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Developing Consciousness of Allāh


image112.jpgStudying the Names and Attributes of Allāh helps the individual to heighten his consciousness of Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى). If he develops an awareness that Allāh sees him at all times, he will feel shy to do anything that he would not like Allāh to see. Because Allāh hears all things, he will feel shy to say anything except that which is pleasing to Allāh. When he realizes that Allāh knows what is concealed in the chests, He will purify his actions and his intentions for Allāh.

As one’s awareness of Allāh increases, He will witness Allāh’s Mercy, Allāh’s Generosity, His Kindness, His Justice, His Wisdom, and all His Lofty Attributes in everything and in every facet of his life. Developing this awareness of Allāh by contemplating His Names is the key to attaining the level of Ihsān.

`Umar and Abū Hurayrah have reported that when Jibrīl asked the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) about Ihsān, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied, “It is to worship Allāh as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, surely He sees you.”

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As for his statement “It is to worship Allāh as if you see Him,” it indicates that a person should worship Allāh with a consciousness that He is Near and that he, the worshipper, is standing before Him. This will result in feelings of awe, fear, and reverence as mentioned in the narration of Abū Hurayrah, “To fear Allāh as though you see Him.” This also leads to sincerity in worship and expending one’s full efforts in beautifying and perfecting one’s act of worship.

As for his statement, “for if you do not see Him, surely He sees you,” many scholars have interpreted this to be referring to a level beneath the level mentioned in the first statement. The worshipper may find it difficult to develop the first level of consciousness of Allāh. In that case, he should seek assistance in worshipping Allāh from his belief that Allāh sees him, that He is aware of his exterior and interior, that nothing is hidden from Him. When he attains this station, it will then become easy for him to arrive at the second station, which is to develop a continual consciousness of Allāh’s Nearness to Him.

In his commentary on this hadīth, ibn Rajab quotes one of the pious ladies of the Salaf as saying,

“Whoever performs works for Allāh based upon witnessing (mushāhadah), then he is a pious sage (`ārif), and whosoever performs works for Allāh based on the realization that Allāh is witnessing him, then he is a sincere worshipper (mukhlis).”

Ibn Rajab comments on this, saying,

“She has mentioned the two stations already alluded to.

The first of them is the station of al-ikhlās. It is for the servant to perform deeds while conscious that Allāh is witnessing him, watching him, and Near to him. If the servant maintains an awareness of this while doing his deeds, he will be sincere to Allāh (mukhlis lillāh), because his awareness of this during the course of his deeds will prevent him from turning to anyone other than Allāh or intending anyone else by his deed.

The second of them is the station of al-mushāhadah. It is for the servant to perform deeds based upon his witnessing Allāh (تعالى) with his heart. It is for his heart to be illuminated with faith and for his insight to penetrate knowledge until the unseen becomes like the seen.”

This station of ihsān is only attainable by knowledge of Allāh which is gained by studying and understanding His Names, His Attributes, and His Actions.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has encouraged us to maintain this awareness in our acts of worship. For example, he said, “When one of you stands up to pray, he is engaging in an intimate dialogue with his Lord, or His Lord is between him and the qiblah, so let him not spit in the direction of the qiblah.” [Al-Bukhārī, Muslim]

In another wording, “Let him not spit in front of him, for Allāh is before his face.” [Al-Bukhārī]

However, consciousness of Allāh is not merely limited to the times of prayer or other acts of worship. One should strive to remember Allāh at all times. One time, a man came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and said, “The (optional) acts in Islām have become many for us, so inform us of something comprehensive that we may focus on.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) responded, “Let not your tongue cease being moist with the remembrance of Allāh.” [Ahmad, al-Tirmidhī, ibn Mājah, ibn Hibbān]

It should be kept in mind, however, that remembrance of Allāh with the tongue alone is the least of the three levels of dhikr. It is superceded by remembering Allāh with the heart, while the highest level of dhikr is to remember Allāh with your tongue and with your heart together.

