Reflection No. 289 on Q 11:37 – Working under God’s Eyes

وَاصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا
Wasna‘il-fulki bi-a‘yunina wa-wahyina
Build the Ark before Our Eyes and according to Our Revelation
(Sūratu Hūd, No.11, Āyat 37)

In this verse Allah ‘azza wa-jall (Mighty and Sublime) commands Nabī Nūh (a) to build an Ark. The Ark would save the believers and pairs of animals from the flood that was going to drown everyone else. Almighty Allah tells him to build the Ark, and specifies that the building of the Ark will be in front of His eyes and according to His commands.

The idea that an action is carried out under the watch of God is to remind the doer that:
a. He is not alone. Allah is watching, i.e. He is helping, supporting, and protecting.
b. He is responsible. Allah is watching, so he needs to do his best.
c. He must not be concerned about others. Allah is watching – the words and actions of other than Allah does not matter.
d. He will be rewarded. Allah is watching – nothing big or small escapes Him, it is recorded and will be recompensed.
e. He must be enthusiastic about his work. Allah is watching – that is energizing.

An example of the comfort that can be derived from knowing that all actions are under Divine gaze can be seen in the statement of Imam Husayn (a) after the martyrdom of Ali-Asghar (or ‘Abdullah) in Karbala. It was the peak of tragedy on the Day of ‘Āshūrā’ for the Imam to witness six months old babe being slaughtered in own hand. But the Master of Martyrs Abu ‘Abdillāh al-Husayn said with full conviction:

هَوَّنَ عَلَيَّ مَا نَزَلَ بِي أنَّهُ بِعَيْنِ اللهِ
It is less difficult for me to bear what has come down on me for it is under the Eyes of Allah

Nabī Nūh was asked to do the action according to the command of Allah. He did not know the extent of the flood, and how big or strong the ark needed to be. It was God who guided him with the specifics of the type of Ark to build. This is true for all the obligations (wājibāt) we are commanded to do. We are not aware of the extent of the requirements. It is God who knows all things and who guided us of the specifics of the obligations such as Daily Prayers.

This verse emphasizes that challenges and difficulties faced by believers are fully under the watch of the Almighty God. We need to struggle and ensure that we react in a way that would be considered as submission (taslīm) to God. This is evident in the Imam’s words when he said while holding Ali-Asghar, Surely we belong to Allah, and to Him we shall surely return. I am pleased with His decree and to Him I submit.”

Recite this verse to remind yourself that Allah is watching and let that reminder mold your attitude. This way challenges of life will become more tolerable.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;