.” Ihsan, or excellence, is defined as:

“Linguistically, an action of some type of good that should be done. According to Sacred Law, it is that you worship Allah as though you see Him, and even though you don’t see Him, then indeed, He sees you.” [Jurjani, Al-Ta’rifat]

They are similar in that both are pleasing to Allah Most High and require good deeds and spiritual states. However, excellence is of the highest level of righteousness, while goodness is something that every believer who overwhelmingly follows the Sacred Law inwardly and outwardly can be described with. Neither of the two requires or entails perfection necessarily.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.