Ihsaan can be called the inwardness of Islam. Islam consists of certain beliefs and the outward expression of these beliefs in forms of worship, such as prayer and fasting, all of which concern man’s relationship with God; and secondly, a system of morality, which concerns man’s relationship with man, and has its outward expression in certain social institutions and laws. But the basis of this faith, the spirit that gives it life, is man’s relationship with God. Forms of worship are the physical vehicles of this relationship. This relationship is the origin, and the ultimate sanction of the principles of morality and their formulation into a specific social and legal system.
If the interior awareness of the Supreme Being and inspiration from Him are present, then they are comparable to the soul within the body of the exterior religion; if they die, or in proportion to the extent that they wither, the outward form of the faith becomes like a soulless body, which quickly succumbs to corruption. It is therefore man’s direct relationship with his Maker which is the breath and life of religion, and it is the study and cultivation of this relationship that the word Ihsaan connotes.
The outward formulations of Islam are enlivened by the spiritual and moral force behind them, they are therefore the manifestations of this force. At the same time, they are the means of attaining these spiritual and moral qualities; this can be said to constitute their main purpose. Thus, these two aspects of Islam are mutually generative, each one producing the other.
It can be seen from the Qur’an that wherever something concerning man’s outward actions is decreed, its inward content and purpose is also stressed.
Take Prayer for instance; Allah says,