There is no doubt that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) had attained the highest level in this regard. His heart was constantly engaged in the remembrance of Allāh. He could often be heard praising and glorifying Allāh. This helps us to understand his statement, “My heart sometimes becomes distracted (lit. covered), and indeed I seek Allāh’s forgiveness one hundred times.” [Muslim]

This hadīth indicates that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), being a human being, sometimes his heart would become distracted from Allāh. However, his connection with Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) was so strong that he would rush to seek His Forgiveness immediately and he would continually seek His Forgiveness for that.

His connection with Allāh reached such a level that it nourished not only his heart and soul but his body as well. He used to practice something called wisāl, continuous fasting. He would go days at a time without breaking his fast. The Companions wished to follow his example in that but he prohibited them, saying, “I am not like you, My Lord feeds me and gives me to drink.” [Agreed Upon]

That is, the spiritual sustenance that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) received from his connection to Allāh sufficed him from having to eat. It gave his body strength to stand up in worship at nights for long times and to fulfill his duties without suffering weakness as any other person would.

In fact, his knowledge of Allāh was so great that he was filled with love and gratefulness to Him. Thus, it comes as no surprise that `Ā’ishah relates that Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to stand in prayer until his feet would crack. She asked him, “Why do you do this, when Allāh has forgiven for you your past and future sins?” He responded, “Should I not be a grateful slave?” [Agreed Upon]

Most people, if they had a guarantee of forgiveness, they would relax in their worship of Allāh, but this was not so for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Due to his receiving and carrying the revelation, he had reached such a level of knowledge concerning Allāh that he loved to worship Him even though his sins were already forgiven.

Similarly, this shows the great virtue of the Ten Companions promised Paradise. Although they were not told that all their sins were forgiven, Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) had given them a guarantee that they would enter Paradise. Such a guarantee could only have been given to such pious men whose connection with Allāh was so strong that they would not falter in their obedience to Him and their worship of Him by receiving such a guarantee. Rather, they would increase in gratefulness to Allāh and worship. These are the fruits of possessing intimate knowledge of Allāh by way of His Most Beautiful Names and His Lofty Attributes.

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  1. Affad Shaikh

    April 16, 2007 at 5:15 PM

    I love coming back to this site because of these small jems of wisdom. As a socially and politically active person constantly reading the news and listening to it, I often find myself lost when it comes to nurturing my spirituality with words of wisdom and advice in understanding the beauty of Islam and its practicallity.

    This truly is a great gem among many. Thanks for the post and please keep it coming :)

  2. khawla hurayrah

    April 16, 2007 at 5:19 PM

    Brother Abu Bakr,
    I ‘ve just listened to a lecture entitled Taqwa (putting barrier) and the discription given was very similar to Ihsan. Can we relate this term to one another?

    Jazzakumullahu khairan

  3. AnonyMouse

    April 16, 2007 at 5:22 PM

    First off, jazakAllahu khair to brother Abu Bakr for the excellent post above – I’m sure we’ve all benefited from it… I know I did, al-Hamdulillaah!

    For the last while, I’ve been personally struggling with the issue of ihsaan and attempting to achieve it. In the many beneficial treatises I’ve read, there has been one thing constantly expounded upon: basing one’s sayings and actions in the knowledge that Allah Hears and Sees all that you do, and that you will be called upon to answer for every word you’ve ever uttered, for every movement of every limb. On that Day our tongues will be stilled and our limbs will testify against us.

    Now, I think that we all have some sort of similar understanding when it comes to this: that watching what we say and do means we should keep from saying harmful things, from saying that which Allah finds displeasing, and the same thing goes for our actions. I’m sure we all struggle with the same things as well… trying to break bad habits, controlling our tempers, and so on.

    Amongst some of the things that are disliked are those which waste our time. For example, though we can’t say that video games are haraam, I have a feeling that spending hours on your X-Box isn’t something that would be found desirable in a Muslim.
    This example can stretch to other things as well… like watching TV, surfing the ‘Net, blogging, IMing… and so much more.

    All this worries me somewhat. I find that after I’ve gone out with my friends, fooling around and goofing off, or making my rounds in the blogosphere and replying emails, and so on, I’ll come across something like this and immediately feel guilty and ashamed of myself for wasting time like that.
    I mean, while it’s not something haraam, it’s not something you’d really like to admit to on the Day of Judgement in front of the All-Mighty Lord of All Creation, in front of Allah Himself… would you?

