“He [the Prophet] answered, “It is that you worship Allah as if you see Him. And even though you do not see Him, [you know] He sees you.”
When the angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) to tell him about Ihsaan, in the Hadith of Jibreel posted in full below, the Prophet (s) replied by explaining this particular aspect of Ihsaan, which is to worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him (swt), or if you can not do that, to at least be aware that He (swt) sees you.
Firstly it is important to note that ‘worship’ as mentioned in this part of the hadith, is not just referring to the prayer. Rather it relates to all the acts that a person performs, both inward and outward, which should all be carried out with complete servitude to Allah (swt).
Some of the scholars, including ibn Rajab and ibn Hajar, are of the opinion that this hadith describes two different levels of awareness at which the believer may be, one being loftier than the other.
The loftier position is known as al-mushaahadah or ‘personal witnessing’, which comprises of a very strong feeling in the heart, where the realisation of Allah’s presence, by His (swt) knowledge and mercy, is so great that a person becomes completely attuned to the act of worship that they are performing. They therefore crave worship and delight in performing it. The effect on the person’s worship is that they would perform every act of obedience in the best possible way, as we can see from the following example recorded in Bukhari:
“Allah has some angels who look for those who celebrate the Praises of Allah on the roads and paths. And when they find some people celebrating the praises of Allah, they call each other, saying, ‘Come to the object of your pursuit.’ The angels then encircle them with their wings up to the sky of the world. Then their Lords asks them, although He is most knowledgeable of them, ‘What do My slaves do?’ The angels reply, ‘They say, subhaanallaah, allaahu akbar and al-hamdullilah.’ Allah then says, ‘Did they see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘No, by Allah, they didn’t see You.’ Allah says, ‘How would it have been if they saw Me?’ The angels reply, ‘If they saw You, they would worship You more devoutly, and celebrate Your Glory more deeply, and more often declare Your freedom from any resemblance to anything…”
The person who reaches this higher level of Ihsaan will be full of pleasure when being alone with his Lord and when he remembers Allah (swt). This is the level that the Prophet (s) himself reached, as we can see from his (s) statement,
“The sweetness of my eye has been made the prayer.” (Recorded in al-Nasaai)
If a person is not able to reach this level of Ihsaan, they are positioned on the next level which is al-muraaqabah ‘the level of the one who is being observed and watched’, This level of Ihsaan is still beneficial as the awareness that Allah (swt) is watching every act that a person performs can drive a Muslim to perfect and excel in their acts of worship. Perfecting and excelling in acts of worship can lead a person to the higher level of Ihsaan, InshaAllah.
The presence of either level of Ihsaan places a believer far ahead of those who believe in Allah and theoretically know that He (swt) sees all things, but do not allow this knowledge to have any real effect on their worship. A person who just prays mechanically without really allowing contemplation of Allah to reach their hearts, is not deserving of the title ‘Muhsin’, or one who has the quality of Ihsaan. And as we learnt in the last post,
“Allah loves the muhsineen” (Surah al-Maaidah:93)
The muhsin will receive a special reward for this attitude to worship, as Allah (swt) has stated in the Qur’an:
“For those who have done good is the best and even more.” (Surah Yunus:26)
It is recorded in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet (s) explained ‘even more’ in this verse to mean seeing Allah in the Hereafter. Hence the one who worships Allah (swt) as if they are seeing Him (swt) in this life, will be rewarded with seeing Him (swt) in the Hereafter.
With eternity in Paradise and seeing Allah (swt) in the Hereafter as the rewards on offer, isn’t it time we made a conscious effort to draw closer to Allah and to strive to perfect our acts of worship? Let’s start with the dua that Prophet (s) used to make after each prayer,
“O Allah help me to remember You, and to thank You, and to perfect my worship for You.”