Lesson Five Ihsan
The pillar of Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, although you don't see Him, He certainly sees you.
Know - may Allah have mercy on you - that Allah knows everything about every creature; He knows their circumstances and their deeds; He misses nothing, and nothing is hidden from Him, not even the smallest ant - nothing smaller than that nor greater. Allah Almighty says: Whatever you may be doing, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Qur'an, - and whatever deed you (mankind) may be doing (good or evil), We are Witness thereof, when you are doing it. And nothing is hidden from your Lord (so much as) the weight of an atom (or small ant) on the earth or in the heaven. Not what is less than that or what is greater than that but is (written) in a Clear Record. (Surah Yunus 10: 61)
Other than affirming Allah's complete Knowledge, Ability, and Care regarding His creatures, this verse teaches Allah's worshippers to always feel that He is aware of their actions or lack of action, their sayings and deeds, and all that circulates in their hearts. And whether you keep your talk secret or disclose it, verily, He is the All-Knower of what is in the breasts (of men).
The feeling that Allah knows all, should become more acute when a Muslim performs an act of worship, a time when he is standing before his Lord, when he grasps that Allah sees him and when it is as if he sees Allah: this is the highest level of religion, which the Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) clarified when he explained Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. He (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said: Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and though you do not see Him, He indeed sees you. The Definition Of Ihsan
In the Arabic language, Ihsan is the opposite of a wrong or an offence. A person who does good deeds is called a Muhsin or, according to the famous grammarian Sibawayh, Mihsan. Deeds that are good are called Mahasin, just as deeds that are bad are called Masawa'. When you say that one has Hassana something, you mean that he has adorned it. Ihsan means proficiency in action, and sincerity, and truthfulness.
As used in the Shari'ah, Ihsan changes in meaning according to the context it is used in. When mentioned along with Islam and Iman, it means good obedience and watching what one does. Al-Manawi said, "Ihsan is outward Islam, which is held up by inward Iman, which is perfected by the observing Ihsan."
Ihsan means to perform deeds, knowing that Allah is aware of one's deeds, and it also means to be obedient to Him. When one performs deeds, knowing that Allah is watching him, one will perform good deeds in a better way. In Ihsan, then, is the essence and spirit of/man. The Reality Of Ihsan
When Jibril (Alayhi Salam) asked the Prophet about Ihsan, he (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) explained:
It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and though you do not see Him, He indeed sees you.
This means that a person will perform deeds in a good way when he is cognizant of the fact that Allah sees him, and that is the interpretation of this verse:
Verily, Allah enjoins AI-Adl (justice) and Al-Ihsan. (Surah An-Nahl 16: 90)
That is why Allah magnified the rewards of the people of Ihsan, for He Almighty said:
Truly, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers). (Surah Al-Baqarah 2: 195)
And He Almighty says:
Is there any reward for good other than good? (Surah Ar-Rahman 55: 60)
Meaning, what reward is there in the Hereafter for those who do good in this world other than good being done to them.
Ihsan is one of the best levels of worship, because it is not only the essence and spirit of faith, but it is also its completion; all other levels of Iman are included in it. Ihsan in this sense, then, signifies a complete level of attentiveness before Allah, making one fear Allah and perform deeds sincerely and purely for Him alone. The Levels of Ihsan
Ihsan comes at many different levels, the highest of which is one feeling that he is in the presence of Allah Almighty as the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) explained in the Hadith. The level beneath that is seeking closeness to Allah by performing voluntary deeds; then other acts of Ihsan follow after that, regardless of whether those are represented by intention, objective, or action.
To worship Allah as if you see Him
The Prophet's explanation here indicates that the worshipper should worship Allah in this manner - feeling His closeness, that He is before Him, and feeling as if he sees Him. What follows necessarily are reverence, fear, awe, and glorification. The wording in the narration of Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allahu Anhu) is,
To fear Allah as if You see Him.
What also necessarily follows is sincerity in worship, which makes one strive to improve his worship of Allah, making it more complete. Ibn 'Umar (Radhi Allahu Anhuma) said, "When we would make Tawaf, we would imagine that Allah was before our eyes." (Recorded by Abu Nu'aym in Hilyatul-Awliya' 1:309)
And though you do not see Him, He indeed sees you.
This encourages the worshipper to feel Allah's closeness to him when he is worshipping Him - so that he reaches such a level that it is as if he sees Him. If that is difficult, the worshipper seeks help through his faith that Allah is watching him and is aware of not only his outer (deeds, but also of his innermost secrets. The worshipper knows that none of his deeds are hidden from Allah. When this level is achieved, it is easy for one to move on to the next level, and that is to always act as if he sees Allah and according to the knowledge that Allah is near and close to him. Know that Ihsan is made up of two ranks:
1) The rank of sincerity, and that is for one to worship Allah, cognizant of the fact that Allah sees him and is near to him. When one applies this, he becomes sincere to Allah. Remembering that Allah is near him and knows his deeds when he is actually performing an act of worship prevents one from doing that act for anyone other than Allah.
2) The rank of the Mushahid (observer), and that means for the worshipper to act in conformity to the feeling in his heart that Allah sees him. This is for the heart to be illuminated with Iman and for one to penetrate the depths of knowledge, until the unseen to him becomes like the seen. And this is the reality of the Ihsan explained in the Hadith of Jibril (Alayhi Salam). (Taken from Jami’ Al-'Ulum wal-Hikam [by Ibn Rajab] 1:75-76, with some editing. )