As for ihsan, it has been mentioned in Qur’an in many places, sometimes coupled with iman, sometimes with Islam, and sometimes coupled with taqwa or right action.
It is coupled with iman in His words, exalted is He, “Those who have iman and do right actions are not to blame for anything they have eaten provided they have taqwa and iman and do right actions, and then again have taqwa and iman, and then have taqwa and do good (ahsanou). Allah loves good-doers (muhsinun),” (Surat al-Ma’idah: 93), and in His words, exalted is He, “But as for those who have iman and do right actions, We will not let the wage of good-doers (muhsinun) go to waste.” (Surat al-Kahf: 30)
It is paired with Islam as in His words, exalted is He, “Not so! All who submit themselves completely to Allah and are good-doers (muhsinun) will find their reward with their Lord,” (Surat al-Baqarah: 111), and in His words, exalted is He, “Those who submit themselves completely to Allah and do good (ahsanou) have grasped the Firmest Handhold.” (Surah Luqman: 21)
It is paired with taqwa in His words, exalted is He, “Allah is with those who have taqwa of Him and with those who are good-doers (muhsinun).” (Surat an-Nahl: 128)
It is mentioned alone by itself in His words, exalted is He, “Those who do good (ahsanou) will have the best and more!” (Surah Yunus: 26) It is established in Sahih Muslim from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that the explanation of the ‘increase’ is gazing upon the face of Allah, exalted is He, in the Garden, which is commensurate with His making it a recompense for the people of ihsan, because ihsan is that the mumin should worship his Lord in the world in the manner of being present and with fearful watchfulness as if he sees Him with his heart and gazes on Him during his worship. The reward of that is gazing upon Allah with the eyes in the next life. The opposite of this is that which Allah, exalted is He, informs us of the recompense of the kuffar in the next life, “No indeed! Rather that Day they will be veiled from their Lord,” (Surat al-Mutaffifin: 15) which He makes their reward for their condition in the world, because their reward for that state is that they are veiled from seeing Him in the next life.
His words, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on ihsan, “That you should worship Allah as if you see Him…” indicate that the slave worships Allah, exalted is He, in this way, which is bearing in his consciousness His nearness and that he is in front of Him as if he sees Him, and that requires that one have fear, awe and exaltation [of Allah], as has been narrated in the version of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, “That you should fear Allah as if you see Him.” It also requires that one be sincere in one’s worship and exert oneself to make it good, whole and complete. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, counselled a group of his companions with this piece of advice, as Ibrahim al-Hijri narrated from Abu’l-Ahwas that Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “My intimate friend, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, counselled me to fear Allah as if I see Him, for if I do not see Him, then He sees me.”
It has been narrated from Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with both of them, that he said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took hold of a part of my body and said, ‘Worship Allah as if you see Him!'” An-Nasa’i narrated it from a hadith of Zayd ibn Arqam both attributing it [to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace] as a marfu’ hadith and stopping short [with it at Zayd] as a mawquf hadith, “Be as if you see Allah, for if you do not see Him He sees you.”
At-Tabarani narrated from a hadith of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, that, “A man said, ‘Messenger of Allah, tell me something and make it comprehensive!’ He replied, ‘Pray the prayer as if you were bidding farewell, for if you do not see Him, He sees you.'”
The famous hadith of Harithah has been narrated in various ways, in some of which it is mursal [attributed to the Prophet but without the connecting link of the person among the Followers who narrated it from the Companion] and also with a full chain of transmission, but the mursal form is more authentic. There is in it that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked him, “Harithah, how are you this morning?” He said, “This morning I have become a true mumin.” He said, “Think about what you are saying! Because every statement has a reality.” He said, “Messenger of Allah, my self dislikes the world, so that it is sleepless at night and thirsty in the day, and it is as if I am gazing upon the Throne of my Lord appearing, and it is as if I am gazing upon the people of the Garden in the Garden and how they visit each other in it, and as if I am gazing upon the people of the Fire and how they howl in it.” He said, “You have seen, so remain firm. [You are] a slave whom Allah has illuminated the iman in his heart.”
It is narrated of the hadith of Abu Umamah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with him, advised a man saying, “Be modest before Allah with the modesty you would have before two right-acting men of your close family who never leave you.” It is narrated in another version, “Be modest before your Lord.”
It is narrated of Mu’adh that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, counselled him when he sent him to the Yemen and said, “Be modest before Allah as you would be modest before a man of your family of whom you have some awe.” The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was asked about unrestrainedly uncovering the private parts and he said, “Allah has more right that one should have modesty before Him.”
Abu’d-Darda’ advised a man and said to him, “Worship Allah as if you see Him.” ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr asked Ibn ‘Umar for his daughter’s hand while the two of them were doing tawaf and he didn’t answer him. Later he met him and apologised saying, “We were in tawaf visualising Allah before our eyes.” Abu Nu’aym and others narrated it.
