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إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ مِّنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.
(Surat al-A‘rāf, No.7, Āyat 56)
Allah’s mercy is vast and comprehensive. In the holy month of Ramadan believers are blessed to receive abundant mercy of Allah ‘azza wajall. As the Prophet (s) said in his famous sermon before the month: Indeed, ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessing, mercy, and forgiveness
Seeking God’s mercy can be done in many ways. The above verse promises that His mercy is close to those who do good. They are the group who can receive God’s mercy as they are worthy of it. Just like rain falls uniformly in an area but the lands accept it according to their inner capacities, hearts also accept God’s mercy according to their inner capacities. Those who do good are more able to receive and benefit from the mercy of Allah. The phrase ‘is close’ denotes an accessibility, being within reach. According to ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī, doing of good in this verse refers to refraining from corruption on earth and supplicating Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā with fear and hope, as mentioned in the earlier part of the verse.
Ihsān has been mentioned many times in the Quran. The verse:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded (Q 16:90) is known as the al-Ihsan verse. It is described as having the most comprehensive social plan in Islam and was recited by Imam al-Bāqir ‘alayhis-salām at the end of his sermons in the Friday prayer. Justice is necessary for the smooth running of a society, but Ihsān warms society and prevents it from being cold and clinical. Ihsān strengthens bonds, provides relief and comfort, and helps society unite and progress. It is no wonder that Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) says: The most important part of faith is Ihsān to mankind (Ghurar al-Hikam, H 8,706). Note that the hadith does not differentiate between believers and non-believers, Ihsān to all of mankind is a fruit of faith. Imam also says: The best provision for the life Hereafter is doing good to the servants [of Allah]. (Ibid, p 8768).
Ihsān or doing good to others is so much liked that our Imams used to strive to accomplish it. The following are some principles of doing good to others which we learn from their lives:
1) Rush to do good – Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: Sometimes a person with a need comes to me and I hasten to fulfill it lest he becomes needless of it (Bihār al-Anwār, v 71, p 317).
2) Do not consider any good too small to do. In a letter to al-Najjāshī the ruler of Ahwāz, Imam al-Sadiq (a) wrote: Do not consider simple performing any good deed or feeding an empty stomach. These are ways to calm down the anger of Allah the Almighty and Majestic.
3) Do good to everyone you can. Imam Ali (a) says A Muhsin (one who does Ihsān) is one who does good to everyone. (Ghurar, p.816).
4) Do not make the person you do good to feel obliged. The Quran says:
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ لَا يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنفَقُوا مَنًّا وَلَا أَذًى ۙ لَّهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reminders or injury will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve (Q 2:262). According to Imam Ali al-Ridhā (a) a mature believer is one who regards the good he does to others as little but regards the good others do for him as much.
These and other principles of doing good show how much Islam recommends doing good to others. Ihsān is the hallmark of a believer. As we fast and seek God’s mercy in this holy month let us remember that one way in which we can truly receive His mercy is by doing good to others, right from the onset of this Holy month.
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; https://www.alketab.org/