‘Ehsan’ (Benevolence) is derived from Hasan, which means grace and beauty. The Creator has not only brought into being things in all corners of the universe, but has also lent them beauty and grace in order that man should use those things to satisfy his needs and also derive aesthetic pleasure from them. Just as man inherently demands beauty in the objects of Nature he naturally demands beauty in human action. This aspect of Ehsan (benevolence) has been aptly explained by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) in the well-known tradition of Gabriel:
“Ehsan (benevolence) denotes that you should render devotion and obedience to Allah in such a way as if you were seeing Him or conversely in the belief that He is
seeing you.” [Muslim] It is in the nature of man to perform his duties with elegance
and efficiency of a high order in the presence of his master so as to win his pleasure and satisfaction.
The general demand of religion is the performance of good deeds, but the requirement of the above-quoted tradition is much more than that. The tradition demands that virtuous actions should be performed in a beautiful, graceful, proper and decent manner. They should reflect sincerity, good wishes and generosity of the doer. Moreover, good deeds should be done not for self-satisfaction, but for winning the favor of God.
The order to perform beautiful actions to please Allah is not just meant for acts of worship; it applies to actions in all spheres of life. Benevolence (beauty of action) has several dimensions and infinitely vast meaning. It is something more than justice. The concept of justice is finite. When a just act is performed, the duty of doing justice is fulfilled. But the duty of performing benevolent action can never be fully done; it is infinite. Benevolence is more exalted than justice.
Justice holds high value in human affairs. But the last point of justice is the starting point of benevolence. Benevolence elevates human character to the highest point of nobility. It develops the ethical qualities to their perfection. Benevolent acts set currents of goodness and welfare flowing through the society which becomes a haven of bliss, comfort, peace and tranquillity.
Benevolence is an invaluable quality from the point of view of the philosophy of religion and preaching and propagation of its call. The light of benevolence dissolves the darkness of ignorance and illumines the Way of acceptance of truth. The number of those who converted to Islam on seeing the benevolence, moral purity and generosity of the Apostle (S.A.W) and his illustrious Companions (Allah be pleased with them) for exceeded those who embraced Islam under the impact of the arguments and proofs of the Quran and its principles of justice and equity.
How effective benevolence is in propagating the Message is illustrated by the following tradition. A supplicant applied to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) for assistance. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W) gave him the entire herd grazing in the valley between the two hills of Medina. The man was so overwhelmed by the Prophet’s (S.A.W) benevolence that he exhorted his tribe: “Embrace Islam, all of you. By Allah, Muhammad (S.A.W) bestows grants as a man who fears not poverty or starvation.”
All systems of life devised by man by his own reason and intellect have had one goal i.e., the establishment of justice. But the system of life introduced to mankind by Islam has a goal beyond justice i.e., benevolence. Its first step is the suppression of tyranny and injustice; the second step is the establishment ofjustice and its apex is benevolence.
Allah Almighty is pleased to see His men endeavouring to do acts of benevolence.
“Do all things gracefully, for Allah loves those who do all things with excellence.” [Al-Bagara 2: 19.5]
Benevolence in the Economic Field:
Benevolence lends beauty and grace/to the whole life of man. The practice of benevolence creates tranquillity and bliss for man in the social, political and moral sphere. But the exercise of benevolence in the economic field reduces bitterness and enhances the joy of life all the more.
Benevolence in Consumption:
Disires should not be suppressed. Necessary wants should be properly satisfied. However, desires should not be allowed to degenerate into voluptuousness. The way of moderation should be adopted because grace lies in
Spending should not be confined to personal expense. One should share one’s spending with fellow creatures of Allah. One should extend benevolent spending from one’s family to distant relations, friends, acquaintances, servants, neighbours, wayfarers, guests, the destitute, the debtors, the prisoners, the poor, the orphans, widows and the deprived.
Offering presents, gifts and prompt return of loans are the best means of creating mutual harmony, affection and love. This is what the Quran has taught and this is what the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) so beautifully practised.
All endeavours should be made to achieve perfection in benevolent spending. Islam teaches that a person should spend his best and favourite assets to serve and assist others at a time when he himself has pressing need of those assets. Moreover, a person should spend all that remains surplus after satisfying his needs and the manner of this spending should be such that it is free from the venom of pretension, alloy of favour or torture, and the fanfare of publicity. Benevolent spending should be so private that “the left hand should not know what the right hand has given” and it should all be only for the sake of winning Allah’s favour.
Production of Wealth and Benevolence:
The real field for the exercise of benevolence is the production of wealth. The basic evil in modern economic systems is that a mechanical mode of dealing with human affairs has been acknowledged as the norm of justice and equity. Selflessness, sacrifice and benevolence are out of place in these systems. The goal of the employer is to produce goods at the lowest possible cost and sell them at the maximum rate of profit. Clearly there is no place for benevolence in this outlook. If at any stage an employer is in a mood to show grace, he often has some underlying purpose to serve. The desire to please God and His men is completely absent from the mind of the producer.
Islam has given wide scope to benevolence in this field.
Islam has urged the employers to set aside the mechanical rules of demand and supply and show generosity and magnanimity in the matter of paying wages to the factors of production, particularly the workers,. tenants and servants. The rate of their nominal or real wages should be such that they and their dependants are able to fulfil their genuine needs with dignity and honour.