About his saying, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “For if you do not see Him, He sees you,” it is said that it [the latter] is like a cause of the first, because when the slave is commanded to be fearfully watchful of Allah, exalted is He, in his worship and to bear in his heart His nearness to His slave to such an extent that it is as if the slave sees Him, then that is difficult for him and he can seek help in that with his trust that Allah sees him and watches over his private and his public lives, his inward and his outward, and that nothing of him is hidden from Him. When he makes a reality of this station then it becomes easier for him to move on to the second station, the perpetual fixing of the gaze of his inner sight on the nearness of Allah to His slave and His ‘withness’ [the fact that He is ‘with’ His slave when he remembers Him] so that it is as if he sees Him. Someone said that rather it indicates that whoever finds it difficult to worship Allah, exalted is He, as if he sees Him, then let him worship Allah on the basis that Allah sees him and watches over him, and let him be modest before His gaze towards him, as one of the gnostics said, “Fear Allah, lest He should become the most insignificant of those who look at you.”
One of them said, “Fear Allah according to the measure of His power over you, and be modest before Allah according to the measure of His nearness to you.”
One of the women gnostics of the first right-acting generations said, “Whoever acts for the sake of Allah as one who has direct witnessing is a gnostic, and whoever acts on the basis of Allah’s witnessing him is sincere.” She indicated the two above-mentioned stations: first the station of sincerity, which is that the slave should act keeping in consciousness His witnessing of him, watching over him and nearness to him. When the slave seeks to keep this in his consciousness during his actions, and he works on that basis then he is sincere towards Allah, exalted is He, since his seeking to keep that in his consciousness during his action prevents him from turning to other than Allah and intending any other in his action. Second, [she indicated] the station of witnessing, which is that the slave acts according to the requirements of his witnessing of Allah, exalted is He, in his heart, and it is that the heart is illuminated by iman, and the inner sight pierces through to gnosis, so much so that the Unseen becomes as if it were right in front of the eyes. This is the reality of the station of ihsan indicated in the hadith of Jibril, peace be upon him, and the people of these stations have different degrees according to the strength of penetration of their inner sight.
A party of the people of knowledge explained the “most exalted designation” mentioned in His words, exalted is He, “His is the most exalted designation in the heavens and the earth,” (Surat ar-Rum 27) with this meaning, and similarly His words, exalted is He, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which there is a lamp.” (Surat an-Nur: 35) What is meant by “the metaphor of His Light” is “in the heart of the mumin”, which is what Ubayy ibn Ka’b and others of the right-acting first generations said. There has already been mention of the hadith that “The best [part] of iman is that you know that Allah is with you wherever you are,” and the hadith, “What is a man’s purification of himself?” He said, “That he knows that Allah is with him wherever he is.”
At-Tabarani narrated the hadith of Abu Umamah that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Three [people] will be in the shade of Allah, exalted is He, on the Day of Resurrection, the Day on which there is no shade but His shade: a man who knows that Allah is with him wherever he turns…”
The Qur’an expresses this same sense in numerous places, such as in His words, exalted is He, “He is with you wherever you are,” (Surat al-Hadid: 4) and His words, “If My slaves ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me,” (Surat al-Baqarah: 186) and His words, “Three men cannot confer together secretly without Him being the fourth of them, or five without Him being the sixth of them, or fewer than that or more without Him being with them wherever they are,” (Surat al-Mujadilah: 7) and His words, “You do not engage in any matter or recite any of the Qur’an or do any action without Our witnessing you while you are occupied with it,” (Surah Yunus: 61) and His words, “We are nearer to him than his jugular vein,” (Surah Qaf: 16) and His words, “And they cannot conceal themselves from Allah. He is with them ….” (Surat an-Nisa’: 107)
Authentic ahadith are narrated recommending that one should seek to remain conscious of this nearness during the acts of worship, such as his words, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “If any of you stands praying he hold intimate discourse with his Lord” or “his Lord is between him and the qiblah,” and his words, “Truly Allah is before his face when he prays,” and his words, “Allah directs His face towards the face of His slave in his prayer as long as he does not turn away.”
There are also his words to those who raised their voices in dhikr, “You are not calling on one who is deaf or absent. You are calling on One Who Hears, Who is Near,” and in another version, “…and He is nearer to you than the neck of your riding beast,” and in another version, “…and He is nearer to you than the jugular vein.” There are his words, “Allah, mighty is He and majestic, says, ‘I am with My slave when he remembers Me and his lips move with [mention of] Me.'” And his words, “Allah, mighty is He and majestic, says, ‘I am in the opinion My slave has of Me, and I am with him wherever he remembers Me. If he remembers me in his self, I remember him in Myself. If he remembers me in an assembly, I remember him in an assembly better than it. If he draws nearer to me by the span of a hand, I draw nearer to him by a cubit. If he draws nearer to Me by a cubit, I draw nearer to him by a fathom [the distance between the fingertips of the two hands when the arms are stretched wide open]. If he comes to me walking, I rush towards him.”
Whoever understands anything of these texts anthropomorphically, or in the sense of incarnation, or as a form of monism has only been taken away from Allah, mighty is He and majestic, and from His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by his ignorance and poor understanding. Allah and His Messenger are free from all of that. Glorious is the One whom nothing resembles and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.
