In our journey through this dunya (world), as human beings we are all susceptible to sinning. However, we cannot guiltlessly justify the transgressions against our souls through shameful disobedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala (exalted is He) by blaming it all on our state of forgetfulness. We need to realize that there needs to be a balance between our understanding of Allah’s Mercy and our fear of Allah (swt), and that there needs to be increasing awareness of Allah (swt) in order to be of the successful believers.
The one who has an awareness of Allah (swt) will strive to keep their distance from sins, intentional and unintentional, knowing and unknowing. They are filled with both awe and fear of their Creator, and strive for excellence in their deeds by constantly reminding themself of Allah’s omnipotent presence. Developing a true consciousness of Allah (swt) allows space for us to become more aware of our thoughts and actions at all times so that even when we slip, we immediately remember Allah (swt) and seek His forgiveness.
Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Ali `Imran (Qur’an 3) about the qualities of the righteous who hasten to forgiveness from their Lord and for whom Jannah (Paradise) is prepared:
And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know. (Qur’an 3:135)
This [Qur'an] is a clear statement to [all] the people and a guidance and instruction for those conscious of Allah. (Qur’an 3:138)
In practice, truly fearing Allah is accompanied by being of those who have taqwa (having a consciousness of Allah (swt) in ALL that we do, say, think; protecting ourselves from Allah’s Anger; not only keeping our duty to Allah (swt) by performing what is obligatory but to also abstain from that which displeases Allah). The muttaqeen (those who have taqwa) cling with obedience to Allah’s commandments, and endeavours to abstain and immediately remove themselves from anything that could lead to invoking Allah’s Displeasure. The degrees of taqwa and how to gain taqwa are outlined here by Imam Suhaib Webb.
We need to understand that a major cause behind why we fall into sinning can be largely attributed to lacking fear of Allah (swt) at the time by not being conscious of His Presence. In order to avoid falling into both major and minor sins, and to reduce our sinning so that we may be of the muttaqeen insha’Allah (God-willing), we need to understand the concept of Allah’s Watchfulness over us. Developing an awareness of Allah means that we realise that NOTHING is hidden from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.
Allah defines this in Surah Ali `Imran:
Indeed, from Allah nothing is hidden in the earth or in the heaven. (Qur’an 3:5)
There is no place or time where we can hide from As-Shaheed (The Witness), Al-Baseer (The All-Seeing), Al-‘Alim (the All-knowing), As-Sami’ (the One Who Hears all), Ar-Raqeeb (the Watchful). SubhanAllah (all glory be to God). Allah is aware of what thoughts pass through our minds, what is within our hearts, and what secrets we hold. When we come to understand the very essence of all this, we become increasingly mindful of what we think, what we feel, what we say, and what we do because true awareness of Allah’s presence results in a heightened alertness. We then fear doing that which may lead to disobedience and acquiring bad deeds. We become increasingly aware of Allah’s Power through recognizing Allah’s constant presence, and come to understand that Allah’s Words are the truth. When we develop a true awareness of Allah (swt), we immediately stop doing any acts of disobedience and turn in sincere repentance to Allah (swt), striving to seek His Pardon and to gain His Mercy. Seeking His Pleasure alone becomes the main goal. This in turn develops our spiritual progress, adds to our maturity and wisdom, and enhances our relationship with our Creator.
Imam ibn Qudamah rahimahullah (may God have mercy on him) narrated, one of the salaf (first generation of Muslims) said that his father taught him about developing consciousness of Allah (swt) each night before sleeping by teaching him some words. He taught him to say:
Allahu ma’ee. Allahu shahidi. Allahu nazirun ilayya.
Allah is with me, Allah is Witnessing me, Allah Sees me.
His father would persist in telling him to repeat it to himself before going to sleep and was planting in him this concept of muraqabah (watchfulness). His father would tell him every single night to say it more and more and more until he tasted the sweetness of it. So he gained understanding that when Allah (swt) creates a cover for us, Allah (swt) is still aware of our thoughts and actions: Allah is with us, Allah is witnessing us, and Allah is watching us.
So in developing an awareness of Allah (swt), we need to remind ourselves that the One who created that cover for us in the first place can still See us. It is not about who else can see us—rather, being conscious of Him means that we acknowledge that Allah is Omniscient and Witness to EVERYTHING. We should then be in a constant state of istighfar (seeking forgiveness), and ask Allah (swt) to help us to fear Him both in public and in private. We need to develop true consciousness of Allah (swt) in order to be able to heed the guidance and instructions set for us in the Qur’an—and improving our awareness of Allah (swt) means that we are able to, by Allah’s Permission, become better human beings, better believers, and of those who are granted Allah’s Forgiveness and Mercy.
Inspired by Imam Omar Suleiman’s lecture: Fighting Zina