    “On such-and-such a day, I spent 3 hours playing on my X-box, and another hour sending stupid emails, and 2 more hours trolling PalTalk, and then I hung out with my friends and practiced juggling in front of the Masjid.”

    Heck, I’d hate admitting that to another human being, nevermind God! (And in case you were wondering, the above is purely hypothetical and I am not advertising my sins!)

    After feeling those guilty twinges, I sometimes try to ‘make up’ for it by helping my mom around the house and saying some adhkaar in the hopes that I’ll rack up some double-ajr (obeying/pleasing parents AND remembering Allah!)… but then that makes me feel uncomfortable, too… it just doesn’t seem right, y’know?

    *Sighs heavily*
    So does anyone else feel like this? Any suggestions on how to deal with it?

    Your little sister in Islam,

  4. Umm Layth

    April 16, 2007 at 5:41 PM

    as-Salaamu `alaykum and Jazaaka Allaahu khairan

    Hey anony, I was thinking about this a few weeks ago (and still do) but I had decided to post on my blog a hadeeth to remind me about the balancing of our daily lives (I’ll paste below, insha’Allaah). However, even though I believe there is a balance, I also believe there are things that are indeed a waste of time. XBOX for example (never played it), what benefit does it bring?Really? I mean I can tell you that blogging really benefits me because I only search for things that will somehow bring an eeman upliftment or some type of reflection. But at the same we know our Nabi (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) took his wife out to see the abyssinians (spelling?) and ran to see who was faster with his wife (radhiyallaahu `anha). But wouldn’t that fall under increasing the harmony between husband and wife? You see where I’m going? XBOX just seems way out there. Playing something with your friends can bring you as sisters closer together as well. I don’t know just some rants lol.

    Handhalah al-Usaidi said:

    Abu Bakr (radhiyAllaahu `anhum) met me and asked, ‘How are you, Handhalah?’ I replied, ‘Handhalah has become a hypocrite.’ He said, ‘Subhanallaah! What are you saying?’ I replied, ‘When we are with Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam), he mentions the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. But when we leave the Prophet’s company and play with our wives and children or busy ourselves with our properties, we forget much.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allaah, I have experienced the same thing.’ He and I then went to visit the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam), and I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, Handhalah has become a hypocrite.’ He asked, ‘And how is that?’ I replied, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, when we are with you, you talk about the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. Then we go out and play with our wives and children and deal with our properties, and we forget much.’

    The Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) then said,

    ‘By Him in Whose hand is my soul, if you were to continue at the same level at which you were when with me and in remembering Allaah, the angels would shake hands with you when you are resting and when you walk about, but, O Handhalah, there is a time (for this) and a time (for that).’
    He repeated this phrase three times.

    [Reported by Muslim]

  5. Amad

    April 16, 2007 at 5:46 PM

    salam sister anonymouse:
    You really have two main points it seems: (1) Guilt about your leisure time spent in non-beneficial activities (from a religious perspective) and (2) the guilt of trying to ‘make-up’ for the first guilt by doing good deeds.

    On both fronts, there is good news for you.

    Firstly, Allah does not expect us to be in a constant state of Imaan and Ibadah all the time… there is a hadith I cannot find right now where it was mentioned that there is a time for this and a time for that i.e. a time for Ibadah and a time for leisure (anyone, please feel free to correct me if I made a mistake in this). There is some more information here from Sh. Qaradawi (preclude the small music part :) ).

    On the second front, ‘make-up’ with good deeds following not-so-good-deeds is indeed the way of the believer.

    Allah said, what means “Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds.” (Hud 114)

    The Prophet (S) said, “Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave in a good-natured fashion towards people.”

    So, some people, after sinning take the opposite reaction. Their guilt makes them feel less than ‘deserving’ of Allah’s Mercy… so they delay their repentance… sometimes they even get further into sin, losing hope in Allah. This is a grand trick of Satan, who misguides one step at a time. So, he first misguides the person into the sin, and then he misguides the person into believing that he is not in a position to be forgiven, that how shameful for him to pray when he just finished a sin. I know this affliction hits many of us, esp. when the sin is the same one we asked for forgiveness last week, last month or last year. Refer to Sh. Yasir’s post on MuslimMatters regarding constant sins and forgiveness…. we should NEVER lose hope.