Bakr al-Muzani asked, “Who is like you, son of Adam? My Intimate Friend is between you and the mihrab and water. Whenever you wish you can go to Allah, mighty is He and majestic, without an interpreter between you and Him.” Whoever manages to keep this in his consciousness during dhikr of Allah and during His worship, necessarily becomes at ease with Allah and becomes averse to His creation.
Thawr ibn Yazid said, “I read in a book that ‘Isa, peace be upon him, said, ‘Disciples [Hawariyyun], speak to Allah a great deal and speak little to people!’ They asked, ‘How can we speak to Allah a great deal?’ He answered, ‘Go alone and hold intimate discourse with Him. Go alone and supplicate Him.'” Abu Nu’aym narrated it.
He also narrated with an chain of transmission that Riyah said, “There was a man among us who used to pray a thousand raka’ats every day and night until he became crippled in his legs. Then he would pray a thousand raka’ats every night seated. When he prayed the afternoon prayer he would draw up his legs and, while wrapped in his garments and facing the qiblah, say, ‘I am astonished at people who can be intimate and at ease with anyone other than You. Even more so am I amazed that people’s hearts can be at ease remembering anyone other than You.'”
Abu Usamah said, “I went to see Muhammad ibn an-Nadr al-Harithi, and saw that it was as if he was ill at ease. So I asked, ‘It is as if you do not like to be visited?’ He said, ‘That is true.’ I asked, ‘Do you not become lonely?’ He said, ‘How could I be lonely when He says, “I sit with whoever remembers Me”?'”
Someone asked Malik ibn Mighwal when he was sitting alone in his house, “Do you not become lonely?” He replied, “Does anyone become lonely with Allah?”
Habib Abu Muhammad used to withdraw in solitude into his house saying, “Whoever’s eye does not find rest with You, then his eye will not find rest.”
Ghazwan said, “I have found my heart’s rest and ease in sitting with the One who has my necessities.”
Muslim ibn Yasar said, “Pleasure-seekers find no pleasure like withdrawal for the purpose of intimate discourse with Allah, mighty is He and majestic.”
Muslim al-‘Abid (the worshipper) said, “If it were not for the congregational prayer I would never go out of my door until I die.” He said, “Those who obey Allah find no pleasure sweeter than withdrawal to converse with their Lord, nor anything which they eagerly anticipate more of all the tremendous rewards in the next life which is more important in their breasts and sweeter to their hearts than gazing towards Him,” and then he swooned.
Ibrahim ibn Adham said, “The highest of ranks is that you should be cut off from others for the sake of your Lord, and at ease with Him with your heart and consciousness and all of your limbs so much so that you hope for nothing but your Lord and fear nothing but your wrong action, and His love becomes so firmly established in your heart that you will never prefer anything to it. If you are like that you will not care whether you are on land or sea, on the plains or in the mountains. Your longing to meet your Beloved will be like the longing the thirsty person has for cold water, and the longing the hungry person has for wholesome food, and the remembrance of Allah will be sweeter to you than honey and more delicious than pure water to the thirsty person on a hot summer’s day.”
Al-Fudayl said, “Good fortune to whoever becomes alienated from people and with whom Allah sits.”
Abu Sulayman, “Allah has never made me at ease with any but Him.”
Ma’ruf [al-Kharki] said to a man, “Rely on Allah so much that He becomes the One with Whom you sit, the Companion Who gladdens you and the One to Whom you bring your complaint.”
Dhu’n-Nun said, “One of the signs of those who love Allah is that they are not cheerfully at ease with anyone other than Him, and they are never lonely with Him.” Then he said, “When love of Allah, exalted is He, takes up its abode in the heart then one becomes cheerfully at ease with Allah, because Allah is more sublime in the breasts of the gnostics than that they should love anyone other than Him.” There has been a great deal said by the People in this section which would be very lengthy to mention, and in that which we have mentioned here there is enough, if Allah, exalted is He, wills.
Whoever considers what we have indicated of that which this tremendous hadith shows will know that all the sciences and gnoses originate in this hadith and are comprised under it. All the sciences of the different groups of the men of knowledge of this community on which they discourse do not go beyond this hadith and what it shows, neither in general nor in specific details. The people of the science of fiqh only talk about the acts of worship which are among the general features of Islam and in addition they discuss judgements and rules about wealth, marriage contracts, injuries and homicides. All of that is a part of the science of Islam to which we previously drew attention. There remains a great deal of the science of Islam ÃƒÂ courtesy, good character, and so on ÃƒÂ about which only a few talk. Neither do they talk about the meanings of the two shahadahs and yet they are the source of all of Islam. However, those who talk about the principles and sources of the deen discuss the meaning of the two shahadahs and of iman in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and iman in the Decree. Those who discuss the science of gnoses and behaviour discuss the station of ihsan and also the inward acts which are comprised under iman such as fear, love, reliance, contentment, patience, etc. So that all the revealed sciences about which the different Muslim groups talk are concentrated in this hadith and all of them originate in it. In this hadith by itself there is sufficient, praise and the blessing belong to Allah.