The prices of goods should be fixed at a level which is within the purchasing power of the general public.
The incentive of work should not merely be the earning of maximum profit, but the welfare and well-being of the people should also be kept in mind because service of the people is a sure means to win Allah’s favour.
Such cost-effective modes of production should be adopted as ensure maximum productivity. The over-all purpose should be to provide to the public high quality goods at affordable prices.
The employers should not concentrate their energies and investment in profitable ventures only. They should take keen interest in promoting social welfare projects and relief schemes. In this connection volunteer efforts should be made at the individual or collective level to provide facilities of education, health and safeguard against pollution. Further projects should be taken in hand to assist the unemployed, the sick and calamity-hit members of the society.
Benevolence demands that in selecting the nature of work, place of work and modes of work, economic interest alone should not be kept in mind, but the interests of environment, consumers and other vocations should also be taken into account.
A ban was imposed on purchasing goods from foreign traders outside Madina because on the one hand the foreign traders, ignorant of the conditions in the city were likely to receive low prices and on the ether it was likely that the citizens would be made to pay high prices.
Benevolence demands that in emergencies necessary goods should be made available to the public even without profit or if need be at subsidized rates. In times of famine, scarcity and heavenly or earthly calamities, national defence and security emergencies. Every citizen including every employer is expected to display a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice.
Participation of workers in the business profits, better conditions at workplace and equitable terms of agreement are forms of benevolence. Courteous dealing, toleration of involuntary damage or loss by the worker, provision of moral education and training for the workforce and rewards for good character and behaviour and efficiency are measures which are certain to win the wholehearted co‑
operation of labour.
It is also incumbent upon the workers to be conscientious and efficient.
Benevolence in Exchange of Wealth:
Benevolence has a wide scope in the exchange of wealth also. In the exchange of goods there are two parties: seller and the buyer. Islam teaches that both parties should show benevolence and deal with each other in a spirit of generosity and magnanimity. The core of benevolence is to give the other more than his right and accept from him less than your right. This may take different forms
on different occasions.
The seller should give to the buyer more than the due weight of goods.
Goods should be sold to economically weak individuals at subsidized rates.
If the buyer cannot make prompt payment, the seller should give him the goods on credit and agree on some convenient mode of payment such as installments etc.
• The seller should adopt a courteous and decent behaviour
with the customer and guide him honestly in the selection of right goods at right price.
In the matter of rectifying accounts or replacement or return
of goods, the seller should settle the matter with a large heart.
The seller should show patience and courtesy in the collection of debts from the customer.
The buyer should pay the bill in good heart and in case of credit buying should make the payment on the agreed date.
• The debtor should voluntarily pay an excess amount over
the principal amount of the debt. This is a precedent of the Prophet (S.A.W).
If the vendor is poor, the buyer should pay. an excess amount over the market price of the goods.
Benevolence in the Distribution of Wealth:
Islam has granted the right of private ownership. Gap in incomes is the inevitable result of this right. The economic system of Islam, therefore, places great importance on reducing the gap in incomes and equitable distribution of wealth in the general interest of the society and efficient and stable working of the economy. In this regard, many legal steps have been taken, but great reliance has been placed on the practice of benevolence also.
By inducing the Muslims to spend in the way of Allah, an infinite scope has been given to benevolence. This kind of spending sets the direction of money flow from the rich to
the poor. Equilibrium in the distribution of wealth is thus established.
The employers have been strongly urged to pay just, even generous wages to factors of production so that every factor
of production receives adequate wages to buy necessaries of life.
The needy persons can by helped by creating trusts of property or by allocating funds for them in Wills. In addition income from these two sources can be used to train
backward people in various arts and crafts so that they may
earn their living by honourable means.
Entrepreneurs whose businesses have collapsed due to loss can be given financial help to make their businesses, a going
To give a larger share to a heir whose legal share in the inherited estate is small. This should be done with the voluntary consent of all heirs. The purpose of this benevolent act should be to stabilise the economic condition
of a poor heir.
State and Benevolence:
Benevolence denotes a voluntary act of grace by an individual. The state is an institution which promulgates ordinances and laws by force. However, it has been declared the best course for an Islamic state to exercise benevolence in matters directly or
indirectly affecting the interest of the citizens. The principle of . ‘Forgive and Forget’ is regarded as conducive to stability of the state. Even in the case of such compulsory obligation as Zakat, the state has been exhorted to show leniency in collection and accept inferior or smaller quantities of goods as Zakat. These injunctions reflect the real nature of the Islamic State. All public welfare works are the responsibility of the Islamic State. The institution of Bait-alMal (Public Exchequer) is the symbol of the Islamic states’ spirit of
selfless service and benevolence.
In the sphere of benevolence the indirect role of the Islamic State is most effective. The state adopts measures to create and project a climate of ideas from which the spirit of benevolence springs. The state frames and promotes an education system which induces a keen desire in the youth to vie with each other in
voluntary performance of Public Welfare Works.
The criterion of dignity and honour in the society and environment created by the state is piety and benevolence. Benevolence is the distinctive feature of this society and the routine
behaviour of its members.
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