مِنْ أحْسَنِ الإحسانِ اَلإيثارُ۔
One of best [form of] benevolence is self-sacrifice.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Ghurar al-Hikam: Self-Sacrifice)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
The Arabic Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states,
مِنْ أحْسَنِ الإحسانِ اَلإيثارُ۔
This can be translated as,
One of the best forms of benevolence is self-sacrifice.
Let us delve into the deeper meaning of this amazing Hadith in light of the Quran.
The word (ihsan) "إحسان" in the Hadith refers to acts of kindness, goodness, and excellence. It encompasses going above and beyond in one's actions, with sincerity and perfection. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) emphasizes that among the various forms of ihsan, one of the most virtuous is (al-i'thar) "الإيثار", which can be translated as self-sacrifice or preferring others over oneself.
This concept of self-sacrifice is beautifully highlighted in the Quran. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Hashr (59:9),
And [also for] those who were settled in the Home [i.e., Al-Madinah] and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful.
This verse highlights the selflessness and generosity of the Ansar (the residents of Madinah) towards the Muhajirun (the emigrants from Makkah). Despite their own needs and hardships, the Ansar preferred the well-being of the Muhajirun over their own. This act of self-sacrifice is praised by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) and is considered a manifestation of true ihsan.
Another verse that supports the concept of self-sacrifice is found in Surah Al-Insan (76:8-9), where Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) describes the righteous believers, saying,
And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [saying], 'We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.'
This verse emphasizes the selflessness of the believers who give food to those in need, not seeking any reward or gratitude from them. Their motivation is solely to please Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) and to fulfill their duty towards their fellow human beings. This act of self-sacrifice is a reflection of their deep faith and commitment to ihsan.
Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) statement reminds us of the importance of self-sacrifice in our lives as Muslims. It encourages us to prioritize the needs of others over our own desires and interests. By doing so, we demonstrate our love for Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) and our commitment to following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and his noble family.
Self-sacrifice can take various forms, such as giving our time, wealth, or knowledge for the benefit of others. It can also involve putting others' needs before our own, even if it means sacrificing our comfort or convenience. This act of selflessness not only brings about positive change in society but also purifies our hearts and strengthens our relationship with Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ).
Let us reflect upon the thoughtful words of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and strive to embody the spirit of self-sacrifice in our daily lives. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the ability to practice ihsan and to be among those who are selfless and compassionate towards others.
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