Reflection No. 4:31 on Q 10:61 – Awareness of God’s presence

 ومَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِنْ قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ ۚ
Wamā takūnu fī sha’nin wamā tatlū minhu min qur’ānin walā ta‘lamūna min ‘amalin illā kunnā ‘alaykum shuhūdān idh tufīdhūna fīh
You do not engage in any work, neither do you recite any part of the Quran, nor do you perform any deed without Our being witnesses over you when you are engaged therein.
(Sūrat Yūnus, No. 10, Āyat 61)

God consciousness at all times is a coveted achievement. According to Amīrul mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) it is: a medicine for the sickness of the heart . . . a light of the darkness of the eye, a consolation for the fear of the heart and an illumination for the gloom of ignorance (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 198).  A believer who is God conscious naturally inclines towards all good and stays away from evil and indecency. There is love for virtue, satisfaction and peace with life’s circumstances, a desire to serve and make a difference . . . all logical consequences of being acutely aware of being in God’s presence. Being conscious of God also creates an inner modesty, a sense of shame in disappointing God that leads to outer modesty.

The verse above reminds us of the reality of being in God’s presence. He is a witness over everything we do. Three things are mentioned:

  1. Any important work or condition we are in, God is watching. He is aware of our hopes and desires, our goals and challenges and He sees us struggling. Since He controls the resources of the Heavens and the Earth, it makes sense to turn to Him at every step we take.
  2. When reciting the Quran, God sees how engaged we really are. Are we responding to His words to us? Do we really listen and absorb the message? Or do we skim through, a shallow and superficial reading? Should we not try to understand the Divine message?
  3. Any action that we take and deed that we perform, God is a witness. So performing good deeds will not go to waste. Every tiny act is recorded and will be brought forth. The end of the above verse says: Not an atom’s weight escapes your Lord in the earth or in the sky, nor is there anything smaller than that, nor bigger, but it is in a manifest Book (Q 10:61). According to a hadith from Imam al-Sādiq (a) quoted in Tafsīr-e Namūne, the Holy Prophet (s) wept bitterly whenever he recited this verse.

The word witness (shuhūd) is plural in the above verse for two reasons; to denote the greatness of God, and to acknowledge that the angels are also witness to human actions and deeds.

May we be blessed to recite the above verse regularly to remind ourselves that we are always being watched by God. It will bring us relief that we are not alone and, inshā’Allah, help us to stay on the right path that will lead us towards Him. In Du‘ā Kumayl we invoke Allāumma innī ataqarrabu ilayka bi-dhikrika, i.e. O Allah, surely I seek nearness to You through remembrance of You.

Sources:
Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Aghā Muhsin Qarātī, Tafsiīe Nūr;
Amīrul Mu’minīn, Nahjul Balāgha.