What is Islam, Iman and Ihsan?

Umar bin Al-Khattab (radi Allahu anhum) said, Once we were sitting in the company of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) when there appeared a man dressed in very white clothes and having extraordinary black hair. No signs of journey appeared on him and he was known to none of us. He sat down facing the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) leaning his knees against the knees of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and placing both of his palms over his two thighs and said, “O Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam)! Tell me about Islam”. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied, “Islam is to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah; that you observe Salat, pay Zakat, observe Saum of Ramadan and perform Hajj of the House, provided you have resources of making journey to it.” He replied: “You have spoken the truth”. We were surprised to see that he had asked him and confirmed the correctness of the answers. He then enquired: “Tell me about Iman”. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said. “It is to believe in Allah, and His Books, and His Messengers and the Last Day and that you believe in foreordainment, its bad and good consequences.” He said, “You have spoken the truth.” He then enquired: “Tell me about Ihsan.” He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “It is to worship Allah as if you are seeing Him; and although you do not see Him, He sees ¬†you”. He enquired: “Inform me about the Hour”. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied, “I have no more knowledge thereof than you”. He said, “Inform me about some of its signs”. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “They are – that a slave gives birth to her own master, and that you will find the barefooted, naked, poor shepherds competing one another in the construction of higher buildings”. Then he departed. The Messenger of Allah kept silent for a while then he said to me, “O Umar! Do you know who the questioner was?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better”. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “He was Jibril; he came to you to teach you your religion”

[Sahih Muslim]

Commentary:

This Hadith is known as ‘Hadith Jibril’.

It mentions the basics of Islam the details of which are known to every Muslim. Al-Qadr (Divine foreordainment) means that Allah already knows and had recorded everything that will happen until the Day of  Resurrection. Now whatever happens is in accordance with that knowledge and writing. What is meant by its good and bad consequences can be illustrated by saying that tranquillity, prosperity and abundance of crops come in the category of good consequences. Famine, calamities and troubles, etc., fall in the list as evil consequences. But we regard them good or bad according to our own understanding; otherwise, every action of Allah has some wisdom and expedience which are known to Him Alone.

And Allah Knows Best!

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