Many are those acts of worship, which have been abandoned by people because they devoted themselves solely for this worldly life affairs and self-indulgence. One of the highly ranked and lofty types of worship is being watchful for one’s self secretly and publicly.
It is mentioned in a hadith that is mutafaq alayh (agreed upon) that Omar Ibnul-Khattab(RA) said, “One day we were sitting in the company of Allah's Messenger (PBUH) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At last he sat with the Messenger (PBUH) he knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said,‘Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The Messenger of Allah (SWT)said, ‘Al-Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey. He (the inquirer) said,‘You have told the truth.’ He (Omar Ibnul-Khattab) said,‘It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth.’ He (the inquirer) said,‘Inform me about Iman (faith).’ He [the Prophet] replied,‘That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil. He [the inquirer] said,‘You have told the truth.’ He [the inquirer] again said,‘Inform me about Ihsan (performance of good deeds). He [the Prophet] said,‘That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don't see Him, He, verily, sees you.’”
This is the maqam (station) of ihasn (excellence). This is the station that the Qur’an is keen on establishing it in the Muslims. When you read the definitions that Allah (SWT) has stated in the Qur’an, you would see the emphasis on that He encompasses you, your past, present, and future with His knowledge. He watches over you in every second and sees you wherever you are.
Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “There is in no private conversation three but that He is the fourth of them, nor are there five but that He is the sixth of them - and no less than that and no more except that He is with them [in knowledge] wherever they are.”(Al-Mujadilah: 7)
He also says, “Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them,” (Al-Baqarh: 255)
“He knows that which deceives the eyes and what the breasts conceal,” (Ghafer: 19)
It is not only about your public actions. Rather, it is about what you hide secretly in yourself and what you try to hide, so nobody else would know about it. Therefore, be ware, for your Lord knows it very well.
In his commentary about this subject, Ibn-Kathir says, “Allah (SWT) informs us about His utter and encompassing knowledge of everything; trivial, major, small or big, so people would be cautious and have haya’ (being ashamed of committing sins) and piety. They should be watchful of their actions and realize that Allah is also watchful of them, as He knows the eye that deceives even if it showed honesty. He knows what is hidden and concealed in the hearts.”
Allah (SWT) emphasizes this meaning in another way, when He says, “And know that Allah knows what is within yourselves,” (Al-Baqarah: 235)
He also says, “And, [O Muhammad], you are not [engaged] in any matter or recite any of the Qur'an and you [people] do not do any deed except that We are witness over you when you are involved in it. And not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom's weight within the earth or within the heaven or [anything] smaller than that or greater but that it is in a clear register,”(Yunus: 61).
And, “And rely upon the Exalted in Might, the Merciful, Who sees you when you arise, And your movement among those who prostrate. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing,” (Ash-Shu’ara: 217-220).
The servant of Allah (SWT) then, by all means, has to be watchful of his actions and keep in mind that he is being watched by his Lord. He should keep his senses and limbs from committing sins, whether in secret or in public, for whether he likes or not, knows it or not, he is under the Hearing, Sight and Knowledge of Allah (SWT).
The Messenger (PBUH) was keen on educating his Companions such manners, even in a phase that many may think it as unsuitable for such education, which is childhood. Childhood is the time in which parents should give their children the most important dose of religious tenants. This is what is going to sustain their bond with Allah (SWT).
In a hadith narrated by At-Tirmidhi through Abdullah Ibn-Abbas (RA), he said, “The Messenger (PBUH) said, ‘O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]. Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask Allah. If you seek help, seek help in Allah. Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you except with that which Allah has already recorded for you. If they gather to harm you by something, they would not be able to harm you anything except what Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
A Muslim should be aware, even when he is alone, that Allah (SWT) is watching him, and so he should be ashamed of committing sins before Him.
Imam Ahmad narrated a hadith through Sa’id Ibn-Yazid Al-Azdy that he said to the Prophet (PBUH), “Advise me.” The Messenger (PBUH) said, “I advise you that you be timid before Allah (SWT) as you are timid before a good man in your people.””
The Messenger (PBUH), in this noble hadith, is trying to make us face what we all do – except those, upon whom Allah (SWT) has bestowed His mercy. Many of us feel ashamed when people see him or her in a particular situation. Meanwhile, they do not look that much ashamed that Allah (SWT) is watching them in this very situation! It is the lack of timidness before Allah (SWT). It is the result of not fully realizing the watchfulness of Allah (SWT) and not truly appraising Him. Allah (SWT)says, “And they did not appraise Allah with true appraisal,” (Al-An’am: 91)
The Qur’an has greatlydispraised and showed utter rejection to such insane act, as if the Qur’an is telling us, ‘Did you forget that Allah (SWT)is watching you? Did you forget that Allah (SWT)sees you? Did you forget that Allah (SWT) encompasses all that you do, no matter how small or big it is? Allah (SWT) says, “They conceal [their evil intentions and deeds] from the people, but they cannot conceal [them] from Allah , and He is with them [in His knowledge] when they spend the night in such as He does not accept of speech. And ever is Allah , of what they do, encompassing,” (An-Nisa’: 108)
The sins committed in the secret are the worst and most dangerous of all. They proof a human’s improper appraisal of Allah (SWT). Therefore, the Messenger (PBUH) told us about those who commit sins in the secret, in a way that makes one really terrified. That was in a hadith narrated by Ibn-Majah through Thawban(RA), where the Messenger (PBUH) said,
“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.”Thawban said, “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said, “They are your brothers and from you race, worshipping at night as you do, but they will be people who, when they are alone, transgress the sacred limits of Allah.”
Do you get it, O you who, when you are alone and away from the eyes of people, commit sins?
Do you get it, O you, who steal from people and use all arts of removing all traces that may lead to you?
Do you get it, O you, who cheat people in your trade and do your best so that they will not find it out?
Do you get it, O you civil worker, who do your best to procrastinate your work and make sure that your senior is not observing!
Allah (SWT)sees you all! There would be no benefit from your prayer, fasting, almsgiving or Hajj as long as you insist on taking Allah (SWT) lightly when you are alone.
“How can I train myself on being watchful of my Lord?”
This is a question that may be echoing inside many people. For them I say, “The best way ever to do it to know the names of Allah (SWT)and His attributes. By this, a Muslim can form a vision of how great his Lord is. How vast the knowledge of his Lord is. To what extent Allah (SWT) encompasses all the affairs of His servants. By this, a natural haya’, fear, glorification and exaltation would be formed inside the human being.
One more thing that helps one to be watchful of his deeds, that is to remember Allah (SWT) much through dhikr. Remembrance of Allah (SWT) helps one keep feeling close to his Lord and being watchful of his deeds. Contemplating the severity of the punishment, the Day of Judgment and what has been prepared by Allah (SWT) for those who obeyed and disobeyed Him also helps a Muslim be in constant fear from his Lord (SWT).
 RA= RadiyaAllahuanhuMay Allah be pleased with him or her.
SWT = Suhanahu wa Ta'ala [Glorified and Exalted Be He].