    What’s the right reaction after sins or ‘wasting time’… it is indeed ‘MAKE UP’ time… so do lots of good deeds. If you spent money in doing haraam, given an equivalent or greater amount in sadaqa (in fact, make a commitment to yourself that you will do this everytime so that it may discourage you if you have to spend double the money for the same sin!)… If you have walked to the sin, walk to the masjid. If you have back-bitten, then use the same tongue for reading Quran or saying good things. If you have heard sinfulness, then hear goodness following it. Increase good deeds so that not only do you wipe the evil ones, but you also protect yourself from future evil sins…

    That is advice foremost to myself, then to you sister, then to all others… I speak from experience as a sinner :)

  6. AmatulWadood

    April 16, 2007 at 6:11 PM

    I believe Umm Layth posted the hadith you were referring to brother amad.

    I really enjoyed this post, jazakumAllahu khayran MuslimMatters. You should schedule a ‘gem a day’ or something.

    Sister, we posted at the same time, so yes, she quoted the hadith I was referring to… jazakumallahkhair -Amad

  7. inexplicabletimelessness

    April 16, 2007 at 8:26 PM

    As salaamu alaikum,

    JazakAllahu khairan, what a nice post. Also, the comments/advices/ahadith were very nice too.

    There is a really nice article, in fact, from about Islam and Recreation:

    Truly, a balance is needed and may Allah forgive us all and guide us all to Jannatul Firdous, ameen.

  8. inexplicabletimelessness

    April 16, 2007 at 8:26 PM

    subhanAllah…I am saying nice too much. :D

  9. Abu Bakr

    April 17, 2007 at 6:13 PM

    Khawla Hurayrah: Yes, we can say there is a relationship between the two. Taqwa is to do those actions which will protect you from the punishment of Allah. It goes without saying that one who attains this level of Ihsan must have Taqwa.

    However, Ihsan goes beyond that in that you reach a level where “you worship Allah as though you see Him”

    AnonyMouse: on the subject of video games, alot of scholars of the past used to consider games such as chess to be haram because usually those who played them would sit and play them continuously for hours on end. It goes without saying that for many this would be a reason for neglecting prayers. In fact, in the Arab world today even, you will find some old men sitting at cafes playing a game (i think its backgammon or something like that) all day and all night.

    (incidentally, I didn’t think girls played video games)

    Anything which takes a person to that level surely becomes haram. This would be true even of video games. Mind you, I’m not saying they are haram (although, these days, many video games definitely have many aspects which could be said to be haram), but when they lead one to be addicted and playing for hours on end, this usually leads one to be lax in prayers, if not missing them altogether.

    In any case, you should definitely work on using your time wisely. The scenario that you laid out: 3 hrs of Xbox, 1 on email, 2 on paltalk, and then hanging out the masjid would come to a total of 6-7 hrs.

    Now, I don’t know if that was hypothetical or if you really sometimes do have days spent like this. As the other posters have emphasized balance in life is important, you should not push yourself in worship to the extent that you burn out. However, this is not very good balance either.

  10. Sumera

    April 18, 2007 at 8:52 AM

    Thanks for this. It was a good reminder.

  11. AnonyMouse

    April 18, 2007 at 12:16 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    JazakAllahu khair to Umm Layth and Amad for the ahadeeth and reassurances…. and, of course, to brother Abu Bakr for the post in the first place! :)

    Heh, yes, what I’d described above *was* hypothetical… (I mentioned that in brackets :P) I couldn’t possibly play video games for 3 hours – my eyes would burn out! :S

  12. Miles Kimber

    June 20, 2007 at 5:35 PM

    This is a good post on remembrance, and it recalled for me Al-Ghazali’s excellent treatise on “The Ninety-Nine Names of God,” which is in English translation by David B. Burrell & Nazih Daher (Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, 1992). Besides explaining the very power of “Names,” Ghazali describes their attributes & many other key aspects, including “An explanation of how all these attributes resolve to a single essence…” Once again, one can reflect on why the doctrine of Unity is unique!

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  15. Ayesha Fatima

    February 13, 2009 at 10:08 PM

    Subahanallah.Excellent post.

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