Pearl of Wisdom
'Three things test men's intellects. They are: wealth, guardianship (wilaya) and calamity.'
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib [as]
Ibid. no. 4664
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"... and be careful of (your duty to) Allah through whom you demand (your rights of) one another, and to the ties of kinship; surely Allah ever watches over you" (Quran, 4:1).
"Al-Raqeeb" is one of Allah's Attributes, and He is the Witness who is never absent from the scene.
In language, a raqeeb is a vigilante, a watchman who stands to protect and guard. In the army, the raqeeb is the one in the vanguard. Al-Raqeeb is Allah Who safeguards everyone and everything, the One from whose knowledge nothing at all can escape.
According to one sacred tradition, the Messenger of Allah has said, "Safeguard Muhammed in his household," meaning safeguard his name and honor it. "Raqeeb" also means offspring. The angel who writes down whatever we do and say is also called "raqeeb": "He does not utter a word except that there is by him someone watching at hand" (Quran, 50:18).
Al-Raqeeb, that is, the One Who truly ever watches over us, is, of course, Allah. One who is raqeeb regarding Allah is one who acknowledges that He oversees whatever we do and say, so he observes his duties towards Him.
Allah, al-Raqeeb, knows our conditions and counts our breath. Al-Raqeeb never forgets, who is always present and is never absent, who knows everything and nothing regarding the conditions of His creation can ever escape His knowledge. He manages the affairs of His servants, who know what they say, who watches over His servants, who observes what they do, who is familiar with their innermost thoughts.
Narrating the story of Jesus son of Mary, the Almighty quotes Jesus saying, "... but when you caused me to die, you were the Watcher over them, and you witness all things" (Quran, 5:117). He has also said, "... and Allah is Watchful over all things" (Quran, 33:52). There are two viewpoints that explain the meaning of "al-Raqeeb":
One: Linguistically, He safeguards things, who watch over everyone, who guards everyone, who is free of any oversight or negligence. He takes care of and safeguards everything. The Almighty has said, "He does not utter a word except that there is by him a watcher at hand" (Quran, 50:18), meaning an angel who records his deeds and takes note of everything he contemplates, says, or does, while Allah is al-Raqeeb Who looks after His servants, knows their conditions and whatever they utter.
As regarding observation, it is His saying: "... surely I (Allah) am with you both: I hear, and I see" (Quran, 20:46). Regarding knowledge, it is His saying: "Allah knows what every female bears, and that of which the wombs fall short of completion, and that in which they increase" (Quran, 13:8).
Other such references include:
And He knows what is in the land and the sea. (6:59) He knows what goes deep down into the earth and what comes forth out of it. (57:4)
The other viewpoint says that this word is derived from irtiqab, waiting. Allah has said, "Wait, therefore; surely they (too) are waiting" (Quran, 44:59). Such a viewpoint is impossible to accept; therefore, it is rejected on the ground that one who waits for something needs to reach its commencement, desiring to find out its outcome. The correct meaning of this latter verse is that Allah wants His servants to reach out to Him, to make Him the goal of their adoration, submission and humility.
Al-Raqeeb, then, is the Witness Who is never absent. The virtue of one who watches himself is implied in a tradition wherein the Messenger of Allah Muhammed says, "Ihsan (goodness) is that you worship Allah as though you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He surely sees you."
It is narrated that a man once passed by a young slave tending sheep and pointed to a ewe and said, "Sell me this ewe, young shepherd!" The young slave told him that it was not his; therefore, he could not sell it, whereupon the man said, "Where is your brilliance?! Can't you tell its owner that a wolf ate one of his sheep?" He answered him by saying, "Then where is Allah?!" The man was very impressed by his answer, so he bought the young slave and set him free, and then he bought the herd and gave it to him as a gift. Since then, that man kept repeating "Then where is Allah?!" quite often.
It is, therefore, one of the good manners of a believer towards Allah, al-Raqeeb, to keep in mind that Allah ever watches over him and sees whatever he does. He knows that his self, that is, his nafs, is his enemy, and that the accursed Satan, too, is another, and that they both seize every opportunity to make him lax and disobey his Lord; therefore, he must always be on his guard.
He must close all the pitfalls in which he may fall and block all the avenues from which Satan may approach him. It is also one of the signs of good manners of a believer in this regard to watch himself and his senses, to keep vigil, and to make whatever he does solely for the achievement of the Pleasure of his Lord in a pure intention, to observe his obligations towards his Muslim brother, and not to expose the latter's faults to others.