“Tell me about ‘Ihsan’.”
The Prophet (Sallellahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) replied:
“It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you”
Many of the Names of Allah (SWT) seem to be situation-specific; if you are worried about sustenance, know He is al-Razzaq (The Provider). When you feel lost, know He is al-Haadi (The Guide). Yet Allah “subhanahu wa ta’ala” (exalted is He) is with us always, in the good and bad, as well as the mundane and ordinary. So how can we engage with Allah on an everyday level?
By knowing that Allah is ‘AR-RAQEEB’ (the all-Observant).
Linguistically, ra-qa-ba (the three letter root of Raqeeb) means to be erect in order to care for something. A “marqab” is a high place that the watcher stands on to observe what is beneath him. And from this comes “ar-raqaba”, which is the neck, because it is erect, and one must be upright when he is observing. And from this root comes ar-Raqeeb.
Al-Ghazali states that the All-Observant;
“is one who knows and protects. For whoever cares for something to the point of never forgetting it, and observes it with a constant and persistent gaze.”
So Allah (swt) is watching over us, all the time, out of His care for us. And this should have a profound effect on the way we live.
Allah tells us:
“Does he not know that Allah sees?” (Qur’an, 96:14)
One could say, ‘Of course we know Allah watches over everything. That’s the most obvious thing.’ Yet, there is a huge difference between “knowing” Allah is Ar-Raqeeb, and “living” with the effect of that knowledge. In a lecture on this name, Amr Khaled said that Umar bin al-Khattab “radi allahu anhu” (may God be pleased with him) admired those who knew Allah is ar-Raqeeb, and told two stories from the life of ‘Umar.
There is a well-known story of the milk seller. While Umar (ra) was walking at night as he usually did to check on the people, he heard a mother ordering her daughter to dilute the milk they were going to sell with water. The daughter replied, “Do you not know that Umar the commander of the believers has forbidden that?” The mother said, “Well, Umar does not see us now.” She replied, “If Umar does not see us, his Lord sees us.”
Umar (ra) was so impressed by this young woman and her certainty that Allah is All-Observant, that his son ‘Asem married her. ‘Umar Ibn Abdul-Azeez, the well-known and just ruler who is also regarded as one of the rightly guided caliphs, is descended from this woman.
There is another incident that concerns ‘Umar (ra). He wanted to check up on his people. So he found a shepherd taking care of some sheep, and asked if the boy would sell him one. The boy replied that it was not his. Umar (r.a.) wanted to see how the boy would react if he was presented with an offer. He said to him “If your master asks you, tell him that the sheep was eaten by a wolf.” He looked at him and said, “And what would I say to Him (i.e. Allah)?” Umar cried and said: “By Allah, you are right. What would you say to Him?”
The milk-seller and the shepherd were regular people. They were people who were presented with a temptation, but their faith that Allah is All-Observant, meaning He both sees and cares for His servants, prevented them from being blinded. They were mindful that Allah (swt) is All-Observant, and thus they were observant over their own selves.
KNOWING ALLAH IS ALL-OBSERVANT
You are never alone. One of things that should warm our hearts when we know Allah is ‘ar-Raqeeb’ is that we are never, ever alone. When we are up late at night working on an essay, or awake in the early hours of the morning getting ready for work, Allah is with us.
Al-Ghazali states, “The attribute of watchfulness is only praiseworthy in man if his watchfulness is directed to his Lord and his heart”. Just like the milk-seller and the shepherd, we should also be watchful over ourselves.
DESIRE TO IMPRESS
This Name should also make us want to impress Allah (swt). When we know our parents or someone we love is watching us, we try to do better—so we should be like that when we know Ar-Raqeeb. The All-Observant does not only see our bad deeds, but also our good deeds. Let’s give more charity because we know He is watching; let’s be good to people despite the fact that we may not be feeling it at the moment, all for Allah because we know He sees all.