On October 31st, 1976, 360 children unknowingly participated in a psychology experiment. After speaking to trick-or-treaters, researchers told the children to take only one piece of candy from a bowl and then left the children alone; half the time, a mirror was placed in the room. Researchers found children were more likely to only take one candy if they could see their own reflection in the mirror. The experiment underscores how it is in our nature to adjust our behavior if we know we are being watched. And it also gives us insight into the concept and benefit of being a muhsin, or one who is aware that Allah is always watching.
Once, as was his habit, Hazrat Umar (ra) was out one night to see how Medina’s inhabitants were when he became tired and leaned against a wall. Nearby, a woman told her daughter to mix milk with some water before selling it. The daughter replied, “O Mother, did you not hear the decree of Amir al-Mu’minin today? … He ordered someone to announce in a loud voice that milk should not be mixed with water.” The mother said, “Get up and mix the milk with water. You are in a place where Umar cannot see you.” The girl told her mother, “I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey Him in private.” Hazrat Umar heard this and said, “O Aslam, go to that place and see who that girl is, and to whom she was speaking, and whether she has a husband.” Upon his return, Aslam informed Hazrat Umar (ra) that the girl was unmarried, the other woman was her mother, and neither had a husband. Hazrat Umar (ra) called his sons together and said, “Do any of you need a wife, so I can arrange the marriage for you? If I had the desire to get married, I would have been the first one to marry this young woman.” Abdullah and Abdul Rahman said they had wives but Asim said he did not have a wife and would marry her. So Hazrat Umar arranged for the marriage. From this marriage, a daughter was born who would later become the mother of the great Hazrat Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (rh) (Sifat al-Safwah; Wafiyat al-A’yan). Thus, because of her appreciation for the concept of Ihsan, the daughter of a milkmaid became worthy of being the wife of a Khalifa.
Likewise, ignoring the concept of Ihsan can have serious consequences. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) once mentioned that a basmati rice exporter once told him that during some Pakistani rice exporters mix inferior and superior rice while ensuring that only the superior quality rice is visible. As a result, Indian rice has dominated the market while, in Huzur’s (aba) view, Pakistani rice is of better quality (FS 4/2/2013).
And if we have been ignoring this concept, the chance for repentance still exists. Consider that Hazrat Abu Mas’ud Al-Badri (ra) was once viciously whipping his slave when he heard a voice behind him saying, “Abu Mas’ud! Beware!” Because he was so angry, he did not recognize the voice. As the man approached, Hazrat Abu Mas’ud (ra) realized that it was the voice of Prophet Muhammad (saw). “Abu Mas’ud!,” said Prophet Muhammad (saw), “Beware that Allah has more dominance upon you than you have upon your slave.” Hazrat Abu Mas’ud (ra) says that, “The whip dropped from my hand in awe of the Prophet (saw).” He then “freed the slave for the sake of Allah” and Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “If you had not done this, you would have been burnt by the Fire” (Muslim). Hazrat Abu Mas’ud Al-Badri (ra) goes on to say that, “I have not beaten any slave of mine since then” (Tirmidhi).
Thus, a spiritually fit Muslim is always aware that Allah is watching.
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